Britain’s plan to build its first nuclear plant in two decades finally got a green light following the uncertainty cast by Brexit. But it comes with wariness over foreign control of a critical infrastructure and skepticism about its effectiveness in reducing carbon emissions – even as supporters tout the benefits of the low-carbon source of energy.
The project, known as Hinkley Point C, will be funded by the China General Nuclear Power Corporation, a state-backed Chinese investor, and built by EDF, a French utility company that is largely state-owned. According to Bloomberg, the price tag of the project is expected to reach $23.6 billion. The plant is set to generate electricity for an area twice the size of London and reduce emissions by 9 million metric tons of carbon dioxide per year, helping the UK to meet its climate targets.
But critics are wary of placing a critical infrastructure – especially a nuclear power plant – in the hands of foreign companies, especially with Chinese companies that could be vulnerable to alleged state-sponsored hackers. The cost of the plant, which may potentially be the most expensive in Britain’s history, also has some worried. Others are concerned about nuclear waste disposal, as revealed by a recent BBC investigation of improperly stored radioactive material in a rundown nuclear site. The cost and associated hazards, some argue, are not worth it when there are cheaper and safer alternatives such as renewable energy.
“If you’re thinking about climate change as an urgent threat, something to deal with as soon as possible, then nuclear power will not be a good strategy,” M.V. Ramana, an associate research scholar at the Princeton Nuclear Futures Laboratory, tells The Christian Science Monitor in a phone interview. “If you’re serious about mitigating climate change you have to evolve a strategy that is economic and realistic.”
Dr. Ramana recommends developing renewable energy such as solar and wind, storage technology, improving efficiency standards, and increasing flexibility of consumer energy usage instead as more effective solutions.