17 Jul 2009

Nuclear Power - no point

The Gazette has reported that investigation work is set to begin in July on land in Shepperdine at Oldbury that could become the home of a new nuclear power station. Energy giant E.ON, which owns the land, has said the work will include seismic studies to investigate the best location for the foundations of the new station. E.ON started to buy land in Shepperdine last year and has also bought land from the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority next to the existing Oldbury power station to make room for a new nuclear plant.

All this is disturbing - in 2003, the nuclear industry was virtually killed off in Britain. How times have changed with the energy industry (incl the CBI) arguing it is renewables that should be killed off, or at least kept on a starvation diet.

Two foreign-owned energy giants, E.ON and EDF, have already told the government it must essentially choose between new nuclear and major renewables developments. There is only so much money available, and the nuclear advocates – scared by the growth rates of renewables – are scrabbling to ensure most of it goes to them. De Rivaz has yet to persuade his owners, the French government, that his plan to build four British reactors at well over £4bn each makes commercial sense. He has made it clear to Whitehall that he will need major subsidies.
“We are literally seeing nuclear reactor history repeat itself. The ‘Great Bandwagon Market’ that ended so badly for consumers in the 1970s and 1980s was driven by advocates who confused hope and hype with reality. It is telling that in the few short years since the so-called ‘Nuclear Renaissance’ began there has been a four-fold increase in projected costs.”
Dr. Mark Cooper, a senior fellow for economic analysis at the Institute for Energy and the Environment at Vermont Law School. 18th June 2009
Meanwhile the Green party have just issued a report: "Nuclear power? No point", says new report - it makes a powerful case that nuclear power has no rationale in terms of either economics or helping the fight against dangerous climate change.

In Nuclear Power? No Point! the Green Party's spokesperson on trade and industry, Darren Johnson AM, reviews recent developments and argues that:

• Nuclear power provides less than 4% of UK energy - which is far less than could be saved by energy-efficiency measures that would cut people's fuel bills.
• New nuclear stations will not help the fight against climate change because major CO2 reductions are needed in the next ten years. New nuclear power stations could not be built fast enough.
• Massive investment in renewables could deliver the necessary short-term CO2 cuts - but "feeding cash to the nuclear delusion" could help starve the renewables industry of some of the investment and skilled personnel it needs to grow rapidly.
• The nuclear industry's current financial problems cast serious doubt on its ability to deliver new power stations anyway.

Darren Johnson, who is currently chair of the London Assembly and Green Party candidate for Lewisham Deptford, said this week: "The industry that was going to produce electricity 'too cheap to meter' has landed us with massive costs for handling its dangerous waste. Now the nuclear industry can't even give us a reliable quote for the cost of a power station. The current projects in Finland and France are experiencing safety concerns, long delays and big overspends. There's no point expecting nuclear to solve the climate crisis, because new stations couldn't be built fast enough to help achieve the big CO2 reductions we need to make in the next ten years - which mature renewables could deliver.

"There is no point even considering nuclear power, because demand-reduction measures could easily save far more power than nuclear could generate. And the latest studies argue convincingly that green energy sources with a European smart grid could provide all the power we need."

In Nuclear Power? No Point! Mr Johnson also draws attention to nuclear power's poor jobs-per-megawatt ratio. He said: "We urgently need a Green New Deal to get us out of the recession and start building the sustainable economy of the twenty-first century. We could create hundreds of thousands of jobs in green energy in the next decade. Nuclear power can play no part in that because it takes far too long to build nuclear power stations compared with windfarms and other green measures. Wind energy sustains something like twelve times as many jobs per unit of power as nuclear does."

I have just read the latest issue of the excellent NuClear News and the figures in there reinforce that report....here is what they say:

From the first fixed price reactors in the 1960s to more recent cost projections, the claim that nuclear power is or could be cost competitive with alternative technologies has been based on hope and hype, according to Dr Mark Cooper. If the Unites States were to build 100 new reactors, as has been suggested by some policymakers, the excess cost compared to least-cost efficiency and renewables would be $19 - $44 billion per plant or $1.9 - $4.4 trillion for all hundred.

At the start of the so-called nuclear renaissance around 2001 – 2004, vendors, academics and government officials in the US were coming up with some very low cost estimates. But now Wall Street and Independent Energy Analysts are producing much higher estimates – up to four times higher than the initial projections. Cooper has analysed three dozen recent cost projections, and concludes that the likely cost of electricity from new reactors would be 12-20 cents per kilowatt hour (c/kWh) (7-12p/kWh at June 2009 exchange rates) - considerably more expensive than the average cost of energy efficiency and renewable energies.
US utilities and Wall Street agree on one thing - nuclear reactors will not be built without massive subsidies. The attitude of the Baltimore-based utility – UniStar – a joint venture between EDF and Constellation Energy, is typical. UniStar is planning four new plants (8 reactors) at a cost of up to $48bn – roughly the same as the U.S. spent on the Iraq War in 2006. The U.S. Treasury is expected to guarantee 80% of the total costs through a loan guarantee program. To cover the remainder, UniStar plans to seek loans from the French import/export bank COFACE. Under no circumstances does Constellation or EDF intend to dip into their own coffers to fund the project. UniStar CEO, George Vanderheyden, says “without the federal loan guarantees, this whole thing will come to a stop.”

Former U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission member, Peter Bradford, says it is clear new reactors can only be built if taxpayers or consumers assume the very large risks.


randwick green ish but in the real world said...

While I am 100% in favour of renewables where is the buffer when the winds not blowing and sea swells are small. A european grid may help but this does not offer power security. What happens when there are cross border disputs? Why are you so against power from waste? Perhaps we need to go back to the days when we had smaller local power plants but using modern technology.

We need decisions soon or the lights WILL! go out. Yes we should be building All new housing with solar panels and solar water heating systems and ground source heat pumps. We know the technology works even though it can and will be improved upon.This could start today. We need a much stronger lobby to make this happen. This should be a part of every local government policy.

This is a far more important matter than stopping Staverton Airport expansion.

Garden Girls peace love light said...

people need to realize that the days of darkness were in fact "required" ... artificial light is a detriment to our world... this is just one small piece of many that todays society truly needs to be aware of and from there make better (more informed) decisions regarding the future of this beautiful place we call HOME

Rob said...

There is no need for the lights to go out. This is either being "economic with the truth" by those pressing for nuclear and the continuation of coal fired generation or ignorance from the general public. A Europe wide and North African high voltage dc grid http://www.desertec.org/ would supply us with more energy than we need for the lifetime of the earth with no dangerous byproducts. Alternatively over the next hundred years we can build a 40 metres deep pile of high level nuclear waste about 1km x 1km in area spread all over the world,dangerous for at least a thousand years http://www.withouthotair.com/ : and that would still only be providing us with about 1/3 of our energy , the rest would still need to come from renewables.

Rob said...

By chance just listened to a very interesting and pertinent radio interview by Dr Helen Caldicott about Uranium mining in Australia. Well worth listening to http://ifyoulovethisplanet.org/?p=1259

Anonymous said...

It was 10 years 20 years ago. Then it was 10 years again, and now its 10 years now. If you do a little research you will find that it has been 10 years to doomsday since the 60's, and every single time its 10 years again.

Is anyone keeping track?

Anonymous said...

seems to me you are keeping track of various comments from various peoples... perhaps you should keep us posted

Barkingside 21 said...

A HVDC grid would be nice, but in the meantime all we need to do is to re-engineer all those machines in Gyms so that they generate rather than use electricity.

We might also think about re-engineering all those houshold appliances so that they don't need on tap electricity, but can top up when it is available. We've done it with mobile phones and laptops, so why not lawnmowers, fridges, TVs?

Fuel for Thought

Philip Booth said...

Thanks for all the comments - and links - the problems with nuclear are many and been reiterated in many places like this new report - nuclear waste is certainly a key issue - what a legacy of our consumption for many 100's of thousands of years - costs to future generations re security and more - and where on earth can we store it safely - geological shifts and rising waters.....but one other issue we don't hear enough about is that if we chose nuclear how can we say no to every other country from Iran to Gambia to having nuclear....how can we say nuclear is the answer to our energy needs but you can't have it?