Nuclear power is a relatively safe and low-carbon power resource in the face of global climate change, but it cannot be built everywhere in the world, UK special representative for climate change David King said during his visit to Taipei yesterday.
“Climate change is the most severe problem that we are facing today, more serious even than the threat of terrorism,” King said in a public lecture titled, “Climate Change and the Nexus of Water, Food and Energy,” at the Academia Sinica.
In a session held with local media later in the day, King said the UK is on a path to reducing its carbon dioxide emissions by 80 percent by 2050, with the average emissions per person reduced from an annual 10 tonnes to 7 tonnes so far, and expected to drop further to 5 tonnes by 2028 and 2 tonnes by 2050.
“However it would be fruitless if other countries do not follow the same path,” he said.
Facing questions on why he had strongly promoted nuclear energy as a solution for carbon reduction in the UK, King said: “Nuclear energy is only ‘one’ element of our solution. We are using solar energy, particularly offshore wind energy, tidal wave and whatever energy resources we have available to us.”
“The safety record of nuclear energy — including incidents at Chernobyl, Three Mile Island and Fukushima [Dai-ichi] — can be measured by the number of fatalities: It is the safest form of energy per kilowatt-hour, on the planet,” he said.
King said that the British regulatory system for nuclear energy is very strong and has given the public the confidence that its government can build nuclear facilities safely.
“However, in many parts of the world, there are many different solutions and it depends on what resources are available in these countries,” he said.
“Britain is fortunate because we are not challenged by seismic activities, so the problems of Fukushima are not our problems, and that is how we realized the solutions to energy are therefore critically dependent on which region of the world we are in,” King added.
He said each region of the world has to look at its own resources and safety issues, to reach a conclusion for itself, because “the issues in Taiwan are not the same as the issues in Britain.”
Asked about how the UK government balances the investment in nuclear with other types of renewable energies, King said: “We are not, by any means, only using nuclear energy, but also pursuing particular renewable energy sources.”
“Our energy mix is complicated and our research in the end may produce new solutions, in particular new, advanced technology in energy storage. If large-scale energy storage is available at marketable prices, there is no reason why almost every country shouldn’t directly go into renewable energy,” he added.
King said the British government, in moving toward renewable energy, is developing a “very big business opportunity,” and is keen to share its experience and work with other countries to develop them.
The Asia-Pacific region is going to see an expansion of about 3.5 billion urban population by 2050, so urban development is critical because whatever investment is put in now will be there in 100 or 200 years from now, he said.