The revival of nuclear power: an analysis of the legal implications

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    In a surprising turn of events, there has been a marked revival of interest in nuclear power in the UK and to some extent elsewhere in the European Union. In July 2006 the Government published an assessment of the role of nuclear power as part of a wide ranging review of the UK energy sector. 1 It concluded that ‘nuclear has a role to play in the future UK generating mix alongside other low carbon generating options’. A little earlier, the European Commission proposed ‘a transparent and objective debate on the future role of nuclear energy in the EU, for those Member States concerned’ in its Green Paper on Energy Policy. 2 Yet, this is a source of energy that remains widely unpopular, not only due to perceived safety risks but also because of the legacy of radioactive waste that its use entails. Moreover, the economics of nuclear power have often been questioned. Significant cost-overruns in plant construction have been common, and have already affected Europe's most recent nuclear plant, under construction in Finland. Such questions of economic viability now have an additional dimension: they have to be addressed in the context of a liberalised market for energy, in which government has ruled out the option of granting direct subsidies to the nuclear industry. These social and economic aspects of a revived nuclear policy make its progression from design to implementation far from certain. In particular, implementation will be heavily dependent upon ‘public acceptance’ of the necessary measures. The official justification for a nuclear revival has been based largely upon two policy priorities: climate change mitigation
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)71-87
    Number of pages17
    JournalJournal of Environmental Law
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 2007


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