By Rahm Emanuael (Own work) [CC-BY-3.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Rahm Emanuael via wikimedia commons

By Deborah Burley and Maya Robert

Nuclear power has hit the headlines this year. When a devastating Tsunami hit Japan’s coastline, concern grew over the Fukushima power plant and the after effects of leaking nuclear waste. Despite this,  the UK government announced plans for more nuclear power plants, promising safe power to boost energy sources.

Today, another argument against nuclear power surfaced as ofgem realeased a study of Scotland’s wind and marine power concluding that it  would decrease the cost of feeding Scotland’s renewable energy back into the national grid by 80 percent  if this power source was increased.

The nuclear debate is constant. Some see it as the future of UK energy, while others feel that the safety risks may be too high to outweigh the benefits.

We’ve used nuclear power for the last 50 decades and in the 1990s, 30 percent of the UK’s energy supply came from nuclear power stations. Although this figure has reduced since then, as many of these have been,  or are set to be,  decommissioned several energy providers still use nuclear as their main supply source – EDF, for example, use 64 percent of their electricity from nuclear energy.

It was announced earlier this year that several new nuclear power plants are planned for the UK by 2025 to tackle the need for sufficient UK energy sources. But considering the media attention surrounding nuclear as an energy source, and their implications when met with natural or man-made disasters seen through the events of  Chernobyl, Fukushima and Hiroshima, concern around the topic grows.

We asked Alastair Evans, of the Nuclear Industry Association and Andy Atkins, of Friends of the Earth if nuclear was the future…

Friends of the Earth

Andy Atkins, Executive Director of Friends of the Earth

“People are angry: UK unemployment is at a 17-year high. Households are struggling to pay their bills while the energy companies continue to rake in massive profits. We all lost out because our politicians failed to stand up to the banks. We desperately need them to make sure we get a good deal on energy.

Our energy bills are sky-rocketing because of our broken electricity system. The last thing we need is another round of costly nuclear power stations. Despite all the money spent on nuclear power over the years – at a cost of billions of pounds to the taxpayer – they still require huge injections of public cash.

And there remain significant safety issues. The government’s own chief nuclear inspector catalogued 1,767 safety incidents across Britain’s nuclear plants between 2001 and 2008. The UK may not be at risk of major earthquakes or tsunamis like Fukushima, but our nuclear power plants are vulnerable to sea level rise and terrorist attacks.

Nuclear power is often presented as a shiny modern technology, but in reality it’s a product of the 1950s that hasn’t changed much since. Like fossil fuels, it still involves environmentally damaging extraction industries, and creates pollution. We need to ditch the old polluting energy technologies and opt for smart, clean technologies. The main thing that stands between us and a fair energy system is not a lack of available technologies, but a lack of ambition on the part of our politicians.

We need an energy system that will keep our lights on in the future without costing the earth. Replacing our broken energy system requires investment and means that our bills will go up. But Government figures show that they will go up less and be more stable in the long run if we invest in renewable energy and cut the energy that’s wasted in our homes and businesses, rather than persisting with dirty fuels, and guzzling power.

A step-change is needed with a new focus on clean energy and local production. Communities and householders need to be supported to produce their own clean energy. Friends of the Earth led and won the campaign for solar and wind energy rewards through the feed-in-tariff which has created 25,000 new jobs in the solar industry since it was introduced in 2010. Investing in green energy and energy saving will create hundreds of thousands of new jobs and give us an energy system that we can be proud of. Investing in nuclear will create a fraction of the jobs, expose us to unnecessary risks and leave a legacy of radioactive waste that will remain dangerous for generations.

75% of Brits think our top energy investment priority should be renewable energy or energy saving in homes. 11,000 people signed the Friends of the Earth petition for a nuclear free future based on renewables and energy saving. It’s clear that the Government’s plans to expand nuclear is out of step with public opinion. Nuclear power is a gamble we don’t need, and can’t afford,  to take.”

Nuclear Industry Association

Nuclear power, Nuclear Industry Association

Alastair Evans, Nuclear Industry Association

The UK has legally binding commitments to reduce emissions of Co2 by
80% by 2050 as part of measures to combat global climate change which the coalition government are determined to meet. Furthermore, the Government needs to ensure the lights stay on throughout the United Kingdom.

We therefore need a secure supply of affordable low carbon energy – and nuclear must be a key component as part of a balanced energy mix.

Renewables should play a role but the constant baseload supply of electricity provided to the grid by nuclear is essential.

The stability that nuclear provides ensures that when the wind is not blowing the lights stay on. Nuclear delivers 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. The other options in the mix –coal, and gas are high carbon, and if our climate change targets are to be achieved then we must plan for a low carbon energy mix with nuclear at its heart.

Security of supply in an ever changing world is important. Nuclear is not an imported energy source subject to interference by other countries. In this age of international uncertainty and geo-political issues, energy is becoming a much bigger topic of concern. We need nuclear’s flexibility, and stability.

The new nuclear programme of up to 16GW of new plant will provide a significant economic boost to the UK and up to 30,000 new jobs as the build programme progresses.

Nuclear will provide a generation with work in one industry for life, something that is increasingly rare. These jobs are not created by Government, but by industry.

There is no public subsidy for the new build programme; these jobs are created by investors with the foresight to invest in nuclear now.
Safety is at the forefront of everything that is done in nuclear, from new build, to the running, and finally to the decommissioning of a plant. We have a remarkably good safety record and the industry is overseen by one of the most highly regarded independent regulators who would not permit an industry that is not safe to operate.

A thorough review of the major accident at Fukushima has been carried out by Dr Mike Weightman the UK’s chief nuclear regulator, who was also chosen to lead international investigations. In his report ‘the lessons to be learnt from Fukushima’ 30 recommendations were made that will be implemented by UK industry going forward. The UK is committed to the principle of continuous improvement and the maintenance of a strong safety culture.

Politicians change every few years, and it is therefore essential we have continuity in our energy policy and bipartisan support. This gives confidence to the UK supply chain, as well as investors to ensure the right decisions are made now to keep the lights on, minimise the UK carbon footprint, and give the British public stable energy pricing.”

What are your thoughts on nuclear energy? Are you worried about the goverment’s plans to build more nuclear power plants? Do you live near one of the proposed sites? Do you think we should use other alternatives to nuclear power? Or are you confident that nuclear is the future?

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Saga Surviving Winter Appeal Logo

by Deborah Burley

Sir David Jason has joined other wealthy pensioners pledging their winter fuel allowance in a effort to recycle the payment and help vulnerable and poverty stricken households for Saga’s Surviving Winter Appeal.

The tax-free fuel payments, which have been reduced heavily this year by up to £100, are being donated by a number of senior celebrities, along with Sir David Jason, including Sir Michael Parkinson, Anne Widdecombe and Dame Cleo Laine.

The government allowance is given to all households where someone is over 60 years of age, regardless of income.

However, this year for the first time, the coalition are due to remove the ‘top up’ payment, resulting in a reduction of payment from £400 to £300 for bill payers over 80 and £250 to £200 for those over 60.

The allowance won’t cover the full amounts needed for households in Britain living in poverty and there is a level of shock surrounding the unneeded allowance for the estimated 100,000 recipients who are earning over £100, 000 annually.

The donation plans come shortly after Age UK released statistics that 200 people in Britain will die every day during the winter months as a result of cold related illnesses.

Age UK’s research manager, Phillip Rossall, said: “Among older people, the effects of cold housing were evident in terms of higher mortality risk, physical health and mental health”. He also claimed that the elderly were having to make the choice between heating or food.

And recent uSwitch research revealed that 6.3 million household in the UK were likely to fall into fuel poverty – where more than 10% of a household’s income is spent on energy – following a series of energy price rises.

Ann Robinson, Director of Consumer Policy at uSwitch, said at the time: “… all households should also look to invest in longer-term energy efficiency measures, such as loft insulation and cavity walls.

“Those who would struggle to afford this investment should contact their energy supplier to see whether they would qualify for any energy efficiency grants or financial support.

It’s hoped that these figures can be reduced with the celebrity effort to encourage others to part with their winter fuel allowance, if they themselves do not need the financial support.

Sir David Jason said: “I wanted to pledge my payment to the Surviving Winter Appeal.

“It would be great to think that all those people who are in a position to forego part or all of their own winter fuel payment could join this great scheme and spread a little warmth.”

Those wishing to join the celebrities in their pledge can go to the Saga website to make a donation.

For information on the Winter Fuel Payment or other government schemes, visit the uSwitch energy saving grants guide.

What do you think about Saga’s Surviving Winter Appeal? Are you shocked at Age UK’s recent statistics? Are you concerned about getting through this winter? Leave your comments below: 

By Deborah Burley

When we’re buying new gadgets and appliances for our homes we want great products with seamless style and understand that product efficiency shouldn’t mean a compromise on aesthetics.

We always look for the most stylish products for our shop and believe that we now have a great collection. With this in mind, we’ve compiled a list of the top five stylish energy-efficient products from our shop.

Who cares about the latest catwalk colour or the must have bag of the season? Your great taste will be clear to see from the minute you begin using these energy-efficient products, daaarling.

Top five most stylish products…

Plumen 001 low energy light bulb

The Plumen 001 is the world’s first designer light bulb and is so good looking that it won the Brit insurance design of 2011 – anyone style savvy is adding this to the top of their wish list.

energyEGG standby saver

This gadget looks great in your living room; its fun egg shape isn’t the only reason why we love it so much  – it turns your appliances off when you’ve left the room too.

Osun MushRoom Green ZERO charger

The small and smart Osun MushRoom turns your gadget chargers off when they’ve done their job, so you won’t waste unnecessary energy . We love its simple design and its bright green colour.

POWERplus Seal weather station

 The sleek curved design is the ‘cherry-on-top’ of this solar powered weather station which measures the temperature, actual pressure and development pressure of the day and also has an integrated clock and calendar.

POWERplus Dragonfly

This solar powered light flickers beautifully like a candle but is in fact a solar powered light. It has a smooth and modern design making it a must-have for the style conscious looking for a touch of the unique.

By Deborah Burley

If the autumn has taken your spark and the thought of staying indoors throughout the winter is getting you down, then why not try something new to keep you entertained? How about a touch of magic?!

In the uSwitch office we like to think of alternative ways to entertain ourselves and with our latest energy-efficient products we haven’t had to look too hard. There’s a certain charm about them that’s made us turn all Paul Daniels and Debbie McGee. Be dazzled by our ‘magical’ energy efficient products and use them to convince oblivious onlookers that you are actually a very skilled magician…

Top five ‘magical’ products…

Danlers wall switch

With a click of a finger, a clap of your hands or a glide into the room the lights will come on – as if by magic, (and there’s no need to tell your audience that it’s actually the motion sensors in the switch that does this…)

POWERplus Dragonfly

 This solar powered light can be used in the house or garden. Simply command the light to turn on, turn it upside down and ‘hey presto’ – the beautiful candle- like glow and flicker begins.

energyEGG standby saver

Ask your appliances to turn off when you leave the room, and they will! The energyEGG uses new technology to sense when you’ve left the room then switches off the wasted electricity being used through appliances like your television or radio – a trick sure to impress!

H2O radio shower

With no batteries, solar or dynamo needed, this must-have radio will work it’s magic in drowning out the sound of anyone singing in the shower.  Just add water to power- voila!

H2O water powered retro analogue clock

For your final trick, shock your friends as you fill your clock up with water and…it begins to work! You can see the water working inside the clock, adding to the appeal of this trendy retro clock.