Renew On Line (UK) 67
|Extracts from NATTA's journal
Renew, Issue 167 May-June 2007
|Welcome Archives Bulletin|
11. Nuclear News
UK Funding shortages
According to a report in the Times (21/12/06) the UK’s Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) ‘faces a £200m funding shortfall that could threaten clean-up work and lead to substantial job cuts’ following ‘cuts to government grants and a commercial downturn’. They said that the NDA, expected to suffer ‘a £160m drop in its decommissioning grant from the Government at the same time as its commercial income from reprocessing and Magnox nuclear reactors has fallen sharply’. They noted that the NDA usually receives a grant of around £1bn from the Treasury and generates a similar amount from commercial activities, but the latter has been hit by the fact that the THORP reprocessing plant has been out of action. The Independent claimed this meant £40m p.a. in lost income.
The DTI denied there was a problem, but accepted that NDA’s commercial income was ‘uncertain’. It does seem likely that more public funding will have to be found- just at the point when the government were trying to claim that nuclear could stand on its own feet. But then the NDA is for ‘old nuclear’, and the government say the future is with ‘new nuclear’...
Meanwhile though things don’t seem to be going so well for another bit of ‘old nuclear’: although it had returned to profitability, partly due to the rise in prices of electricity, British Energy, the still partly state-owned nuclear generator, has had two plants- Hunterston in Ayrshire and Hinkley B in Somerset- out of action over the winter, with faults being repaired. That seems likely to make it harder for the government to sell off its stake in the company, which it rescued two years ago. And also perhaps harder to attract private investment for new plants. But it seems that there may be a (US?) buyer for the old Magnox sites, which come replete with clean-up contract dowries.
* Greenpeace claims that, longer term, many UK nuclear sites could face flooding due to sea level rises, so they could not be used for new plants.
* New EU poll: A new Eurobarometer survey found that only 20% of EU citizens asked were in favour of nuclear energy, while 80% favoured solar energy and 71% favoured wind
France’s socialist presidential candidate Segolene Royal, who was environment minister in 1992-1993, has argued that the share of nuclear power in the French electricity mix should be gradually lowered to allow space for more renewables: ‘I find excessive the share of nuclear in the French electricity production. It is therefore essential to reduce it gradually, in reasonable delays and to diversify our electricity production modes’ adding the share of renewables should reach 20% by 2020. Royal also questioned the need for the new European Pressurized Reactor (EPR), work on which is expected to start in 2007. ‘I deplore that the decision to build the EPR was taken hastily and without any preliminary debate.’ Reuters 16/11/06
* With Bulgaria now in the EU, there is pressure for it to agree closure dates for its old Kozloduy 3&4 nuclear plants. Plants 1&2 were closed at the end of 2002 as agreed with the EU, but there have been haggles over the next two, with regional energy shortfall issues being cited.
Australian Prime Minister John Howard has said he believes nuclear power must be considered in Australia as part of a range of responses to climate change. And the Prime Minister’s Taskforce on nuclear energy has outlined a scenario in which 25 reactors could be providing over a third of Australia’s electricity by 2050.
The Chair of the Nuclear Taskforce, Dr Ziggy Switkowski, described nuclear power as a practical option for producing electricity in Australia. The report say that it would cost between 20 and 50% more than coal or gas-fired power, but that this gap would close if the costs of greenhouse gas emissions were explicitly recognised. The six-member taskforce also supported an expansion of uranium mining and increasing uranium exports. Dr Switkowski has also claimed that security threats were overrated. ‘The design of modern reactors is very resistant to attack from either outside or inside. We have looked at it and convinced ourselves that the probability is very low and we can’t find examples of terrorists penetrating the defences of a nuclear power reactor.’
The Industry Minister, Ian MacFarlane said ‘The reality is that nuclear energy is a safe energy; it is an energy that doesn’t emit CO2, it is the least cost low emission technology available and what we want to see now is Australians consider that’.
But opposition Labor leader Kim Beazley commented ‘We now have another clear-cut distinction between the Government and the Labor Party at the next election. If John Howard is re-elected, we’ll go down an inexorable course for 25 nuclear reactors in this country and tens of thousands of tonnes of nuclear waste. If the Labor Party is elected, we will go down the path of clean coal and renewables. It’s as simple as that.’
As in the UK, there is concern that their might not be enough trained staff to develop a nuclear programme (Australia has no nuclear plants at present) and there is pressure to change that. Green Senator Christine Milne said ‘It is very clear to me that this is a push by the nuclear industry for huge amounts of public money put into universities, put into skills training, all for the nuclear industry, to the detriment of the renewables, which can provide a solution to climate change’.
* A panel of Australian scientists, engineers and nuclear policy experts
has formed an EnergyScience Coalition to counter what they describe
as an unbalanced focus on the governments nuclear energy task force.
The rival initiative is backed by Melbourne University’s Prof.
Jim Falk. Retired diplomat Prof. Richard Broinowski is also on the panel.
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