There is no Free Lunch

It has been suggested that hydro electricity and nuclear energy are better alternatives to burning fossil fuel, because these sources do not provide emissions. Those suggestions are wrong. Continue reading

£9 Billion on a useless technology

A contract in which one party pays another £9 billion is by any accounts a big contract to land and it is also a big contract to lose. Nuclear Management Partners has lost a £9bn contract to clean up the nuclear waste site at Sellafield because, it seems, of overcharging and time delays. There was six years left on the contract when the government of the United Kingdom cancelled it. Continue reading

Leave for Warmer Climes When the Winter Comes

EDF is a French energy company. It is one of the six energy companies that control the United Kingdom’s energy supply and enjoys the rights privileges and advantages of it being part of an oligarchy. It specialises in nuclear power and has a number of nuclear generating plants which create heat by means of a chain reaction, uses the heat to make steam which drives a turbine which in turn generates electricity which in turn is fed into the national grid. The nuclear plants create nuclear waste in copious quantities which takes thousands of years to decay into a condition in which the waste in not dangerous. Continue reading

The True Cost of Nuclear Energy

Some think that nuclear energy is an important source of electricity and ought to be part of every nation’s energy generating system. Others think that nuclear energy is too dangerous to use and we should decommission nuclear power plants all over the world. I tend towards the latter view, but accept that there may be some merit in the former view. Whatever view you hold about nuclear energy everyone who thinks about it agrees that there must be a safe and perfect way of storing nuclear waste to prevent the waste being used for weapons and to prevent the waste leaking into the atmosphere or the sea or the land where it will cause harm and damage to human health and to the health of the ecosystem where the waste is stored. Continue reading

Our nuclear legacy

Every new invention brings advantages and disadvantages. Humans are usually optimistic of the advantages, and perhaps that is how they should be. However when the disadvantages and problems start to become apparent there is a tendency for humans to ignore or under state the problems and a problem ignored can easily become a dangerous crisis. Continue reading

Professor’s MacKay’s nuclear vision

It is difficult for a nation to plan its energy requirements for the future and that difficulty is made harder when that nation cannot decide upon a settled energy policy. In the United Kingdom there are so many conflicting policy proposals that I despair of the United Kingdom ever establishing an energy policy which secures energy and keeps emissions from energy to a minimum. Continue reading

Nuclear waste – what will happen to it?

The United Kingdom, through Business Secretary John Hutton, has announced a program of updating and building nuclear powered electricity generators. EDF have agreed a price to buy the existing nuclear generator, British Energy and they are busy designing plans for the new power stations, which will take many years to complete. The Government has passed laws to streamline the planning process, that troublesome way that ordinary people and groups can have their say about nuclear and other developments in their own back yards, thus preventing these plans being implemented or delayed. Everything is in place for the new nuclear age, except one thing – where do we put the nuclear waste? Continue reading

UK’s nuclear energy will cease to be under government control

The UK’s nuclear energy will shortly cease to come under government control.

Centrica (the energy company which owns British Gas) is buying 25% of British Energy, the nuclear generating plant, from EDF. The UK Government owns 35% of British Energy, which is worth according to the price that Centrica paid for its shares, around £4.3 billion. Having sold 25% to Centrica, EDF will now buy the UK Government’s 35%, giving EDF (which stands for Electricté de France) control of the UK‘s nuclear generating industry which is expected to be expanded greatly if the unimaginative Secretary of State John Hutton has his way.

The astonishing thing about this is that the Government is so willing to dispose of an industry which it thinks critical to our energy future, and see it disposed of into foreign hands. Continue reading

Forget renewables in Europe – it would make nuclear and the Emissions Trading Scheme Fail!

Saturday’s Guardian led on a story under the headline “Britain seeks loophole in EU green energy targets”. Apparently the Business Minister, Lady Vedera proposes that renewable energy targets should include projects outside the EU. In other words, we should count as part of EU emission targets projects that we sponsor (or sell) to places outside the EU. It is an astonishing concept because if you do have a target for a country or a group of countries to reduce their emissions it seems risible to count countries not part of that group.

Clearly if the EU were persuaded by Lady Vedera it is easy to see what would happen. We would build wind farms and similar renewable energy devices in places outside the EU, where land is inexpensive and planning controls non existent. We would not have any incentive to create renewable energy within the EU. Continue reading

New nuclear power stations and Gordon Brown making tough decisions

There has been a lot of news in the past day. The race for presidential candidates in the United States has got very interesting, particularly with Mrs Clinton making a strong showing to win New Hampshire. In the United Kingdom there are new measures that will be introduced in an effort to halt or slow down the worrying amount of people infected in hospital where they go to get better.

Somehow, amidst all this news the announcement that the Cabinet had unanimously agreed to approve new nuclear power generators has gone relatively unnoticed, although in the longer term it is probably the most important piece of news this week. 

Gordon Brown claims that this decision is a “fundamental precondition of preparing Britain for the new world”, but has refused to answer questions about the detail of what will happen. It is nice to see Mr Brown is concerned about preparing Britain for the new world, but his rhetoric is empty. I have news for him; the “new world” that he seeks to prepare us for already exists. His party has been in office for ten years and have in that time neglected the issue of energy and in particularly neglected to secure any long term energy independence for us in a world where nations are competing for limited supplies of fuel. 

Apparently this decision will be announced not by the Energy Minister Malcolm Wicks but by the Business Minister, John Hutton tomorrow; odd, that, to announce the decision twice – once to the media and once to Parliament. They can save a lot of time by only announcing it once; I am sure that Parliament follows what is in the media and that the media follows what is said in Parliament. This double announcing seems a gross waste of energy. 

The decision to build new nuclear power stations is incompetent, dishonest and dangerous. It is incompetent because nuclear fuel is a finite resource which will probably last no more than seventy years, and possibly less as China and India build new nuclear power stations that will draw on the world’s supply of uranium. In these circumstances by the time the power stations are built we will have only secured some electricity for a limited period. Nuclear power will only secure electrical energy supplies, and although electricity can be used to create heat that is a very expensive way to use it. 

It is dishonest because the decision will be dressed up as an environmental decision, and all kinds of claims will be made that nuclear energy (when they mean nuclear electricity) does not emit carbon dioxide. The process itself does not; the nuclear fission provides heat which drives turbines which generate electricity but mining the uranium is a carbon intensive process, particularly in places like India where when they mine uranium and then process it the overall carbon foot print is as big as an oil burning power station. It is also dishonest because decommissioning will involve building huge underground concrete bunkers to store the waste fuel which in itself is a very carbon intensive programme. 

It is dangerous because the new generation of nuclear power stations will be over twice the size of existing power stations and will contain a great deal of dangerous material. It is also dangerous that we are going to build more nuclear power stations without having invented a process for disposing of the waste safely, other than by burying it for tens of thousands of years. 

This decision is being dressed up as the government making a tough long term decision. Balderdash. It is an easy option – the only tough part about the decision is the need to explain it to a sceptical public and trying to figure out how we can pretend that the decommissioning costs will actually be paid by the plant operating companies when in reality they will be paid by the public purse. 

A tough long term decision would be to require every home to have some form of microgeneration from a non carbon or a low carbon source, now. A tough long term decision would be to build a tidal power station in the Severn Estuary. A tough decision would be to require all new homes built to have solar water heating. A tough decision would be to tax the people that use the most energy by having progressive energy price bands. A tough decision would be to ban car engines above a certain size. Gordon Brown is not making any tough decisions about these and a host of other measures relating to energy. 

So when you hear the spin that the government will put on this decision ask them why they are making easy short decisions not tough long term ones. And also ask them why, if the nuclear power stations that they will be building will be so safe why they won’t site them next to the Houses of Parliament, so that they may deliver the electricity that they produce quickly to high population centres without suffering the low transmission losses, and use the surplus heat generated to provide people nearby with a district heating scheme.