“We’ll need nuclear”: Lady Barbara Judge on the future of global energy | Video

World Finance interviews Lady Barbara Judge, one of the leading experts on atomic energy and the former Chairman of the UK Atomic Energy Authority, about the future of nuclear power

March 10, 2014

Nuclear power is one of the most controversial forms of energy, but it also has many merits. Lady Barbara Judge, one of the leading experts on atomic energy and the former Chairman of the UK Atomic Energy Authority, talks about just how important the energy form is, what role it plays in the global energy mix, and whether Kiev protests will spark a nuclear renaissance

World Finance: Well Lady Judge, let’s start with looking at the global energy mix, and what part does nuclear play?

Lady Barbara Judge: I believe strongly that nuclear has a role to play in the global energy mix. All countries need a bouquet of energy sources. They need oil, they need gas, they need renewable, but they definitely need nuclear, because nuclear is a base load source of energy, it goes 24/7, it goes not only when the wind is not blowing and the sun is not showing, you can have nuclear energy and it’s a very moderate price and it doesn’t gyrate. So it clearly has a place alongside other energy sources.

World Finance: Well what does nuclear energy mean for Europe?

Lady Barbara Judge: Oh I think it’s very important. No country should be relying on other countries for their energy, because all sorts of things happen. When energy has to cross national boundaries, you in your country have to worry about what’s happening in some other country. If you build a nuclear power plant in your own country, you can build it as big or as many as you want. So you have energy security, and energy independence. And one more thing: Europe is very concerned about climate change, and as we all know, nuclear does not emit carbon. So it answers all those three questions; energy security, energy independence, and climate change.

All countries need a bouquet of energy sources

World Finance: Well obviously you’ve come today to speak at the Caspian Corridor conference, so what does atomic energy mean for this region?

Lady Barbara Judge: Well it’s an interesting region, because it’s all part of the former Soviet Union, and the Soviet Union has been building and using nuclear power for a very long time. They didn’t stop, as some other countries do. And I think at this point they’re considering, many of these countries, whether they build new nuclear, whether they build small modular reactors, or whether they rely on gas.

World Finance: Well Kazakhstan is the world’s dominant uranium producer. Why is the country so well positioned to be home to a nuclear fuel bank?

Lady Barbara Judge: First of all it has a lot of uranium, and after all uranium is what’s used for nuclear fuel, and second of all it’s a huge country with a small population, so you can do a lot of things in that empty land with the uranium that’s not dangerous, that people aren’t worried about, and that makes money for the population.

World Finance: Well following on from Fukushima in Japan, Germany halted its nuclear program. Do you think this was an overreaction? 

Lady Barbara Judge: Oh totally. What’s happening in Germany is really amazing. You know that right after Fukushima Mrs. Merkel lost one election on one small conservative district, and the reaction was tremendous. So what’s happening now, the Germans are buying gas from Europe, they’re burning cheap, nasty American coal and their own coal, they’re buying nuclear from power plants in France but just along the German border, they’re burning as I say this coal, so they’re increasing their emissions, and the price of energy is going up. It ticks every wrong box, and the thing about it is, the Germans really know that. And so even the Green Party is getting a little backlash for putting the consumer in a position where the power is costing more all the time.

What’s happening in Germany is really amazing

World Finance: Could nuclear power disenfranchise us from energy monopolies?

Lady Barbara Judge: The more sources of energy you have, the better off a country is. So if nuclear has a big place as a base load energy, then you won’t have to rely so much on gas or oil, where the monopolies are at the moment.

World Finance: Well the UK has invested heavily in wind farms and hydro, so do you think we should invest in nuclear when we have committed so heavily to renewables?

Lady Barbara Judge: Absolutely, renewables do not take the place of nuclear. Indeed, renewables don’t take the place of any base load energy. As I mentioned to you, it only works when the sun shines and the wind blows, and if you’re in Scotland, that’s the example I always use, and you come home one night and it’s dark, and it’s cold, and it’s still, and you turn on the lights; no lights. So until we have good battery storage and a way to transport renewables, we’ll need nuclear.

World Finance: On a grassroots level now, and can nuclear plants create as many jobs?

Lady Barbara Judge: Oh, more jobs. In actual fact, nuclear power plants are big infrastructure projects, so they require a lot of jobs to build them, and a lot of jobs to run them. Whereas renewables do create jobs when you build them, but it doesn’t take very many people to run them. A good example is in Dounreay. In Dounreay, in our country in Scotland, we are now decommissioning that power plant, and we’re going to be on budget and on time. And the people that are most unhappy about that are the people that live around Dounreay, because they know that when the Dounreay power plant is closed, they lose jobs, their schools will go down, their cultural events will go down, all that infrastructure money which is there for the power plant will be gone. And so, interesting enough, even though Scotland is against building nuclear, the people who live around nuclear plants, they want them because they know what benefits they bring.

[R]enewables do not take the place of nuclear

World Finance: Well both Russia and Ukraine has established nuclear facilities. How have the protests in Kiev upset the supply chain, and what are the potential ramifications of the situation?

Lady Barbara Judge: Well everybody’s worried about it. Everybody’s worried about the supply of Russian gas, which not only went to the Ukraine, but to a lot of Europe. And if there’s a problem between the Russians and the Ukranians, and the Russians pull the plug as they did some years ago, it will concern the whole of Europe. In actual fact, when Russia pulled the plug on the Ukraine a number of years ago, that’s what actually started the nuclear renaissance in Europe, because we realised that we shouldn’t be dependent on any other country for our own energy.

World Finance: Lady Judge, thank you.

Lady Barbara Judge: Such a pleasure, thank you very much.