In a move destined to be greeted by both cheers and jeers, the UK government recently approved construction of a new nuclear power facility in Somerset, England. The Hinkley Point C power plant will be built by a consortium consisting of France's EDF Energy and a number of Chinese corporations and investors. Once the plant is up and running, it is expected to provide cheap and clean energy for 60 years.
Those in favour of the project claim that, despite government subsidies, the average UK customer will pay up to £77 less per month for energy by the year 2030. They say that without additional nuclear power facilities, the cost of energy produced by traditional fossil fuels will rise too far, too fast for the average UK consumer.
Critics of the project do not necessarily have a problem with nuclear power but they do disagree over the government subsidies. The subsidies come by way of the government paying twice the current wholesale value for every megawatt hour of energy produced at the Hinkley Point plant. According to the BBC, the strike price reached by the two sides is £92.50 per megawatt hour.
The government says that price will fall to £89.50 if the consortium follows through on plans to build a second plant in Suffolk. They say once both plants are operational, costs to the consumer will gradually decrease over time. Alternatively, continuing to focus on fossil fuels and more expensive sustainable power generation will only cause retail prices to continue rising.
While much of the talk regarding the new power plant has dealt with retail prices for average consumers, no one is addressing the commercial impact of the deal; most notably, the ever-expanding IT sector. The UK leads Europe in nearly every IT category, including data centre construction, collocation, high-speed Internet and fibre optic infrastructure. A lot more energy is needed to continue development at its present pace.
Establishing two brand-new nuclear facilities are key to meeting the energy demands of the IT sector. Nuclear power has a decided advantage over sustainable energy in that it does not rely on environmental factors to work properly. And of course, it does not pollute like traditional fossil fuels. It is the best power option for data centres, collocation facilities, and web hosting companies.
While it may be extremely costly to build the nuclear power plants, some consider them vital if the UK is going to meet the power demands of the future. As much as we all encourage sustainable energy production, it's simply not going to be enough on its own to keep up with increasing energy demands. The Internet age demands a more robust and powerful solution; a solution offered by nuclear power.
In a world increasingly more dependent on cloud computing, virtualisation and on-demand IT services, we cannot really afford to do without nuclear power. The goal now should be making it safe as possible and cost-efficient to build new plants.