The content of this e-journal was for the most part originally prepared for Nuclear Free Local Authorities (Scotland) and is reproduced, as adapted, with their permission but without liability for its contents.
1.1 A report by the David Hume Institute, an Edinburgh free-market think tank, published on 22nd April, urges ministers to reconsider the nuclear option and abandon plans to build wind farms. The report, leaked to The Sunday Herald, was unveiled at the Royal Society of Edinburgh. Compiled by Professor David Simpson, founding director of the Fraser of Allander Institute in Glasgow and a former professor of economics at the University of Strathclyde with help from Robin Jeffrey, former boss of British Energy, it says nuclear power is half the price of wind power. Simpson says he doesn’t favour proceeding with new nuclear stations until an acceptable waste management strategy is in place.
1.2 The report uses costs from a Royal Academy of Engineering (RAE) report published in March (http://www.raeng.org.uk/ ). RAE’s figures are extremely biased. Their costs assume everything goes well for nuclear and everything goes badly for renewables. Nobody outside of the nuclear industry assumes such low costs for nuclear power. RAE simply accepted the industry’s costings without further analysis. The Cabinet Office Policy and Innovation Unit (PIU) has already examined the claim that new nuclear reactors could generate electricity for 2.3 p/kWh, and found it to lack credibility. PIU estimated that a cost of 3-4 p/kwh was much more likely. Electricity from Sizewell B costs around 6p/kWh.
1.3 The industry’s cost predictions are based on the BNFL/Westinghouse, AP1000 design, which has not been built anywhere in the world, so the costs are pure speculation. They assume extremely optimistic construction times; a 60-year life; a very optimistic availability of about 90%; and low construction costs.
1.4 For wind power, RAE uses reductions in costs due to learning which are inconceivably low. There are already onshore wind-farms generating power at less than 2p/kWh. Figures for the cost of back-up power when the wind isn’t blowing assume that all back-up power stations would have to be built from scratch. RAE’s figures are frankly absurd. The figures given in the PIU report are much more reliable. For ease of reference, Garrad Hassan in a report for Greenpeace, on offshore wind gives the PIU costs and figures from the International Energy Agency. (See page 36)
1.5 Energy Minister, Stephen Timms MP, told the Nuclear Industry Association Annual Energy Choices Conference on December 4, 2003 that:-
“… economics makes the option of building new nuclear capacity a rather unattractive one at the moment. And there are important issues of nuclear waste to resolve … I agree with those in the industry who have said to me that new nuclear build is not today a realistic proposition … I haven’t yet met anyone who wants, in the near future, to build new nuclear capacity, and I think it is right that it is not a decision for now”.
But he also said the Government would review its position on building new nuclear stations in 2006.
1.6 BNFL’s subsidiary, Westinghouse, is part of a consortium which hopes to apply for a licence to build a new nuclear reactor in the United States in 2008. In Congress a tax credit for advanced nuclear plants of 1.8 cents per kilowatt-hour tax has been proposed as part of a bill on corporation tax after Bush’s energy bill, which would have subsidised new nuclear stations, failed to get agreement before Christmas. Meanwhile, US Vice President, Dick Cheney has reportedly been promoting the Westinghouse AP1000 on his recent trip to China.
2.1 BNFL, the Environment Agency (EA) and the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate (NII) have announced that the process using Tetraphenylphosphonium Bromide (TPP) to reduce discharges of technetium-99 (Tc-99) from Sellafield into the Irish Sea has been successful. The EA and NII have agreed that TPP can now be used routinely to reduce Tc-99 discharges. This means that the Environment Agency can now reduce Sellafield’s limit for technetium discharges from 90 Terabecquerels per year (TBq/yr) down to 10TBq/yr immediately, rather than having to wait until 2006.
3.1 The Scottish Parliament agreed an Executive (Sewel) motion on 4th February to allow the provisions in the Energy Bill that relate to devolved matters to be considered by the UK Parliament. A motion from the Greens which opposed the Executive’s motion, highlighted the fact that the Nuclear Decommissioning Agency will have no environmental objectives, and the current lack of Scottish powers over stored radioactive waste was defeated.
3.2 Sarah Boyack, Labour MSP for Edinburgh Central, and former Environment Minister, told the Parliament that “it is critical … for the operation of the nuclear decommissioning agency that environmental principles are written into the base of the bill … Environmental principles must be right up there at the front of the bill … I want the minister to state more strongly that he will ensure that if we approve the Sewel motion, he will put environmental principles on the UK ministers’ agenda”.
3.3 At the 6th Irish and UK Local Authorities Standing Conference on Nuclear Hazards, former Director of the Liabilities Management Unit talked of faster decommissioning times and the huge potential cost savings available to the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority. He mentioned Rocky Flats in Colorado where he thought the decommissioning program had gone well. Rocky Flats manufactured plutonium pits for US nuclear weapons until 1989. In 2006 Rocky Flats is expected to be the first major US nuclear weapons production facility to be “cleaned” and closed. It will then be designated a wildlife refuge. Unfortunately Rocky Flats does not set an exemplary precedent, ‘clean-up’ is not an appropriate description for the work being carried out there, and it should not be used as an example of best international practise. The levels of plutonium which will be left in the soil, for example, are far too high. It is not a project we should be copying in the UK. Whilst faster decommissioning may be a laudable aim, it must be carried out according to a clear set of environmental principles which set high standards using best international practise and the Best Available Technology. According to The Times, accelerating decommissioning timetables will help the industry make the case for building new reactors. 
3.4 Since February the Energy Bill has completed its Committee Stage in the House of Lords, and its third reading, with very few substantive amendments. A new part 1 was, however, inserted into the Bill by opposition peers on Security of Supply, which places a duty on the Secretary of State to ensure integrity and security of electricity and gas supplies. It also requires the government to report annually on research, development and demonstration of new energy sources. The Annual Report should also set out what the government is doing to ensure that the UK retains and expands, if necessary, the scientific and engineering expertise and resources to develop effectively sources of energy, including nuclear, enabling the UK to avoid undue reliance on imports. The Bill is now expected to receive its first and second readings in the House of Commons in the next few weeks, but time is getting very tight if it is to receive Royal Assent in July.
3.5 Unfortunately, provisions in the Energy Bill allow the Government to bailout out future private nuclear operators if they fail to properly fund their liabilities. Knowing this, future operators may not set aside enough money for liabilities (but at the same time reap profits) in the knowledge that there is a mechanism to allow the Government to bail them out. A recent report from the National Audit Office (NAO) criticised the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) for its handling of the financial risks to BE and for failing to guard against potential risks to the taxpayer of having to fund the company’s liabilities. The NAO found these risks were not effectively monitored and managed by the DTI – even though the Audit Office had ‘flagged’ the potential exposure by the taxpayer to exposure from British Energy liabilities in. 
3.6 In rejecting amendments on this issue in the House of Lords, Government spokesperson, Lord Whitty, said on 15 January 2004 that in principle the Government supports the idea that future nuclear operators should meet the costs of decommissioning, and the ‘polluter pays principle’, but “there may again be circumstances in which a private sector operator cannot meet its nuclear obligations … we must retain the possibility of the Government meeting such costs.”
3.7 The danger now is that the Government’s desire to keep the Energy Bill ‘flexible’ to allow for any future British-Energy-type crisis could also have implications for the potential viability of building new nuclear power stations in the UK. Future Investors (should a decision be taken to go-ahead with new nuclear construction) could be more favourably disposed towards new build because, in principle, the provisions would enable the owner of new nuclear stations to reap profits for directors and pay out to shareholders whilst under-providing for liabilities in the knowledge that there exist mechanisms to allow the Government to bail the company out.
 Windscale to be Clean 30 years Early, by Angela Jameson, The Times 5th April http://business.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,8209-1063261,00.html
 NAO, 6/2/04 http://www.nao.gov.uk/publications/nao_reports/03-04/0304264.pdf
4.1 The 23rd Annual Report of the Radioactive Waste Management Advisory Committee (RWMAC), called for a review of the principles underlying the regulatory system, and criticised the fact that decommissioning work is proceeding without proper policy guidance from the Government. It says there is a danger of decommissioning policy being driven by regulators and the DTI. The committee also repeated its earlier criticism of the proposal to send some low level wastes from Dounreay to the Drigg, and criticised Dounreay for its slow progress in emptying the waste shaft and wet silos. RWMAC was, however, very supportive of the UKAEA’s stakeholder involvement, but suggested this is widened to include stakeholders at an earlier stage – for example when alternative options for tackling decommissioning issues are being discussed.
4.2 Meanwhile Cumbria County Council has used emergency procedures to agree a formal
objection to the UKAEA proposal to transport low-level waste from Dounreay to Drigg – all three political parties on the council supported the objection. The Council said nuclear waste should be stored where it is created – Dounreay should look after its own nuclear waste. The Scottish Environment Protection Agency consultation on the proposal closed on 23rd February. Cumbria’s opposition was echoed by Copeland Borough Council.
4.3 A series of radioactive particle finds on Sandside Beach this year have brought the total found up to 50. The UKAEA has employed the nuclear industry consultants NNC to develop the stakeholder consultation process for considering the Best Practicable Environmental Option for dealing with the radioactive particles. The draft BPEO should be completed by 2005 and the NNC and UKAEA have formed a steering group of independent stakeholders to oversee the consultation process. Meanwhile RWE Nukem, the company employed by the UKAEA to monitor the Sandside beach, is to introduce a second vehicle for the work. Philip Day, the scientific adviser to the beach owners, said this should mean more of the beach is scanned for contamination. However he still criticises the monitoring because of the equipment and techniques used and the fact not all the beach is monitored. Finally, Dipesh Shah, the new UKAEA chief executive, and Norman Harrison the new Dounreay site director, caused a storm of protests in January by describing the radioactive particles as an "historical issue" which would not stop them concentrating on the main job of decommissioning. They also said they believed no new contamination was leaking from the complex. Their failure to see the problem as part of the decommissioning project, and the fact no-one is certain fresh contamination isn’t still leaking into the environment bought condemnation from Lorraine Mann of Scotland Against Nuclear Dumping who complained of the "extraordinary complacency" shown by the new management.
4.4 There are now more people working there than ever before. The local liaison committee has been told that there are presently nearly 1400 people employed by the UKAEA and a further 1700 employed by decommissioning contractors.
4.5 The UKAEA announced that its Dounreay Site Restoration Plan can be completed by 2047, rather than 2063 – 16 years faster than previously thought. The changes and explanation of how they will be achieved are contained in a Near Term Work Plan (NTWP) submitted by the UKAEA to the Liabilities Management Unit at the DTI. Details of the Near Term Work plan are available at www.ukaea.org.uk.
4.6 The UKAEA will build a new incinerator at Dounreay to deal with contaminated solvents and oils. The decision follows a public consultation by the UKAEA held last year. In their submissions the Nuclear Free Local Authorities and Shetland Islands Council, both rejected incineration or transporting the wastes to Sellafield or Fawley in Southampton. While the incinerator is expected to have a 10-year life, the destruction of the existing oils and solvents will take just a year. But the plant will need to remain open for at least 10 years to deal with future arisings. This obviously raises the possibility of other wastes being imported by Dounreay to help justify the expense. The UKAEA will now complete its Best Practicable Environment Option study and apply to the regulators. A planning application for an incinerator will be lodged with the Highland Council.
5.1 The European Commission has issued a Directive to force the UK to submit by 1st June a comprehensive plan on how it plans to retrieve waste from Building B30 at Sellafield. Known as Dirty Thirty by the workforce, B30 is an open air Magnox spent fuel storage pond. It contains waste which is partly of military origin and was used from the 1950s to 1985. The UK will also have to submit six monthly progress reports.
5.2 The problem is that Euratom inspectors do not have easy and safe access to nuclear material in the pond to physically verify the operator’s accountancy declarations for plutonium, which could be diverted for use in nuclear weapons. Pond visibility is restricted by algae, and radiation doses are so high that anyone working in the area is only allowed to stay for one hour per day. As a result of the access problems Euratom is unable to confirm that nuclear material has not been diverted from its declared use by BNFL. Euratom describes this as a “clear infringement of essential Euratom safeguards requirements”. A European Commission spokesperson said if we expect Iraq to declare its fissile materials, we should be doing the same ourselves.
5.3 The European Commission complained that BNFL had been informed after every inspection since 1986 that no satisfactory conclusions could be drawn from the verification activities performed, and the Company has presented various informal plans to deal with the situation, but none have been implemented.
5.4 According to BNFL estimates, the material in the pond contains about 1.3 tonnes of plutonium, about 400kg of which is contained in corroded fuel located on the pond floor as sludge. This is a significant amount of strategically important material not properly accounted for.
5.5 The NII served an improvement notice on BNFL in 2001, to force the company to produce a detailed programme of work for emptying and decommissioning B30. The NII want 90 per cent of the sludge taken out by 2009. The problem is that once the pond water is disturbed by decommissioning it will spew out even more radiation. The NII is also worried about the deterioration of the building fabric which might lead the pond itself to start leaking on to the site posing a major risk to workers and public outside. NII is also concerned that seabirds landing on B30 and other Sellafield open ponds could carry contamination into local villages, and wants another building over it to stop radiation getting out.
5.6 Sellafield’s Magnox reprocessing plant reprocessed more than 1,000 tonnes of spent Magnox fuel in the financial year 2003/4. This the first time it has achieved such a high throughput since the mid-1990s. This means that, apart from Technetium-99, radioactive discharges into the Irish Sea have increased, and the pressure on BNFL to close its Magnox stations early will be reduced. The THORP reprocessing plant has also exceeded its relatively low target of reprocessing 670 tonnes. However, by December 2003, the Sellafield MOX Plant had still not produced any MOX fuel assemblies. In early 2003 BNFL admitted that because of commissioning delays, SMP would be a year late in delivering its first contract to a Swiss customer. This had originally been scheduled for ‘Spring 2003’. Any further delays in commissioning may mean that delivery to Switzerland is delayed yet again.
5.7 British Nuclear Fuels denied reports in the Sunday Express that an RAF jet fighter came within 100 feet of the Calder Hall reactor cooling towers at Sellafield in December, despite the newspaper receiving confirmation of the incident from a “senior source”. The denial may have something to do with the fact that the type of plane reported by the Express was wrong.
6.1 The new Committee on Radioactive Waste Management has started holding its meetings in public. The public can listen to the Committee’s deliberations but not take part. However, there is usually an opportunity for the public to comment or pose questions at the end. The next meeting will be on Thursday 6th & Friday 7th May in Glasgow at the Glasgow Moat House, Congress Road. Minutes, details of future meetings and other information can be found at www.corwm.org.
6.2 Ministers in the Department of Trade and Industry and DEFRA are reported to be locked in disagreement over the future of the nuclear waste agency Nirex, which is jointly owned by the UKAEA, British Nuclear fuels and British Energy. Margaret Beckett had said Nirex would be made independent of the industry, but apparently the DTI is floating the idea that agency is disbanded with its work on ‘Letters of Comfort’ for waste packaging being given to the environment agencies and the new Nuclear Decommissioning Authority being given responsibility for long-term waste management.
7.1 The Ministry of Defence has confirmed that an ex-RAF base at Machrihanish on the Mull of Kintyre is included in a list of sites where reactor compartments from decommissioned nuclear submarines might be stored. Argyll and Bute Council are seeking a meeting with defence minister Geoffrey Hoon to try and stop the Machrihanish being considered.
7.2 The report on the second stage of consultation on Project ISOLUS, which ran from 12th September 2003 to 24th December 2003, is expected at the end of April.
8.1 Greatly increased levels of childhood cancers has been found in north west Wales, along the Menai Straights, by a television company, HTV. The study concludes that there is an eight-fold increase in leukaemia over the whole study area, and a 28-fold increase in childhood leukaemia in Caernarfon as well as an 18-fold increase in brain and spinal tumours.
Merton London Borough Council has become the first local authority in the UK to adopt a pro-renewable planning policy in its Unitary Development Plan. Merton now expects all new non-residential buildings larger that 1000 square metres to source at least 10% of predicted energy requirements from on-site renewables such as solar PV and solar thermal. Despite objections from the London Office for Government, the Deputy Prime Minister has approved the plan, and now several other local authorities are expected to follow suit. There is a strong case for the Government to take urgent steps to stimulate the market for micro-renewables, but local authorities have an important role too.
Micro-renewables include solar photovoltaics, solar thermal, and small wind-turbines. Micro-Combined Heat and Power, although not strictly renewable, is also often included, [a household-sized system that can replace a central heating boiler and generate electricity].
Legislation is needed to force electricity suppliers to provide ‘net metering’ at no extra cost to the consumer and buy electricity from them at the price they charge for supply. There is also a need for the Government to increase its financial support. The £20m three year Major Demonstration Programme for solar PV is welcome, but it is not enough for the UK to keep up with our competitors in Europe and Japan.
There is also a very significant role to be played by positive planning measures. The Government has recently consulted on a new Planning Policy Statement (PPS22) for England and Wales. The Scottish equivalents (PPG 6 and PAN 45) need to give clearer guidance so that local authorities are required to deal with planning for small-scale renewables separately in their structural and local plans.
Building Regulations could also do more to support small-scale renewables. On 24th February 2003, in a debate in the House of Commons on the Energy White Paper, Patricia Hewitt said she was considering how a review of building regulations could be used to ensure “much higher energy efficiency standards for new build and such things as the refurbishment of roofs, [and] massively increase investment in solar energy and similarly energy efficient systems.” The next Building Regulations Review will be in 2005 in both England and Wales and Scotland. The Solar industry is concerned that changes now look as though they might need to wait until the following review in 2010. But Scotland has an opportunity to lead the UK by making necessary changes in 2005.
With many local authorities in Scotland planning new PFI schools over the next few years, there is an opportunity to follow the example set by Dundee City Council’s Morgan School, which was recently awarded a £116,000 grant under the DTI’s Major Photovoltaic Demonstration Programme. Napier University in Edinburgh is also planning the largest PV installation in Scotland, and Scottish Power has launched a project to install PVs on 60 houses in Troon, Berwickshire and Glasgow.