News December 2015

20 December 2015

Hinkley

Letter Allan Jeffery: Who’d a Thought it! I never dreamed I would see the day when a British Conservative government, opened the door and welcomed in a Chinese State Communist government into the centre of Britain’s Financial Systems and Nuclear Power Industry. Not only this, but as the German Commissioner investigating the Hinkley Point deal, uttered, “this is a soviet style deal!” Yes, our government is going to force British citizens and businesses to pay double the present price for our electricity for 35 years, in order to guarantee huge profits for the Chinese Banks and the French government’s electricity industry, as they attempt to build a failed reactor design that no other country in the world wants. Osborne and Cameron should be aware of the serious diplomatic and security consequences of becoming too close to the Chinese Communist State government. America will not be keen on a Chinese company that builds nuclear bombs at the heart of the nuclear power station building in the UK. Japanese companies embarking on building their nuclear reactors here, have to be convinced that the Chinese design of reactors will not be short tracked to speed up their assessment approval ahead of the Japanese designs. The prospect of China supplying the design, parts and workers to build a nuclear plant at Bradwell, is very worrying to the building trade unions, as well as the local population there. It seems that the declining nuclear industry is forcing our pro-nuclear politicians into communist style ways of working to achieve their virtual, fantasy, nuclear dreams!

[Read more…]

Posted: 20 December 2015

19 December 2015

Hinkley

Insider Media Breakfast 20th Jan 2016, Businesses and organisations across the South West have welcomed the historic deal that secured Chinese investment in Hinkley Point C. The agreement between EDF and China General Nuclear Corporation will enable construction of the UK’s first nuclear power plant in a generation. With some pre-development work already complete at the Hinkley site, the construction project is due to start in earnest very soon, subject to a final investment decision. The project could be worth an estimated £50bn to the South West economy, so is the region geared up to make the most of it? Insider’s breakfast debate will gather together key stakeholders involved in the project to discuss what lies ahead and how we create the infrastructure to support the thousands of people that will be involved.

[Read more…]

Posted: 19 December 2015

18 December 2015

Nukes vs Climate

After the signing of a historic climate pact in Paris, we might now hope that the merchants of doubt – who for two decades have denied the science and dismissed the threat – are officially irrelevant. But not so fast. There is also a new, strange form of denial that has appeared on the landscape of late, one that says that renewable sources can’t meet our energy needs. Oddly, some of these voices include climate scientists, who insist that we must now turn to wholesale expansion of nuclear power. Just this past week, as negotiators were closing in on the Paris agreement, four climate scientists held an off-site session insisting that the only way we can solve the coupled climate/energy problem is with a massive and immediate expansion of nuclear power. More than that, they are blaming environmentalists, suggesting that the opposition to nuclear power stands between all of us and a two-degree world. That would have troubling consequences for climate change if it were true, but it is not. Numerous high quality studies, including one recently published by Mark Jacobson of Stanford University, show that this isn’t so. We can transition to a decarbonized economy without expanded nuclear power, by focusing on wind, water and solar, coupled with grid integration, energy efficiency and demand management. In fact, our best studies show that we can do it faster, and more cheaply. We probably won’t get very far if the alternatives to fossil fuel – such as renewable energy – are disparaged by a new generation of myths. If we want to see real solutions implemented, we need to be on the lookout for this new form of denial.

[Read more…]

Posted: 18 December 2015

17 December 2015

New Nukes

Energy Secretary Amber Rudd’s plan to deliver the UK’s emissions reductions promised in COP21 rely on nuclear power as the main ‘low carbon’ energy source, writes Paul Flynn. But the high cost of nuclear, and the ruinous track record of current technologies, show that this path leads only to massive failure at public expense. Boris Johnson spotted that the nuclear Emperor has no clothes He said the mega-subsidy of taxpayers £2 billion a year for 35 years (perhaps rising to £10bn) is an “extraordinary amount of money to spend”. Treasury officials are becoming twitchy and nauseous at the prospect that they are incubating a looming financial cataclysm. The magnitude of the future scandal could rival those of the Tanganyika groundnuts fiasco and the South Sea Bubble. It’s said that Civil Service careers are dominated by the ethos of the unimportance of being right. The careers of those who push the conventional un-wisdom of the day blossom. The careers of far-sighted who challenge with solutions that work in the long term wither. Amber Rudd has no specialist knowledge of energy politics and has opinions dumped on her by officials. We must hope the curiosity she exhibited in her former career as a financial journalist will lead her to discover a rational green path through the jungle of vested interests and elephant traps of doomed hopes.

[Read more…]

Posted: 17 December 2015

16 December 2015

Torness

EDF announced one of its nuclear reactors in Scotland was unexpectedly shut down yesterday. In a statement, the firm said the Torness power station unit 2 automatically closed during a routine testing while an issue was detected in an electrical system. The reactor shut down safely and there were no environmental impacts, EDF claims. As a consequence, Edinburgh-based demand response provider Flexitricity was called to secure power supply by National Grid. Alastair Martin, Chief Strategy officer at Flexitricity said: “The unplanned shutdown of Torness resulted in a call for reserve power from Flexitricity to fill the gap. We responded by quickly lowering consumption at commercial sites like cold stores and by turning up highly efficient combined heat and power generators across our connected network.”

[Read more…]

Posted: 16 December 2015

15 December 2015

Torness

There has been an unscheduled shutdown of one of the reactors at Torness power station in East Lothian. Reactor 2 stopped automatically during routine testing when an issue with an electrical system was detected. EDF energy which operates the plant said there were no health or environmental impacts. “Reactor 2 automatically shut down during routine testing when an issue was detected in an electrical system. Protection equipment, which is designed to ‘fail safe’, operated to automatically shut down the reactor. The reactor shut down safely and cooling to the reactor was maintained at all times. There were no health or environmental impacts.”

[Read more…]

Posted: 15 December 2015

14 December 2015

Wylfa

One of Britain’s last remaining nuclear power stations is due to be switched off at the end of this month, raising fresh concerns about a shortage of UK electricity supplies during the period of peak winter demand. Engineers at the Magnox reactor at Wylfa on Anglesey, one of only eight operational UK nuclear power stations, will turn it off for the last time on December 30. The plant, which entered service in 1971 and is the last of Britain’s original generation of nuclear reactors, still generates nearly 460 megawatts of electricity – enough to supply a city the size of Manchester. The decision to switch it off has fuelled fears about a risk of blackouts next year amid severe and growing constraints on the UK’s electricity generating capacity. Last month National Grid was for the first time forced to use emergency measures to keep the l ights on after several power plants unexpectedly broke down. “It doesn’t seem to make any sense,” Dominic Whittome, an energy consultant, said. “It’s a very peculiar time to close it down – right in the middle of winter when we are operating at the lowest generating capacity since the mid-1970s.” The Wylfa unit is the last working Magnox reactor anywhere in the world. It uses British technology originally developed at Calder Hall, Cumbria, the world’s first civil nuclear reactor, which was inaugurated by the Queen in 1956. The Wylfa reactor is now running low on nuclear fuel, and the manufacturing line to produce new Magnox fuel rods shut down in 2008. A spokesman for the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, the government agency that operates the plant, said: “It can’t continue generating indefinitely. It’s been generating for 44 years, which is much longer than expected under its original design life.”

[Read more…]

Posted: 14 December 2015

13 December 2015

Hinkley

Mass delusion is an unrecognised malign force in politics. Shared accepted wisdom is often a harbinger of future catastrophes. Almost every time all major Parties agree on any project, they are wrong. Faith in the value of drugs-prohibition is evidence-free and prejudice rich. Three Prime Ministers and their Parties were bewitched by the blandishments of Kids Company. The Pied Power of nuclear power has enchanted and deceived with impossibilist promises. But the consensus of the gullible is breaking down. Boris Johnson spotted that the nuclear Emperor has no clothes. He said the mega-subsidy of taxpayers £2 billion (perhaps rising to £10bn) is an “extraordinary amount of money to spend”. Treasury officials are becoming twitchy and nauseous at the prospect that they are incubating a looming financial cataclysm. The magnitude of the future scandal could rival those of the Groundnuts scheme and the South Sea Bubble. The financial deal has an incredible history. All the sensible investors fled years ago. Centrica abandoned a £200 million investment. The near bankrupt EDF has no choice. They hope that their €30 billion debt could be reduced by this desperate gamble. The Chinese’s long-term plan is to use their designs in all future UK reactors, including Bradwell, to establish world dominance for their nuclear technology.

[Read more…]

Posted: 13 December 2015

12 December 2015

Hinkley & Freedom of Information

Almost exactly a year ago (3 Dec, 2014) I asked the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC )in an FOI request if it would send me the “ full documentation provided to the European Commission is support of the UK application for State Aid agreement on the Hinkley Point C nuclear project, including : a report by KPMG on potential distortions to competition; a report by Oxera on market failures, proportionality and potential distortions of competition; a study by Pöyry on potential distortions to the internal market and alternatives to new nuclear; report by Redpoint on the evolution of the UK electricity sector; & details of the Cost Discovery and Verification process, compiled by KPMG and Leigh Fisher.” DECC refused, but admitted there were actually 126 documents, not just the five I listed, and also threw out my appeal. DECC told me: “Having balanced the public interest arguments, we consider the public interest in releasing the full notification is outweighed by the need to ensure that the Commission is able to carry-out its investigatory functions effectively which involves the submission of candid and frank views by the Government and requires a safe space for the Commission to consider matters out of the public eye. This would not be possible if information contained in State aid notifications were subject to disclosure I passed my request on to the Information Commissioner. After several months of exchanging e-mail communications, in which I explained in great detail the public interest in disclosure, in mid-August, the Commissioner – who is supposed to protect citizens’ right to know – unbelievably rejected my appeal in a fifty page justification for secrecy.

[Read more…]

Posted: 12 December 2015

Nuclear Champions go into Overdrive

Pro-nuclear lobbyists and nuclear industry champions have been in overdrive during the Paris Climate Conference.

They seem to be making a desperate last-ditch effort to convince us all that nuclear power is an important part of the answer to the climate crisis with blatant attacks on those who envisage a future based on renewable energy without nuclear. (1) But the truth is that nuclear power is a dangerous distraction from what we really need to be doing. Because every pound spent on nuclear power could have been spent more effectively, making greater reductions in carbon emissions, nuclear is actually damaging efforts to tackle climate change.

NASA scientist James Hansen was in Paris to berate climate campaigners for failing to support nuclear power. But Hansen ignores renewables and energy efficiency, setting up a false choice between fossil fuels and nuclear. (2) Hansen doesn’t just want more nuclear power, but he wants next-generation nuclear power stations fuelled with weapons-useable plutonium, extracted from spent fuel in reprocessing plants like Sellafield, which runs the risk of more weapons proliferation problems in future. (3)

A big part of the pro-nuclear argument seems to be based on the idea that renewable energy currently provides only a tiny part of global electricity supply and cannot scale up rapidly enough to replace fossil fuels. Nuclear power, on the other hand, the argument goes, could do so. Hansen wants 115 new reactors to be built every year – yet the world has never built more than 40 a year. (4) Fortunately the concept of a world powered by 100% renewable energy is no longer seen as a pipedream but as a necessary and, more importantly, achievable goal at every level–from individuals to large corporations, and from small communities to large cities. (5)

Bill Gates also made headlines with his “Breakthrough Energy Coalition” fund to come up with new energy solutions, including “advanced” nuclear reactors. It’s not that innovation is unwelcome, but the climate can’t afford to hang around whilst we wait for “Energy Miracles”. As investment bank Goldman Sachs has pointed out we already have cost-effective and climate-effective technology available. What the climate really needs right now is the large-scale deployment of these existing technologies. Gates and his billionaires’ club should be distributing funds to empower communities, and incentivize the massive deployment of energy efficiency and existing renewable technology now rather waiting for miracles which might never happen, or will happen too late to make a difference. (6)

Even under EDF’s most optimistic scenario we will have to wait another decade for Hinkley Point C to contribute anything to reducing carbon emissions. And even then its effectiveness will be limited because of the vast amount of fossil fuels used to extract uranium from the ground. One recent study showed the nuclear life-cycle producing six times the carbon dioxide produced by wind and double what is produced by solar. (7) Ian Fairlie, Paul Dorfman, David Lowry and Jonathon Porritt pointed out in a letter to The Guardian this week that “nuclear power is a poor method of reducing carbon emissions: its uranium ore and fuel processes have heavy carbon footprints. Indeed, of the ways to reduce carbon emissions in the energy sphere, nuclear is by far the most expensive in terms of pound per tonne of carbon saved.” (8)

Meanwhile the UK Government seems intent on demonstrating to the rest of the world that nuclear power is too expensive to play a part in tackling climate change and leads to the slashing of budgets for faster and much more effective ways of reducing carbon emissions.

  1. See Green World 30th Nov 2015 http://safeenergy.org/2015/11/30/when-a-campaign-strikes-a-nerve/
  2. Ecologist 20th Nov 2015 http://www.theecologist.org/News/news_analysis/2986335/dont_nuke_the_climate_james_hansens_nuclear_fantasies_exposed.html
  3. Guardian 3rd Dec 2015 http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/dec/03/nuclear-power-paves-the-only-viable-path-forward-on-climate-change
  4. Green World 7th Dec 2015 http://safeenergy.org/2015/12/07/the-nuclear-industrys-cop-21-dilemma/
  5. Ecologist 5th Nov 2015 http://www.theecologist.org/essays/2986169/a_clean_green_energy_future_beckons.html and Scientific American 19th Nov 2015 http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/139-countries-could-get-all-of-their-power-from-renewable-sources1/ and Sierra Club 4th Dec 2015 http://www.sierraclub.org/compass/2015/12/ready-100-percent-clean-energy
  6. Inside Philanthropy 4th Dec 2015 http://www.insidephilanthropy.com/home/2015/12/4/sorry-bill-gates-but-billions-for-energy-research-is-not-how.html
  7. Sovacool, B Valuing the greenhouse gas emissions from nuclear power: A critical survey, Energy Policy 36 (2008) 2950– 2963.
  8. Guardian 6th December 2015 http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/dec/06/nuclear-is-not-the-answer-to-the-climate-crisis

 

Posted: 11 December 2015