Energy blog

Has the goverment chosen the best nuclear technology?

Published by Sam Page on 23 October 2013

The government has just announced that a new nuclear power station will be built at Hinkley Point. This new power station will use Uranium 238 as it's fuel and create yet more Plutonium waste. The UK currently houses 112 tonnes of plutonium - the biggest stockpile in the world. Estimates suggest that the taxpayer currently spends £80m a year to store it safely and stop it from falling into the wrong hands.

The chief scientific adviser at the Department for Energy has agreed that this plutonium could be used to generate enough low-carbon energy to meet all UK demand for 500 years if integral fast reactors or liquid fluoride thorium reactors were deployed. These reactors would keep recycling the waste until hardly any remained: solving three huge problems – energy supply, nuclear waste and climate change – at once.

Thorium reactors use an element that’s already extracted in large quantities as an unwanted by-product of other mining industries. They recycle their own waste, leaving almost nothing behind. For more information, see 'Thorium and the Liquid-Fluoride Reactor: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle'.

George Monbiot says that 'to build a plant at Hinkley Point which will still require uranium mining and still produce nuclear waste by 2063 is to commit to 20th-Century technologies through most of the 21st. In 2011 GE Hitachi offered to build a fast reactor to start generating electricity from waste plutonium and (unlike the Hinkley developers) to carry the cost if the project failed. The government has yet to explain why it turned down this offer.'