Renew On Line (UK) 65

Extracts from NATTA's journal
Renew, Issue 165 Jan-Feb 2007
   Welcome   Archives   Bulletin         


1. Energy Review-RO changes

2. Stern report

3. Policy developments

4. Around the UK

5. World Developments

6. EU Developments

7. World roundup

8. Nuclear Developments

8.Nuclear Developments

Waste Not, Want Not- CoRWM

The report last year from the government-appointed Committee on Radioactive Waste Management (CoRWM) recommended that high level nuclear waste should eventually be buried in deep underground strata at a cost of perhaps £10bn, but said that, since this would take decades to identify and agree sites and then build a repository, meantime there would be a need for ‘a robust programme of interim storage’. The Financial Times (1/8/06) however said ‘This is a statement of the obvious: virtually every government wants to bury its waste, but until it can convince its citizens of this it has to accept surface storing of spent fuel’.

CoRWM called for a new body to choose a site, and suggested that it adopted the Scandinavian approach of inviting communities to volunteer to host a waste site in return for suitable (financial) rewards. It felt there was an overriding need to get consent from the public, and recommended ‘the principle of volunteerism’ and ‘an expressed willingness to participate’. And to move things along, host communities should be encouraged to come forward ‘on the expectation that the wellbeing of the community will be enhanced’. The Times (2/8/06) simply relabelled this as ‘bribery’ and was worried about unseemly squabbles between communities.

The UK has 470,000 cubic metres of waste produced by reactors, experiments and military activities since the 1940s. It is currently stored at 37 locations, with most of the high-level waste being stored at Sellafield. That’s an obvious candidate for a longer term disposal site, but CoRWM noted that about one-third of the UK had the right kind of geology for nuclear waste to be safely buried, at least in theory. In practice however, not all potential sites will be available including those at some existing nuclear sites with possibly sympathetic communities.

As David Lowry pointed out in letter to the Guardian (4/8/06), a report by Nirex on “climate and landscape change” at 11 current nuclear sites, suggested that ‘by 2100, five years before the disposal repository should be full, four sites will be vulnerable to flooding, and three others vulnerable to coastal erosion. That means more than half the nuclear-friendly communities that might be expected to put themselves forward for the national repository will have to be struck off the list as unsuitable. The rub comes with their identification, as they include Sellafield, the lead candidate, and Dounreay, the second favourite.’

CoRWM was insistent that its report (which has now been accepted by the government) should not be taken as ‘a green light’ for new reactors, but only laid out a general framework for dealing with waste.

UK Nuclear Polls

An ICM opinion poll found that 58% of people asked thought that nuclear plants were safe, but 50% said they would be very concerned if one was to be built near them. By contrast 79% supported investment in developing solar power and 76% wind power compared to only 38% in nuclear.

A YouGov poll for the Economist partly reprised questions that were last asked in June 2005. The expansion of nuclear energy was supported by 40% of people asked, up from 34% while opposition to nuclear energy dropped to 37%, compared to 46% against in 2005. 68% said they would support new nuclear power stations if they were part of a wider programme that also included investment in renewables, but 44% felt that nuclear would create unacceptable dangers for future generations.

Hold it!

The UK Governments’ attempt to press ahead with the policies on nuclear power suggested in the 2006 Energy Review may yet get blocked- Greenpeace has lodged legal papers at the Royal Courts of Justice in London, arguing that the Government did not carry out the ‘full public consultation’ it had committed itself to before making a decision to back new nuclear. This could culminate in judicial review of the energy review, which in theory could require the Government to carry out much fuller consultation.

Nuclear financial support in the UK

In response to a Parliamentary Question last year on government spending on nuclear power, then Energy Minister Malcolm Wicks reported that ‘As a member of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the UK is obliged to pay its contribution to the Regular Budget, which pays for most of the IAEA’s work and the running of the Agency itself, and is expected to make a payment to the Technical Co-operation Fund, which pays for the IAEA’s development programmes in less developed countries’. He noted that UK contributions since 1997 were as follows:

£ Regular budget Technical cooperation fund

1997 7,670,799 2,249,969

1998 5,950,148 2,368,000

1999 6,143,449 2,267,527

2000 6,291,197 2,386,354

2001 6,561,613 2,577,181

2002 7,459,727 2,504,581

2003 8,019,673 2,470,974

2004 9,083,332 2,250,836

2005 9,811,000 2,405,954

2006 10,994,536 2,656,536

He added that ‘in addition, the UK has made a number of voluntary contributions to the IAEA since 1997, including contributions totalling £2.6m to support the Agency’s safeguards work, £2m to the IAEA’s Nuclear Security Fund, and £500,000 to support IAEA work to improve internal management processes. Additional non-financial “in-kind” support to help the Agency deliver its safeguards and other activities is provided through the UK nuclear industry, however the financial value of this could be calculated only at disproportionate cost.’ Finally he noted that ‘The UK’s contribution to the European Atomic Energy Agency (EAEA) is paid through the UK’s general contribution to the European Commission’s budget. The EAEA’s share of the UK contribution could be calculated only at disproportionate cost.’

*In response to a separate query, in July Wicks reported that ‘stocks of unirradiated plutonium in the UK totalled 104.9 tonnes at the end of 2005’.

Growth or decline?

Globally, nuclear generation capacity increased by 1% in 2005/6, to 369 gigawatts, according to the Worldwatch Institutes annual Vital Signs statistics report for 2006-7, with 4 new plants coming on line in 2005 and one being restarted. Currently there are two new plants actively under construction, in Finland and Pakistan, and two more in China, which has plans for 31 new plants by 2022, while India has plans to add 29GW of longterm.

Globally 34,603MW of nuclear capacity has been retired or closed so far, most recently plants in Germany and Sweden (940MW in all) and the IEA’s 2005 World Energy Outlook said that, with retirements continuing, on current plans, nuclear capacity will peak in 2015 and then decline. Of course plans may change- in the USA and UK for example, but even then we are only talking about relatively few new plants.

* Last summer Sweden briefly shut down 4 plants after a fault was found in the backup power system. And in October, the UK NII found cracks in the graphite cores at the Hunterston and Hinkley AGRs, which may mean their usable life can’t be extended.

German views

In an opinion poll last Aug, carried out by the German federal environment ministry, 18% of those asked felt nuclear power represented ‘a very great danger to me and my family’, 33% felt it was ‘a great danger’, 40% ‘a small danger’ and 8% ‘no danger’. 18% thought the risk of accidents at nuclear plants worldwide was just as great as 20 years ago, 53% said they were safer now but the risk was still too high, 26% felt the risks were acceptable. 29% thought the phase out should be accelerated, 33% said keep to it , 15% slow it down, 18% halt it. Interestingly 10% of green voters said that nuclear was safe and that Germany should not phase it out.

Finland delay

Optimism about the future of the EU nuclear industry was dented when the French nuclear company Areva reported an operating loss of €266 million in the first half of 2006 and predicted that the full-year operating cash flow will be ‘highly negative’. This came after Finnish energy company TVO said that work on the 3.8 bn euo Olkiluoto 3, being built by a consortium of Areva and Siemens AG, has fallen a year behind schedule. Areva admitted that the problems at Olkiluoto 3 will have a major impact on the company’s results. Source:

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