Renew On Line (UK) 57
Extracts from NATTA's journal
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13. Nuclear Developments
‘5,000 new plants’
With global energy demand increasing, a clean-energy future will require at least 5,000 nuclear power reactors by 2050, producing electricity as well as hydrogen and clean water, according to Director General of the World Nuclear Association John Ritch. In the Nuclear Power Corporation of India’s journal Nu-Power, he said “Promotion of such thousands of nuclear power plants is essential if we are to mount a concerted strategy to avert global warming and green-house catastrophe... We must discard pre-conceptions and ideology, assess our options carefully and build with logic and determination, a feasible, science-based plan for collective action to promote growth of nuclear power reactors.’ Source: PTI March.
Bush on Nuclear “America hasn’t ordered a nuclear power plant since the 1970’s, and it’s time to start building again.” said President Bush, during a visit to the Battelle Memorial Institute, in March, (source: New York Times, March 10). He and his new Energy Secretary, Samuel W. Bodman, also seem keen to try to reopen the issue of drilling for oil in the Artic National Wildlife Refuge.
At a conference on nuclear energy in Ireland in March, organized by the Nuclear Free Local Authorities network, Dr Gordon Thompson, Executive Director of the US Institute for Resource and Security Studies, argued that, as well as local damage, radiological damage from an attack on a nuclear installation could occur hundreds of kilometers downwind into neighbouring countries. Defences at nuclear installations are currently light, with security staff armed only with small arms and reliant on off-site backup. Such defence measures offer little or no protection against an attack using aircraft or missiles launched from offsite. Among the worst-case scenarios, a successful attack on the Sizewell B nuclear power station in Suffolk, less than 100 miles from London, could result in the loss of water from the station’s spent-fuel-storage pond, leading to ignition of the fuel. In another scenario storage tanks containing liquid high level radioactive waste at the Sellafield complex in Cumbria would boil dry and release volatile radioactive material if terrorists managed to destroy the cooling system. Speaking before departing for the conference, Dr Thompson said:‘We must recognize that, to terrorists, nuclear installations are pre-deployed radiological weapons within the countries they would most like to hit’. The official view is that reactor buildings are very strong and could resist attack and measures have also been taken to protect waste tanks and ponds. For more: www.nuclearpolicy.info
Tsunami spread N-waste ?
As if they didn't have enough problems already, it seems that the Tsunaami wave last December may have spread nuclear wastes illegally dumped previously off the coast of Somalia. The UN Environment programme has reported that that the tidal wave appeared to have broken up some barrels of toxic wastes of various kinds, including nuclear materials, that were illegally dumped off the coast during the early 1990’s period, when Somalia had no effective government. There have been reports of illnesses and there is an obvious threat to marine life and fishing interests. Source: Wise Nuclear Monitor 623.
ITER goes to France
It’s been a long wrangle- at one stage France threatened to go it alone, while a Japanese participant suggested that tossing a coin might be the fairest way to break the deadlock! But it has now been agreed that the $12bn nuclear fusion reactor- the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor- will be located in France. The US, Japan and S.Korea had supported a site in Japan and, to soften the blow, Japan will be given contracts for some of the work.
UK ‘Nuclear ignorance’
The British public ‘is largely unaware about the urgent need to address the sources of the UK’s future energy supply’, according to research undertaken by the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE). A public opinion survey they commissioned found that only one-in-four people support the construction of new nuclear power stations in the UK while, as noted in Renew 156, 77% backed wind. The former statement does not of course necessarily follow from this finding, but ICE is clearly convinced that, as David Anderson, Chairman of ICE’s Energy Board commented: “Nuclear power is an extremely reliable form of energy. It would be highly irresponsible for the Government to dismiss this option for future energy supplies”.
So if the public thinks otherwise, it must need education. He may not be entirely wrong of course. He said that “It is worrying that the majority of the public cannot even hazard a guess at how many wind turbines are needed to replace the output of just one nuclear station”. However, a distinct lack of vision seems to be apparent in his thinking. ‘It is even more concerning that they place so much reliance and faith in renewable sources. These have been presented as a panacea for the UK’s looming energy gap. The truth is that without massive investment, we will be reliant on burning gas from overseas to create electricity within 15 years. Everyone supports renewable energy, but there is no way that renewables can currently plug the gap left by the demise of nuclear power stations.’ ICE argues that ‘Failure to consider nuclear could lead to over dependency on imported energy sources. Politically, nuclear is not a vote winner- but nor is the constant threat of blackouts in the future.” Well that’s one view. But surely ICE should be at the forefront of pressing for renewables, instead of trying to tell us they won’t work?
* ICE says its survey showed that the public overestimate the contribution from renewables like wind. By 2020, the public predicted on average, that renewables would contribute nearly a third of electricity generation, whereas, ICE say, it is likely to be at very best, 15%. ICE is calling for ‘an educated and reasoned national debate’, involving the public, government and other interested parties, on the future of our energy supplies- and in particular, the role of nuclear energy.
German phase out stays
Speaking ahead of the G8 meeting in London (see earlier), Germany's Green party environment minister Jurgen Trittin told the Guardian (March 15th) that there was ‘no reason for the German government to question the decision agreed with Germany’s electricity industry to phase out nuclear power. The amount of electricity every nuclear power station is allowed to produce has been agreed in law. The last nuclear power station will disappear from the network around 2020. Atomic energy is associated with high risk, and we have therefore decided to say goodbye it. Atomic energy has no future in Germany as a source of electricity. Instead it poses a problem of disposal, because we have to seal off the nuclear debris of this technological aberration from the environment for many thousands of years.’
He argued that it was an illusion that nuclear helped to reduce emissions ‘You only have to look at the US. More atomic energy is produced there than anywhere else in the world, but the amount of CO2 emissions per person is two and a half times as high as in Europe. A constant oversupply of electricity from nuclear power means that a large amount of the energy is wasted. France currently has to import electricity from Germany, because its heaters consume too much electricity. We want to expand renewable energies, and promote energy efficiency, as well as efficient, state-of-the-art gas and coal stations.’
More than three years after it was first given the go-ahead to start operating, the Sellafield MOX Plant (SMP), which is designed to convert the plutonium extracted by reprocessing spent reactor fuel into a Mixed Oxide Fuel, has at last produced a MOX fuel assembly. The delay in getting it fully operational was costly- it led to orders from overseas customers being sub-contracted to BNFL’s rivals. But help may be at hand. It seems that under the new NDA arrangements, SMP (and THORP) related activities will be tax exempted- since according to a ministerial response on April 4th they are ‘likely to be loss-making for tax purposes’ !
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