The Carbon Reduction Agenda and UK Nuclear Energy Policy

Mr Jonathan Cooper, University of Central Lancashire

The relatively low carbon footprint of nuclear energy development, when compared to fossil fuel alternatives, is widely heralded as one of the main factors influencing the current policy trend in the UK. This paper examines the shift in UK nuclear energy policy in the 21st century from a position opposed to atomic energy expansion to one in its favour.

The UK has one of the world’s most robust political commitments to greenhouse gas emissions reduction so the effects of the carbon reduction agenda on nuclear energy policy formulation are found to be significant. Carbon accountancy, however, is inconsistent throughout various government publications on nuclear energy even over the space of just a few years. This can potentially be explained by the relatively recent emergence of carbon accountancy practice. Nevertheless best practice in the use of carbon accountancy in nuclear energy policy must be established to ensure consistency in published government information and therefore enhance public confidence.

This paper discusses the effects of the carbon reduction agenda on nuclear policy development through analysis of interviews and focus groups conducted with nuclear energy stakeholders during 2009 – early 2010. In particular, the consequences of the uncertainty over the nuclear carbon footprint are addressed by stakeholder analysis. In its conclusion, the paper argues that regulatory consistency across the UK government on this matter would reduce both general public and stakeholder confusion and eventually ensure sustainable development.

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