Renew On Line (UK) 51

Extracts from NATTA's journal
, issue 151 Sept-Oct 2004

   Welcome   Archives   Bulletin         


1.Wind power- problems  offshore, new co-op

2.Photovoltaic solar - mandatory soon?

3.Funding Wave & Tidal Energy- £50m more

4. Biomass Heat Gap- RCEP report

5. Hydrogen Arrives- on the farm

6. New Energy Policy ? Yes please!

7. UK Energy Research Centre- soon

8.UK Government policy news- Energy Bill Passes but targets cut

9. European news- Bonn was good, Denmark gets better

10. US News- Local wind problems, hydrogen plans

11 Other International news- 40GW of wind now in place.... 

12.   Nuclear news'EU needs nuclear'

12.  Nuclear news

Gaian Nukes

James Lovelocks call for a return to nuclear power as a way to deal with climate change (see Renew 150) created quite  a stir. The simplest response would be to say- can we clean up the mess from the last lot first? That will cost £48 bn or so just for the UK. That would have gone a long way towards  developing renewables fully. But Lovelocks views, as developed further at a conference held at Dartington Hall in June, seem to have been taken seriously by some people at the Centre for Alternative Technology who say lets consider having some more nuclear while we develop renewables...

 And Tony Blair also seems to have caught the nuclear bug- we need to think again he says.  But he was also clearly aware that it would be a hot political issue, so it’s unlikely to be faced until after the next election.  And of course there is the big issue of who would finance it!    More on the new nuclear push in Renew 152

 ‘EU needs nuclear’...

Renewable energy will not be able to replace the output from nuclear plants as Europe decommissions its reactors, according to a draft position paper from the European Economic & Social Committee (EESC). The paper argues that nuclear power ‘stongly contributes to Europe’s energy needs and security of supply’ and ‘must be one element of a diversified, balanced, economic and sustainable energy policy within the EU’. 

It claims that ‘Europe with nuclear power is in a better position to meet its commitments vis-à-vis reductions in CO2 emissions agreed under the Kyoto protocol. Respecting the stabilisation commitments on CO2 emissions at the present time will not be possible without further advances in technological development and consumer behaviour. Abandoning nuclear power would certainly exacerbate the problems associated with climate change. Abandoning nuclear power would also be prohibitively expensive for EU consumers given the current lack of suitable and viable alternatives such as renewabl energy’ which it says are ‘not yet in a position to satisfy Europe’s energy requirements, even taking into account the increasing public incentives’.

 It went on “The increased use of renewable energy will become a vital element for security of supply and will be essential to meet the growing demand for electricity. However, renewable energy sources will not yet be in a position to satisfy Europe’s energy requirements once the current generation of nuclear power stations come up for decommissioning. Even if the most optimistic increase of renewable energy installations is assumed, the EESC has come to the conclusion that the replacement of nuclear energy through renewables is an entirely unrealistic option for the foreseeable future for both Europe and the world.”

The draft position paper (or ‘Opinion’ in EU parlance) was passed by the Committee with 68 votes in favour, 33 against and 11 abstentions. The Rapporteur subsequently agreed to include a compromise text on the need for greater security measures for nuclear installations to tackle the growing threat of terrorism. During a debate in  a plenary  session,  the  draft paper received both praise and criticism. On one hand, Mrs Giacomina Cassina (Italy) supported the Rapporteur Claude Cambus for his “very clear, factual report that was useful for making decisions on a tough subject”. On the other, Angela Pfister (Austria), emphasising the need for “a balanced attitude towards this subject”, felt that the text presented left out important details on the security and risk elements associated with nuclear power. This view was strongly underlined by Lutz Ribbe, who also took issue with the Rapporteur’s economic arguments about the profitability of nuclear power. “If nuclear power was such good business then why had it failed in the UK?” he asked. In response, the Rapporteur argued that accepting nuclear power represented the only realistic way forward to satisfy Europe’s energy needs, a stance echoed by Commissioner Loyola de Palacio. Speaking to the plenary session she said:  “I’m firmly in favour of renewable energy but at present it cannot replace the percentage of Europe’s energy needs currently satisfied by nuclear power”. It was also important she stressed to ensure Europe’s security of supply through nuclear, given that the EU was very dependent on gas and oil, sources of energy from outside the EU. “If we were to unplug our nuclear power stations tomorrow we would have to accept a radical change in our way of life” she added.  However, acceptance of nuclear power today did not mean that the development of alternative sources of energy for tomorrow should not be encouraged. “Nuclear power was not a panacea” she stressed also indicating that more transparency within the sector was need to bolster public confidence in nuclear power.

* The European Economic & Social Committee is a consultative body established under the 1957 Treaty of Rome, and has 222 members appointed by the Council of Ministers. The EU recently indicated that it was willing to support investment in new nuclear projects. France is planning to build a demonstration version of the new Euro PWR, possibly as as a preliminary for a new programme. Finland is already building one.

...but not Germany

Germany is planning to close all its nuclear plants by 2032 and the first one was shut recently.  But BfS, the German nuclear regulatory body, has now proposed that five of Germany’s other older nuclear station should be closed even earlier as a result of fears that they could be vulnerable to terrorist attacks involving aircraft. It is likely that if the plant were closed the owners would be compensated by extending operating lives of remaining nuclear stations. However, as yet, the industry ministry has not endorsed BfS’s recommendation.


..or Spain?

Spain’s new Socialist government promised in the election run up to phase out nuclear power in Spain- as Jose Luis Zapatero, the presidential candidate put it two weeks before the election, ‘in an orderly way over time’. Spains 9 nuclear plants currently supply around 24% of the country’s electricity. It also said that it would boost renewable energy- Spain currently has over 6GW of installed wind generating capacity- ten times more than the UK. If the government delivers on this promise, then it will join with much of the rest of the EU, old and new, in backing away from nuclear.

£48m more for UK Fusion

The UK Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council has awarded £48m for continued UK work on nuclear fusion. This is the largest single award ever made by EPSRC for any project.  It’s separate from ITER (see Renew 149), the 10bn euro international fusion programme which is to build a new larger device (there’s still no decision on where). It just relates to further work on  JET, the Joint European Torus, ITER’s predecessor at Culham.  EPSRC say that the new money, which is for a four year period ‘will enable to UK to maintain its key role in this defining period’.  The new EPSRC funding will also support work on MAST, the Mega-Amp Spherical Torus, plus generic work on materials for fusion.

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