Understanding the intensity of UK policy commitments to nuclear power: the role of perceived imperatives to maintain military nuclear submarine capabilities

Cox, Emily, Johnstone, Phil and Stirling, Andrew (2016) Understanding the intensity of UK policy commitments to nuclear power: the role of perceived imperatives to maintain military nuclear submarine capabilities. Working Paper. SPRU Working Paper Series (SWPS 2016-16), Brighton.

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Abstract

The UK Government has long been planning to build up to 16 GWe of new nuclear power – a proportional level of
support unparalleled in other liberalised energy markets. Despite many challenging developments, these general
nuclear attachments show no sign of easing. With many viable alternative strategies for efficient, secure, low-carbon energy services, it is difficult to explain these commitments solely in terms of officially-declared policy rationales. A variety of possible reasons are suggested for the persistent intensity of UK attachments to civil nuclear power. Each is taken here as a basis for systematic hypothesis testing. And one additional hypothesis is also interrogated that has hitherto been virtually entirely neglected – about maintaining national capabilities to build and operate nuclear propelled submarines. To explore and test this idea, this paper analyses linkages between UK military and civilian nuclear sectors in terms of high-level policy processes around supply chains, skills and expertise. Especially interesting is the critical juncture between 2003-2006, when stated policy moved radically from nuclear power as ‘unattractive’ to calls for a ‘nuclear renaissance’. In this period, especially intense activity can be observed around UK nuclear submarine capabilities. Among many factors, we conclude it is difficult fully to comprehend the persistent intensity of official UK attachments to nuclear power, without also considering aims to maintain nuclear submarine capabilities. Yet this aspect is entirely undocumented anywhere in UK energy policy literatures. To acknowledge this, is not to entertain a conspiracy theory. It can be understood instead, in terms of more distributed and relational dynamics of power. Building on literatures in political science, we refer to this as a ‘deep incumbency complex’. Such an evidently under-visible phenomenon would hold important mplications not only for UK nuclear strategies, but also the wider state of British democracy.

Item Type: Reports and working papers (Working Paper)
Schools and Departments: School of Business, Management and Economics > SPRU - Science Policy Research Unit
Subjects: T Technology
Depositing User: Philip Johnstone
Date Deposited: 25 Sep 2016 11:33
Last Modified: 25 Sep 2016 11:33
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/63568

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