A comprehensive survey published by the UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC) of attitudes of the British public has found low support for nuclear power as a solution to the UK's problems compared to energy efficiency and renewable energy. Indeed, when ranked as a solution to the problems of energy security, climate change and affordability, nuclear power was perceived as being less preferable than reducing the heating temperature inside the home.
The research was funded by several research councils and even involved officials from the Department of Energy and Climate Change. The results show that just about any energy solution is preferable to nuclear power. By contrast, the Government is giving nuclear power clear priority when it comes to allocating key financial incentives over and above solutions, whether they be onshore of offshore wind, energy efficiency, or other options that are clearly preferred by the British public.
See in particular Figure 1 page 11 of the report on http://www.cardiff.ac.uk/news/resource/11460.32688.file.eng.pdf
In recent times the Government has announced £10 billion of Treasury guarantees to EDF to build Hinkley C nuclear power station. Ed Davey has said (see two blog posts earlier) that nuclear power will receive premium rate payments for 35 years while his Government has just announced that the premium price contracts for renewables will be cut from 20 years under the Renewables Obligation to just 15 years under the proposals for ‘Electricity Market Reform’ . One could list other things, but it is already clear that the Government strategy is completely out of step with the priorities of the electorate. If the Government is going to give such massive help to nuclear power, then why not offer state guarantees and premium prices to companies that can go around persuading people to lower the temperatures on their heating thermostats next winter? - That would be closer to popular priorities than the support being given to nuclear power (!) Of course, the Government is going to do no such thing of course, even though it would be more popular and rather more practical than giving out more and more money for nuclear power. I am talking a bit tongue-in-cheek here. We need to support various types of energy efficiency and renewable energy as a priority, not nuclear power.
The survey, which was led by a team based at the University of Cardiff, was based on the attitudes of a total of 2441 people. In fact plenty of other surveys have turned up results which are complementary to this - they all show that renewable energy and energy efficiency are much more popular with the British public than nuclear energy. However, you would not understand that from the press releases generated about such surveys by pro-nuclear organisations.
So how is it that nuclear commands such support from within the establishment? One clue can be found from survey evidence itself which tends to show that the most pro-nuclear parts of the population are older people and males, and the least supportive of nuclear power (and most supportive of real green energy solutions) are young people and females. But guess which general type of person makes up the scientific and engineering establishment? Well, older males of course. Indeed you will often find these older male scientists appearing on the media asserting that they know best because they are scientists, and leading scientists support nuclear power. Now, I don't want to do injustice to those older male scientists who are not so sure about nuclear power (after all I am an older male myself!), but could the fact that the scientific and engineering establishment is so supportive of nuclear power have nothing to do with the fact that they are scientists?
The Government is set to announce the ‘strike price’ for nuclear power in the next couple of weeks. This will suggest what level of subsidies that nuclear power generators will be paid. Prepare yourself to be bombarded by truly elaborate public relations on this issue.