28 Oct 2010

Oldbury update

Oldbury Power Station has at last taken its last ever delivery of nuclear fuel.

Reactor One first produced electricity in November 1967 whilst Reactor Two started generating in April 1968. At the time it was expected that it would run for 25 years but against the advice of independent nuke experts and continuing and growing problems like the depleted graphite, it has struggled on - many of us believing that money and profit has overidden the safety concerns.

Photo: From Stop Oldbury blog of the demo this month outside Hinkley nuke

Both Reactor One and Two are due to stop in June 2011, however, bosses at the site think that enough fuel will be left to fuel one reactor past the deadline well into 2012. Again safety seems to be ignored.

Meanwhile plans for new nukes seem to be going ahead despite the numerous set backs. Geoffrey Lean writing in The Telegraph summed up one of the key issues: "The iron lady originally wanted to build ten new nuclear power stations, two more than are now envisaged by ministers. By the time her government got to publishing a White Paper, in 1981, the number had shrunk to five. Only one of these was ever built, at Sizewell, on the East Anglian coast. It produced its first watt a full 15 years later, and its cost more than doubled during construction. Indeed, it transpired much later, it had only been possible to build it at all through a massive, if underhand, subsidy; money provided to the nuclear industry by Government ‘to deal with the decommissioning of old and unsafe plants’ was diverted to bring into being the shiny new one instead."

He continues: "Now the landscape is infinitely harsher. Britain has a liberalised, highly competitive energy market, and ministers are swearing blue that no nuclear subsidies will be provided. No nuclear power station has yet successfully been built, anywhere in the world, in such circumstances. And the industry has not lost its talent for falling well behind schedule and seeing costs escalate: that is happening to both the reactors being built in Finland and France that are designed as prototypes for ones to be constructed here."

Indeed already Britain’s “big six” energy companies are warning Chris Huhne that the government’s proposed “floor price” for carbon emission permits is not enough of an incentive for them to invest in new nuclear power stations. - see here.

I've also just had feedback from a local Green party member who attended the 'Stop Nuclear Power Network Gathering' in Bristol with folk from around the country looking at how the absurd plans for nuclear can be stopped - plus from the Shepperdine group seeking to stop new build at Oldbury. The latter are starting a new leaflet campaign and I am hoping we can also distribute some of the leaflets locally. More on that soon.

Lastly here is the Sunday Times on the Coalition: "It was only last November that George Osborne first floated the idea of a green investment bank. When the coalition took power it became a flagship project wheeled out by the chancellor as proof he was serious about Britain’s £200 billion low-carbon energy revolution. Last week reality struck. Osborne said the government would put just £1 billion into the bank; a paltry sum compared to the mountain of cash needed to replace fossil-fuel power plants with more expensive alternatives such as wind farms and nuclear reactors. The cash won’t be available until 2013. Energy executives, who are hectored relentlessly about the need to invest billions in low-carbon power, are appalled. Any credibility the government had with the industry is ebbing. The neutering of the bank, they say, is indicative of its general half-heartedness toward the industry."

It is also said that the bank will be used to fund early high-risk investment in nuclear, large offshore wind, carbon capture and other green technologies with the aim of leveraging in the large amounts of private sector investment needed. Ministers and power companies once predicted the first new nuclear power station would be in operation by 2017. That has now slipped to 2018. Further delays seem inevitable. This is just not the way to tackle climate change which needs serious investment now in energy efficiency.

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