Renew On Line (UK) 70
|Extracts from NATTA's journal
Renew, Issue 170 Nov-Dec 2007
|Welcome Archives Bulletin|
5. The Nuclear decision
With the new nuclear consultation exercise now over, we await the governments decision on the proposed expansion of nuclear power. The 20 week consultation period, which ran up to mid Oct., and involved regional stakeholder events plus a web-based feedback exercise, was peppered with a few pronouncements and some diversions, but otherwise hardly led to a wide ranging public debate. Many people seemed to think the outcome was a forgone conclusion.
As part of the consultation, in Sept, a sample of 1,000 people in one day workshops in nine cities were asked if, in the context of climate change and energy security, the government should give the green light to new nuclear plant. 44% said yes, 37% no, 18% were don t knows.
Renewables support will be protected
On 26 June, Lord Truscott, then Under Secretary of State for Energy, outlined the governments thinking to the Nuclear New Build 2nd Annual Summit : Our preliminary view is that nuclear power stations should continue to play a role in providing low-carbon, base load electricity and we are currently consulting on that very point. This does not mean diverting investment away from renewables- our economic modelling suggests that investment in renewables would continue even if nuclear power were allowed as an option. This is because we have put specific measures in place to protect renewables investment and- as I am sure many of you here today will agree- because private sector investors will always be attracted to invest in projects which offer an attractive return on capital. For example, the Renewables Obligation with exemptions will be worth £1bn by 2010 and £2bn by 2020; and £500m of spending on capital grants and R&D has been made available for low carbon and renewable technologies up to 2008. In addition, the Energy White Paper sets out our continued commitment to Carbon Capture and Storage with further details of the full-scale UK demonstration.
However, he went on, renewable and low carbon technologies may not be able to meet our full energy needs over the medium term, so we must ensure a balanced approach. And this is why we have taken our preliminary view that, energy companies should have the option of investing in new nuclear power stations, alongside other low-carbon technologies.
He added Our nuclear consultation invites the public to consider the evidence we have presented in the consultation document, and seeks views on a number of questions. It takes account of the ruling of the High Court in February. We are encouraging as many people as possible to take part in the consultation process and will consider all the responses we receive before taking a final view before the end of the year. But let me state very clearly that this is not about the Government funding, subsidising or building new nuclear power stations. We have been very clear in the consultation that it would not only be for the private sector to propose, build and operate any new nuclear power stations, but to cover the full costs of decommissioning and their full share of the waste management costs too.
No final decision has been taken- yet
However the government s stance was a little undermined when, in early July, the new Prime Minister Gordon Brown expressed what seemed to be unequivocal support for nuclear power when he noted during PM s Question Time that we have made the decision to continue with nuclear power . This raised a lot of hackles- didn t that make the consultation irrelevant, asked Greenpeace. It said it would consider further legal action, arguing in a letter to Brown a consultation cannot be lawful if the decision which it is intended to inform has already been taken . Number 10 Downing Street issued a statement saying: The government has decided in principle that businesses should be able to build new nuclear power stations and is now consulting on this. The final decision will be made after consultation . And on July 11th Brown came back with a more measured statement: we put our nuclear proposals out to public consultation on 23 May. The Government s preliminary view is that nuclear has a future role in providing our homes and businesses with the low-carbon energy that we need. Let me emphasise that the Government will make their decision in the autumn, after, and in the light of, the consultation.
A new Energy Bill
Prefiguring the proposals outlined in the Queens speech, in July, Gordon Brown outlined his legislative agenda. It included a proposed new Energy Bill which will provide greater incentives for renewable energy generation and help the UK to ensure security of energy supply, tackle climate change and target fuel poverty more effectively. Oddly though, the Marine Bill (see Renew 168) did not get a look in, though Brown has backed the early adoption of the streamlining proposals in the Planning White Paper- despite strenuous objections from NGOs. The new Energy Bill will also include adjustments to the Renewables Obligation, as outlined in the Energy White Paper, and, subject to the outcome of the nuclear consultation, arrangements to ensure that any new nuclear projects took responsibility for waste and decommisioning costs. Also conditional on the consultations outcome, the government has selected four potential vendors- AECL, Areva, GE-Hitachi & Toshiba-Westinghouse- as eligible for the first stage of the pre-licensing process for new reactors.
Nuclear Debate- other inputs
The Economist (8/9) came out pro-nuclear (as long as it was privately funded) while the New Statesman ran an Energy Feature (2/7) which included an odd article by Gia Milinovich, claiming that The UN and the World Health Organisation have concluded that the nuclear industry is responsible for fewer than 60 deaths worldwide (actually the IARC-WHO estimate of total likely deaths just from Chernobyl is 16,000: see Renew 164) and suggested that dealing with waste was not a major problem; and that since reactors were ugly and threatening we should paint them sky blue in order to associate them with clean skies .
The Institute of Physics also ran a very pro-nuclear review, enthusing about Generation III and Generation IV reactor possibilities and recycling the claim that the new reactor designs would be safer and only produce 10% of wastes that current models produced. But that s only by volume- because the fuel won t be reprocessed, a process which creates a lot of low and intermediate wastes. However, although the fissile fuel burn up rate may be a bit higher in some new designs, there will still be more or less the same amount of high activity material left over- including plutonium and all the other isotopes produced by fission, in the unreprocessed spent fuel.
The Oxford Research Group produced a report arguing that nuclear expansion would increase security risks and also divert skills needed for the expansion of renewables : see www.oxfordresearchgroup.org.uk
See Groups in Renew 170 for more on responses to the consultation. The detailed results of the consultation are to be made public: See: http://www.direct.gov.uk/nuclearpower2007.
Wind: 26% by 2024
Better than nuclear power
By around 2024, a vigorous programme of offshore wind deployment could be delivering some 26% of UK electricity, thereby abating carbon emissions equal to nearly 6% of UK present total emissions, compared with c. 23% of electricity and c.5% equivalent carbon abatement from a programme of 10 nuclear power plants. With adequate initial support, the cost of electricity from offshore wind by 2020 is likely to reduce, through economies of scale, to approximately the same per unit of generation as that from nuclear power (or possibly slightly less) even allowing for the additional costs of reserve power to back-up wind variable supplies.
So says Godfrey Boyle from OU- EERU in the August issue of the journal Wind Engineering.
He has offshore wind supplying 94 Terawatt hours per annum- and on-land wind 26TWh.
He admits that the proposed size, timescale and costs of the offshore wind programme proposed here may seem optimistic , but says that they are no more so than the size, timescale and costs of a comparable new nuclear programme. A further advantage of wind power is that installation can start immediately and proceed by modular increase, without the probable 10 year delay in completing the design, planning and construction of ~1000 MW new nuclear plants.
A lot less radical than CAT s proposals (50% of all energy from wind by 2027- see later) but still pushing the envelop quite a lot!
Offshore Wind: the Potential to Contribute a Quarter of UK Electricity by 2024 , Wind Engineering 31, 2 Aug
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