Douglas Carswell

11 FEB 2013

I've changed my mind about nuclear power

One of the daftest things in politics, as Daniel Hannan has pointed out, is to be against something simply because you don't approve of those in favour. Or conversely, to favour something because of those against.

An awful lot of politics is, alas, driven by precisely this sort of calculation.

How many Lib Dem MPs talking about Europe are Europhile because of any careful assessment of the Euro project? Often, I suspect they are enthusiasts for all things EU because of what they imagine to be the Eurosceptics opposed.

I must admit that I, too, have been guilty of this lazy way of thinking, particularly when it comes to nuclear power.

For years, I just sort of assumed that I must be pro-nuclear. Why? Well look at the right-on, lefty, Guardianista, peace-niks opposed? The more I heard whiny, eco loons telling us we should not have nuclear power, the more convinced I became that it must be the right thing to do.  And as for the safety thingy, coal mining kills more people, right?

The trouble is that I am starting to suspect that given current technology, nuclear power is simply not economic. We just do not seem capable of building them without massive subsidies.

If you oppose wind turbines, as I do, not because of the technology, but because of the subsidy, how can you favour nuclear? Opponents of wind subsidies often complain about the cosy collusion between the big suppliers and government – hidden subsidies, guaranteed margins. It is as nothing compared to what happens in the nuclear sector.

Nuclear power is not just a bad way of generating power.  The crony corporatism that it spawns is no great way of running a country either.

There have been two game changing developments in the energy sector in recent years; first the emergence of shale gas, and second the collapse in the unit cost of solar panelling. The former means that gas is back big time. The later, that we will see millions of roof tops around the world covered in solar panelling over the next decade or so.

Perhaps nuclear power will turn out to be like Concorde? Once apparently so modern and cutting edge, it ended up obsolete.

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