Nuclear Power, Climate Change and Energy Security in Britain

by Sam Peterson

The relationship between climate change and present energy consumption (in addition to anticipation of future energy needs) has increasingly bordered on mutual exclusivity. Following significant revelations regarding the correlation between emissions from fossil fuel incineration and average global temperature increases, legislators have struggled to reframe alternative energy source debates in a more favorable light. A major topic in these debates is nuclear power, easily the most divisive of environmentally-friendly energy sources. Policymakers have reframed nuclear power as a low-carbon technology, but Corner et al. (2011) find unconditional acceptance of nuclear power practically nonexistent in a national survey in Britain. In general, “people who expressed greater concern about climate change and energy security and possessed higher environmental values were less likely to favour nuclear power.” However, when subjects were allowed to express their conditional support, “concerns about climate change and energy security became positive predictors of support for nuclear power.” The study concludes that acceptance of nuclear power will increase conditionally, as “other (preferred) options have been exhausted.” Continue reading

Climate Change or Nuclear Power in Britain

by Sam Peterson

Policymakers have been challenged to formulate and introduce innovative new legislation following major international environmental awareness agreements, such as the Kyoto Protocol of 1992 (a treaty created by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change), but public opinion shifts have frequently trailed a growing scientific consensus regarding climate change. Pidgeon et. al. (2005) find that when presented with the options of a transition from burning carbon-based fuels to the daunting spectacle of nuclear power or an increased rate of climate change, much of the British public is indecisive. The study finds that the British public is “prepared to accept nuclear power if they believe it contributes to climate change mitigation,” but this is a “highly conditional view.” There is only “reluctant acceptance” of utilization of nuclear power by policymakers, mostly due to the risks of nuclear power production. Continue reading