Dr Michael Coleman presented "a scientist's view" of generating and transmitting electricity in his lecture to the Society on 15 February. He worked in the management team at Sizewell and then Bradwell nuclear power stations before retiring. He has also been Chairman of Suffolk Preservation Society. He described the history of generating electricity from the 19th century and then explained the nationalisation of the industry, when there was a legal requirement for the Central Electricity Generating Board to supply electricity continuously. This obligation was removed when the industry was privatised in 1989; now, maintaining supply is "a matter for the market".
Concerns about climate change in the 1990s have led to such developments as the extensive use of gas rather than coal in power stations. Dr Coleman then went on to speak about the various options for using renewable sources of power - wind, hydro, solar, wave, tidal, wood, biomass and nuclear. Of these he strongly favoured tidal power, because of its predictability and its proven technology (a Severn barrage could supply 15% of the country's needs) and, not surprisingly, nuclear generation which he argued is safe as long as there is an adequate water supply and if the spent radioactive material is vitrified and stored safely. On the controversial subject of transmission he explained why burying cables is so much more expensive than using pylons.
Postscript: Dr Coleman has subsequently written to thank the Society and to put his argument for nuclear power even more strongly. "I am not convinced by the effectiveness for power generation of any of the range of renewables on offer since almost without exception the normally accepted ones are not capable of uninterrupted generation which is a basic requirement of any stable electricity supply system. For the £100 billion subsidy that will have gone to wind by 2020, I could have built upwards of 15 Sizewell Bs and ensured we had guaranteed clean power for the next 60 years. Furthermore, although the grid needs updating and expanding to meet oncoming needs, it would not have needed the massive expansion now necessary. In other words I could have seen a cost effective way of meeting our international obligations on C02 emissions and meeting our energy needs."