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.
5.0 British Energy
1.1 Recent gas price increases have raised, yet again, the question of new nuclear stations, particularly in the right-wing press. The Daily Mail, on 27th August, called on the Government to “revisit its flawed energy policy.” Last year’s White Paper, it said, “ducked the contentious subject of nuclear power, while setting wildly optimistic targets for the use of renewable sources …Nuclear power is still a taboo for the sandal-wearing Left of the Labour Party, but many now believe it is a key part of supplying burgeoning energy needs while tackling global warming”. 
1.2 Even Zac Goldsmith, Editor of the Ecologist, when debating with James Lovelock in The Independent (28th August) fell into the trap of agreeing that gas imports might be a problem. The Energy White Paper concluded that relying on imports of gas “need not be a problem”. Jonathan Stern, who leads a research group- on gas at the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies, says the fact that gas supplies will be coming from overseas in future does not necessarily mean we will be more prone to supply disruptions. He says there is a touch of xenophobia in some of the scare stories. For at least the next decade we will be importing from Norway, Belgium and the Netherlands. In the longer term there may be a need to import from Gulf Countries and Russia, but other European countries have been importing gas from Russia for 20 years with no supply disruptions. Most major disruptions to gas supplies in other countries over the past 20 years have been caused by domestic problems. We may see short-term increases in our bills while the UK invests in new infrastructure which will help insure us against emergencies in the future. 
1.3 Various reports have warned of the possibility of gas shortages over the next winter or two, if they are particularly severe, but this is mainly due to the fact that since privatisation the UK has not invested in infrastructure. The UK has the capacity to store about 15 days’ worth of gas whereas continental countries have the capacity to store enough gas to last 50 or 60 days. If there is a shortfall then supplies to electricity generating stations will have to be cut.  But the long-term outlook for gas supplies looks secure, according to a report (Prospects for UK Gas Supply and Demand) by Professor Alex Kemp and Linda Stephen of the University of Aberdeen. By 2010 we could be importing around a third of total gas requirements, and by 2020 as much as 70%. 
1.4 Catherine Mitchell – of Warwick Business School, and a member of the Cabinet Office’s energy review team, writing in the Guardian says because the nuclear industry has lost the argument, with the Government, it appears to have opted for a media campaign instead. Any resumption of nuclear investment will need extensive public consultation and a further white paper. The earliest this could be published is 2008-9. Add in five years for licensing and planning debates, and another five to eight years for construction, and the earliest that new nuclear generation can be expected is 2018-21. New nuclear power plants do produce smaller total volumes of radioactive waste than existing ones, but they produce a higher proportion of high-level waste. Building new stations would mean addressing one long-term environmental problem by exacerbating another. The industry wants more subsidies to build new nuclear stations. Furthermore, nuclear generation is inflexible – generating electricity at full power or not at all – and its electricity is expensive when compared with flexible gas or coal plants. Renewables are already relatively cheap, and have the potential to become cheaper. The cost of achieving carbon dioxide cuts would be much lower in a system based on renewables and energy efficiency. A rational approach is to encourage these cheaper more flexible, less dangerous and more environmentally friendly alternatives. The Government must now stand firm behind its policy and ensure its delivery, something it is hoped will be recommended by the climate change review. 
1.5 Dr Tony White and Graham Meeks of specialist merchant banking firm, Climate Change Capital, writing in the Guardian, say “it is difficult to foresee the Treasury paying the billions required for new nuclear power stations and nearly impossible to see the money coming from private finance”. To be commercially viable, generation technologies should be fast to build and come in small increments so as to maintain the balance between demand and supply – especially where demand growth is weak. Currently available nuclear designs fail on both counts. They take five years or more to build – let alone plan – and come in chunks of 600 to 1,000 megawatts. Renewables offer a more practical solution, can be built quickly, are smaller in scale and will be commercially competitive with fossil fuels within the next few years. 
1.6 Michael Howard, who was speaking the day before the Prime Minister on Climate Change, is opposing a wind farm in his constituency, and was widely expected to endorse the building of new nuclear stations but opposition from within his party prevented this. Instead he committed the Conservatives to an expansion of renewables and energy efficiency measures. Mr Howard did not mention nuclear energy in his speech, but when asked he said: "nuclear power is expensive and there are still questions that need to be answered on how we deal with nuclear waste." 
1.7 Tony Blair, the following day, referred to nuclear power saying the government would turn to it if necessary, but he stressed that the Government’s policy had not changed since last year’s white paper. He announced that sustainable development would be incorporated to every one of the new schools in the current huge building programme; building regulations will be changed to make new homes and offices more energy efficient; the new Thames Gateway development will be sustainable in both transport and energy use to demonstrate what is possible.
1.8 In an attempt to sabotage the Prime Minister’s speech, an old DTI Strategy document was leaked to the Times. The 19 month-old document, by Adrian Gault, Director of Strategic Development at the DTI’s Energy Strategy Unit, was one of 25 scenarios presented to Ministers, but was reported by The Times as showing that nuclear power will have to provide half of Britain’s electricity needs if the Government is to have any hope of meeting its Kyoto targets. Such a strategy would require the construction of 45 new reactors across the country. According to The Times, this “Plan B” would frighten off investors in renewable energy.  Patricia Hewitt, later explained in a letter to The Times that reports that ministers have been advised that nuclear power will have to provide half of Britain’s electricity were completely untrue. 
1.9 The Times also complained that “no one is coming forward with plans for nuclear power stations”, because Patricia Hewitt she will not subsidise them. No one applied to build wind turbines until the Government threw money at them, now £300 million a year. For Blair to lecture Bush at the G8 summit, when he has not the courage to renew his own nuclear capacity, would be the height of hypocrisy. 
1.10 Critical comment from the other side of the debate focussed on the fact that the Government’s transport policy makes a nonsense of its climate change policies. A replacement nuclear power programme would only save around half of the increase in carbon emissions expected from the transport sector by 2020.
1.11 The day after the Prime Minister spoke, Lord May, President of the Royal Society, and chief scientific adviser to the Government 1995-2000 writing in The Daily Telegraph, said that the UK would struggle to reduce its emissions of carbon dioxide without nuclear power. He accused the Government of a “disappointing that a lack of political courage”. With many nuclear power stations reaching the end of their lives in the next few years, our capacity in 2015 will be about half what it is today. Given that it takes about 10 years from the commissioning of a nuclear power station to it providing electricity, we need to start now just to ensure the status quo. Endlessly postponing a decision today is as good as saying no to nuclear power tomorrow. Clearly, we need a strategy for dealing with the waste, but we do not necessarily need to have a solution in place before making a decision about building new nuclear stations. 
1.12 The following day in a letter to The Times, the Chief Executive of the Energy Saving Trust, Philip Sellwood, said to present nuclear power as one of the main ways of combating climate change is short-sighted – it simply does not represent a viable option at present. Given the costs associated with nuclear power and current uncertainties surrounding the problems of dealing with nuclear waste, making the UK more energy efficient is a far safer, cheaper and more realistic solution, as outlined in last year’s energy White Paper. Energy-efficiency measures can be taken immediately, whereas the construction of new nuclear reactors would cost the UK billions and take several years to deliver any carbon savings. Government must take the lead, for example by making its own estate energy-efficient. 
1.13 Margaret Beckett hit back telling ITV’s Jonathan Dimbleby Programme. "The long and short of it is we certainly do not need extra nuclear power in anything like a 10, 15-year cycle," Building nuclear power stations would risk landing future generations with ‘difficult’ legacies, she warned, and rejected demands from a growing pro-nuclear lobby.  But, Sir David King, the Government’s chief scientific adviser, says Ministers will have to take a decision within five years on whether to build new nuclear power stations if Britain is to reach its targets for cutting greenhouse gases. He says the nuclear question needs to be tackled sooner rather than later. 
1.14 Meanwhile, the BBC reported that a source at the Labour Party conference had said that Scottish Ministers are considering enhancing the role of nuclear power in Scotland. Whilst the BBC said this might include building a new nuclear station, it is believed that the source was actually referring to the possibility of extending the life of existing nuclear power plants.  Andrew Taylor of the Financial Times also believes that “squeezing more out of existing plants” is an attractive alternative to launching a controversial new-build programme. Life extensions at the eight AGR stations would delay the need for decisions and allow more time for alternative technologies to develop. Even with current record electricity and gas prices, it is unlikely that private sector developers could make an economic case for new construction. It costs about $1,300-$1,500 (£724-£835) a kilowatt to build a nuclear plant, twice the cost of a gas-fired power station, which takes less than half the time to build. Thomas Capp, chief executive of US nuclear generator Dominion Electricity, told a conference in Washington in May: "If you announced you were going to build a new nuclear plant, Moody’s and Standard Poor’s [credit rating agencies] would assuredly drop your bonds to junk status …no company in our industry is large enough to take on this risk." 
1.15 In a bizarre twist in the debate about windfarms, David Bellamy accused the Government of covering up plans to build a nuclear plant in the Western Isles. The allegation was made during a protest gathering in Ullapool. Bellamy has been on a whirlwind tour of the Highlands and Islands to rally opposition to BE’s plans to build a windfarm on Lewis. The Scottish Executive, of course, categorically denied claims. 
1.16 The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission has issued the final design approval (FDA) and final safety evaluation report for the AP1000, thus removing the final barrier to Westinghouse marketing its reactor abroad. But the licensing process in the US is not complete. The final step is to certify the design through a process which includes hearings. The NRC’s schedule anticipates that will be completed by December 2005, although it has indicated it may be able to finish the process by up to five months earlier.
1.18 The BNFL subsidiary is hoping to win a $8bn order from China next year for four AP1000 reactors. China is planning to build 27 new reactors over the next twenty years. The French company, Framatome, which is already building its new EPR design in Finland will be Westinghouse’s biggest competitor. In the USA a consortium of companies – the NuStart Energy Development consortium – is considering building either the AP1000 or General Electric’s ESBWR design (a 1,500-MW BWR with passive safety features). The consortium will focus on selecting a site next year and request bids on the two plant designs in 2007. It hopes to see the construction get under way sometime around 2010 and the reactor begin operations by 2014. Other potential markets include Japan and Korea and there is said to be still interest in Europe.
 Daily Mail 27th August
 Observer Special Report: The Future of Energy, 3rd October
 Independent 14th September
 Herald 27th September http://www.theherald.co.uk/business/24748-print.shtml
 Guardian 8th September
 Guardian 20th September
 The Times 14th September
 The Times 18th September
 Times (opinion) 15th September
 Daily Telegraph 15th September
 The Times 16th September
 Observer 19th September
 Times 4th October
 BBC 29th September
 Financial Times 15th September
 Press & Journal 4th September
2.1 Following last month’s Environment Agency Updated Report on Sellafield Discharges, which failed to mention Krypton-85 gaseous emissions, The Guardian reported that BNFL is to be allowed to continue releasing the gas – even though it was first ordered to prevent the pollution 27 years ago. The condition was first imposed in 1977 by Mr Justice Parker when he gave permission for THORP, because of the health implications. After a decade of trying to enforce the planning condition, the Environment Agency has admitted that by the time BNFL could build a facility to control the Krypton 85 gas, THORP is likely to have shut. The argument has gone on for so long that a lack of new orders for THORP means that the flagship plant will probably close by 2010, or possibly sooner, although the agency is still operating to a date of 2016. 
2.2 DEFRA will start to re-write the UK Discharges Strategy in about a year’s time. The next version will probably put THORP’s closure down for 2010, rather than 2024. This will remove one of our main problems with the current Strategy – by leaving THORP open beyond 2024 the UK cannot possibly achieve the ‘close to zero’ concentrations in the environment by 2020 it is committed to under the OSPAR Treaty. BNFL has yet to announce a closure date for THORP and there are rumours that the Treasury is pressing for the option of more contracts to be kept open.
2.3 The DTI has published the final version of its updated policy on “The Decommissioning of the UK Nuclear Industry’s Facilities”. A new paragraph has appeared in the final version which was not in the draft which addresses concerns about decommissioning being used as an excuse to increase radioactive discharges. It says:
“Short term increases in discharges of some radionuclides may be unavoidable. However, where this is the case, the relevant environment agency will need to be satisfied that, among other things, they represent the optimal result from appropriate option studies and reflect the application of the BPM/ALARA principles”.
2.4 There seemed to be a general acceptance at the OSPAR meeting held in The Hague in September that the use of Best Available Technology will need to be demonstrated in the case of individual decommissioning projects that require exceptional discharges. There was not much discussion of how to take account of nuclear facilities’ throughput levels, as this will boil down to choosing an appropriate statistical technique. Ireland continued to argue against allowing increases in actual discharges for throughput reasons. The OSPAR process is leaving controversial issues undecided, and there is no attempt to tackle the detail. For example – does a decommissioning process, which increases discharges, but remains within legal discharge limits, still have to demonstrate that it has used the Best Practicable Environmental Option (BPEO)? There has been no attempt to demonstrate BPEO at Springfields, for example, where there will be increases due to a plan to wash contaminated equipment with ‘pickling liquors’, but the increase remains within the existing legal limits.
2.5 The Environment Agency’s Updated Discharge Authorisation Documents for Sellafield highlights discharges from building B38, but there does not appear to have been a BPEO process carried out. Since the process is about packaging Magnox swarf stored under water, there may be no alternative (and the liquids will go through EARP) – but there should be some attempt to give an assurance that the best option is being used. Despite NFLA[S]’s criticisms of the consultations processes carried out by the UKAEA at Dounreay, Sellafield has a lot of catching up to do if it is to operate an open and transparent decommissioning policy.
2.6 In a blow to the prospects for closing the highly polluting Magnox reprocessing plant at Sellafield earlier than currently scheduled (2012), the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has announced that the Periodic Safety Review (PSR) for the Wylfa nuclear power station on Anglesey has concluded that it can continue operation until 2010. Wylfa was the only one of the four remaining operating Magnox reactors which required a PSR before its scheduled closure date, and at 980MW is more than double the size of the other three, so produces more spent nuclear waste fuel. In 2001, nuclear engineer John Large cast doubt on the safety of Wylfa because of ageing and corrosion and raised the possibility of a beyond design basis accident.
 Guardian 3rd September
3.1 BNFL has continued with its re-organisation to prepare itself for the start of operations by the NDA. It will bring all its magnox sites, except for Calder Hall at Sellafield, under the Magnox Electric (ME) umbrella. For stations currently run by BNFL, this requires relicensing by the NII, and transfer of the discharge authorisations to ME. The recently closed Chapelcross station, which has been owned by BNFL since it was set up in 1971, is being relicensed to ME, as are three magnox stations currently undergoing decommissioning by BNFL’s Environmental Services. The three, Berkeley, which closed in 1989, Hunterston A, in 1990, and Trawsfynydd, in 1991, used to belong to ME, were relicensed to BNFL during the past 18 months, and now must be relicensed back again.
3.2 Consequently British Nuclear Fuels has submitted applications to SEPA to transfer the discharge authorisations at Hunterston A and Chapelcross from BNFL to ME. The transfer of discharge authorizations from one company to another has been made easier by the Energy Act. Although the applications are subject to a public consultation, closing on 8th November, SEPA emphasises that it will not change the limitations or conditions of the authorisations, and the consultation is merely to ensure that the new licensee will be able to comply with the limitations and conditions set out in the authorisations. Details at www.sepa.org.uk/consultation/current/rad_app.htm
3.3 The NDA is holding a fourth round of consultation meetings at venues across the country. Meetings will be held in Thurso on 21st October, Ayr 22nd October, and for the first time there will be a meeting in Edinburgh on 4th November. The focus of these stakeholder meetings is expected to be on the NDA’s first draft Annual Plan. Inquiries about attendance should go to email@example.com
4.1 The following table gives a progress report on each of the various Dounreay consultations.
|Discharge Authorisations – proposed variation.||New lower limits for liquid discharges issued by SEPA, without consultation to reflect end of reprocessing.||Scottish Executive has now responded, so new limits came into effect on 4th October. |
|Discharge Authorisations Review.||UKAEA submitted a new application for new authorisations (gaseous & liquid) covering the whole site- consultation pending.||UKAEA is now updating disposal information due to accelerated decommissioning. Consultation early 2005.|
|High Level Waste||Re-classify PFR liquid HLW as ILW||Stakeholder panel findings and BPEO assessment to be published for wider consultation end Sept/early Oct.|
|Solvents||Proposed incinerator to burn contaminated oils and solvents||UKAEA to re-publish response to public consultation to include SIC’s views.|
|Low Level Waste||Transports to Drigg||SEPA to respond to public consultation exercise. A decision is likely early in 2005.|
|Waste Shaft||Remove and package radioactive waste in the waste shaft.||UKAEA published results of consultation, and unveiled plans for dealing with waste in the shaft on 29th September.|
|Particles||Decide on options for dealing with radioactive particles on beaches and seabed.||Consultants developing public consultation exercise. A Steering Group set up to ensure transparency. Exhibitions and workshops probably Feb/March next year. A 3rd stage will go through all feasible options etc but this can’t be done until the NRPB revise their risk document – not ready until May.|
|DFR Spent Fuel||Construction of plant to remove spent fuel jammed in Dounreay Fast Reactor.||Transport to Sellafield for reprocessing is one of three options identified in DSRP, UKAEA is reviewing options. Priority to remove the fuel from the reactor. The NDA will take ownership of this in April 2005.|
|ILW Store||Increase site’s ILW storage capacity, and allow return of 300 drums of waste to overseas customers.||Contracts awarded for construction.|
|Consultation processes – general.||Improve the consultation process.||UKAEA is working through the David Collier review. The immediate priority will be to get a new framework for participation set. When the site plan is ready further consultations will be on the first couple
of years work.
4.2 The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) has made significant changes to the authorisation covering UKAEA Dounreay’s discharges of liquid radioactive waste. In some cases, the new discharge limit will be less than 1% of the existing limit. The new authorisation came into effect on 4 October. In addition to these new limits, UKAEA will have to carry out the following to SEPA’s satisfaction:
produce and implement a liquid effluent discharge strategy
produce and implement a strategy to quantify the extent of the contamination of the environment by fragments of irradiated nuclear fuel
quantify the uncertainties in the nature and behaviour of fragments of irradiated nuclear fuel in the environment.
The authorisation also provides SEPA with the power to specify the beach monitoring programme for detecting and removing fragments of irradiated nuclear fuel from local public beaches.
4.3 Faulkland Associates were recently asked to review UKAEA’s on-going process for engaging stakeholders in Best Practicable Environmental Options development at Dounreay. The study looked at three recent examples to pick out learning points for the future. The report criticises some aspects of the scope and organisation of the stakeholder programme and enhancements are suggested. However, the overall conclusion is that the ongoing public information programme and stakeholder panels are useful and can form the basis of an effective process. The report says that UKAEA Dounreay site staff have taken the issue of transparency increasingly seriously over the last year or so. It is worth remembering that they are attempting something at Dounreay that has not actually been tried on anything like the same scale anywhere else in the UK civil nuclear sector, and they are in many respects ‘ahead of the game’. Various points worth highlighting include:
(1) UKAEA now regrets that stakeholders were not invited to take part in the development of the Dounreay Site Restoration Plan. This makes the current consultation on BPEOs much more problematic than it needs to have been.
(2) A documented stakeholder strategy integrating all aspects of participation and dialogue needs to be prepared as a matter of urgency. This should detail how cross-cutting issues of principle will be dealt with.
(3) On the contaminated solvents and oils consultation, the consultants say the final report fails to say why incineration is recommended over deferral. The fact that Shetland Islands Council’s submission was not mentioned is raised and the consultants say they understand that this was due to an oversight under pressure of time rather than being deliberate and that the Council will receive a full response and an apology. However this episode serves to illustrate the importance of feedback to stakeholders and the ease with which a stakeholder process can lose trust.
4.4 UKAEA has announced plans to begin decommissioning the waste shaft at Dounreay four years earlier than previously planned. Following a period of public consultation, UKAEA has chosen grout as its preferred method of isolating the 65-metre deep facility from the surrounding groundwater. Subject to regulatory approvals, a 10 metre-wide band of rock around the shaft will be sealed by injecting grout into the fissures in an attempt to form a barrier that stops groundwater flowing into the shaft and becoming contaminated with radioactivity. UKAEA recognises that a final decision on the End State cannot be made until the Shaft is emptied and believes that grouting will not preclude further excavation at a later date if that is deemed to be appropriate.
4.5 In its submission to the Waste Shaft Consultation, Shetland Islands Council complained about the long delay planned before waste would be removed from the shaft, so the speeding up of the process should be welcome. SIC also supported the removal of rock in the immediate vicinity of the shaft over the ‘natural attenuation’ or ‘do nothing’ option. Although UKAEA has not decided to remove the rock in the immediate vicinity of the shaft, it has not ruled out doing this in future if it proves necessary. It says that “hydraulic isolation of the shaft will stop [groundwater entering the shaft] and reduce the amount of activity that needs to be discharged. It will also eliminate any lingering doubts that the shaft could be a continuing source of particles found in the marine environment near Dounreay. The grout “curtain” will envelop the shaft, stabilising its environment for waste retrieval and eliminating the risk of major leakage as an environmental hazard”.
4.6 A series of exploratory boreholes and grouting trials are scheduled over the next 12 months before work to isolate the shaft begins in Autumn 2005. Between 350 and 400 boreholes will be drilled in an oval-shaped ring around the shaft and these will be injected with grout in an operation expected to take 2-4 years to complete. The programme of work includes the reinforcement of a plug at the base of the shaft with high-strength concrete to ensure it can withstand the changes in water pressure that are expected to occur when waste retrieval begins.
4.7 A report on the outcome of the consultation process, together with submissions received and UKAEA’s response can be found at www.ukaea.org.uk/dounreay/dsrpnews.htm
5.1 British Energy finally won approval for its rescue package from the European Commission in September. Under the EC’s terms, BE will be required to ring-fence its nuclear generating capacity by splitting the group into three separate businesses. The EC said this will ensure the estimated £3.5 billion of state aid – payable over 80 years to meet decommissioning costs – is not used to subsidise the company’s other activities. BE will also be required to cap its production capacity of nuclear and fossil fuel for six years. It will be unable to extend its fossil fuel activities outside the UK and be prevented from acquiring large British hydro power plants. There are further provisions preventing it from undercutting rivals in the business trading market.
5.2 In a month of high drama, the beleaguered company applied to the UK Listing Authority and the London Stock Exchange to end the listing and trading of its shares; announced its intention to transfer its assets to an intermediate holding company, to prevent efforts by rebels shareholders to block disposals, and threatened shareholders with legal action if they oppose the bail-out. The key shareholder, investment company Polygon, has dropped its opposition to the restructuring plan, but the position of Brandes Investment Partners remains.
5.3 Meanwhile BE announced losses of £115m for the first quarter of the financial year, which the London Evening Standard calculated was equivalent to almost £900 per minute. Higher operating costs and lower-than-expected output led to the loss.
5.4 The Government has re-classified BE as a part of the public sector for the sake of the National Accounts. The Office for National Statistics said the Government had so much influence over British Energy since granting it a credit facility in 2002 and taking on its decommissioning costs that this should be reflected in its balance sheet. As a result, British Energy’s debt, which currently amounts to £1.5billion, will now show up in the ONS’s public sector net debt figures.
6.1 At the time of writing (5th October) two lightly armed UK-flagged commercial nuclear ships, carrying some 140kg of weapons-grade plutonium, were sitting somewhere off the coast of France, waiting until a possible injunction is served against Greenpeace, to dock. Greenpeace was summoned to appear in the Cherbourg Court on 5th October, where it will face a request by Areva, through its subsidiary Cogema, and British Nuclear Fuels Ltd (BNFL), for an injunction preventing it from approaching within 300m of the two ships.
7.1 Some 10,000 drums of mixed graphite and uranium scrap may be shipped later this year from BNFL’s Springfields plant near Preston to Kyrgyzstan’s Kara-Balta uranium processing plant so that an estimated 60 metric tons of uranium can be retrieved and returned to the U.K. The shipments are waiting for an export license from the EU and permission from the Kygyzstan government, which is thought to be divided on whether to accept the waste. The waste will be taken by road to an east coast U.K. port, shipped across to the port of St. Petersburg by normal cargo ferry and then transported overland to Kara-Balta.