12 Feb 2011

Oldbury's life to be extended

We are talking after-life here. Oldbury has limped on for so many years past it's closure date that I cannot believe there are not massive concerns within the industry - this is wing and prayer stuff - regular blog readers will know I have very real concerns about the serious risks involved in extending still further the length of times these dinosaurs are operating - see previous post re graphite problems here.

Photo: From a game - see below!

Anyway it seems that British nuclear operator Magnox received approval from the nuclear regulator (NII) late on Tuesday to extend the lifetime of its Oldbury 2 nuclear reactor until June 30, 2011. The 220-megawatt (MW) reactor was due to shut down between Feb. 11-14 as it reached the end of its allowed generation time. The lifetime extension now brings the reactor's operations in line with Oldbury 1, which is also due to shut down at the end of June (see here).

We should hear soon from Horizon as they are expected to choose their preferred nuclear reactor design this quarter, picking either Areva and EDF's European Pressurised Reactor (EPR) or Westinghouse's AP1000 model.


On a different but related topic, I saw an interesting short presentation here about thorium as an alternative to uranium. No wars yet as the picture above might suggest - infact in that 'game' thoriums are a super alien species!! Anyway I digress a Tory councillor passed me the link and it was interesting as I had not heard so much about this. The Chinese move is particularly interesting and could be a game changer if other countries follow suit we could see a rush for thorium. From what I know it's a much better alternative for nuclear reactors and the only reason it hasn't been done is it's no good for making weapons from the by-products. More plentiful and safer and cheaper and very very much shorter lived waste.

However it doesn't exist in a commercialised form and has been generally ignored by the nuclear industry. As well as the Chinese I've heard that Norway are doing some work on Thorium reactors - see also some stuff here. This may be a hopeful technology (compared to the current nuclear plants) but likely timescales to commercialise put it a minimum of 10 years out, more like 20 - and none of that is soon enough to tackle climate change - the answer still lies in energy efficiencies and renewables...

Update June 2011: See Ecologist article here.


Philip Booth said...

Energy bills to rise as nuclear gets £3.43bn for doing nothing

Treasury fail to stop rising energy bills as WWF and Greenpeace call for windfall tax on nuclear generators

Energy bills will rise because Government proposals will handover £3.43bn to nuclear generators for doing absolutely nothing different. The proposals to introduce a carbon floor price as part of the ongoing Electricity Market Reform (EMR) consultation could end up benefiting existing nuclear generators to the tune of £3.43bn between 2013 and 2026.

The windfall follows years of financial subsidies for nuclear energy (including a £10bn public bailout of British Energy in 2002) and makes a mockery of the Coalition government’s stated opposition to any form of public subsidy for nuclear.

WWF and Greenpeace are urging the government to introduce a windfall tax on existing nuclear generators alongside the carbon floor price mechanism, that would be used to support energy efficiency and emerging renewable technologies through the Green Investment Bank.

The carbon floor price will operate as a tax on power companies with coal and gas-fired plants. As coal and gas are the dominant forms of power generation in the UK, the carbon floor price will have the effect of increasing the wholesale electricity price as a consequence of increasing the costs incurred by coal and gas-fired power stations.

Because existing nuclear power stations do not burn fossil fuels, they will not have to account for the carbon floor tax but will benefit from increased electricity prices and therefore increased profits. WWF and Greenpeace have obtained the data on potential windfall profits from the modelling work used to underpin the Treasury's consultation on the carbon floor price.

A carbon floor price reaching £40t/CO2 in 2020 (one of 3 options put forward in the carbon price support consultation) could result in windfall profits of £3.43bn over the 2013-2026 period, and £3bn until 2022. This is based on the average number of hours that the UK’s existing nuclear power stations are expected to operate at for the remainder of their operational life.

WWF and Greenpeace are calling for a windfall tax to be introduced to claw back these additional revenues. They also are arguing for a significant proportion of the revenues to be used to help consumers reduce their overall energy consumption and R&D investment in emerging renewable technologies possibly by channelling these funds to properly capitalise the Green Investment Bank.

Commenting on the proposals, Nick Molho, Head of Energy Policy, WWF-UK, said:

“At a time of fiscal austerity and rising energy bills, it seems crazy to be introducing a policy that gives huge windfall profits to the existing nuclear generators - especially when this sector has been bailed out by the taxpayer on several occasions in the past. The Government should find ways to prevent these windfall profits, and use the revenue to help householders reduce their energy needs.”

Dr Douglas Parr, Chief Scientific Adviser and Policy Director, Greenpeace UK said:

“This is yet another taxpayer handout to a failing nuclear industry. The economics of nuclear power have never added up and it has been continually propped up with money from hard-working families.

“The continued kowtowing of the Government to the nuclear industry beggars belief. Government policy should be backing the building of globally competitive industries based on clean, cutting-edge forms of energy and green growth, not an outdated industry that has never been able to stand on its own two feet.”

Philip Booth said...

China to launch new push for liquid-fluoride thorium reactors; a private company in China is aiming to build a prototype within five years that can produce electricity at for as little as 6.8p per kilowatt hour (much cheaper than the retail price of power in the UK today).

Philip Booth said...

Useful article about extension of life:

Oldbury Unit 2, is getting a six month license extension (through June 2011) so that it can be shut down the same month as Oldbury Unit 1 is scheduled to shut down -- unless further license extensions are granted: They are also vying for a 2012 closure "in order to use up spare fuel at the site".What a LOUSY reason to keep a nuclear power plant operating! Unused nuclear fuel is mathematically about 10 million times safer than so-called "spent" fuel, which is just about the most dangerous and difficult stuff on earth to handle.

MWC News 20th Feb 2011