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More coal and gas may be used in the UK to ensure energy security if investors believe nuclear power is no longer a viable option.

As the UK Government reviews the safety of its nuclear build programme, Japan today upped the rating of the Fukushima nuclear incident putting it on a par with Chernobyl.

Japan’s nuclear regulator raised its assessment of the nuclear accident at the Fukushima plant from five to seven on the International Atomic Energy Agency scale, it emerged today. The development comes as concerns are growing over whether or not the UK can attract the necessary investment for the proposed 10 nuclear plants it plans to have up and running between now and 2030.

Japan’s regulator upped its assessment because of the impact that radiation leaking from the Fukushima plant would have on human health and the environment. Japan had initially classified the incident as a level four before later raising it to level five.

Safety concerns

This weekend, Energy Minister Charles Hendry said in an interview on Radio Four that the UK should still use nuclear power to meet its energy needs because it would be more expensive to do so without it.

“We think nuclear has a role going forward,” he told The World This Weekend.

However, with growing safety concerns, investors may be more hesitant to back the Government’s build programme without some Government incentives, something the Coalition said it is opposed to doing.

The 10 proposed nuclear reactors remain a key part of the Government’s plan for meeting CO2 reduction goals, but if investors feel nuclear is too risky, then alternative energy sources will need to be established to fill the void.

Energy blackouts

The UK currently gets about 20 per cent of its electricity from nuclear plants. By 2023, 18 of the UK’s 19 nuclear reactors are scheduled to be retired. The 10 proposed nuclear reactors would help produce the electricity being generated at the ones scheduled to shut down. If these 18 reactors shut down and no new reactors are built, the UK could face an energy shortage.

High carbon alternatives, such as coal and gas, may be used to ensure energy security if investors believe nuclear power is no longer a viable option. Using these alternatives would further detract from the Government’s CO2 reduction target of 80 per cent by 2050.

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