The Tories are overwhelmingly pro-nuclear, but their reasons for this stance don’t add up.Now many in the party will claim, oh that’s because we want “value for money” with the least government involvement. Of course the reality is that nuclear energy is very expensive. And most of the companies involved in this industry are state owned (or count the govumint as their main if not only customer). Any future UK nuclear reactors will be built by foreign mulitnationals that are owned by foreign governments, so its difficult to conclude nuclear power will be less subject to the whims of events in foreign countries. The approval or disapproval of Hinkley C is essentially a decision that will be taken by the government of France (and to a lesser extent Beijing). The UK government has no real say in the matter.
Others in the party claim they are concerned about climate change. Of course, renewables are growing faster and reducing carbon emissions far more quickly and the truth is that many Tories are in fact climate change skeptics. So this justification doesn’t really ring true.The truth, as will be revealed if you actually get a Tory drunk sometime, is that they support nuclear because they fear the influence of unions over other sources of energy. In the past strikes within the coal industry of the UK (or indeed the power industry in general) have brought down Tory governments. Indeed they’ll usually go into some tinfoil hat wearers rant at this point about how labour unions are controlled by the Kermlin (or something…actually I think you’ll find its your pals in UKIP whom the Kremlin control).
Unfortunately, events in France suggest that nuclear is not immune to the effect of strikes. An escalating labour dispute has now spread to the countries nuclear industry and several reactors have been forced to shut down.
Now as this is summer when demand is low, the short fall can be easily made up (both within the UK and on the continent). Indeed as I reported previously renewables on the continent are doing very well at the moment, with large surpluses. However, this is exactly the sort of thing that could push Britain’s tight energy margins in a cold winter to the point where there are power cuts.
But clearly the message is that nuclear energy workers are just as likely to go on strike as those in the fossil fuel industry. And a major sticking point with regard to Hinkley C is of course the French labour unions, as they oppose the plant. This is largely because they fear that if the company gets into financial difficulty over the project, they might start cutting jobs in France.
Of course the irony here is that renewables are less prone to being knocked offline by strikes. Once a wind farm, solar plant or dam has been built, it takes very few staff to run. Most are in fact operated remotely by controllers at some central location. Some maintenance staff (often outside contractors) will go out to the site from time to time to perform planned maintenance and inspections (although on larger sites a team may be on duty more or less all the time). So it takes a bit more time for any strike to result in an interruption to power supplies.
Certainly, the best way of avoiding strikes threatening power supplies is to look after your workers, pay them well and then they won’t go on strike. Its my experience that the usual cause of a strike is often a breakdown in communication between the staff and management. But clearly if you were to follow through on the Tory logic they should be promoting wind power, not nuclear. When instead they hate wind power (for some reason).One is quickly forced to the conclusion that the real reason Tories (or UKIP members) are in favour of nuclear is because so many on the left are against it. Similarly you are forced to conclude the same about many issues, from climate change to gun control (in the US). The only logical reason is they don’t want to be seen to agree with those on the left, because that might make them look bad. Perhaps we should try reverse psychology?