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.”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.
Dr. Mark Cooper, a senior fellow for economic analysis at the Institute for Energy and the Environment at Vermont Law School. 18th June 2009
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.