1280px MAST Tokamak 32476489303

Nuclear fusion has long been touted as the answer to all our energy problems but even more so now, given that it has no significant carbon footprint. The latest new STEP (Spherical Tokamak for Energy Production) is currently being planned by the government, who are looking for a site and have already committed £200 million as the first deposit on the £2 billion project. However, the claim that an as yet unproven nuclear design will be producing cheap power in 2040 is fanciful, since projects of this size and complexity always overrun in time and budget. Some of us even remember the empty promises about power from nuclear fission being ‘too cheap to meter’.

In terms of fission power, the government has already agreed an electricity price of 12 pence a unit for Sizewell C, a much greater cost than a community wind farm with energy storage, so why should we be spending more on an intrinsically more dangerous energy source that can’t be controlled by local communities.

Despite expressed concerns about carbon footprints, the combined plans of G20 governments for economic recovery from the pandemic are funnelling 50% more money into projects that rely on burning fossil fuels than into greener ones. This goes under the radar because disclosing the financial risks posed by climate change is still optional not mandatory. And yet, as the rapid disintegration of Arctic ice-sheets, deadly heatwaves and blazing fires remind us, policies that don’t just promise decarbonisation but ACTUALLY set it in motion are sorely needed.

In this context, changing planning policy to allow community wind turbines and also changing building regulations to ensure that all future housing is built to a high insulation standard (i.e. zero carbon) are two steps on which we could reasonably expect SMDC to have already consulted if they are serious about their declared climate emergency. But this appears not to have happened.

Both the government and SMDC are dragging their feet, presumably as lobbied for by the fossil fuel industry, and apparently delaying action as long as possible. Perhaps they have no grandchildren or imagine that privilege will protect them?

Bright glowing plasma inside the vessel. By Eye Steel Film from Canada - MAST Tokamak, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=74248442