Renew On Line (UK) 54

Extracts from NATTA's journal
, issue 154 Mar-Apr2005

   Welcome   Archives   Bulletin         


1. A new UK Climate Plan

2. Green Heat and Biofuels

3. Local support for Tidal power

4. Wind rush- and wind problems

5. Micro power push: PV and micro-CHP

6. Clean-coal ‘better than wind’

7. Industrial ups and downs

8. Grid Connection Charges

9. £80m for Innovation

10. Efficiency Drives

11. World news: Kyoto goes live

12. World Renewables Round up

13. Nuclear Power- more or less?

13. Nuclear Power 

We’d need lots to make any impact  

James Lovelock has written a paper for the journal of the Royal Meteorological Society in which he calls for a nuclear programme “whose scale dwarfs the space and military programmes”.  A recent MIT report on the ‘Future of Nuclear Power’, pointed out that to increase nuclear powers’ share from its present 17% of world electricity just to 19% by 2050 would require a near-trebling of nuclear capacity-  1,000-1,500 large nuclear plants would have to be built worldwide. Where would they go?  For the UK, it has been suggested that we should use existing  nuclear sites, so as to use existing infrastructure and also to avoid local opposition in ‘new’ areas.  But would that be wise?  Nearly all are on the coast. With sea levels rising due to climate change, this does not seem to be a good location.  Environment Minister Elliot Morley has said “it certainly would not benefit anyone to build nuclear power stations in areas that are a major flood risk”.  But inland sites would need water for cooling- and that is going to be increasingly scarce as climate change begins to bite.

US Nuclear Waste plan flawed?

If the US Department of Energy (DOE) pursues its present design, the nation’s proposed high-level waste repository at Yucca Mountain is likely to leak. This is the conclusion reported in an article by Dr. Paul Craig, a former member of the U.S. Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board. “Rush to Judgment at Yucca Mountain” is a cover story of the June 2004 issue of Science for Democratic Action, the interesting journal published by the US Institute for Energy and Environmental Research. Dr. Craig draws parallels between the mistakes made by NASA leading up to the Challenger and Columbia space shuttle disasters and DOE’s plans to dispose of high-level radioactive waste.  The complete text of the article, is  at:

* The US Dept of Energy is struggling to get the necessary permits for this huge project- against stiff opposition, including from the State of Nevada. In June 2004 the Nuclear Regulatory Commission ruled against proceeding with the application, since the documentation was incomplete. Only a temporary setback no doubt, but it seems likely to be some time before agreement will be reached.  Moreover, although  the Yucca mountain site has a designated capacity of 63,000 tonnes, at current rates of waste generation there may be a need for new repositories of this size every 20-30 years.

Nuclear undermines Finnish renewables  

Finlands decision to build a 1.6 GW prototype of the new  European Pressurised water Reactor (EPR) design has not gone unopposed. Last Sept, anti-nuclear activists gained access to the construction site to draw attention to what they said was a contagious ‘nuclear madness’ infecting the country- and undermining the renewables programme. Elina Turunen from Luonto-Liitto said that when the parliament gave the go ahead  for the reactor,  ‘the condition was that the government agrees to invest forcefully in renewable energy. Now two years have passed and the promises to support the renewable energy have been scrapped’.

The objectors noted that, in May 2002, after parliament had given a go ahead to build the reactor, the nuclear lobby started a campaign to hamper the carbon emissions trade in the EU, and some politicians even demanded that Finland withdraw from the Kyoto protocol. Under the EU’s Renewables Directive, as part of its commitment to Kyoto, Finland, which has major renewable resources, is supposed to get 35% of its electricity from renewables by 2010. Currently it obtains ~23%, mostly from hydro, but progress on wind has been slowed by funding cuts.

Internal Radiation-

More dangerous than we thought?

The health impacts of radioactive matter which enters the body could be worse than thought, according the Report of the Government appointed expert Committee (CERRIE) on the risks of internal radiation.  The chairman of the committee, Prof. Dudley Goodhead, said the main finding of the report was that we had to be particularly careful in judging the risks of radioactive sources inside the body. “The uncertainties are real; they cannot be avoided and we must deal with them”. 

Radioactive matter ingested via food, or inhaled, or absorbed through the skin, can lodge in the body and irradiate areas continuously, eventually leading to cancers. Depending on the radionuclide, the Committee found great uncertainties existed in the internal radiation doses they gave. They could be much greater than current estimates according to the Committee. In some cases, several orders of magnitude greater. Although this uncertainty stretches both ways i.e. both up and down of the main estimate, the public and many members of the Committee are more concerned about the former possibility. The main conclusion is that the Government may need to adopt a more precautionary  approach when deciding nuclear policy, and industry regulators may need to be more cautious in deciding what levels of exposures are acceptable.  Previously it had been hard to explain the cancer clusters around some nuclear plants- the estimated doses from the emissions were too low. But many members of the Committee considered that the new understanding of the very large uncertainties in dose estimates from these emissions changed this.   So the report could have major implications for the nuclear industry- it may have to revise exposure levels for workers and the public. That could increase industry costs significantly and make some types of nuclear operation unviable, reprocessing in particular.

* A minority report by two dissenting members of the Committee claimed that the impacts were in fact even worse.         

For  the main report see:

UK Clean-up costs fall

The UK Atomic  Energy Authority says that the cost of cleaning up nuclear research and fuel management sites  like those at Harwell, Windscale and Dounreay is likely to reduce from the £6.3 bn originally estimated to £4.8bn, due to the availability of new remote control technology developed initially for the offshore oil industry.  That could reduce the cost of cleaning up Dounreay from £3.7bn to £2.7bn, and speed up the process so that it could be completed by 2036 rather than 2063 as originally thought. But  developments like this, although welcome, are still hardly going to make much of a dent  in the overall £48bn decomissioning and clean up programme, including BNFL and BE’s reactors and associated waste facilities.

but security costs rise…      Providing security against terrorism (including armed police), now costs  BNFL £50m p.a.- which is the same as the total amount just allocated to the new wave and tidal development fund.

NATTA/Renew Subscription Details

Renew is the bi-monthly 30 plus page newsletter of NATTA, the Network for Alternative Technology and Technology Assessment. NATTA members gets Renew free. NATTA membership cost £18 pa (waged) £12pa (unwaged), £6 pa airmail supplement (Please make cheques payable to 'The Open University', NOT to 'NATTA')

Details from NATTA , c/o EERU,
The Open University,
Milton Keynes, MK7 6AA
Tel: 01908 65 4638 (24 hrs)

The full 32 (plus) page journal can be obtained on subscription
The extracts here only represent about 25% of it.

This material can be freely used as long as it is not for commercial purposes and full credit is given to its source.

The views expressed should not be taken to necessarily reflect the views of all NATTA members, EERU or the Open University.