Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education
BBC Homepagelow graphics version | feedback | help
BBC News Online
 You are in: Talking Point: Debates: European
Front Page 
UK Politics 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

Click here to listen to the Europewide Debate
 real 28k

Friday, 21 April, 2000, 12:29 GMT 13:29 UK
Does nuclear power have a future in Europe?

Can Europe afford to be without civilian nuclear energy?

This week a British newspaper disclosed what it said was a European Commission report, which concluded that Europe must build many more nuclear power stations if it is to meet targets to reduce pollution.

Electricity generation produces one third of all carbon emissions in Europe - and nuclear power produces none.

But how can the nuclear energy programme expand, given the strength of public opposition? What do you think?

For this week's Europewide debate, hosted by Mark Reid, we brought together from Paris Jacques Panossian of the French nuclear information society, the SFEN (Societe Francaise d'Energie Nucleaire), and from Helsinki the Finnish MEP Heide Hautala, who's the new co-chair of the Green group in the European Parliament.

Your reaction:

Given a straight choice between nuclear and fossil fuels, I would reluctantly choose nuclear.

Paul Yardley, England
Given a straight choice between nuclear and fossil fuels, I would reluctantly choose nuclear. The reason being that global warming has and will continue to kill many thousands in developing countries and could mean malaria epidemics in northern Europe. Nuclear power related deaths are probably less than 1000.
What we should be concentrating on is reducing power usage, using more renewable sources of energy (micro hydro, wind, wave, bio-mass, incinerating rubbish etc.) and re-foresting the UK to absorb CO2.
Paul Yardley, England

Given that Fusion power (fusing together isotopes of Hydrogen to produce heat and helium), much like renewables, probably won't get the research funding it needs, Nuclear Fission (Uranium splitting) Power may be the lesser of two evils.

Of course, the best alternatives are solar and wind energy; but we aren't capable of doing that yet.

AG, Greece
Of course, the best alternatives are solar and wind energy; but we aren't capable of doing that yet. We should keep dedicating money, resources, and time to research in solar and wind energy. Until we master solar and wind energy, we have two choices: nuclear energy or fossil fuel burning. Nuclear is the lesser of the two evils and is by far cleaner and safer than burning fossil fuels. Burning fossil fuels leads to global warming, which is bad.
Here in Greece, where there is an abundance of sun, we are experimenting in solar energy, but we still have a long way to go. Denmark is experimenting in wind energy. Until we are capable of using the sun and the wind efficiently, the best alternative is nuclear. And of course, we must all try to consume less energy. Turn off lights in unattended rooms!
AG, Greece

As a high tech worker, I see that the only way to get our power is nuclear!! By getting Nuclear power, one does not have to worry about supply of oil. In Europe for example you pay $5 a gallon, that's a joke!! Our goal now is to make Nuclear power better and also to work on transportation. Oil will run out someday, and most people don't even care!!!
Mike Browski, USA/ living in Israel

Three decades after being promised that nuclear power will make electricity so cheap that it won't have to be metered, we can easily see that a wide, systems viewpoint was never taken in the planning, design, financing and long term considerations of nuclear power plants.
In a world where the lowest bidder is usually chosen to build a plant for profit, we can see that nuclear power is too dangerous to tolerate mistakes and cost-cutting measures.
When building a plant, an equal amount of funding of the original cost also needs to be set aside to pay for spent fuel disposal and eventual decommissioning costs: these plants take longer to pay for than they last! The net result: nuclear power is an example of an idea that costs more than the energy it creates. Clearly, we should focus technology on using LESS not producing more energy.
Bob Adamczyk, USA

Nuclear energy is the best choice so far as long as the brains behind the project can handle it.

Nicholas Hanson, United States
There has never been a seriously out of control disaster without a significant human error. Take for instance Chernobyl, it was designed backwards. Water was used to control the reaction. No water = big problem! Well designed reactors use water to maintain a reaction. No water = no reaction = no big problem. Three Mile Island's problem was controlled before it got too far out of hand. Nuclear energy is the best choice so far as long as the brains behind the project can handle it.
Nicholas Hanson, United States

Yes nuclear power has a future in Europe and indeed the world. Fossil fuels will soon be gone and natural power sources such as wind power and wave power are not proving viable. More resources should be ploughed into researching safer forms of nuclear power such as fusion though.
Kenny, England

Where can we put all the nuclear waste where it will be safely away from mankind

Pearl Morrison, USA/UK
Aside from the dangers of fuel transport and running of the plant, there is the one BIG QUESTION: If we keep using nuclear fuels and building up a bigger stockpile of spent fuel/rods, WHERE can we put all the nuclear waste where it will be safely away from mankind, the water tables, the soil, the air, and safe from a china-syndrome energy leak build-up, or, from potential terrorist explosion or use? The US already has a serious waste management problem which gets more costly by the day! Yet, with nuclear waste, one can't NOT pay for the management!
Pearl Morrison, USA/UK

Nuclear power is the most viable option for clean power generation. The public's negative image of it is bred by ignorance and poor education of the facts. As for disposal of nuclear waste, why not put it back where it came from originally?
Chris Cowdery, England

I support nuclear power very much but no one tells me in simple terms what problems exist for high grade and low grade waste in the event of a mass move to nuclear power
Drew, Hong Kong

The nuclear industry, its apologists and PR spokesmen have done their best to denigrate the alternatives and those who have sought to expose the fundamental dangers of nuclear power. Quite apart from the now established connection between civilian and military interests, we are now seeing a revival of the NP propaganda onslaught. It was as a result of this pressure that we abandoned the technology that makes fossil fuels safe and clean. Not much mention of this recently.... On the other hand, there is no way that nuclear waste can ever be avoided or mitigated. We are busily and irrevocably contaminating the planet and that any government is considering adding to this environmental disaster, is an appalling prospect.
Alfred, England

Does society accept a less comfortable life styles (no nuclear power stations, less electromagnetic pollution, no genetically modified food and less chemical production.

Rumiana Dirimanova, Bulgaria, now living in Ireland
For rich European countries the main question is: Does society accept a less comfortable life styles (no nuclear power stations, less electromagnetic pollution, no genetically modified food, less chemical production, less number of vehicles and so on). Even high-tech industry pollutes environment and most people agree this pollution cannot be avoid. We should think how to minimise the negative influence over the environment. For poorest countries (in East Europe) this is out of question - they have no choice. Although the rich countries try to compel them to decrease the pollution in this stage it is not possible. The way of survival comes first.
Rumiana Dirimanova, Bulgaria, now living in Ireland

Back when most of our energy came from coal, the effects of the company putting profit before safety was limited to the lives of miners and their families. Not nice and we didn't like hearing of mine disasters but at least the effects were limited. Now, BNFL has the potential for world-wide disaster. Their safety record, plus the fact that they once had to rename Windscale as Sellafield, and the safety records of others e.g. Lockheed-Martin, and the operators of Chernobyl, give me no confidence. It is true that a nuclear power station does not produce the same kind of pollution that comes from a fossil-fuel driven station. But it is mistaken to think that they produce none at all, and even more mistaken to trust the people that build and run them.
Phil, UK

We should ask what the public opposition really is and what its based on. If it's blind fear then it stands in the way of cheaper energy and a better environment. Fossil fuels have done much to help mankind toward his current health and longevity, but lets not turn back the clock, lets carry on forward.
Jack Gordon, UK

In the nuclear issue populations are completely mislead by populist politicians and serious greens who do not know what they are talking about. The indisputable fact is that fossil fuel has been and will be far more dangerous than nuclear power. Exploitation of fossil fuel has brought us cars, acid rains, cut forests, mine accidents with tens of thousands of dead altogether, power plant explosions and unnecessary infrastructure to transport fossil fuels that again consumes other resources.
The nuclear power simply has to become more common to common people so that they would understand the real difference between it and fossil fuels. It has to be given finances to develop into even safer than it is and to develop unending resources of fusion power. But when is a voice of reason and balanced weighing of the facts taken into consideration if u can fish a few votes in next elections?
Mikko Toivonen Finland

I was taught that done properly and effectively nuclear power is safer and cleaner than coal, gas etc.

Mike, UK
The nuclear power debate raises its ugly head again. I am all for protecting the environment. I drive a small car I stopped using CFCs when that was brought to public attention and so on. I am however in favour of nuclear power. As a science student I was taught that done properly and effectively nuclear power is safer and cleaner than coal, gas etc. We all know what happens when it goes wrong but modern technology means that the days of Three Mile Island and Chernobyl are behind us. Smaller leaks can be easily prevented too. So why not give the regulator some teeth. Impose massive fines on any nuclear power producer who transgresses and lets stop getting uptight about what can be a very good supply of power with one major advantage over fossil fuels. It will last a lot longer than either you or I or our grandchildren need.
Mike, UK

It would seem to me that alternative energy sources that do not produce carbon dioxide are few and far between. Since Europe suffers from the "Not In My Backyard" syndrome, I can only conclude that Europe will become a major net importer of nuclear power from Russia where such apprehensions do not exist.
Doug Beattie, Canada

It would be foolish not to use the environmental advantages of nuclear power. We should not be distracted by the failures of blind avenues like Soviet Design plant like Chernobyl or reprocessing like Sellafield. The basic fact is that Western-Designed, well-regulated plants in Europe USA and Asia have accumulated 7000 or 8000 cumulative years of operation without serious incidents. They have saved countless barrels of fuel oil and billions of tons of greenhouse gases. If economically competitive, why not allow this technology?
Jan Wieman, The Netherlands

Nuclear power is a viable option for generating electricity. However, it has the side effect of creating radioactive waste. Once it is possible to reuse fissile materials, there is no limit to the use of nuclear energy. However, safety must be foremost in the operation of any nuclear plant, but as oil becomes scarce, nuclear power does have a future.
Jeff, USA

We don't have a choice. Fossil fuels cannot last forever, and there is only so much power that wind and hydroelectric generators can provide. So it's either nuclear power or back to the land...
Ed Bayley, USA (English)

If the right reactors will be used there should not be any problem using more nuclear power in the future. The reactors, which have been used up to now, are inadequate and dangerous - they have been responsible for the bad picture people have these days of nuclear power.
Jonathan McAndrew, Zimbabwe

Nuclear energy is the only way we have, to produce the enough energy we are going to need in the near future

Pablo Frezzi, Argentina
It seems to me that perhaps, nuclear energy is the only way we have, to produce the enough energy we are going to need in the near future. We only have oil resources for twenty years more if we go on burning petrol as we do. As far as I am concerned, developed countries have reached the point in which they have to choose whether they go on investing in new clean energies, or back up nuclear energy development.
Pablo Frezzi, Argentina

Nuclear power needs to have a future. Every source of energy pollutes in some sort of way and nuclear power, when treated with care, can be one of the safest forms with pollution in localised and unseen places. Until another power form can be found which can create the equivalent amount of energy, without the GLOBAL pollution of the carbon fuels, then there is not really any other way to go.
Public opinion is against it at the moment because of bad education, prejudices because of incidents in the past like Chernobyl and the atom bomb. Whenever people think of atomic power they think of Hiroshima, no matter how irrelevant it is. More positive information needs to be published.
Ben Weber, Brazil

Nuclear power may not be the long term future of power supply, per se, but there is no viable alternative available except burning fossil fuels at this time. (The irony of solar cell technology is that it takes more energy to make one than it will ever generate in its entire life.) Typical of complainers, the anti-nuclear lobbies bombard us with their negativity but fail to suggest viable solutions.
Mark M. Newdick, USA/UK

It is a fact that we must realise that coal, oil and gas will run out

Anne-Marie, UK
Nuclear Power has to have a future within Europe. It is a fact that we must realise that coal, oil and gas will run out and if people say we can't use nuclear there are very few viable alternatives to generate electricity. Wind power and solar power are an option but vast amounts of wind turbines and solar panels would be required to generate power. Look at Denmark, you drive through the country just to be met by huge white monstrosities constantly.
A slightly more viable option would be tidal power. Put a sort of barrier across a large estuary and use the incoming and outgoing tide to turn turbines and hence generate electricity. This is probably the most damage free and high generating of the "green" options available. But as we have nuclear power already, on the whole it is risk free and would be highly costly and damaging to get rid of. Why not make use of it's full potential.
Anne-Marie, UK

Europe has no business with nuclear energy. Is there going to be a qualified safety standard? If the people at the switches aren't trained or the plant wasn't built correctly, then you are going to see a lot of trouble. All it takes is one accident and you can kiss your country's population goodbye. Radiation kills.
Gregory Dittman, USA

I think that nuclear power should only be used for emergency power shortages. This particular type of power is polluting our plant with toxic waste and what enrages me is England is dumping it in our country. I feel that the European government should be looking into cleaner more efficient ways of powering our planet.
Andrew Raeside, Scotland

It doesn't really matter if we go with Nuclear power or Fossil fuels both of them pollute the environment just in different ways. Anyone who has ever passed the outflow of Didcot Power Station on the River Thames will have seen the signs warning people not to swim. In general fossil fuels pollute visibly continuously but reasonably slowly. Nuclear power on the other hand tends to pollute little and invisibly until something goes wrong, when you can surely tell. The answer is to try to use less of both.
Brian Blackmore, UK

The dangers posed by the burning of fossil fuels is gradual, diffused, and very hard to gauge.

Tim Schoettle, USA
The dangers posed by the burning of fossil fuels is gradual, diffused, and very hard to gauge. This is precisely why it is such a grave danger. Nuclear catastrophes by contrast are dramatic and galvanise public opinion. As a concerned environmentalist, I would much rather face the latter sort of threat.
Tim Schoettle, USA

I congratulate the media in raising awareness of the risks associated with nuclear power generation, but why is it that so little attention is paid to the safety (or lack of it) of nuclear power generation over the whole cycle? That cycle involves considerable risk at so many stages, but TRANSPORTATION as a stage has been (perhaps understandably) played down. Keeping energy consumption DOWN and keeping it as LOCAL as possible (i.e. within the same continent!) would appear to be prudent steps (time to turn this machine off!).
John Calton, Finland

Search BBC News Online

Advanced search options
Launch console
See also:

02 Mar 00 | Europe
Turkey plans quake zone N-plant
02 Dec 99 | Crossing continents
Kozloduy: who'll blink first?
Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to other European stories