Renew On Line (UK) 53

Extracts from NATTA's journal
, issue 153 Jan-Feb2005

   Welcome   Archives   Bulletin         


1.     Wave and Tidal move ahead

New Marine Renewables Centre

2.     Biomass Boost

£3.5m more

3. Wind power developments

Largest wind farm yet...      

4. Micro power shows off:

Micro wind boom

5. Funding programmes

£15.5m for Community Energy

£8.5m for Local  renewables

6. Policy Developments

Climate  Review

Emission Trading Review

Party Positions

7. Policy Issues and lobbying

‘Double the Climate Change Levy’

RO costs more than REFIT


8. Around the World

Australia, New Zealand, India ,Canary Isles, EU, US

9. Global Developments

IEA Research on renewables falls…

..but Solar hits 100 million

‘No’ to Large Hydro...

Climate Change 'a real threat'

10. Nuclear News

Ten new nukes? Not yet !

10. Nuclear News

Chernobyl is still with us

Next year will be the 20th anniversary of the Chernobyl accident in the Ukraine, which led to 31 deaths amongst staff and firefighters, and around 1,800 cases of thyroid cancer amongst children in the areas downwind. Reports of other longer term effects have continued to emerge, and the problems the accident created have not gone away even in the UK. For example, figures released last year in response to Parliamentary questions by Labour MP Llew Smith, showed that the persistent damage to sheep farming in the UK following the fallout from Chernobyl- some 2,500 km away- mainly caesium-137, still being “re-suspended” in upland soils in parts of the UK.  In North Wales there are still restrictions at 359 farms covering 53 000 hectares (source:Hansard, 10 May, column 98); in west Cumbria in England- ironically near Sellafield- there are 9 farms still affected covering 12,100 ha (Hansard 11 May, col. 208); in N. Ireland, at Co. Antrim and Co. Londonderry, 153 farms covering 8,752 ha are still affected (Hansard, 4 May, col 1410); and in SW and central Scotland, 14 farms covering 16,300 ha remain affected (Hansard, 13 May, col 488).

...but BNFL’s MOX isn’t yet

BNFL’s new plant for producing MOX- Mixed plutonium and uranium oxide fuel- at Sellafield has cost £500m so far but, according to the Guardian (27/28 July 04),  it was ‘eight years behind schedule and has yet to deliver anything to customers’.  Michael Meacher, former Labour environment minister, has called for an inquiry by the National Audit Office into the project- which was initially (1997) planned to cost only £239m and might, he claimed, eventually cost £700m.

Meanwhile the EU is taking legal action since it claims that BNFL has not provided the necessary information about the wastes it stores.

...and Japan has more problems

Kansai Electric Power, Japan’s second largest power company, closed all its 11 nuclear plants last year so that it could carry out urgent safety checks after a steam escape accident at one of its plants in August- which had killed four workers and injured 7 others.  The company had to restart two aging oil-fired plants to make up the  shortfall in electricity generation.  The accident did not involve nuclear materials or radioactive releases, but even so it added further to the uncertainty about the future of nuclear power in Japan, given concerns about the reliability of its increasingly elderly plants.   The company admitted that the burst pipe had not been properly inspected for 28 years. In 2003 Tokyo Electric Power was forced to close all 17 of its reactors after it admitted it had tried to conceal reports of cracks for 15 years. It had to use fossil plants instead.

 10 new nukes?

Last Nov. the Independent (7/11)  ran an article claiming that the  UK Committee on Radioactive Waste Management (CoRWM), a body set up by  Margaret Beckett, had raised the prospect that 10 new nuclear stations could be built in Britain over the next 20 years. In fact this was just one scenario that the Committee felt it had to explore, to see what the waste implictions would be- it was not proposing this policy.  But even the mention of the idea was seen as  unwise.  Pete Roche from Greenpeace said:  “the committee is in danger of giving it the justification to order new reactors, when in reality we are still years from a safe solution for the waste we already have”.

Speaking earlier on ITV (19/09) Margaret Beckett had said “it is really hard to argue- when sustainable development means not leaving legacies for future generations to deal with- that nuclear power is a sustainable form of energy use”. 

A better idea?

BNFL’s Chapelcross military nuclear complex in Dumfries and Galloway, set to close since the cost of keeping the old MAGNOX plants going has been deemed to be excessive (see Renew 152), may be partly converted to generate renewable energy- using fast-growing willow in new boilers but re-using some of the existing turbines, electrical gear and grid links. Initially coal would be co-fired with biomass, but wood will gradually take over.  According to the Times (Aug 8th) BNFL and Scottish BioPower had ‘very productive’ talks on the idea-  expected to cost over £30m.  It added ‘if it is a success six more BNFL nuclear power stations could undergo a similar transformation’.

It noted that while the Chapelcross closure meant the loss of over 400 jobs, the proposed new biomass plant would ‘create hundreds of construction jobs and about 70 full-time posts when operational’- although part of the site would have to be cordoned off while it was made safe, as part of the decomissioning process, which, from April, is the responsibility of the new Nuclear Decommissioning Authority.

New Nuclear? Not yet !

“Nuclear is irrelevant to our carbon reduction target in 2010,” Mike O'Brien UK Energy minister, Observer, Sunday 7 November 2004.

The prospects for a new UK nuclear programme were assessed in the New Nuclear Monitor, a briefing note (Number 7, June 2004) produced by the Nuclear Free Local Authorities.   The NFLA notes that on 4th Dec 2003, Energy Minister Stephen Timms told the UK Nuclear Industry Association Annual Energy Choices Conference in London that the Government would review its position on nuclear new build in 2006, but that the Energy White Paper had promised that ‘before any decision to proceed with building new nuclear power stations, there would be a public consultation and the publication of a White Paper setting out the Government’s proposals’. Either way, after the  general election.

Whenever/if it happens, economics are likely to be a major issue. Stephen Timms told the House of Commons Standing Committee looking into the Energy Bill on 25th May 2004 that “…at present the economics are very unattractive”.

This is despite recent reports to the contrary from the Royal Academy of Engineering. The NFLA comments:  ‘PB Power in a report for the Royal Academy of Engineering (RAE) published in March 200420 estimates the cost of electricity from new nuclear plant at 2.3p/kWh, and up to 5.4p/kWh for onshore wind.  These figures are extremely biased and misleading. Nobody outside of the nuclear industry gives such low costs which assume everything goes well for nuclear and everything goes badly for renewables. The figures are basically the same numbers submitted by British Energy and BNFL to the Policy and Innovation Unit’s (PIU) Energy Review in 2001. The nuclear companies told the PIU that they expected to be able to generate electricity from an AP1000 at between 3p/kWh for the first unit and 2.5p/kWh across a large programme of ten reactors. PIU (Feb. 2002) expressed scepticism regarding these optimistic projections. It estimated the costs of electricity from Sizewell B, the last nuclear plant to be built in the UK, at around 6p/kWh and that a cost of 3-4 p/kWh for new nuclear electricity is more credible.  No AP1000s have been built anywhere in the world- the industry’s cost predictions are pure speculation, and depend on achieving construction costs below the bottom end of the IEA’s estimates and quicker construction-to-commissioning times than have been achieved in the past. For example, it is claimed that adoption of modular construction techniques will make it possible to build advanced reactors in a time frame ranging from 30 to 44 months, compared to the typical 100 months required to build another Sizewell type station. The economics also relies on being able to run AP1000 reactors for 60 years, (compared to Sizewell B, which it is assumed will run for 40 years). There is similar optimism in estimates for power generation, operations and maintenance  costs.’

On the crucial issue of waste, the NFLA noted that the Committee on Radioactive Waste Management ‘envisages making recommendation on options in Nov.  2006. It is, therefore, far too early to start planning the construction of new nuclear power stations now.’

However, the NFLA recommends that the UKERC establish a stakeholder review panel that can monitor and report regularly and openly upon the prospects for new nuclear build in the UK.  The ‘Nuclear or Not?’  conference on March 15 at the OU will hopefully help set the scene. 

For more on the nuclear issue  see the Forum and pack page of Renew 153.

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