Nuclear Energy and the Low Carbon Transition

Cooper, Jonathan (2013) Nuclear Energy and the Low Carbon Transition. Doctoral thesis, University of Central Lancashire.

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This PhD thesis examines the role of nuclear energy in the transition to a low carbon economy in the United Kingdom. Theories of sustainable development, including ecological modernisation, are used to frame its findings and emerging geographies of nuclear new build are explored. Analysis of policy shows that recent narrative from government has been inconsistent on the quantification of the carbon footprint of nuclear energy. The relatively low carbon footprint of nuclear energy, when compared to fossil fuel alternatives, is found to be a significant factor, alongside increased energy security, in the rationale behind the UK government‟s recent programme of new nuclear power stations. Critical analysis of existing life cycle assessments of nuclear power stations is presented. Quantitative and qualitative analysis of questionnaire responses and qualitative analysis of interviews conducted within the nuclear energy sector indicate that approaches to carbon management vary widely. Analysis of public consultation indicates that climate change is one of a range of geographical considerations important in perceptions of nuclear energy. Views on the significance of the relatively low carbon footprint of nuclear energy and on approaches to carbon management in the nuclear industry are analysed in depth. This thesis contributes to a greater understanding of the role of nuclear energy in the UK, of the use of life cycle assessment in nuclear energy and of the role of ecological modernisation in the nuclear industry. The novelty of this thesis lies mainly in its presentation and critical analysis of views on climate change and wider sustainability issues from within the nuclear energy industry itself. It presents geographies of nuclear new build within a specific regional context and proves that UK nuclear energy, in the case of the northwest of England, is not an example of the decide-announce-defend approach to policy making.

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