Renew On Line (UK) number 71
|Extracts from NATTA's journal
Renew, Issue 171 Jan/Feb 2008
|Welcome Archives Bulletin|
10. Nuclear Developments
Rapid growth needed for Nuclear to curb Climate Change
For Nuclear power to help curb climate change, at 1G tonne C/yr, it would have to expand worldwide to 1000GW, at the rate it grew from 1981 to 1990, its busiest decade, and keep up that rate for half a century, says a report by US environmentalists, academics and nuclear industry proponents. It would require adding on average 14 plants each year for the next 50 years, while also building an average of 7.4 plants per year to replace those that will be retired. The needed rate of expansion would be faster than during the industry’s first 40 years, and faster than the Energy Information Administration’s forecast for the next 30 years in the USA.
While the report supported storing U.S. nuclear waste at power plants until the long-stalled Yucca Mountain repository opens, it noted that 10 such sites would be needed for the extra waste generated if expansion went ahead. And a global boom would create more proliferation/security risks. The US-led Global Nuclear Energy Partnership plan (for fuel leasing & controlled reprocessing) might resolve that, but it would need a lot of Fast breeder plants- and more waste stores. See the Reviews section in Renew 171.
* 27 people from organizations covering a wide ideological range, including the Natural Resources Defence Council and the Nuclear Energy Institute, brought together by the non-profit Keystone Center for Science & Public Policy, spent 9 months on this ‘The Nuclear Power Joint Fact-Finding’ study. See: www.keystone.org/spp/energy07_nuclear.html
Sources: Keystone CSPP report / Climate Change News, Environmental and Energy Study Institute, Washington DC.
* The UK based Oxford Research Group came to more radical conclusions in its study of whether nuclear could help respond to climate change: ‘Too Hot to Handle: The Future of Nuclear Power’. It concluded that, globally, the industry would have to construct nearly 3,000 new reactors to make a significant climate saving contribution- about one per week- over the next 60 years. It noted that 'The highest historic rate is 3.4 new reactors a year’. It added that even a small expansion ‘would have serious consequences for the spread of nuclear weapons to countries that do not now have them and for nuclear terrorism’. And a larger programme would mean that plutonium breeder reactors had to be used, as reserves of high grade uranium diminished, which make the security problem even worse. The authors, Frank Barnaby and James Kemp argue that a worldwide nuclear renaissance would stretch to breaking point the capacity of the IAEA to be able to monitor and safeguard civil nuclear power. See www.oxfordresearchgroup.org.uk
EdF plans 4 UK n-plants
Vincent de Rivaz, chief executive of EdF Energy has said that the UK could have new nuclear capacity in operation by the end of 2017.
Speaking at the Adam Smith Institutes Nuclear Energy Forum, de Rivaz said that EdF was considering the possibility of taking part, most likely with partners, in building four new nuclear units in the UK in the years up to 2025. “I see no reason to believe that with focus and resolve we cannot achieve our goal by 2017”, he added. He said he believed
that the political and commercial arguments in favour of new nuclear generation had been won for three reasons: Carbon reduction, security of energy supply, and ‘a kind of tipping point’ that the private sector has indicated it is ready to go without need for subsidies provided that there is an agreement on the funding of decommissioning and waste disposal, clear licensing and consent road map, and a credible carbon price.
However, although a major national opinion poll commissioned by EdF Energy showed that 63% of respondents supported new nuclear power stations as part of a wider strategy including renewables, de Rivaz warned that ‘there are still a large number of people who do not agree or are sceptical’. Source: Modern Power Systems
UK chooses four reactor vendors
The governments nuclear consultation document, ‘The Future of Nuclear Power: The Role of Nuclear Power in a Low Carbon UK Economy’, published alongside the Energy White Paper last May, invited applications from vendors of reactor designs for generic design assessment, or pre-licensing, and set out criteria for designs to be eligible for the pre-licensing process. All four applicants have met the eligibility criteria. DBERR, the new Dept of Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform, reported that designs from AECL, Areva, GE-Hitachi & Toshiba-Westinghouse are eligible for the first stage of the pre-licensing process which will be taken forward by the Joint Programme Office comprising of the Office for Civil Nuclear Security, the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate & the Environment Agency. DBERR says that ‘the initial stages of pre-licensing are being carried out on a contingent basis alongside, and subject to, the outcome of the nuclear consultation’.
This arguably somewhat pre-emptive move was seen as necessary because ‘starting the first steps in the detailed and lengthy generic design assessment process is a prudent step, alongside the nuclear consultation, to keeping open the option of new nuclear power stations’. DBERR added ‘Pre-licensing was identified by industry as an issue which needed to be addressed to enable nuclear new build to be an option for new low carbon electricity generation’, but insisted that ‘these actions will not be irrevocable and could be stopped following the outcome of the nuclear consultation’. It went on ‘If successful in phase one, which includes an assessment of the safety case for each reactor design, a design may be able to progress to phase two of the generic design assessment, where the designs will be assessed in more detail. Phase two is subject to the outcome of the nuclear consultation.’ It concluded ‘It is likely that the number of designs to be considered during phase two will be reduced from four to three due to resource constraints of the regulators. Entry into the first phase does not necessarily guarantee that a design will complete the full generic design assessment process.’
Nuclear can’t fill gap
A report by Poyry Energy Consulting for ILEX says the commercial case for building new nuclear plants is weak and that none will be built without a higher long-term carbon price than that set by the current European Union Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS).
‘Despite the rhetoric, it is difficult to see much new nuclear capacity coming into the market before 2020,’ Poyry director Andrew Nind told Reuters ‘Beyond then prospects look better, but the future of nuclear probably depends on the creation of a long-term carbon price guarantee. In its current form, the ETS will not suffice.’
The current ETS runs only until 2012 and investors still have no idea what the EU plans beyond then. The EU Large Combustion Plant Directive could force many of Britain’s coal fired power plants to close over the next decade, while all but one of its nuclear plants will shut by 2020, leaving a gap that new nuclear cannot fill in time. If we want to avoid importing even more gas, or carbon credits (see left) it sounds like a job for renewables
* The elderly Magnox plant at Oldbury closed for an undisclosed reason three days after reopening at the end of June last year. It was also closed at the end of May after a fire. It’s to close permanently by 2008. British Energy also reported that they may have problems getting their Hunterston and Hinkley Point plants back to full power after shutting them down last autumn to repair boiler cracks.
BNFL in the black But it's not all bad news for the nuclear industry. Despite its problems at Sellafield, BNFL made a pre-tax profit of £2,304m last year, nearly 10 times that the previous year, but this was mainy due to the Westinghouse sell off- at £2,132m. £1.6m is to be spent changing their name- to Sellafield Ltd!
Japan’s nuclear shake up
Following the damage caused to the world’s largest nuclear plant, the 7 reactor 8.2GW Kashiwazaki-Kariwa complex in central Japan, by last years earthquake, there was concern about quake-safety standards. Evidently it’s on a fault line. The complex was 5.6 miles from the epicentre of the Richter scale 6.8 earthquake, which caused a fortunately relatively small (1,200 litre, 90k becquerel) radioactive leak into the sea. 400 drums of low-level waste were also dislodged in a store, with the lids of around 40 becoming open to the air, with it seems some radioactive gases being ventilated. A transformer unit also caught fire, and there were reports of 50 other problems, including broken pipes and radioactive water leaks. But all were said to be well below safety thresholds.
However, all 7 reactors were closed and it seems will stay off-line for at least a year, and a review of others around the country initiated- most of Japans 55 reactors are only designed to withstand quakes of 6.5 on the Richter scale, which remember is a log scale, so 6.8 is much larger - every unit increase in the Richter scale is ten times more. An earlier proposal to raise the standard above magnitude 7.1 was shelved because of the high costs. Japans Citizen’s Nuclear Information Center commented. ‘Japan is simply too quake bound to operate nuclear plants.’ There have been calls for the closure of the 5 reactors at Hamaoka- an old plant directly above a geologically active fault 60 miles West of Tokyo.
US ‘can phase out Fossil and Nuclear by 2050'
A new study concludes that the United States could eliminate almost all of its carbon dioxide emissions by the year 2050. It also concludes that it is possible to do so without the use of nuclear power. The landmark study, Carbon-Free and Nuclear-Free: A Roadmap for U.S. Energy Policy, was produced as a joint project of the Nuclear Policy Research Institute and the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research.
Dr. Arjun Makhijani, author of the study and president of the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research. “We can solve the problems of oil imports, nuclear proliferation as it is linked to nuclear power, and carbon dioxide emissions simultaneously if we are bold enough.” The “Roadmap” concludes that the USA can achieve a zero-CO2 economy without increasing the fraction of Gross Domestic Product devoted to energy, which was about 8% in 2005. Net U.S. oil imports can be eliminated in about twenty-five years or less, the study estimated, with wind and solar power playing major roles.
See our Reviews section. Copies of the report are available at www.ieer.org/carbonfree/index.html
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