Extract from 'The Life Scientific' – BBC Radio 4 (Tuesday 26th Feb 2013)


"Jim Al-Khalili talks to Sue Ion about working in the nuclear industry in the dark decades post Chernobyl and about why nuclear power has to be part of our energy mix for the future" – BBC.  Click the link to listen to a 13 min extract of the BBC programme.


'Why we cannot keep the lights on without nuclear energy' – The Independent Blogs, 


Dame Sue Ion




By   Monday, 24 October 2011 at 6:00 a


"The Royal Academy of Engineering’s Study of last year, ‘Generating the Future’, took the view that we needed to deploy the MAXIMUM amount possible of renewable energy resources that engineers considered feasible. We worked out what you’d actually have to build. Each element was the maximum we thought feasible

  • 38 London (sized) arrays of offshore wind (we haven’t got one yet)
  • 1000 miles of Pelamis wave machines (we’ve only got a set of test units). 1000 miles equates to building 3 miles a month, for the next 40years, or the equivalent length of one London tube train a day
  • Nearly ten thousand land based 2.5MW wind turbines
  • 25million 3.2kw solar panels
  • The Severn barrage built (except it’s already been decided not to go ahead with it)
  • 2300 SeaGen marine turbines (we got a couple of test units)
  • 25+GW biomass energy

As well as all these installations, in order to meet our apparently legally binding carbon targets we would also need:-

  • At least 40 new nuclear power plants or fossil plants with Carbon Capture and Sequestration (we haven’t got any of these yet either and CCS has yet to be proven as a viable technology)




  • A reduction in demand of 25-30%. That’s 25-30%, with the massive sociological and behavioural challenges that brings

The Engineering challenge in delivering all of this is massive in itself. But when you also consider the associated additional infrastructure, in terms of development of the national electricity grid, and the port infrastructure to facilitate particularly the offshore wind and marine technologies, it becomes nigh on impossible in engineering terms.


These issues haven’t been thought through properly (if at all!), neither the buildability nor the cost, which you and I the consumer will ultimately bear. Efforts to update the power network of the National Grid have not kept pace with the construction of wind farms.  We are having to pay windfarm operators hundreds of thousands of pounds to keep their turbines idle, when the energy they are producing cannot be accommodated.  …….."


Click here for the full blog article


Dame Sue Ion is a fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering and a visiting professor at Imperial College London.

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