Renew On Line (UK) 61
|Extracts from NATTA's journal
Renew, Issue 161 May-June2006
|Welcome Archives Bulletin|
12. Nuclear News
UK keeps options open
A new £6.1m Keeping the Nuclear Option Open programme supported by the UK Research Councils will investigate how nuclear power can become a more appealing option for future energy production, with safety being one of the key issues.
The initiative was announced at the launch of Imperial College London’s Energy Futures Lab, which aims to play a major role in setting the energy agenda over the next 20 years (see Groups in Renew 161).
According to the launch publicity for the Nuclear programme: ‘Proponents see nuclear power as an increasingly attractive option for combating climate change because it is a low carbon alternative to burning fossil fuels. The Imperial College-led initiative will examine issues such as how nuclear reactor systems function, how reactors are monitored and how reactor waste can be dealt with. The researchers hope that the four-year project will help increase the acceptability of nuclear power as an alternative source of energy and maintain the US’s expertise in nuclear technology.’
It is the single largest research council commitment to fission reactor research for more than thirty years. Imperial will be working in collaboration with the Universities of Manchester, Sheffield, Leeds, Bristol, Cardiff and the Open University (the OU Materials Dept.)
Prof. Robin Grimes, the Principle Investigator and project co-ordinator at Imperial, said: ‘Having neglected nuclear reactor science and technology for twenty years, it is now clear that a broad research programme is necessary if we are to be in position to underpin a new reactor based generating capacity. Nuclear power is clearly a route to achieving the UK’s commitment to reducing its carbon emissions under the Kyoto accord. We also intend that our programme will begin to address the acute shortage of people with the science and engineering background necessary to pursue a career related to the generation of electricity from nuclear reactors.’
Prof. Julia King, Principal of the Faculty of Engineering, said: ‘The award reinforces Imperial’s position as a leading player in a broad range of advanced energy technologies. The initiative reverses the trend towards decline in nuclear research, at a critical time for UK energy policy. It also enables us to help train a new generation of engineers in nuclear power and their skills will be essential for the future of the industry.’
German phase out stays
Although the new conservative Chancellor Angela Merkel argued that Germanys nuclear plants should be allowed to operate longer than in the current phase out plan, the coalition partners, the SDP, have resisted any change. So all 17 reactors should still be closed by 2020, although there may be some horse trading on closure dates between the older ones (which are programmed to shut first) and the newer ones (though some of these are to close before their operational lives expires). The nuclear issue is expected to be re-examined as part of a comprehensive energy review this summer, when the 1.2GW Biblis ‘A’ plant is due for to shut. But neither party in the coalition plans to build new nuclear plants, although CSU party Economics Minister Michael Glos said that he hoped for a rethink: ‘We should not turn our backs on a technology of the future’.
France halts n- sale
France has abandoned plans to sell shares in its nuclear fuel and uranium enrichment company Areva, arguing that the group’s strategic activities made it essential for the state to keep full control. The sale had been expected to raise up to €5.6bn from a 40% stake. The part sale of the electricity company EDF- expected to raise up to €7bn- was unaffected.
Meanwhile Italy may look at nuclear again, according to its environment minister, although that would mean reversing the ban imposed following the 1986 Chernobyl accident. According to Reuters ‘Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, some politicians and scientists have called for nuclear power to be revived but analysts and industry experts say Italians would be unlikely to agree’.
And the European Renewables Energies Federation has called for an investigation into whether the level of state support for the new nuclear plant planned in Finland violates EU competition laws. It’s also unpopular- although in 2002 parliament voted 107 to 92 in favour, public opinion polls have shown a majority against it.
* France has yet to find somewhere to put its 978,000 cubic metres of nuclear waste.
After 15 years of research, the government has now set a deadline of this year for a decision. The most likely option is a clay shaft in the Champagne wine region. But 10,000 people turned out in protest last September when tests were done in the area.
A report based on a meeting of 150 members of the British Geological Society, the Royal Society of Chemistry, the Institute of Physics, the Institution of Electrical Engineers and the Institution of Civil Engineers, says that nuclear power ‘will inevitably have a key role in a future clean energy mix’. Otherwise, it says, the UK will find it hard to maintain supplies. John Loughhead, executive director of the UK Energy Research Centre and lead author of the study, said: ‘If the UK is to continue on its path of reducing atmospheric emissions, then it will need probably to maintain some nuclear capability. Renewable sources of energy will play a growing role in the future, but... many of them still have a higher cost base and are going to need continued support both in development and deployment.’
He added ‘If we envisage what life will be like without those nuclear power stations, and if you look at the development of the other generating technologies and our current demand growth patterns, the sums don’t add up’.
New Nuclear not wanted
Although it found support for nuclear expansion in S Korea, India and the USA, an 18 country survey by the International Atomic Energy Agency, which included the UK, found that overall, while 62% of their sample believed that existing plants ‘should continue to be used’, 59% ‘do not favour new nuclear plants being built’, with only 10% believing that nuclear could help with climate change and 54% believing that the risk of nuclear terrorism was high. In Morocco, Jordan, Saudi Arabia & Cameroon, a majority wanted all existing plants be shut down.
Reprocessing Ending in England?
Given that it seems clear that nuclear fuel reprocessing will not continue long term at Sellafield, the issue now is how to clear up the site- and compensate those who will lose their jobs. Responding to a consultation exercise run by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, Copeland Council, which covers Sellafield, said they want massive compensation unless the site can be decontaminated and restored to a green field status after all the NDA clean-ups are completed in the far future. But, the Whitehaven News (17/11/05) noted: ‘because of nuclear leaks into the sub soil, that would be almost impossible to achieve’. It added ‘Now is the time for the DTI, NDA, Treasury and others to recognise their responsibilities and not to decommission our communities along with Sellafield’.
Starting in Japan?
Japan is planning to open its Rokkasho nuclear fuel reprocessing plant in Aomori Prefecture in 2007, but faces growing international concern- since it will be the world’s only non-nuclear weapons state operating a facility that could reportedly separate enough plutonium to make 1,000 nuclear weapons a year. Source: The Japan Times: Nov. 15
...and in the US?
The US senate and house appropriations conference bill for 2006 has earmarked $557.6m for nuclear energy, with $226m provided for R&D and $66m for Nuclear Power 2010, a cost-sharing plan to help industry navigate the new NRC licensing process. Looking to the future $55m is allocated for the Generation IV reactor work, the Next Generation Nuclear Plant is allocated $40m and the Advanced Fuel Concepts Initiative $80m. There is also $290m for domestic fusion research. $500m was allocated for Nuclear Waste Disposal at Yucca Mountain, and legislative support and $50m was given for developing a nuclear fuel reprocessing capability, with a competition to find an acceptable site. Source: Modern Power Systems
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