Nuclear power may not be needed, says top atomic advocate via The Telegraph

Sir David King, former chief scientist and champion of the nuclear newbuild, says the top priority must be to develop storage for renewable energy, reports Geoffrey Lean


The occasion was a scintillating lecture by Prof Sir David King, the former government Chief scientist, put on by Ashden, the charity that runs the eponymous energy awards. That’s not an adjective I apply often to talks, but I was riveted as David ranged over subjects from population growth to water resources, the growth of cities to commodity prices, spewing out new information and insights.

But while he said a lot about the promise of renewable energy, he said almost nothing about nuclear power – despite for long having been one of its foremost and most influential advocates in Britain, describing it, for example, as a “massive economic opportunity” for the country.

So I got up and asked him about it, expecting the same pro-nuclear response as I had heard from him many times before. Instead he amazed me by suggesting that Britain “might well” be able to do without atomic power altogether, and that the real priority should be on developing ways of storing electricity so as to be able to depend on famously intermittent sun and wind.

“We have to keep reassessing the situation”, he said. “I believe that what we need, more than anything, is a surge of activity to develop energy storage capability …. Once we can do that technologically, why would we not just keep with renewables.”


In countries like Britain and Japan, with less space and sun, he added, “it was difficult to see that we’re going to reach a position where we don’t want nuclear energy”, and in that case he favoured the small “modular nuclear reactors” recently advocated by the former environment secretary, Owen Paterson. But later he came back to the question and corrected himself: “if we can get the costs down we might well manage our future basically on renewable energy and energy storage”.

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