Renew On Line (UK) 69
|Extracts from NATTA's journal
Renew, Issue 169 Sept-Oct 2007
|Welcome Archives Bulletin|
11. Nuclear developments
Sizewell C ?
Last year, the Government announced that in future public inquiries on issue such as new nuclear plants would be streamlined and only consider local issues. Jumping the gun a bit, the new draft local development ‘framework’ policy document drawn up by Suffolk Coastal District Council states that Sizewell will ‘undoubtedly’ be considered in any new round of nuclear power station building and to speed things on the council offers a rather limited list of local issues it considers should be taken into account when considering a possible ‘Sizewell C’, although members of the public are invited to put forward any other issues they feel should be covered. The issues include the grid connection, landscape & ecological impact, coastal erosion, transport and on-site storage of radioactive waste. Peter Lanyon, vice-chair of the Shut Down Sizewell Campaign, said he was appalled that the council was not calling for safety and other important issues to be debated locally. The council said: ‘it is not the purpose of the Local Development Framework to determine whether nuclear is good or bad in principle but to address the local issues should a decision be taken to locate a third power station at Sizewell’ but added ‘Suffolk Coastal will, of course, take whatever opportunities it has to input into the higher level debate about whether there will be a third station at Sizewell’.
Meanwhile a local survey over the fate of Berkeley nuclear site on the Severn estuary found very strong support for clearing it entirely and letting it go back to nature. The £1bn clean-up of the 43 acre site should end with nature being allowed to reclaim the site, according to the majority view of local residents in a survey carried out as a community consultation for Berkeley Site Stakeholder Group. Berkeley began producing electricity in 1962 and was the first UK commercial nuclear station to be built and also the first to close- generation stopped in 1989 and decommissioning is underway. Full site clearance is expected to take about 80 years.
Scots & Welsh say no
It’s not just the SNP (see earlier) that has opposed new nuclear: in June Welsh First Minister Rhodri Morgan said ‘we see no need, we never have seen a need and we do not envisage any circumstances in which there could be a need for new nuclear generation in Wales’.
NDA get £2.5bn
The Nuclear Decommissioning Agency has been given £2.472 billion for 2007/8, which represents a small increase on programme spending in the current year and is significantly higher than the 05/06 budget, presumably enough to cover the £200m shortfall that had been claimed to have emerged due to loss of income from THORP. But it said it would need more later- the final clean up bill is likely to be over £70 bn. Meanwhile the government has produced a new ‘Low level radioactive waste’ policy, which stresses the need to minimise it and involve the public in decision making over waste. Crucially it says that a key priority should be ‘seeking to first minimise the amount of low level waste created before looking at disposal options, through avoiding generation, minimising the amount of radioactive substances used, recycling and reuse’.
That implies that reprocessing should be avoided, as that activity is the single largest creator of LLW. That has now been proposed for any new plants in the Energy White paper, but for now, there are real problems with the existing waste stream given that, as DEFRA notes there is a ‘lack of long-term capacity at the national LLW disposal facility near Drigg to deal with this waste’ and ‘a diminishing availability of other routes for dealing with LLW’.
However, DEFRA notes that ‘of the total predicted future radioactive waste that will be generated in the future, LLW accounts for about 90% by volume and only 0.00003% of its total radioactivity’. The big issue is what to do with the Intermediate and High Level waste, and as yet there is no decision on that.
* An Oxford Research Group report concluded that ‘if the decision to go with nuclear power is taken, then the UK will implement a flawed and dangerous counter-productive energy policy’. See: www.oxfordresearchgroup.org.uk
‘Nuclear power cannot save us because the world’s supply of uranium & other radioactive minerals needed to generate nuclear power are very limited’. Chen Mingde, vice chairman, National Development & Reform Commission, quoted in China Daily 4/07
Uranium prices have risen dramatically recently in response to speculation about a new global nuclear expansion, problems with accessing new reserves, and the fact that, due to the slow down of nuclear activities in the past, there is now a lack of industrial capacity to produce the necessary fuel from them. Only a few years ago uranium inventories were being sold at $10 per pound; the current price is $85 per pound. Dr. Thomas Neff, a research affiliate at MIT’s Centre for International Studies, has commented that ‘Just as large numbers of new reactors are being planned, we are only starting to emerge from 20 years of underinvestment in the production capacity for the nuclear fuel to operate them. There has been a nuclear industry myopia; they didn’t take a long-term view.’
He noted that China, India and Russia have plans for major nuclear deployments and were trying to lock up supplies from countries on which the US has relied in the past. As a result, Neff said the US could be the last one to buy and it could pay the highest prices, if it can get uranium at all. ‘If we’re going to increase use of nuclear power, we need massive new investments in capacity to mine uranium and facilities to process it’.
The nuclear industry admits there may be short term problems, but insist that there are sufficient reserves for the foreseeable future.
EU doubles N-funds
The European Union will spend 2,751m euros on nuclear activities in its research funding from this year until 2013. Nuclear spending in the 7th research programme is double the 1,352m euros in the previous budget. So claimed Ursula Schoenberger from a group opposing nuclear waste dumping in Germany at a demonstration in Brussels against the EURATOM Treaty, now 50 years old: ‘In the 7th Research Framework Programme fusion energy research will receive 1,947m euros, nuclear fission and radiation protection 287m euros. The nuclear sector of the joint research centre will be furnished with 517m, making altogether 2,751m euros, which is double of the current EURATOM funding of 1,352m euros in the sixth framework programme.’
US Nuclear Views
The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists recently ran an discussion session on civil nuclear power. R.Stephen Berry, a former Special Advisor to the Director of Argonne National Laboratory for National Security felt that nuclear power was a ‘necessary, but not sufficient, component of our energy future in the near and long terms’. But Peter A. Bradford, a former member of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission argued that, ‘Nuclear is not an essential solution’ claiming that ‘asserting that nuclear power answers climate change is like asserting that invading Iraq answers 9/11’. More in Groups in Renew 169.
Rural Des Res
‘Populations still living unofficially in the abandoned lands around Chernobyl may actually have a lower health risk from radiation than they would have if they were exposed to air pollution in a large city, such as nearby Kiev.’ Dr Jim Smith, BMC Public Health journal
Nuclear Morocco? Russia’s nuclear equipment export monopoly Atomstroyexport has announced that it plans to build a nuclear power plant in Morocco, at Sidi Boulbra.
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