8 Dec 2009

Campaign builds against Oldbury

OK so lots has been going on with nuclear stuff and I can't do justice in this hurried post - but will include here the latest local Green party letter to press and some other info including about the recent events and the consultations.

But let me start with an interesting piece of info that arrived in an email to me - it is often quoted that nuclear's contribution to energy is 20% but this figure is from over 6 year ago. It is now 13% (See DUKES published by Department of Energy and Climate Change). One of the reasons is the falling 'Load Factor' i.e. the amount of electricity produced divided by the total capacity - nuclear power stations now produce less than 50% of their possible maximum output in 2008. When you consider that electricity is 18% of our energy supply nuclear produces 18% x 13% ie 2.34% of our energy supply.

In terms of energy security the Government has only itself to blame for the wholly lamentable state of affairs. No industry is more strategically important than energy, yet they have dithered and dithered for 10 years before authorising against their own advisors, a new generation of nuclear plants.

Public exhibition in Stroud

Thursday last week saw an exhibition at Stroud Old Town Hall on plans for the new nukes at Oldbury - sadly I was unable to go due to work commitments during that day and evening but I understand barely 14 people turned out - perhaps not surprising as I saw virtually no publicity and the weather was diabolical that day. Indeed the one anti-nuclear campaigner gave up leafleting outside the exhibition.

Oldbury has just been named as one of 10 preferred sites selected for the continued generation of nuclear power - it comes under Horizon Nuclear Power, which is the name being used by E.ON and RWE npower for the joint energy project - to have it's headquarters in Gloucester. Anyhow the plans showed that there could be up to three reactors and up to four huge cooling towers measuring between 70 and 200 metres high

The displays used in the public exhibition in Stroud and I understand other areas include a preliminary report on the potential environmental impacts of a new nuclear plant at Oldbury - ie their Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Scoping Report plus the potential reactor designs, cooling towers and some illustrative layouts for the site - see Scoping Report here. Deadline for responses is 31st December - no time at all.

Nuke talk in Oldbury highlights cancer concerns

Oldbury Memorial Hall last Wednesday was the site of a talk by Dr Iain Fairlie who spoke in Stroud a couple of years ago - see here - this time he talked about the German government's KiKK study into the link between leukaemia and nuclear power in Germany. Also at the meeting will be Sue D'Arcy, co-author of "Still Fighting for Gemma" who lived near Sellafield and whose daughter Gemma died of leukaemia.

Shepperdine Against Nuclear Energy (SANE) Campaign organised the talk - they have just started a blog - see here - it has a pic of what those cooling towers will look like here - and there is also Angela Paine of Stop Oldbury's new blog - see here.

Dr Fairlie is quoted saying: "The German KiKK study provides incontrovertible scientific evidence that infants near nuclear power stations are more than twice as likely to develop leukaemia. The Government should accept these findings, adopt the Precautionary Principle, and rethink its policy to build more nuclear stations. In my view, the Government's plans are irresponsible given the powerful new health evidence against them. Unfortunately, our Government seems to give the impression that its plans are more important than the health of nearby babies and infants. People living near reactors will certainly get that message. In Germany, women of child-bearing age are already moving away from nuclear power stations: the same could occur here."

Dr Fairlie also said: "It took four years to carry out the study and the findings have been accepted by the German government. As a result, no new nuclear power plants are proposed in Germany. But the study is almost unheard of here in Britain. If I lived here, I would write to the nuclear power station to ask when it was going to open up its reactors and then not be here when it did it."

Dr Fairlie gave some possible explanations for the KiKK findings, including a pulse of radioactive gas when reactors were opened up for refuelling. He branded a British Government study as "bad science" and hurried compared to the larger German investigation, saying that although the UK study found a 23 per cent increase in childhood leukaemia near UK atomic reactors, the study said the data was not statistically significant. It also excluded the Sellafield nuclear site in Cumbria from the exercise.

Dr Fairlie said: "I think we should have a big European-wide study for all nuclear power stations and advise local people about KiKK. The Government should also re-think this mad rush to build new nuclear power stations."

Also present was Dr Karen Parkhill of Cardiff University School of Psychology who helped compile a study into concerns of local residents of new nuclear power stations being built - see Telegraph article here re her work.

Green party letter to press on Oldbury
I wonder how many people in our area realise that they are downwind of the site for a huge new nuclear power station?

What is proposed is a power station of around 3,300Mw capacity - over seven times the current output of the existing Oldbury power station. This will involve either two French designed Areva EPR reactors, of which the first examples currently under construction in Finland and France are both beset with problems, or three of the American Westinghouse AP1000. Both designs are based on the pressurised water design (or PWR), which will rely on the integrity of its steel pressure vessels for its up to 60 years design life. Finally, even our mighty Severn seems insufficient to supply the cooling requirements. It may need three or four cooling towers that could be nearly 700 feet tall, with a steam plume on top.

So there will be a considerable visual impact. But that is not what worries me. I am worried about the safety of the pressurised water design, which, over the years, has given us both the Three Mile Island reactor meltdown, admittedly by another manufacturer (Babcock & Wilcox), and many scares concerning problems with corrosion and metallurgy. Yes, lessons will have been learned from these incidents, yes, we have an independent nuclear regulation and inspection system. But for a proposed sixty year reactor life?

A serious accident at the Oldbury nuclear sites would give rise to airborne contamination, and the prevailing south-westerly winds will bring any contamination to us first. Nuclear power carries with it a massive potential risk and it is not right that those of us who are concerned about such issues won’t get our say at a public enquiry. Additionally after over 50 years of nuclear energy production there is still no site identified for the long-term internment of nuclear waste. Apparently this merely requires a technical solution. Well where is it?

It beggars belief that the government still spends far more on nuclear power research than it does on benign, natural sources such as wave power and that the energy agenda is only ever really addressed and meaningfully funded in terms of increasing capacity and never in terms of smart ways to decrease demand.

As a country we do need to plan for the energy gap as many of our current power stations come to the end of their lives, North Sea oil runs out and gas supplies risk political interruption. We need a coherent programme of large-scale renewable installation, AND a programme of meaningful energy efficiencies measures. Without these in place the case for new nuclear has not been made.

Martin Whiteside – Green Party Parliamentary Candidate for Stroud
Thrupp, Stroud
Consultation time

This is a confusing time with various consultations - we have the National Policy Statement (NPS) for Energy Infrastructure and Justification and Justification draft decisions. There are very real concerns about how as members of the community we can possibly consider the volume of material? How can we make meaningful submissions to the consultation with so little time? It is plainly not a fair set up - and looks like it has been designed to make it difficult.

It is probably inconceivable that the NPS will be signed off by the government until after the general election - this means uncertainty until May 2010 at least - Tories are unlikely to substantively alter the NPSs but we don’t know what, if elected, they plan to do with the Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC).

Infact the NPS consultation finishes on 22nd February 2010. Another important date is 15th January, which is the closing date for submissions to the Energy and Climate Change Committee’s hearings on the NPS. It would be great if people can make submissions because given the site-specific nature of the nuclear NPS in particular, it is important that people who stand to be directly affected by new nuclear power have the opportunity to have their say. Indeed I understand that once the NPS is designated then it will become almost impossible to raise issues about key issues such as ‘need’ or ‘location’ at the planning application (IPC) stage.

E.On at Oldbury and EdF at Hinkley are obliged to consult locally as part of the IPC planning process (see above), but this isn’t the last chance people will get to have their say. According to DECC and the IPC people will be given a third chance to air their views once the IPC examine specific applications, so long as people have registered an interest in the process.

As Greenpeace point out the question here, is how much will really be up for discussion and debate when say the IPC sit down to consider Hinkley Point C. And a lot of that depends on the outcome of this consultation, which is why it’s important that people raise their concerns now.

Many issues are yet to be resolved - for example spent fuel storage at new reactor sites being stored for up to 160 years. The plans for how this will be done are not clear but according to DECC they will have to be agreed by the Secretary of State before reactor applications can proceed further - can we really believe that people will not be allowed to discuss the principle of whether they want what amounts to a radwaste dump on their doorstep for 160+ years?

• To take part in the Government consultations go to: https://www.energynpsconsultation.decc.gov.uk/home/ where you can order hard copies of the consultation documents. Or call 0870 600 5533. Ask for all documents related to the nuclear policy statement and ‘justification’.

Other nuke news

- a report by leading investment analysts Citigroup pulls no punches in explaining the financial risks to companies pursuing new build. It also explains how it doesn't think new build is possible without taxpayer subsidies. Most of it is in beautifully plain english - recommended reading. See it here.

- An incentive to persuade the private sector to build new nuclear power stations would add no more than £40 a year to consumers' bills, the leading company planning to build the reactors has said. The figure is the first indication from the industry of the probable cost of financial support needed for the new reactors, which are likely to cost about £5bn each. See FT article here.

- Meanwhile former government advisers challenge the government's nuclear waste claims. Four former members of the government's Committee on Radioactive Waste Management, including its Chairman, Professor Gordon MacKerron, have written to Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, Ed Miliband, informing him of their concerns about the government’s interpretation of radioactive waste management policy, as stated in the draft National Policy Statement on Nuclear Energy announced on 9 November. See Observer here. In particular, the statement:
• ignores the recommendation from CoRWM that the management of radioactive waste from new nuclear build should be subject to a separate process of examination;
• claims that 'arrangements exist or will exist' for the long term management of radioactive waste. These are premature. Neither the scientific nor the social requirements have yet been met.
• that the Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC) 'will not need to consider this question' of how to manage and dispose of new build waste directly contradicts the need for potential host communities to be able to question the need for on-site, long term storage (up to 160 years) of new build waste.

- Meanwhile the government have failed to take proper account of the hidden cost of Britain's new generation of reactors - not least the destruction of the Kalahari desert in Namibia and millions of tonnes of extra greenhouse gas emissions a year. The Namibian government plans to build a coal-fired power station to provide electricity for the uranium mines. This will use more than 2.4m tonnes of coal a year from South Africa, and could produce more than 10 million tonnes of CO2 emissions a year. See Observer here. Well let's be fair we know nuclear is not the answer to climate change - too little, too late and diverting much needed investment in renewables to build nukes.....and hey all the reports indicate uranium is not going to last more than 70 years at best - and we will need to import from places like Namibia where we should have grave concerns re their health and safety - only last week a Greenpeace study found workers contaminated.

- Jeremy Leggett, chairman of Solar Century and one of the UK’s most respected proponents of renewable energy, gave a clear message to the recent New Economics Foundation conference, saying that renewables are the only way the UK can meet the climate challenge safely, cheaply, and in time. He said: “It’s amazing the propaganda that’s being pushed out for nuclear and against renewables. They say renewables can’t do the base load but it’s utter rubbish. How do I know? Because the Germans have done it already. In 2008 they mixed and matched renewables and ran the country on them at scale and in different weather conditions. We can do it here with imagination – and we will.” See more here.

- The HSE have recently reported their concern about the safety system in the French EPR reactor design. In an unprecedented joint statement, the French, UK and Finnish regulators condemned the computerised system. They added that more work needed to be done by EdF on ensuring cracks don’t develop in the nuclear fuel cladding. This is especially important due to the intensity of the ‘high burn up’ fuel. And they were concerned that analysis of human factors linked to reactor safety was insufficient. They had even more to say about the Westinghouse AP1000 design which could be built at Oldbury by ‘Horizon’, a new EON, RWE conglomerate. The regulators echoed US reports that the containment building could be destroyed in an earthquake, tornado or even high winds! They also questioned the design of new massive ‘squib valves’ designed to inject a charge of pressurised water into the cooling system if it fails. But HSE thought it might not work when needed or even go off when not needed, dangerously over-pressurising the cooling system.

- Please sign this petition if you haven't already, to the Prime Minister to Stop the Re-development of Nuclear Power Stations throughout the United Kingdom. http://petitions.number10.gov.uk/NuclearNo

- Former Director of Friends of the Earth, Green party member and famous nuclear critic Jonathon Porrit will speak at a Stop Hinkley public meeting against Hinkley C on Tuesday March 16th. See Porritt in Guardian here.


Trisolar said...

Wonderful article, just a quick correction and some additional food for thought. Note that the Greenpeace finding was in Niger, not Namibia. Look for the report that will be released in January. Also, it may be noted that 61% of all energy produced in the UK is lost in transmission and distribution due to the archaic and obsolete centralised electricity distribution network. Just upgrading to a smart grid would reduce losses and eliminate the need for nuclear power.

Philip said...

Here is a letter sent to press by local campaigner:

We must not ignore dangers of nuclear power
Bristol evening Post Monday, December 14, 2009
Thank you for Lynne Hutchinson's piece on Dr Ian Fairlie's talk in Oldbury
last week about a recent study sponsored by the German government into the
incidence of childhood leukaemia near German nuclear installations.
The study provoked public outcry and media debate in Germany because it
indicates that increased risks of childhood leukaemia are very large; are
unequivocally linked to proximity to nuclear reactors; appear to extend as far
as 70 km from the nuclear reactors, and are accepted by the German
Government, which has decided NOT to build any more nuclear reactors in that
And yet the results of this study have been given very little attention in
the UK. What a contrast with the UK government, which has always ignored
any suggestion of any link between nuclear power plants and leukaemia,
despite numerous studies showing such a link. Our leaders are bent on pursuing
the nuclear option, despite the fact nuclear power can do nothing to improve
Britain's energy security or help it meet the urgent challenge of climate
change, as the government argues.
Furthermore, the waste disposal problem is still not resolved, and it is
already clear that the nuclear companies will not be able to build their
plants without massive subsidies from the taxpayer. I'm old enough to remember
the slogan used by the nuclear industry when the first generation of
stations was built – "Electricity too cheap to meter". We've been conned by the
nuclear industry before – don't let it happen again.

Tony Harding,

Anonymous said...

Letter from Gerry Wolff: Although the failure at Copenhagen may have raised questions about nuclear power, there is huge potential in renewables. Research reviewed in the November issue of Scientific American shows renewables can meet 100 per cent of the world's energy needs (not just electricity) and that it is technically feasible to do it by 2030. This is in line with other reports showing how to decarbonise the world's economies via renewables and improvements in efficiency. For example, the US National Academy of Sciences reported this year that wind power could supply more than 40 times present worldwide consumption of electricity and more than five times total global use of energy in all forms.

Independent 28th Dec 2009


swcp2 said...

South West Planning Aid is a charity which provides independent planning advice and is holding an event called `What is the Future for Oldbury Nuclear Power Station?' This event will try to explain the new planning system for key infrastructure projects such as a new nuclear power station at Oldbury. The event is on Wednesday 20th January from 6.30 to 8.30pm at the Memorial Hall in Oldbury. If you would like to book a place phone 0117 3779817 or email: swcp2@planningaid.rtpi.org.uk