The nuclear power station at Oldbury was 44 years old when it was shut down in February 2012. There were 58,000 uranium fuel rods in the two reactors, all of which must be transported by road as far as Berkley, then by train all the way to Sellafield. One year on from shutdown, most of the fuel rods are still in the reactors and will take at least two more years to come out.
The graphite core of the reactor is highly radioactive and hot. It is now being cooled with air. I’m not sure whether this air is just allowed to blow through it and out into the atmosphere or whether it is contained in a closed circuit.
Two German corporations, RWE and Eon formed a company called Horizon that bought 400 acres of boggy land at Shepperdine, a mile or so from Oldbury and began applying for planning permission to build a new, much larger, nuclear power station there. Then Fukushima happened and RWE decided not to go ahead with this or any other nuclear new build projects. A year passed, then in 2012 Eon decided to withdraw, so the land was put up for sale.
In 2012 Toshiba, the Japanese corporation who designed Fukushima, paid £700 million for the land at Shepperdine. They would not be allowed to build in Japan.
If an electricity corporation shoulders all the expenses of building a nuclear power plant they cannot make a profit from selling electricity from it unless they are allowed to sell that electricity for a very high price.
The government have said that they will not fund any new nuclear power stations, so any subsidies to the nuclear power industry have to be hidden.
The subsidies are as follows:
(1) Loan Guarantees
First and foremost it is unlikely that any bank would be prepared to lend money to build new nuclear in Britain unless the Government is prepared guarantee the loans. In the US, 6 of the largest investment banks are only prepared to lend to nuclear corporations if taxpayers are prepared to shoulder 100% of the risk.
(2) Electricity Market Reform
The government agreed to set the guaranteed fixed price (the strike price) for energy generated by Hinkley to provide a subsidy of nearly £2.0 billion a year to EDF.This will be index linked, thus adding tens of billions of pounds to the total cost of electricity.
Toshiba will expect a similar subsidy.
(3) Pre-construction safety analysis
The costs of the pre-construction safety analysis are covered by the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate, a government body.
(4) Membership of Euroatom and International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)
The Government pays the costs of the UK’s membership of the EU nuclear agency, Euratom; and the International Atomic Energy Agency — both of which do promotional and safety work for nuclear power.
The UK Government is paying for research into so-called “Generation 4” reactor designs.
(6) Waste Disposal
The Government is capping the nuclear industry’s liabilities, and is therefore prepared to cover most of the cost of waste disposal. DECC spends £6.93 billion a year on cleaning up the nuclear past: over eight times as much as on securing our future energy and climate security.
(7) Third Party Liability Insurance
Nuclear operators’ liability will be capped at £1 billion per plant. The total costs of the Fukushima disaster may well exceed £300 billion.
The Office of Civil Nuclear Security pays towards security of nuclear facilities and materials in transit i.e. uranium fuel to the plant and spent fuel to Sellafield
(9) Build Cost
New generation nuclear power plants notoriously overrun their projected build cost. The plant at Okiluoto in Finland has overrun by double the cost and time. The same plant design at Flammanville in France has run into similar cost and time overruns. A plant of the same design is proposed by EDF at Hinkley. EDF may ask for subsidies to cover insurance against construction overruns, similar to that currently provided by the US government to nuclear corporations. This would set a precedent for Toshiba at Oldbury/Shepperdine.
The UK taxpayer has already been left with large and uncertain liabilities of up to £5.3bn for failed nuclear operator British Energy. Other UK civil nuclear liabilities expected to be funded by the public purse amount to £70bn.Nuclear Subsidies detract from research and development of renewables
The UK Government’s Performance and Innovation Unit (PIU) estimated the cost of onshore wind in 2020 at 2.3 - 3.8 Euro-cents per kWh, compared with 4.5 - 6 Euro-cents per kWh for nuclear electricity. And yet they still want to go ahead with new nuclear!
Solar thermal, photo voltaics, biomass, geothermal could all have huge potential. Energy from waves and tides could provide up to 20% of the UK’s current electricity demand, with perhaps 3% installed by 2020 if the government were to invest in it. Many of the world’s leading wave and tidal power companies are based in the UK, but if they don’t get the government support required they will move to other countries.
The safety issue
The proposed new nuclear power plant at Oldbury/shepperdine would be about seven times as big as the old one. Toshiba are likely to want to build the same design that they built at Fukushima which uses highly radioactive fuel. When this fuel is spent it remains so hot that it cannot be transported offsite but must be stored for at least a hundred years on site, in cooling ponds. There will be a large build up of very hot, very radioactive spent fuel in cooling ponds in Gloucestershire. Do we want to leave such a legacy to our grandchildren?
Local contacts:STAND: http://www.nuclearsevernside.co.uk/
Shepperdine campaign group: http://www.shepperdineagainstnuclearenergy.blogspot.co.uk
Stop Oldbury blog: http://stopoldbury.blogspot.co.uk/