Posted on June 5, 2019
Experts think one government motive for backing civilian nuclear power is to cross-subsidise the defence industry. They say nuclear power is so expensive that it should be scrapped in favour of much cheaper renewable energy. Others argue that nuclear still plays a key role in keeping on the lights, so the military aspect is not significant.
But in evidence to MPs on the Business Select Committee, researchers from the University of Sussex said the government should be frank about the inter-dependence of the civilian nuclear programme and the nuclear defence industry.
Prof Andy Stirling from Sussex argues that one reason the government is willing to burden householders with the expense of nuclear energy is because it underpins the supply chain and skills base for firms such as Rolls Royce and Babcock that work on nuclear submarines. He said: “It is clear that the costs of maintaining nuclear submarine capabilities are insupportable without parallel consumer-funded civil nuclear infrastructures. “The accelerating competitiveness of renewable energy and declining viability of nuclear power are making this continuing dependency increasingly difficult to conceal.”
Rolls Royce, which makes reactors for nuclear submarines, has been pressing the government to agree a fleet of small modular reactors for power generation in the UK. This civilian technology would be transferable to submarines.