Chapter 8 seeks to understand the interaction between discussions of cost and safety and nuclear power in the case of the UK. We examine the debates about the costs and Government policies underpinning nuclear power. This will be done to establish whether high costs of nuclear are a recently occurring phenomenon relating to safety demands, or merely part of the usual practice of developing nuclear power.

The British nuclear safety system is a hierarchy which is grounded in egalitarian norms. The original case law acted as a ‘bottom-up’ influence which represents a cultural disposition towards safety precaution. The hierarchy as represented by the ONR seeks to make itself the manager of this cultural tradition. It is contained within the concept of ‘weak’ ecological modernisation which has been described in Chapter 2.

The problem of high costs in the nuclear industry’s construction programme has been a long-standing one. Unlike the French programme of the 1970s/1980s the British nuclear construction programme has never had the size needed to assure the existence of a big enough cadre of engineering specialists.