31 Mar 2009

Nuke companies trying to sabotage renewables

Well the nuke companies have agreed to pay at least £200m for land to build nuclear power stations in Britain - a much higher price than the government expected. Plus they are urging the Government to scrap renewable energy projects!

Pic: one of Russ' previous contributions that I like

The eBay-style online auction was run by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, the government agency who owns land near three old reactor sites that are being sold to would-be developers of new stations. The NDA have gone completely beyond their remit in being involved in this - see my previous comment here - it seems that building work is not expected to begin before 2013, making the government’s intention to have new nuclear stations up and running by 2017 appear difficult to achieve - and a mockery of any claim to tackle climate change - we need to see vast cuts in emissions long before that if we are to avoid the chaos climate scientists forecast.

All this makes it concerning that the government are failing us so badly on renewables - two examples from the last week suffice:
- owner of Scottish Power Ignacio Galàn sums it up when he warned that the UK risks losing renewable electricity investments to other countries and missing its carbon reduction targets unless the authorities make the investment climate more attractive. See more here. - the government have 'quietly' closed its grant programme for solar energy last week. See Guardian here.

Call to drop renewables target

We have seen recent headlines about Gordon Brown's brother (Head of PR at the world’s largest nuclear operator EDF - 58 nuke plants worldwide) and Ed Milibands girlfriend (lawyer for E'on, which is mainly pushing coal and new nuclear). However, the debate about how nukes and renewables not being compatible - something the head of EDF has said before - has come up again. It's been revealed EDF and E'on are saying more renewables will impact on new nuclear...

EDF and E.ON have warned the government they may be forced to drop plans to build a new generation of nuclear power plants unless the government scales back its targets for wind power.

Nathan Argent, head of Greenpeace's energy solutions unit commented: "The attempt to dilute the contribution from renewables has infuriated the environmental lobby. We've always said that nuclear power will undermine renewable energy and will damage the UK's efforts to tackle climate change now EDF agrees. The National Grid shows that there is capacity to take well over 30% of our electricity from renewables. EDF are trying to block efforts to deliver on the most important technology to the UK to tackle climate change and keeps the light on in order to protect their own, vested nuclear interests."

David Drew MP locally has repeatedly called for both renewables and nuclear - yet here is further evidence that by choosing nukes we will prevent a Green energy revolution and face a critical delay in tackling climate change.

Andy Atkins, the group's executive director of Friends of the Earth said: "The UK is the windiest country in Europe with the best wave and tidal resources. We should be maximising renewables and harnessing as much of that clean, safe energy as we possibly can, not propping up the French nuclear industry. Nuclear power is no green alternative: it leaves a legacy of deadly radioactive waste that remains dangerous for tens of thousands of years. And nuclear power plants simply cannot be built in time to deliver the cuts in carbon dioxide emissions that science says are needed."

Indeed far from creating jobs here the papers report that nearly one third of the work involved in the construction of nuclear reactors in Britain will be shut off to UK companies. Areva will make key components for the stations in France and leave British companies to compete with suppliers from the rest of the world for the remaining lower-value work. See here.

And while we are on EDF investigators from the European Commission have just raided their offices seeking evidence of price-fixing in the French electricity market.

Despite some reports in the press, the Green party is still clearly against nuclear (see previous comment here). It was interesting to read that Al Gore writes: "I'm not a reflexive opponent of nuclear. I used to be enthusiastic about it, but I'm now sceptical about it. There's a few reasons. Let's assume for the moment that we will solve the problem of waste, accidents, terrorism. That still leaves a couple of very difficult problems. First and foremost, economics. The nuclear industry cannot give any reliable cost estimate for how much it will take to build a nuclear plant. As the world comes to grips with how to solve the climate crisis, we in the US and the UK have a leadership role. If we told the rest of the world that nuclear is the answer. For the eight years that I spent in the White House every nuclear weapons proliferation problem we dealt with was connected to a reactor programme. See Guardian article here.

Green New Deal

I've written lots here about a Green New Deal and how that is part of how we need to tackle climate change, rising fuel prices and the economic crisis. The noises coming from Obama are good - indeed already over recent years there have been changes - Texas is already producing so much wind energy that its costs have fallen dramatically. Yet only a few years ago the cynics were saying renewables were "uneconomic." California once blazed the trail in energy efficiency in order to avoid the huge cost of building new nuclear power stations.

Barack Obama also has a huge advantage: everyone expects him to be ambitious, and he's come into office at a time when technology is on the brink of being able to deliver a sustainable economy. So now is the time for leadership, political will and investment. We must hope and support those moves.

It was good to read Oliver Tickell's piece re a Green New Deal - he said: "Fiscal stimulus on its own is simply not enough to justify the UK taking on long-term debt that it will have to pay for for decades to come in its taxes. The 2.5% cut in VAT is a classic example of a scattergun fiscal stimulus, weakly boosting consumption and retail profitabilty, but so diluted over the economy as a whole as to have little discernible effect – while adding about £12bn to the national debt. Instead we need to design a stimulus package that will deliver against a multiple bottom line. It has to bring the unemployed back into work, find a new role for manufacturing industries as buyers turn away from consumer goods from cars to computers; It has to improve human welfare, comfort and wellbeing. It has to improve the long-term competitiveness of the British economy, creating a margin of benefit from which future taxes necessary to pay off the debt taken on can be extracted. And it has to do all of this aga! inst a backdrop of climate change – rapidly reducing our emissions in line with the mandatory targets set in the Climate Act. These considerations lead to one firm conclusion: we need to invest in the new energy economy. Any new nuclear capacity will be slow to deliver, and will come at a high cost – as demonstrated by Finland's failing nuclear experiment." See The Guardian article here.

Here is Caroline Lucas' comment re Brown's plans: "Gordon Brown is going about a green "stimulus" in entirely the wrong way. With a recession and a climate crisis at the same time, we need intervention that will deliver jobs as soon as possible while simultaneously making the biggest possible dent in the CO2 inventory. Nuclear or so-called "clean coal" won't be built inside the next decade, and would sustain far fewer jobs per unit of power generated than do wind, wave or solar. If we achieve the same rate of growth in wind energy as Denmark has achieved, we could have about 200,000 new jobs by 2020. We can generate another 137,000 jobs through a programme of energy-saving retrofits of our housing stock. We could deliver another 200,000 by building up our horticulture sector to be proportionately as large as that in the Netherlands. And recent EU figures show recycling generates many times more jobs than incineration, yet we're still building incinerators. We're effectively burning jobs as well as recyclable resources. Surely it's clear which sectors we ought to be pumping money into if we want to create jobs and reduce emissions. It isn't enough to "put a green tinge on the budget." The climate crisis has reached the stage when Britain's economy must be truly greened, and fast."

One piece of good news is that Scotland's plan's to host the world's largest tidal energy project have moved a step closer after Norwegian renewables giant Statkraft joined the consortium backing the £250m scheme. The project, which will create over 700 jobs, is to build a large data centre powered by tidal energy, in a remote area on the north Scotland coast dubbed the "Saudi Arabia of tidal energy". See more here.

Oldbury to run until 2010

Anyhow I must finish this ramble before it turns into a book - the last point I wanted to cover was that Oldbury power station, near Thornbury is running again. It has been given permission to by the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate (NII) to restart its number one reactor alongside number two reactor. The station was due to close last December but it has been given a two-year reprieve and will now carry on producing power until 2010. See Bristol Evening Post here. See my previous comment here - I still think this is an unacceptable risk in the light of comments made by independent scientists about problems like the graphite core.

1 comment:

Philip Booth said...

Just been sent this:

The 1979 4 star film "The China Syndrome" with Jane Fonda, Michael Douglas and Jack Lemmon is being shown tomorrow afternoon Wednesday 1st APRIL at 1:05pm - 3:25pm.

WELL WORTH seeing and /or recording given what followed!!!

Observer TV Guide review: "Brisk anti-nuke thriller starring Jane Fonda and Michael Douglas as TV journalists attempting to expose the cover-up of an emergency at a nuclear power plant with the aid of a concerned scientist (edgy performance from Jack Lemmon). Its appearance the same month as the Three Mile Island explosion gave it a frightening topicality, but it suffers from treating everyone as a crook or a hypocrite with a good word to say for the benefits of nuclear power."