Sunday 1 November, 1.45pm until 3.15pm, Lecture Theatre 1
Nuclear energy is being embraced by some as the best solution for meeting rising power needs and respecting the environment. New nuclear plants are under construction in China, India and elsewhere, although in the UK and USA they remain on the drawing board. Across Europe the question of new nuclear plants has been put on the agenda and countries are considering reversing previous commitments to close their nuclear reactors.
People want green energy, but are worried about risks - from waste, proliferation and accidents. Nuclear’s potential is often overshadowed by its destructive history – from Hiroshima through to Chernobyl. But are governments too ambivalent today about nuclear to give it the support it needs to succeed? Although political opposition seems to have slackened, with leading environmentalists now voicing their support for nuclear energy as a response to climate change, other difficulties stand in the way: a lack of engineers, shortage of funds for investment and sundry barriers to development. The possibility of nuclear fusion – producing energy by joining atomic nuclei rather than splitting them – holds out the promise of cheap power without the waste produced by existing fission technology. Yet the promise of cheap clean energy has not been universally welcomed. Some argue that the dream of fusion is a mirage that encourages us to ignore the problems of climate change.
Is nuclear power a disaster waiting to happen or could it help create a more resilient energy system and bring energy to the developing world? What does the current climate of thinking on fusion research tell us about today’s attitudes to energy? Is the new nuclear age an exciting solution to energy challenges or a dangerous threat to the future of mankind and the planet?
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journalist; fellow, Wolfson College, University of Cambridge; author, Voodoo Economics and the Doomed Nuclear Renaissance
associate fellow, energy, environment and development programme, Chatham House; co-author, Double or Quits - The Global Future of Civil Nuclear Energy
science writer and researcher; co-author, Energise! A future for energy innovation
|Dr Alexandra Penn|
life sciences interface research fellow, Science and Engineering of Natural Systems Group, University of Southampton
Dr Dominic Standish
lecturer, sociology of management and journalism, University of Iowa (US) and CIMBA (Italy); author, Venice in Environmental Peril? Myth and reality (forthcoming)
We need more energy. The energy debate risks missing this simple point. The emphasis is on energy security and climate change. We do need to keep the lights on and, in the long term, bring climate under control. But by these measures success would amount to survival rather than to progress.Joe Kaplinksy, The Times Eureka Zone, 27 October 2009
As the Obama administration tries to steer America toward cleaner sources of energy, it would do well to consider the cautionary tale of this new-generation nuclear reactor site.James Kanter, New York Times, 28 May 2009
Everyone from big business to greens imagines that British government policy favours nuclear energy. It doesn’t.James Woudhuysen and Joe Kaplinsky, spiked, 30 April 2009
Britain must build new nuclear power stations if it is to meet climate change targets, according to leading environmentalists.Louise Gray, Daily Telegraph, 23 February 2009
The economics of new nuclear power stations for the UK do not add up. It is not possible to achieve what the Government says it will do – build a new generation of nuclear stations in England without public subsidy.Paul Brown, Friends of the Earth, 1 June 2008
There would seem to be a remorseless logic pointing to the steady and swift development of nuclear power world-wide, but such a development could be frustrated by lack of political will and shortage of skilled manpower; one is easier to put right than the other.Ian Fells, Fells Associates, February 2008
‘It's dangerous, wasteful and too expensive!’ Greens are busily putting the case against nuclear, but there is not a spark of truth in their arguments.Rob Johnston, spiked, 10 January 2008
"In a world which is becoming increasingly hostile to non-conformist positions the Battle of Ideas remains the flagship of free thinking."
John Cooper, leading barrister and writer