back to article Public rejoices at new 'green' nukes

The initial results of the government's consultation on the future of nuclear power are in, and broadly supportive of the government's position - to revive the moribund nuclear industry because it's now "green". The consultation asked more than 1,000 people around the country to answer the following question: "In the context …


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  1. E

    It's all in the question

    If they'd asked instead:

    "In the context of your back yard, given the propensity to leak radioactive gasses and fluids, do you agree or disagree that it would be in the public interest to give energy companies the option of investing in new nuclear power stations?"

    They'd have got a rather different result. Yet it is as legitimate a question.

    Here're some more good questions:

    In the context of the inevitable leaks and ventings, how long do you think it will take the gov't of the UK to declare all information about same classified?

    In the context of multi-billion pound mega-projects with massive government oversight, what percent of the moneys spent will find it's way into senour bureaucrat's and politician's pockets?

    In the context of 0.1% cost reductions equating to tens or hundreds of millions of pound profit, what quality of concrete (steel, etc) will be used. Let 10 be the highest quality and 1 be the lowest.

    I could go on. An on. And on.

    Best question:

    In the context of a possible nuclear power plant accident polluting your living space and DNA for the next 50 generations, how willing would you be to reduce your use of hydrocarbons if that eliminated the need for the nuclear plant?

    But we know the answer to that.

    In Alberta, Canada, a lobby has been formed to build some very big nuclear plants - quite far from Calgary, where the money is - that will generate electricity... that will operate the refineries... that will turn extremely low grade oil tar into... gasoline! For your car! This is insane!

  2. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    Only 1000 ?

    They are going to push a policy forward on the basis of the opinions of 1000 people ? Come on guys, lets do a bit better than that. I'm pro-nuclear, but even I think that a policy should be based on a broader support base.

    How about polling 2 or 3 thousand ? For more representativity ?

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    You have to laugh

    at the discomfiture of the 'traditional' greenies. All of a sudden they don't know which way to turn. After years of ranting about the evils of nuclear power they find themselves backed into a corner and are unable to decide on an alternate form of energy they all approve of.

    Fossil Fuels: EVIL (causes global warming)

    Nuclear Power: EVIL (cos its nuclear, nuff said.)

    Renewables : EVIL (damages landscapes, destroys ecosystems, floods valleys, wind turbines kill birdies, etc, etc)

    So is there any form of energy that the greenie tree huggers DO approve of?

  4. John Mears

    informed opinion

    I suppose it's interesting to know the views of 1000 random people. But what are these views based on and what does it mean? I'd much rather this decision was made by people who actually understand the issues.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Private companies, public money

    Of course what the government carefully ignores in the question is whether large amounts of public money will be spent on the new nuclear stations - either as direct subsidies for their construction, or soft money in the form of underwriting, insurance and decommissioning costs.

    Private nuclear power hasn't got a glittering economic record; the lousy return on investment was as big a reason as TMI for nuclear power falling out of favour in the US. In Britain, where we have no record of nuclear construction for twenty years and where there is unlikely to be long production lines of new reactors, and where there is already plenty of gas fired production, the economics are going to be worse.

  6. GettinSadda


    So 45% of respondees agree with a weighted statement - I hardly count that as rejoicing!

  7. Richard

    Is the correct URL for the consultation.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Useful stats?

    Is a survey of only 1000 people really a valid cross-section of society? Given that there are 66 cities in the UK that means they asked ~15 people from each city. I'm also fairly sure they didn't ask the people living right next to the existing stations.

    If only 45% agree or strongly agree does that mean that there is 65% that don't agree?

    A survey of 1000 people is however a lot better than a survey I saw on the one show (a bbc1 tv program) where it had a study of 14 people and managed to draw the conclusion that all unlucky people were just lazy!

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Leading question

    "In the context of tackling climate change and ensuring energy security..." begins the question, setting the tone for the answer. I wonder how the responses might have varied if they had begun with something like:

    "In the context of the current global threat of terrorism..."


    "In the context of a general distrust of the government and a belief that many large companies such as Enron or Jarvis Plc put profit before safety..."

    or how about simply asking:

    "Do you think that it would be in the public interest to allow energy companies the option of investing in new nuclear power stations?"

    (Note removal of positive / negative choice, 'agree/disagree'. If I remember rightly research has shown that in questionnaires people generally prefer to be positive when uncertain).

  10. Graham Wood

    Sir Humphrey would be proud

    That question is reminiscent of the discussion he had about the re-introduction of national service.

    The fact that they've got such a low percentage agreeing given such a loaded question is a slap in the face - as long as you know that was the question.

    I wonder if the lower percentage in London was because we're more cynical and used to being asked leading questions than the people in the nicer parts of the country ;)

  11. Ian Ferguson

    What a stupid question

    I'm in favour of more nuclear power stations, but even I can see that's a loaded question. If they had asked, "Do you think we should have more nuclear power stations?" I bet the vast majority would say no.

  12. Cameron Colley

    How to lie with statistics...

    Lesson 1, The loaded question: Ask a question in such a way that the answer you require is pointed to by the question.

    Good to see the lying scum ^H^H^H^H^H^H^ government using the FUD they created over climate change to get the answers they want to hear. anyone know which nuclear power compan[y|ies] are paying the government for this?

  13. pctechxp

    hardly a surprise

    It's hardly likely that the government would publish the results of a survey that didn't back their particular argument now is it and even if they did, they don't give a crap what we think (remember the road toll petition and smarmy Blair).

    They will just go ahead and do what they like with our hard earned cash (they will probably bankroll the project)

    For the record, I'm against nuclear, I reckon tidal and wind power is the answer.

    Democracy in the UK is a myth as they all imitate each other.

    Time we marched on Westminster, whose with me?

  14. E.

    Just another example...

    ...of biassed surveys and leading questions.

    It puts into my mind the equally bullshit and leading question they asked on the ID cards which was something like: "would you support the fight against benefit fraud and id theft (by the introduction of id cards)?". With only the minority carrying out such crime not really wanting these things to be fought, most people answered "yes" which was promptly and incorrectly interpreted as "majority approves of id cards".

    Maybe one of us should stand for parliament at the next elections with the message "emigration: the only remaining option".

  15. Charles Spalton

    Anyone else noticed that the Department's initials are DBERR?

    At least it's reasonably honest about the accuracy of its information.

  16. Ash

    Ignoring the obvious...

    ... why not burn Hippies for power?

    They've obviously outlived their "usefulness" as they no longer have any green-friendly propaganda to flog.

    An added bonus is that everyone would want a hippy-burning power plant in their back yard, as the neighbouring village would take on a decidedly hempy aroma, and no war would every be fought there; those that could be bothered to turn up would be either putting beer mats on their mates that passed out, or heading to the local Burger King for an XL Bacon Double-Cheeseburger meal.

  17. Chip Mefford

    What is the question really?

    Nuclear looks nice, and clean enough when the fuel is happily fusioning away in the reactor. However, the swath cut by the fuel on it's way to reactor is pretty wide, bleak and deep. Also, I haven't heard any of the new school pro-nuke pundents address the waste issue.

    Of course, some folks are raising a question about actual carbon savings. Is there any carbon savings at all when you add up what it takes to construct a nuke plant and fuel it ? I don't know. It's an intriguing question however.

    Right now, there are opinions floating about that state flatly that the 'worse case scenario' of a nuke plant failure, is Chernobyl. Strongly implying that since that wasn't so bad (sic?) everything is just fine. Funny thing seems to be, is that even now, that on some of the really nasty questions, the defenders of the technology retreat behind the veil of 'national security'. And don't come back out again.

    Nuclear power has a legacy of secrecy and coverups when it comes to full disclosure on impact and safety. The industry just doens't seem to get it that some of us just don't trust them.

    Then there is the awkward sticky wicket about drawing a distinct line between nuclear power and nuclear arms. Again, when the questions get hard, the supporters retreat behind the veil.

    Lift the veil, and lets have a real public debate.

    It's a wonderfully promsing technology, it always has been. But it's been plagued with problems, and a lot of those problems stem from unanswered questions, questions that are most likley quite answerable, but it appears that were they, folks would get trapped in lies.

    The time for lying about all this well past.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    On hippie based fuels

    Hmmm, I doubt that the UK's hippie and tree hugger resources could provide a significant proportion of the UK's power needs.

    If we devised multi-fuel power stations that could also burn chavs, neds and pikeys then we might be onto a winner. After that we can start on reducing prison numbers by burning murderers, drug dealers and rapists, working our way down to swindlers and pick-pockets.

    Now then, where DID I leave my Daily Mail........

  19. Matt W

    Haven't we trolled/rahted this before ?

    Yes that is the most leading question I have seen in a long time...But in the absence of any alternative means of generating power in the quantities that we demand, it's either nuclear or sitting in the dark. Yes we can delay the inevitable with efficencies and some renewables but given the long lead times of construction we have to get serious now.

  20. Martin Owens


    >> Time for that nuke ferry across the Mersey

    Have you seen the Mersey? Go take a wander through the chemical disaster area that is called Widnes and tell me if anyone would notice a bit of nuclear waste.

  21. This post has been deleted by its author

  22. Chris Walker

    Who cares what the public think?

    There is a time and place for hand-holding focus groupies, and medium to long term energy security isn't one of them. Equally, is Mr Joe Public capable of understanding all the issues and making an informed decision, or is he more likely to listen to whichever rag is shouting the loudest? History suggests it is most definitely the latter.

    The government should press ahead with new nuclear power station sites and ensure that as a sovereign nation we're not beholden to various folks out East every time we want to get a brew on.

    Short of moving into yurts, living hand-to-mouth and undoing the industrial revolution, the green movement will (by fact of its fracticious assemblage) cry foul whatever route is chosen - so lets just ignore them and get on with the practicalities of providing reliable power services to 60m people eh?

  23. Graham Marsden

    In the context...?

    In the context of the Cabinet Office's Consultation on consultations which asked "Do you have views on how the Government currently consults stakeholders and how Government consultation exercises could be improved?" see:

    Do you a) agree or b) disagree that the question about nuclear power was clearly biased and aimed at getting people to reply in a way that the Government wants?

    (PS It doesn't actually matter what you reply, we'll ignore your responses if they're negative and go ahead with our plans anyway, but if you do agree, that will just make us look better)

  24. Nick Ryan Silver badge

    Re: On hippie based fuels

    You missed the category that should be number one on the "providing worth to society by acting as human fuel list"... politicians/lawyers (same thing these days, which explains all the additional laws being passed).

  25. Luther Blissett

    Luther could make turkeys vote for Xmas

    i.e. make them vote not to abolish Xmas; not make them vote on Xmas Day (which would be harder- Luther does not claim to be Jesus Christ PBOH).

    The real import of the question was, on the evidence of Reg readers comments so far, probably missed by respondents. If the energy companies are let into the nuclear business as equity partners, who bears the costs of the clean-up? Clearly not the nuclear companies - they would never sell a single unit of electricity if the clean-up costs were properly factored in. The money could only come from either "the taxpayer" or from the nuclear companyies' partners the energy companies, specifically their customers. In practice these are one and the same, as few people are energy self-sufficient. So this question is really about Xmas, and dbErr found 999 turkeys. That's why Luther could make real turkeys vote for Xmas.

    People should have been asked "Do you want your energy bills to double/triple/quadruple to pay for nuclear-derived energy, or would you prefer HM Govt to subsidize nuclear energy another way?" (like speed cameras?).

    Most other questions are irrelevant - HM Govt is busy working itself into a lather over the future purchases of Russian gas it has had to make since Mrs T shut down the coal mines as a side-effect of shutting down the miners' union. HMG will want to ensure some alternative to keep the lights on in Whitehall should the Russians ever do any tap-led price negotiation. So all little Green people can dream on about nuclear-free utopias.

    The extant issue is safety. Here probably fewer than 1 person in 1 million is aware of the alternatives that the technical options make available. If peoples' money is going to go into nuclear, it should be spent on a program of thorium reactors. These are safe from dangerous levels of radiation a mere 2 weeks after shutdown, and can be installed (literally) in a hole in the ground (lead lined) so a meltdown can be designed for. Various parties incl HM Govt would prefer you didn't know about this alternative for a range of reasons. One of which is back-scratching - the companies might prefer to buy an existing reactor design off the shelf from their pals. Another is that there are no fissile products. But then I think we could all agree there are more than enough nukes to go around already, and that includes depleted uranium.


  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Only 1000 ?

    Perhaps we could all select a group of ooh about 600 representatives in a fair vote and they could get together and discuss this stuff in detail and make an informed decision... Maybe chuck in a few people who get on well with the government or were born to the right family to provide some oversight as well..

    Nah, phone vote it is then...

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    money and plutonium

    As a physicist i respect the body of science and engineering that has gone into making our nuclear power plants as safe as they are.

    this has been hampered by the need to change rods every 6 months to maximise the plutonium yield, they should stay in there for 3 years or possibly forever.

    the reprocessing is the dirty end, and where most/all of the spillages come from. There is no need for it, period.

    unfortunately BNF are trying to wean the industry onto its MOX product - i.e. Pu and U oxides, no need as yellowcake is cheap, and all the documentation and financials are rigged (and the Japs found out)

    and it puts plutonium into fuel rods, so ships need a full-on naval escort.

    and its a factor of about 500,000 more toxic.

    if the engineering effort to bring nuclear to where it is now had been spent on wind and wave we'd be there by now. Right now there are loads of options (many tidal ventures, undersea watermills, offshore windmills etc) - - and now the running costs start to look stable and known, its the banks who are putting in the money.

    more solutions will come as it becomes worthwhile, engineers and financiers hate no-hope projects.

    no bank will ever back nuclear, they're not so nuts as new labour.

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    More on hippie-based fuels

    Now, burning Daily Mail readers - there's an appealing idea. After all, they're mostly fat fucks whose only exercise is waddling to the SUV so they can be wafted to Tescos to stock up on additional lard and fatty treats. Render the buggers and we can turn 'em into fuel *and* candles.

    (think I'm wrong? Count the number of diet/cellulite articles in the average week's output from Associated and reconsider)

    Oh, and agree entirely with the assessment of the utility of this particular survey, but I'd like to point out that - as any fule with a basic understanding of stats kno - for a population the size of the UK's, 1000 people is pretty much the optimum sample size (ever wonder why whenever MORI, Harris etc poll, the sample size is 1000 or so? Counterintuitively, once you get over about 1000 people the larger the sample, the greater the error...)

  29. Martyn Bradshaw

    The most elaborate way to boil water!

    Maybe the question could have been "Would you be happy to have a long term nuclear waste dump in your community?" Or perhaps "Do you think it is right to produce a waste that we have no disposal solution for, and that will last longer humanity has been about for?" How about "Are you happy to subsidise private nuclear power companies by way of fixed prices for nuclear generated electricity?" To negative? Of course, this is the reality of nuclear power, an industry which has been rescued by UK tax payers twice in order to save it from going bust. 60 years the industry has had to find a solution for its radioactive waste. The best they have come up with over that time...dig a super great hole, sling it all down there and hope it doesn't leak over the next 100,000 years! Oh, and that tiny issue surrounding Uranium, and the simple fact that it will run out just like oil and is increasing in cost every day. Nuclear – the intelligent choice!

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    It's a bit hypocritical for greenies to claim that nuclear is uneconomical when the only reason renewables are being built is because energy companies are required by law to purchase a percentage of their energy from them, passing costs onto the consumer.

    Nuclear was only expensive in the past due to cost-plus contracts and the race to produce weapons-grade plutonium production reactors.

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Sun readers, more like.

    I think you'd probably get better fuel value from Sun readers. After all, a large proportion of them are enormous lardasses whose only exercise is waddling to their S reg Ford Escort to chug and clatter down to Morrison's to load up on pizzas and burgers ready to vegetate in front of their Sky TV.

    Guardian readers wouldn't be worth burning as most of them are skinny lentil munchers who cycle everywhere.

    Shall we now characterise any more stereotypical groupings by their suitability for rendering into fuel?

    Actually, the previously recommended chavs would make bloody good fuel if you harvest them just after closing time.....All that alcohol should make them go up a treat.........

  32. Luther Blissett

    @kevin the physicist

    "no bank will ever back nuclear".

    Nuclear is not a race horse, and banks do not bet. They require a steady rate of return and a guarantor. That is what the question was about - mugging the Great British Public into stumping up on both counts. As well the banking credit crisis arrived now, as the the banks would have sliced and diced any new nuclear build advances and thrown them in with the subprime mortgages, and HM Govt spin machine would have made hay with it, just like that other scam, the PPI.

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Nuclear or nothing - simple choice

    Lots of interesting comments about whether or not we should approve nuclear power. In simple terms (as someone has already said), do you want any electricity in 10-15 years time ?

    I would love wave / wind / tidal / burning hippies to be able to provide the UK with sufficient power but sadly, it just can't. I'm sure that technology will improve and we'll eventually get better efficiencies with these 'green' sources but not for quite some time and long after the few years we have before the current power generation capability gets depleted (current estimate is wind farm 30% efficient, coal 50% efficient, nuclear 60%+.......1000MegaWatt electrical requires 2 tonnes uranium per month or 260,000 tonnes coal per month)

    At the minute, the UK has to buy electricity from our French friends because they have a surplus. This 'spare' electricity is great but what happens when the French need it back ? They only have it spare because they have designed their infrastructure around Nuclear - currently 76% of French electricity is generated this way. The main failing of nuclear electricity generation is that it is either on or off - it is very difficult to cater for spikes in requirements hence you have to design your system to provide 115%-130% of 'normal' requirements. Traditionally in the UK, coal powered stations have taken care of these spikes but as they are being phased out as well.......

    So if not nuclear, then what - there is currently no alternative other than to plan to switch the lights off in 2022 or thereabouts.

    I live outside a National Park and hate the sight of massive wind turbines being erected. And before you ask, yes, I DO have a nuclear facility on my doorstep and it doesn't bother me and no, I don't work for them.

  34. Simon Greenwood

    Getting the right answer

    Let's just remind ourselves that under one offer, the nuclear power stations will be built for free, as long as Electricite De France can have a contract to run them for thirty years. The French like their nukes, and there is no record of any major disasters in the country (cough), so, in the spirit of the public-private partnership, let's hand another corner of the UK's energy economy to an overseas country. After all, PPP is such a successful system that a company with a thirty year contract can't go out of business, can it? Mind the gap...

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: banks do not bet

    What!?!?!? That's exactly what banks do.

  36. John Stag

    "...n the context of the inevitable leaks and ventings"

    Don't know much about modern reactor designs, do we?

    The reactors built in the 50s and 60s aren't a good yardstick for "nuclear power". One of the main reasons they were built was precisely to be "dirty" - to make nuclear weapons from the waste.

    Take away this requirement and the landscape changes, a lot.

  37. janimal

    @Chris Walker

    "The government should press ahead with new nuclear power station sites and ensure that as a sovereign nation we're not beholden to various folks out East every time we want to get a brew on."

    Yes Britain is well known for its vast Uranium deposits

  38. Jim

    Re: Costs

    Nuclear is expensive because it costs a huge amount to build, even more to dismantle and the fuel has to be sealed indefinitely (chemical toxicity) at an undisclosed (uncalculated?) cost.

    And what exactly do you mean by "greenies"? This broad brush approach is used as FUD to dismiss any unwanted idea put forward. At the top of the comments it is suggested that the "greenies" don't want wind power but that is not true. The RSPB are scared for the birdies and the NIMBYs are scared about their view but these are not environmental organisations, they represent a couple of special interests only.

    "@Chip - Chernobyl was an ancient design of reactor, which had improper maintenance, basically untrained staff and a ridiculously bad disaster response followed the accident. Modern PWG reactors are completely different in design - it's like comparing throwing gasoline on a live flame to an internal combustion engine. This is 15 minutes research."

    Chernobyl was run in a manner considered 'adequate' right up to the point of catastophic failure. In a similar way to the Besse-Davis (Ohio) reactor (almost). The problem with nuclear reactor safety is that, like anti-terror measures, it is based on what could imaginably go wrong (and hindsight). This wouldn't be so bad if the imaginations involved weren't also required to consider the bottom line.

  39. J


    "I'd much rather this decision was made by people who actually understand the issues."

    Woa there, mate. You're being unreasonable now... :-)

  40. J


    It's always hard to find anybody who can tell you how things are without having some vested interest. But for what's worth...

    I recently learned about the "fast neutron reactors", or fast breeder reactors, etc. (Dec. 2005 Sci. Am.). Supposedly, France plans to have about 50% of their reactors being of that type by 2050 or the like. By the little I understood and remember of that (which might have some inaccuracies), these reactors are 60 times more efficient than the current thermal reactors. They are safer, in that they do not use pressurized water as cooling, but room temp liquid metals. Depending on how they are set up, they can burn the remains of old decommissioned weapons, as well as not produce any more of these nasties. The final waste is much less "toxic", with much shorter half lives, etc. So why didn't these stay? Filthy money talks louder, always. These reactors, even being around for decades, are more expensive to build and maintain (they need their fuel to be reprocessed every once in a while). And uranium is cheap comparatively, so... Instead of depending on the Eastern guys you will depend on the Aussies, oi!

    Anyway, I've also recently read that coal plants spread much more radiation than nuclear ones. Huh? Here it goes:

    "Coal also contains low levels of uranium, thorium, and other naturally-occurring radioactive isotopes whose release into the environment leads to radioactive contamination. While these substances are present as very small trace impurities, enough coal is burned that significant amounts of these substances are released. A 1,000 MW coal-burning power plant could release as much as 5.2 tons/year of uranium (containing 74 pounds of uranium-235) and 12.8 tons/year of thorium. The radioactive emission from this coal power plant is 100 times greater than a comparable nuclear power plant with the same electrical output; including processing output, the coal power plant's radiation output is over 3 times greater."

    This is from the Oak Ridge, after redigestion by Wikipedia. The original statement with numbers and all:

    "For comparison, according to NCRP Reports No. 92 and No. 95, population exposure from operation of 1000-MWe nuclear and coal-fired power plants amounts to 490 person-rem/year for coal plants and 4.8 person-rem/year for nuclear plants. Thus, the population effective dose equivalent from coal plants is 100 times that from nuclear plants. For the complete nuclear fuel cycle, from mining to reactor operation to waste disposal, the radiation dose is cited as 136 person-rem/year; the equivalent dose for coal use, from mining to power plant operation to waste disposal, is not listed in this report and is probably unknown."


  41. bob rayner

    For those hung up on chernobyl

    Interesting how people cherrypick cases to suit their argument.

    Every year, more people are killed in coalmines than were killed by chernobyl. That's even before we consider the tens of thousands of people killed by emissions from coal-fired power stations. Oh, and they also release lots of radioactive materials into the air...

    Of course, chernobyl was a poor design even by 1980s standards. Any new nuclear power station in Britain would have to meet much higher standards in almost every respect. Perhaps you'd like to use the Trabant and Lada as the basis for a critique of the 21st century car industry?

    Unfortunately, "renewable" sources won't satisfy our electricity-generation needs any time soon, so we have a choice between fossil fuels or nuclear. In terms of environmental damage, what do you prefer? Pumping *billions* of tonnes of CO2 (and plenty of other nasties) into the air, or packaging a few tonnes of radioactive waste & putting them in a hole?

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