We'll endeavour to keep this updated here:- https://docs.google.com/document/d/1KI_2HfexzDUjmn-RiX9e3xLb5mjHN2khSo7yhPgBrWQ/edit?usp=sharing
A Requested Briefing Paper for COP26Coalition from RisingTideUK
With no Nuclear Power campaigners at any major UK NGO there's a danger of the reappearance of Nuclear ambivalence, maybe particularly with 2020’s high profile defection of the Extinction Rebellion (XR) newspaper "Hour Glass" editor to pro-nuclear power propagandist lobbying.
These briefing notes aim to prevent that scenario developing and was requested in response to PM outlines his Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution for 250,000 jobs - GOV.UK and £40 million to kick start next-gen nuclear technology - GOV.UK by the Coalition’s Political Strategy Working Group.
Nuclear (National Grid average as at year ending Mar'21), accounts for 16.1% of the UK electricity supply mix, with Renewables at 40.3%, Natural Gas at 38.2%, Coal 2.7% (& "Other" also 2.7%).
So apart from:-
- taking more than a decade to build;
- no current safe or adequate waste storage solutions, even after 70 years of operation;
- a major accident every decade - Windscale (UK), 3 Mile Island (USA), Chernobyl (Soviet Union), Fukushima (Japan), Forsmark (Sweden) and in the Netherlands, France etc. etc;
- rising sea levels at all coastal sites;
- exorbitant guaranteed "strike prices" for electricity generated and prioritised over Renewables;
- continued weapons proliferation via requisite grade plutonium created in civil reactors;
- radioactive and radiation health threats causing cancers and other fatal diseases;
- potential terrorism targets;
- huge coolant water usage and warm water discharge; and
- the mind-blowing monumental cost compared to the Renewables displaced:-
Nuclear Power is not low carbon.
(All in italics) From No2NuclearPower’s nuClear news No.130, Dec'20:- http://no2nuclearpower.org.uk/maillist/dl.php?id=9&uid=a1da15302a817fd86c8b657294c7e485 Point "4. Nuclear Power is not Zero carbon (or even low carbon)":-
"(The) Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Department accept that nuclear is not a ‘zero carbon’ source of electricity. EDF Energy has been justifying its TV ad claim that it is the ‘biggest producer of carbon free electricity’ by referencing a BEIS website in which the claim of ’zero carbon’ was made for renewables and nuclear. In a response to a letter from Together Against Sizewell C (TASC), BEIS says: “...we agree with your argument that the environmental impact table of the Fuel Mix Disclosure report could cause confusion. I have asked for the report to be amended with a line that explains that the table relates only to generator emissions in the operational phase and does not include emissions related to the fuel supply chain or maintenance activities.”. TASC Press Release 30/11/20 https://tasizewellc.org.uk/business-energy-and-industrial-strategy-beis-department-accept-that-nuclear-is-not-a-zero-carbon-source-of-electricity-implications-for-edfs-advertisement-claims/
(Not arf-) Life-cycle
"In 2008, the journal Energy Policy published an article by Benjamin Sovacool (now Professor of Energy Policy at the Science Policy Research Unit at Sussex University). The article looked at 103 lifecycle studies of greenhouse gas-equivalent emissions for nuclear power plants. It calculates that while the range of emissions for nuclear energy over the lifetime of a plant, reported from qualified studies examined, is from 1.4g of carbon dioxide equivalent per kWh (gCO2e/kWh) to 288gCO2e/kWh, the mean value is 66gCO2e/kWh. This compares to 9gCO2e/kWh for offshore wind and 32gCO2e/kWh for solar PV:- Sovacool, B - Valuing the greenhouse gas emissions from nuclear power: A critical survey Energy Policy 36 (2008) 2940– 2953 https://www.nrc.gov/docs/ML1006/ML100601133.pdf .". Overall life-cycle emissions are about 443g for gas. This puts nuclear as the third highest carbon emitter after coal-fired plants and natural gas. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0301421508001997
"Along the same lines Professor Keith Barnham said: “Claims that nuclear power is a 'low carbon' energy source fall apart under scrutiny”:- Ecologist 5/2/15 https://theecologist.org/2015/feb/05/false-solution-nuclear-power-not-low-carbon . He looks at various research, including that of Benjamin Sovacool. He highlights the fact that according to the Climate Change Committee (CCC), if we are to avoid the worst effects of climate change, by 2030 all electricity should be generated with less than 50 grams of carbon dioxide emitted for each kilowatt-hour (50 gCO2/kWh). Barnham concludes that: “…the balance of the evidence of the six most robust LCAs [Life Cycle Analyses] is that the carbon footprint of nuclear power is above the CCC's recommended limit.”.
"Taking a different approach, a new report from Professor Steve Thomas and Alison Downes for the Stop Sizewell C Campaign:- How much Carbon would Sizewell C save? Aug'20 https://stopsizewellc.org/sizewell-c-and-climate-change/
; point(s) out that although construction of Sizewell C (SZC) is expected to begin in 2022, it won’t be online until 2034. EDF’s Sustainability Statement for SZC gives the carbon content of construction at 5.74 million tonnes (Mt) of carbon equivalent (CO2e). This is broken down into 84% from the materials used, 4% construction activities, 5% materials transport and 5% worker transport. EDF claims that the lifecycle CO2 of SZC from the fuel cycle will be 4.5g CO2e/kWh. Using the BEIS carbon intensity forecast to the mid-2030s, EDF claims SZC will reduce the UK’s carbon emissions by 1Mt carbon in 2034 (excluding the contribution of construction to emissions) and projecting that trend forwards states (emphasis added) “it is conservatively estimated that GHG emissions from the construction of Sizewell C will be offset within the first six years of operation assuming the equivalent energy were otherwise to be generated by the anticipated mix of grid electricity generation sources.”
"So, even using EDF’s figures, Sizewell C cannot make a positive contribution to the UK’s net zero target until at least 2040. BEIS’s figures do not look beyond mid-2030s but EDF assumes a grid intensity of 20g in 2050 despite the UK government’s legally binding commitment to ‘to bring all greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050.’ EDF claims that “By 2050, SZC will have displaced a cumulative total of approximately 12 million tCO2e compared to the estimated future energy mix for generation.” Deducting 5.74Mt CO2 from construction, SZC will therefore displace net 6.26Mt of CO2 by 2050. Alternative assumptions from authoritative sources such as National Grid show that grid intensity will be much lower than forecast by BEIS and EDF and - far from reducing emissions, SZC will actually increase them from the construction process and from the emissions associated with the nuclear fuel. ".
Length of Time to Build & Displacement of Renewables
In his article, Marc Jacobson, Stanford University's Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Director, Atmosphere/Energy Program, "The 7 reasons why nuclear energy is not the answer to solve climate change" https://www.leonardodicaprio.org/the-7-reasons-why-nuclear-energy-is-not-the-answer-to-solve-climate-change/ "points out that the average time to build a nuclear power station is around 14.5 years, from the planning phase all the way to operation. Utility-scale wind and solar farms, on the other hand, take on average only 2 to 5 years, from the planning phase to operation. Rooftop solar PV projects are down to only a 6-month timeline. Assuming that fossil fuel generation is being replaced, transitioning to 100% renewables as soon as possible would result in cuts to emissions 9.5 to 12.5 years earlier. Average grid emissions over that period of time would have to be added to the LCA emissions from nuclear power to give a fair comparison between the two options."
So, with nuclear construction taking anything up to 10 years longer than renewable projects, the emissions not saved over those years should also be taken into account. Nuclear effectively emits 64-102g of CO2kWh (per kilowatt hour) of plant capacity just from grid emissions during the wait for projects to come online or be refurbished.
Consider also the finite amount of funding and investment available, being diverted into nuclear rather than renewables and battery storage development for among other obvious reasons, assist with baseload. See:- Mark Jacobson (2019) Evaluation of Nuclear Power as a Proposed Solution to Global Warming, Air Pollution, and Energy Security:- https://web.stanford.edu/group/efmh/jacobson/Articles/I/NuclearVsWWS.pdf and PV Magazine 18th April 2019:- https://www.pv-magazine.com/2019/04/18/there-is-no-such-thing-as-a-zero-or-near-zero-emission-nuclear-power-plant/
"Jacobson also says all nuclear plants emit 4.4 g-CO2e/kWh from the water-vapour and heat they release. This contrasts with solar panels and wind turbines, which reduce heat or water vapour fluxes to the air by about 2.2 g-CO2e/kWh for a net difference from this factor alone of 6.6 gCO2e/kWh.".
Uranium Ore Grade Emissions
"In 2012 Warner & Heath said in a paper in the Journal of Industrial Ecology:- Life Cycle Greenhouse Gas Emissions of Nuclear Electricity Generation, Volume 16, No.S1 https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/epdf/10.1111/j.1530-9290.2012.00472.x that “LCA literature indicates that life cycle GHG emissions from nuclear power are a fraction of traditional fossil sources, but the conditions and assumptions under which nuclear power are deployed can have a significant impact on the magnitude of life cycle GHG emissions relative to renewable technologies.” After harmonizing methods to use consistent gross system boundaries and values for several important system parameters, Warner & Heath found LWR life cycle GHG emission estimates of 12, 17, and 110 g CO2-eq/kWh. The variability was caused by various factors including the primary source energy mix, uranium ore grade. A scenario analysis of future global nuclear development examined the effects of a decreasing global uranium market-average ore grade on life cycle GHG emissions. Depending on conditions, median life cycle GHG emissions could be 9 to 110 g CO2-eq/kWh by 2050. Uranium ore goes through an extensive extraction and conversion process that requires significant energy inputs that can generate significant indirect GHG emissions. Warner and Heath conclude that if the global uranium market-average ore grade decreases overtime, lifecycle GHG emissions could increase for the average nuclear power plant due to higher energy demand for uranium recovery. So, though uncertain, it is possible that nuclear power will emit more GHGs in the future. Therefore, nuclear power may be considered to involve an added level of risk for delivering GHG emissions mitigation relative to other technologies.
Therefore, existing nuclear plants emit this indirect carbon dioxide due to the continuous mining and increasing refining of increasingly finite uranium ore needed to make their fuel. The more reactors built around the globe, the more life-cycle emissions would increase as the quality of uranium ore used decreases, making it necessary to use more energy to get the uranium out of the ground and more to refine it as the ore from rock yield decreases. https://nonuclear.se/en/fleming2007.html https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2008/dec/05/nuclear-greenpolitics
"Also not adequately represented in LCA estimates is the back-end of nuclear energy: the CO2 required in treating, storing and safeguarding the enormous amounts of radioactive waste from uranium mining, chemical refinement of uranium and decommissioning nuclear power plants:- Alex Rosen, Why Nuclear Energy is not an Answer to Global Warming, IPPNW 2016 https://www.medact.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/C2-Alex-Rosen.pdf ". All of this without even reflecting on impacts upon (often indigenous) extraction communities' health and natural resources. See Also "Waste" below.
Don’t think we are Throwing out a Major Technology from a Lower-carbon Toolbox
We question whether nuclear power is actually even part of a lower-carbon toolbox.
Whilst individual nuclear power plants may be a lower CO2 form of electricity generation, when, as the industry always does, we wrongly discount the CO2 footprint of: mining and processing uranium ore; the costs of decommissioning; and the open-ended commitment of waste disposal; then collectively, nuclear power's potential for cutting CO2 emissions further than the 6% it currently achieves in the UK is limited by its costs and liabilities, especially when also erroneously discounting all of the other significant CO2 footprint data outlined above.
This makes its further development an unattractive proposition to investors and it therefore remains reliant on government taxpayers support. Such government support has a significant 'opportunity cost' displacement, taking money away from investment in national infrastructure to support genuinely renewable, very low carbon sources of electricity generation. The irony is, when nuclear power was back then, the only viable source of lower carbon electricity, no one was concerned about Climate Breakdown, especially in an era of prioritising uranium processing to weapons grade use. This begs the question of why you'd want to discount the footprint of these other elements, as only the full life-cycle analysis gives us a true picture of whether it's low carbon or not. As such, it fails the test. Nuclear is not low carbon and with uranium ore purity decreasing its carbon intensity continues to increase.
There are about 400 reactors worldwide providing about 4% world energy needs. Most are 40 years old. To produce a meaningful effect on Climate Breakdown emissions reduction, at least a 20% energy supply would be required - and nuclear is still one of the Paris Accord's (false) "solutions''. That would mean replacing those 400, building 1600 more at 2 opening a week for 20 years at monumental prices and cost. Wildest nightmare scenario. Further links:- https://beyondnuclearinternational.org/2020/09/13/nuclear-reactors-make-climate-change-worse/?fbclid=IwAR0gqsOjztE8zxJbmNPLIIuG4PIv0VZWkelQ8yntRIaO44DLImowkkwVn9Y
Sea Level Rise & Rising Tides
With UK coastal sites a necessity for access to vast quantities of sea water for reactor cooling, from nuClear news again:- “There is an exquisite paradox here”, says Professor Andy Blowers, “While nuclear power is hubristically presented as the ‘solution’ to climate change, the changing climate becomes its nemesis on the low-lying shores of eastern England.” Apart from Hinkley Point C, there remain two projects – Sizewell C and Bradwell B – still in the frame, although precariously so. Yet, for both sites, climate change may prove the showstopper. These coastal, low-lying sites are highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, including sea level rise, flooding, storm surges, and coastal processes. This was recognised as an issue in the rather equivocal statement that accompanied designation of the sites in 2011. Referring to Bradwell (similarly to Sizewell), it was considered “reasonable to conclude that any likely power station development within the site could potentially be protected against flood risk throughout its lifetime, including the potential effects of climate change, storm surge and tsunami, taking into account possible countermeasures”. Lifetime protection was envisaged as a process of “managed adaptation”, requiring developers “to demonstrate that they could achieve further measures for flood management at the site in the future, if future climate change predictions show they are necessary”. There are two problems with managed adaptation. The first is the increasing uncertainty of predictions of climate change and related sea level rise, and especially storm surges which greatly increase the impact, by the end of this century. If present trends continue, global warming could reach 3-4C by the end of the century and, even if it can be reduced to 2C based on the Paris accords of 2015 or, better still the 1.5oC urged by the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) (now looking increasingly unlikely), sea level rise of around 1 metre will occur, and rising seas are inevitable beyond 2100.".
"Climate predictions have focused especially on the period up to the end of the century, by which time planned new nuclear power stations starting up in the 2030s will only just have ceased operating. At the turn of the next century the legacy of today’s new build will become the decommissioning wastes of tomorrow, adding to that already piled up in coastal locations. Nuclear energy raises moral issues about security and potential destruction and danger to the environment and public health in nuclear communities down the generations. The moral question becomes all the more acute in the very specific circumstances of developing unsustainable nuclear power stations on the crumbling shores of East Anglia and the West Country:- https://beyondnuclearinternational.org/2020/12/06/the-next-great-tide/ . The planned new reactors in those regions plan to store waste fuel onsite for their lifetime, as was the case at Fukushima, which multiplied the effects of contamination after the tsunami. A comprehensive report from the Nuclear Consulting Group “Climate Change and UK Nuclear” can be found here:- https://www.nuclearconsult.com/wp/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/Climate-Change-UK-Nuclear-June-2021.pdf
The UK’s Military Nuclear sites are at flood risk too:- https://www.nuclearconsult.com/wp/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/Climate-Change-UK-Nuclear-Military-Sept21.pdf
H2 O(h) No
In France for example, almost 50% of fresh consumed water goes to cooling nuclear reactors. Upon exit, heat from water discharge threatens both agriculture and ecosystems. Moreover, coastal sites logically use sea-water which causes problems if still saline - and when discharged hot into the sea, wipes out fish by raising sea temperature (as at Kudankulam, India) and/or dramatically affecting biodiversity with radioactive discharge (like at Sellafield).
State (at/) of play
In 2008 the UK government gave the go-ahead for new nuclear power stations. In 2009, 10 potential sites were identified. In 2010 this was reduced to 8, then 6. Now 2 with some “maybes"?
The UK government's paint-by-numbers so-called Nuclear Renaissance is floundering with none of the multinational corporations formerly involved still interested due to the heinous costs. Worldwide, pretty much none have ever been built without State Aid and the 2 "corporations" left involved in the UK (& elsewhere) are the French & Chinese State controlled Electricite de France (EDF) & Chinese General Nuclear (CGN).
Of these 6 designated sites for a new UK nuclear plant, 3 have been abandoned, 2 are in limbo and only Hinkley Point C is under construction, albeit subject to escalating costs, time-slippage, and security concerns about increased Chinese state involvement. The UK government Conservative Party's backbenchers, flush with success on extracting China's involvement via Huawei in the 5G Network rollout, set up the China Research Group to now tackle involvement in the nuclear industry, particularly Bradwell B where Chinese reactor model use is intended. Daily Mail "Now MP's turn sights on China's nuclear deal" 17/7/20 & “Battle to keep China out of our nuke plants” 27/7/21. (intentionally no links - we don't go there!). Since 2019 CGN has been on the USA’s export blacklist for allegedly stealing technology for military purposes.
Standard and Poor's, the global credit-rating agency, sees “little economic rationale for new nuclear build in the US or Western Europe, owing to massive cost escalations and renewables’ cost competitiveness, which should lead to a material decline in nuclear generation in those countries by 2040.”
The UK National Audit Office has said that the economic case for new nuclear at Hinkley Point C was both “risky and expensive for the UK taxpayer and energy consumer”, warning that the cost of decommissioning of old nuclear plant has risen by £3bn since 2017, with “inherent uncertainty” over the final bill.
Meanwhile, the National Infrastructure Commission reported that new renewable energy represented the least cost for consumers.
We need to hit zero carbon as soon as possible, so it’s worrying that even EDF admits it will take 20 years after Sizewell C starts construction to pay off its own carbon bill and that the UK Institute of Mechanical Engineers has voiced concerns that “projected sea level rise could significantly redraw the map of the UK, as well as power station sites such as Sizewell.”
Let’s also not forget, even if nuclear power was cheap, totally clean and ready to go in the volumes necessary (of which it is none), it only generates electricity. Electricity generation currently only accounts for 30% of the UK's CO2 emissions; and nuclear power provides at best less than 20% of our supplied electricity (year to March'21 - was 16.1% in the UK). Although nuclear only produces electricity, the government's projections include transfering a lot of travel and heating energy demand to electricity, so we cannot assume it will remain at 30%.
So, assuming nuclear power was CO2 free (which it isn’t as described above), currently, with all of its attendant costs, risks and the intractable waste issue, it only offers us a rough 6% cut in our CO2 emissions. Even if we double that capacity, that’s still only a 12% cut, well within the reach of still neglected energy efficiency measures. That's also currently with most of the UK’s current nuclear reactors at the end of their lives by the end of this decade.
Where are we Now?
Retiring current nuclear power stations is just as much of an issue in the UK, as the government and corporations running the plants seem determined to 'sweat' their assets for as long as possible, witness Hunterston's reactor being allowed to continue operating in spite of cracks in its core... They'll be run to the full extent of their designed lifespans but almost certainly beyond.
Hinkley Point (North Somerset) B :- Originally UK state-owned company Central Electricity Generating Board (CEGB) 2 x 625 MW AGR reactors. Now EDF Energy (85% French state-owned). Opened 1976. Closure 2011 extended till Jul’22. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-somerset-55008752
Hunterston (Ayrshire, Scotland) B :- Originally CEGB 2 x 610 MW AGR reactors. Now EDF. Opened 1976. Closure 2011 extended till 2022. Much beset by problems, including cracking of graphite bricks making up the moderator cores of the reactors, necessitating long periods offline, including 2 years from 2018 to summer 2020, both reactors. Defuelling operations will begin after closure on 7th Jan’22.
Heysham (Lancs.) 1 :- Originally CEGB 2 x 575 MW AGR reactors. Now EDF. Opened 1983/4. Closure 2014 extended till 2024 (from 2014 to 2019 in Dec'10 and from 2019 to 2024 in Feb'16). After a crack found in boiler in reactor 1 both closed down for 6 months till Jan'15 and then operating at only 75-80% of capacity until 2-years of modifications were carried out. Enforcement action taken twice in 2020 under the Pressure Systems Safety Regulations.
Heysham 2 :- Originally CEGB 2 x 625 MW AGR reactors. Now EDF. Opened 1988. Closure 2018 extended till Mar'28.
Dungeness B (Kent) :- Originally CEGB 2 x 615 MW AGR reactors. Now EDF. Opened 1983/5. Closure 2008 was extended till 2028 but now closed and has been defuelling since Jun'21 after more than £100m was spent on repairs but further problems were found with boilers inside the reactors that could not be replaced. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-kent-57398732
Torness (E.Lothian, Scotland):- Originally CEGB 2 x 682 MW AGR reactors. Now EDF. Opened 1988. Closure 2018 extended till Mar’28 but Apr’22 https://theferret.scot/first-cracks-found-in-torness-nuclear-reactor/. Strong historic campaign against construction including direct action.
Hartlepool (Cleveland):- Originally CEGB 2 x 595 MW AGR reactors. Now EDF. Opened 1989. Closure 2009 extended till 2024. Site very vulnerable to flood risk and coastal erosion.
Sizewell B (Suffolk):- Westinghouse PWR 1200MW reactor operated by EDF. Opened 1995. Lengthy Public Inquiry which probably initiated changes to come in the process included in the Planning Act 2008 and the advent of the Infrastructure Commission. Closure 2035 but planned to extend till 2055 which EDF will decide in 2024 https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-suffolk-61023039 .
Planned New build?
Hinkley Point C :- Areva EPR (European Pressurised Reactor) 2 x 1600MW. Originally 80% EDF, 20% Centrica. Then 100% owned by EDF from Jan'13. Now: 66.5% EDF, 33.55% CGN. Part of the agreement between EDF and CGN includes Sizewell C and Bradwell B (see below). Construction in progress and the first reactor base was completed Jun'19 and the second in Summer'20. Strong campaign opposing construction, several direct actions and protest camps. A legal action against EDF by the European Commission for breaching state aid rules failed. Lots of building problems including the original pressure vessel being scrapped because of errors in forging. 2 EPRs operated in China at Taishan but in Jul’21 1 was shut down after fuel rods had become damaged causing the accumulation of radioactive gases. A whistle-blower claimed that the damage was caused by “abnormal vibrations”, which indicated a possible design fault in the reactor pressure vessel. Inquiry result awaited. The UK government negotiated a “strike price” of £92.5/MWh (index-linked to inflation, meaning as of Sept’21, it’s now reached £106/MWh) with EDF for Hinkley C, with consumers making up the difference if the price of electricity on the market falls below this price. The wholesale market price is currently less than half this and falling.
The £23bn White Elephant.....and Counting!
EDF's Chief Executive UK said at the start we would be cooking Xmas dinners using Hinkley electricity in 2017. Operation has been delayed again till 2026 ( https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-somerset-58724732 ), with another £500m extra costs making £23bn in total. EDF announced in 2013 the cost would then be £16bn. So a phantom £6.5bn (so far) we're paying extra unless maths has taken an alternate universe quantum turn, which it hasn't! "Hinkley Point C nuclear plant to open later at greater cost":- https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-somerset-55823575
Sizewell C :- Areva EPR 2 x 1600MW Originally 80% EDF, 20% Centrica owned. Now: 80% EDF with 20% CGN from “development phase”. No building as yet. Opening date 2031 was announced in 2017. Public consultations ongoing with big organised protests like https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-suffolk-58617810 . Jun'20, EDF announced it had applied to the Office for Nuclear Regulation for the licence to build and operate with Hinkley Point C design replication. Licence decision currently targeted for June 2022. Feb’22 the Planning Inspectorate (PINS) reported to SoS BEIS who has 3 months to decide whether construction should proceed. Decision by 25 May. Feb’21 - Legal and General Capital, major investors, ruled out providing funding just days after Aviva Investors suggested they had environmental and other concerns about nuclear power. L&G’s boss Nigel Wilson described Hinkley in 2016 as a “£25bn waste of money”. https://www.independent.co.uk/climate-change/news/sizewell-nuclear-power-station-environment-suffolk-b1805631.html . On 27th Jan'22 the government announced https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-60140854 "Government pledges £100m for Sizewell nuclear site" in exchange for rights to build on the associated land if the C reactor fails to go ahead. SMR site maybe? The Grauniad suggests £1.7bn of our direct cash has been earmarked (Apr’22) and https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-60889001 - Government to take 20% stake (Mar’22)
Bradwell (Essex) B :- CGN/EDF Chinese designed Hualong 1 reactors (the “UK HPR1000”), 2 x 1100 MW, not operational anywhere in the world but 2 units under troubled construction in China. Originally 80% EDF and 20% Centrica owned when Areva EPR reactors were planned; now EDF 66.5% CGN, 33.5%. Public consultations ongoing in now hostile Local Authority council territory. Estimated operational date forecast around 2035. On the same day that the government of China announced the blocking of BBCWorldTV over Uighar oppression reporting, news broke that Maldon District Council (MDC) had (Feb'21) been informed by the developer that "engagement and all active project work will pause for at least a year" who also said they "remain committed to the project" and will re-engage with MDC "when they are ready to do so". We'll see but EDF/CGN say “work areas are temporarily paused as we rebalance the project schedule”. EDF successfully obtained Generic Design Assessment (GDA) for the Chinese reactor Feb'22. Bradwell B Community Newsletter refers to the site as “generic” intriguingly, maybe to assist with GDA approval only?
Moorside (alongside Sellafield (formerly Windscale), Cumbria):- Originally planned Westinghouse Hitachi AP 1000 2 x 1400 MW reactors, originally owned jointly by Scottish and Southern Energy(SSE), French GDF-Suez and Spanish Iberdrola. Then from 2017 Toshiba alone but they wound up the project in Jan'19. Possibly a site for SMR/AMR's (see below)? In July'20, plans for two nuclear power plants on the site were submitted by EDF who said its proposal would be similar to its plans for Sizewell C. This “EDF-led Moorside consortium wants to build two pressurised water reactors of the same type as being constructed at Hinkley Point C”, said the Local DemocracyReporting Service . https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-cumbria-53253102
Failed New build?
Heysham 3 :- Originally planned Areva EPR 2 x 1600MW but dropped in 2012 when EDF cancelled agreement with National Grid to set up any new connection to the grid from Heysham. EDF has said it has “Not ruled out future development at Heysham.”.
Hartlepool B:- Originally planned Areva EPR 2 x 1800 MW reactors. EDF had the Government go-ahead for building in 2009 but no evidence that EDF is interested.
Wylfa (Anglesey, Wales) B:- Originally planned Hitachi Advanced Boiling Water (ABW) Reactors. 2-3 each x about 1350 MW. Originally owned 50% between E.On & RWE; latterly 100% Hitachi who formally withdrew from the project in Sept'20 after work was "suspended" in 2019. On 1st Oct’21 the Prime Minister said discussions were being held by BEIS (Dept. Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy) with a consortium involving US engineering firm Bechtel regarding building a Westinghouse AP1000 reactor; and also with UK-based Shearwater Energy on hybrid plans for a SMR and a wind farm. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-politics-58763510
Oldbury B (Gloucs.):- was part of those original deals for Wylfa. The site is susceptible to flooding from the River Severn.
Blyth, Northumberland:- was originally identified as a potential site but has not been mentioned since.
Finance & Funding
Post-Brexit of course there are no EU competition laws to prevent the UK government (that'll be us taxpayers) funding Nuclear new build etc. - not that that's ever stopped the French government & EDF. C'est la vie, as those of a gammon hue won't allow us to say now transition has ended! UK-EU TRADE AND COOPERATION AGREEMENT Summary-Part2-Heading1-Title11-Chapter3 https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/948093/TCA_SUMMARY_PDF.pdf
In Nov'20's National Infrastructure Strategy Report the UK government said "Nuclear power has long played an important role in UK power generation and will continue to do so provided it can be delivered to time and budget."
A translation for this would be "well it won't continue" then, since a plant has never been built on time or on budget. People in Flamanville, France and Olkiluoto, Finland where EDF EPR reactors are under construction, like those to be used in Hinkley Point C and maybe Sizewell C, have forgotten exactly how many years overdue and billions over original budgets they are, as they're past a decade late at 15 & 13 (opened for test production Mar’22:- https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2022/mar/12/finland-opens-nuclear-power-plant-amid-concerns-of-europe-energy-war ) respectively!
The government perversely says it "is pursuing large-scale nuclear projects, subject to clear value for money for both consumers and taxpayers and all relevant approvals............ As outlined in the Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution, the government will provide up to £525 million to bring forward large-scale nuclear and invest in the development of advanced nuclear research and development (R&D), including up to £385 million in an Advanced Nuclear Fund for small modular reactors and advanced modular reactors. This is alongside £220 million for nuclear fusion." https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/938049/NIS_final_web_single_page.pdf
Strike Price CONtracts for Difference:- The Infrastructure report also boasts "Alongside considering the RAB model the government will also continue to consider the potential role of government finance during construction, provided there is clear value for money for consumers and taxpayers." . "Clear value for money" seems unlikely given the Oct'13 baked-in strike price in the government's ‘Secretary of State Investor Agreement’ - Contract for Difference (CfD) - with EDF/CGN agreed to receive £92.50 per megawatt hour (MWh) for Hinkley C with Offshore Wind projects up till 2030 at £47 MWh - in a renewables sector where the UK has a strategic geographical advantage (Onshore wind and large-scale solar £45/MWh and £39/MWh respectively). Aug’20:- https://www.edie.net/news/10/UK-Government-halves-offshore-wind-cost-forecasts/
You are strongly advised not to try and read this impenetrable document but other horrors are that if Hinkley becomes operational then its generated electricity will take precedence on the National Grid, even if sufficient renewables are being generated! This disgraceful displacement all the worse given its guaranteed 35 year contracted fixed price (actually cost). https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/556765/2_-_Secretary_of_State_Investor_Agreement__redacted_.pdf . The original strike price would come down to £89.50 MWh if EDF also constructed two more new nuclear reactors at Sizewell. The docs have been published here:- https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/hinkley-point-c-documents but they are further impenetrable legalese. However the gist was reported here:- http://energydesk.greenpeace.org/2014/10/08/comment-hinkley-poor-value-deal-uk-consumer/ with further information here:- https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2016/mar/18/hinkley-point-c-nuclear-deal-22bn-poison-pill-taxpayer
Underwriting Undertakings:- As part of the Hinkley CfD the UK government's Treasury (us) agreed to guarantee the costs of financing EDF's credit risk for 30 years. The insurance subsidy provided by the government is because the nuclear industry is only required to pay a fraction of the cost of insuring fully against any claims from a Chernobyl/Fukushima type disaster. According to page 4 of the government's previous Energy White paper, if EDF in France had to pay those full costs the price of electricity would have then increased by 300%.
We also Cop the Cost:- The UK government (us again) also funds the Nuclear Constabulary, the nuclear industry's separate police force - to guard against terrorism and other threats. There is no equivalent for renewables ;-p.
Having Your Yellow-cake and Eating it!:- The industry also pays a Fixed Unit Price (FUP) to the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) to "dispose" of their waste. This has to be "stored" for more than 100 years even before it is "buried". This means the government predicting the costs a century plus in advance and if they end up being inaccurate with the FUP set too low, then the NDA gets a bail-out from guess who? Yes, you the taxpayer. The FUP cannot be set too high or the Industry won't invest in the first place.
Taking the nuclear path over renewables will force the poorest in our society to pay the most for its energy. While the "better off" will be able to afford the upfront costs of investing in energy saving measures and small-scale renewables :– domestic insulation, solar panels, onshore wind, ground-source heat pumps, combined heat and power, etc ; poorer households will continue to rely on energy from nuclear and fossil-fuel power stations provided by the big energy companies, leaving them hostage to ever-rising fuel bills.
Nuclear power embodies a centralised and anti-democratic relation to energy usage, that prevents energy democracy with real democratic debate on energy production, distribution and consumption. As well as working towards a decentralised energy system that is clean, green and fair, we recognise the need for society as a whole to reduce its energy usage and overall levels of consumption. The profit-driven economy is exploitative and fundamentally flawed. Instead, we need to progress towards a society founded on the principles of co-operation and social justice and work towards a vision of a society in which decision-making is devolved to community level, where wealth is fairly distributed and finite planetary resources shared equitably in a sustainable way. This could be realised with local community control over energy generation - something just not possible with a large scale, centrally managed national grid dependent, nuclear power model.
Last Energy White Paper
In Dec'20 the government finally produced:- https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/energy-white-paper-powering-our-net-zero-future . It contains much more, so far, hollow rhetoric about value for money but separates this from increased bill costs for electricity consumers which will be engendered by RAB in the midst of massive gas price rises.
"Last year, we consulted on a RAB model for private investment in new nuclear generation....we are publishing a summary of the responses which have indicated that a RAB model remains credible for funding large-scale nuclear projects. (BEIS 2020) https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/regulated-asset-base-rab-model-for-nuclear ........ Raising enough private capital to finance a nuclear power station is challenging given the significant investment needed for a developer to reach a point of FID (Final Investment Decision). In considering the financing options, we will examine the potential role of government finance during construction, provided there is clear value for money for consumers and taxpayers.". https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/943762/Nuclear_RAB_Consultation_Government_Response-.pdf
On 26th Oct’21 the government confirmed the RAB approach for all new plants which is basically, if you pay an electricity bill you'd be paying extra personally upfront for new Nuclear with an extra Nuclear Tax on your bill! According to the Financial Times the momentum behind this was to enable the ousting of ChinaGN from future investment. The Treasury was reluctant but BEIS steamed ahead with the model. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-59051025 . The Nuclear Energy (Financing) Act became law on April Fools Day’22 (we know!) and is to “to make provision for the implementation of a regulated asset base model for nuclear energy generation projects; for revenue collection for the purposes of that model; for a special administration regime for licensees subject to that model; and about the circumstances in which bodies corporate are not associated with site operators for the purposes of programmes relating to funding the decommissioning of nuclear sites.” https://bills.parliament.uk/bills/3057 . At the CBI on 22nd Nov’21 the PM said the government was looking at reclassifying nuclear power as “green” energy for investment purposes.
The White Paper also contained these "aims":-
Their Pledges even Pledge can't Clean:-
- We will aim to bring at least one large-scale nuclear project to the point of FID by the end of this Parliament, subject to clear value for money and all relevant approvals.
- We will provide up to £385 million in an Advanced Nuclear Fund for the next generation of nuclear technology aiming, by the early 2030s, to develop a Small Modular Reactor (SMR) design and to build an Advanced Modular Reactor (AMR) demonstrator.
- We aim to build a commercially viable fusion power plant by 2040.
As we said "aims" and the government's new build rationale is inadequately presented as:- "With the exception of Sizewell B (and Hinkley Point C, which is under construction), all of the existing nuclear power plants are due to have ceased generating by the end of 2030.....our analysis suggests additional nuclear beyond Hinkley Point C will be needed in a low-cost 2050 electricity system of very low emissions......We will remain open to further projects later if the nuclear industry demonstrates that it is able to reduce costs and deliver to time and budget. We expect the sector to deliver the goal it set for itself in our Nuclear Sector Deal, published by BEIS in 2018, https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/nuclear-sector-deal , to reduce the cost of nuclear new build projects by 30% by 2030." ! With costs historically and currently significantly rising those chances seem nano-slim.
Nov’21’s Government Spending Review announced up to £1.7bn of direct government funding (ours) to assist attainment of that first above pledge(?), or, will that money be used to buy out CGN’s Sizewell C stake now the RAB Bill is law;-p. The National Security and Investment Bill would also allow the government to block any sensitive foreign investments.
On 7th Apr’22 UKgov published its much delayed Policy Paper on British Energy Security Strategy (with nothing much on demand side measures like insulation and cheap onshore wind mostly abandoned to satiate NIMBY backbenchers. For an easy-read round-up go here:- Energy-Special-FINAL.pdf (greenerjobsalliance.co.uk) ) claiming “ For years, governments have dodged the big decisions on energy, but not this one”. Excluding the last decade presumably? ;-p. Specifically:- https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/british-energy-security-strategy/british-energy-security-strategy#nuclear ; which aims to raise nuclear “power consumed” from around 15 to 25% with a trebling to 24GW by 2050. Within this overall ambition the intention is:-
- to take one project to FID this Parliament (by 2024) and 2 projects to FID in the next Parliament (including SMRs), aiming to come online by 2030 with an overall wish to progress up to 8 more reactors at 1 a year; and
- to sit alongside £2bn+ existing investment in new nuclear, including £100m to support the development of Sizewell C, and £210m to bring through SMRs.
The plan to deliver new nuclear projects is now via:
- launching a £120m Future Nuclear Enabling Fund in 2022;
- setting up the Great British Nuclear (GBN) Vehicle in 2022, tasked with helping projects through every stage of the development process for new builds;
- backing GBN with funding (figures not declared but our money!) to support projects to get investment ready and through the construction phase.
- A selection process for further UK projects will start in 2023, with “the intention that government will enter negotiations with the most credible projects to enable a potential government award of support as soon as possible, including (but not limited to) Wylfa.”;
- Any projects would be subject to a value for money assessment, all relevant approvals and future spending reviews;
- “UK has 8 designated nuclear sites: Hinkley, Sizewell, Heysham, Hartlepool, Bradwell, Wylfa, Oldbury and Moorside” but UKgov will also develop an overall citing strategy for the long term;
- “without impacting” the existing regulatory regime, UKgov “will work with the regulators to understand the potential for any streamlining or removing of duplication from the consenting and licensing of new nuclear power stations, including possibly new harmonisation on international regulation….and…..also collaborate with other countries to accelerate work on advanced nuclear technologies, including both SMRs and AMRs.
SMRs: Not Big and Not Clever
The nuclear industry's share of electricity and energy generation is declining as investment costs soar and the unsolved problem of what to do with the waste increasingly makes nuclear power look like yesterday’s false solution to today’s problem of a clean energy future. So, the nuclear industry is attempting to re-invent itself in the face of these insurmountable problems and push SMRs/AMRs for all they’re worth!
- Small refers to the generation capacity, usually under 300 MW. This is roughly the capacity of Thanet Wind Farm, which has 100 offshore wind turbines.
- Modular refers to the fact that the individual parts of the SMR can be factory produced and then shipped to the end location and assembled there, in the same way as a prefabricated house. The claimed advantages of modularity include the standardisation of components and designs and the potential for mass production. ‘Modular’ could also refer to the fact that multiple reactors could be installed sequentially at the same site. This is potentially appealing to developers, as it means a site can start generating an income before it is fully developed and in theory capacity can be increased over time to match demand.
So What are They?
SMRs are usually based upon water-cooled reactors similar to current nuclear power station reactors and they also use nuclear fission to generate electricity. AMRs are reactors which use novel cooling systems or fuels and may offer new functionalities (such as industrial process heat) and could maybe operate at over 800°C so theoretically could assist with production of synthetic fuels and hydrogen (although this could better be powered by offshore wind via electrolysis). Rising Tide UK proposes that we call hydrogen generated using nuclear power “Yellow Hydrogen”. There’s quite a few SMR designs being pushed and they fall broadly into two different groups:
- Scaled down existing designs – usually Light Water Reactors (LWRs) – focused on cutting costs.
- Non-Light Water SMRs. Those under development include a range of very diverse technologies.
Theoretical SMR Advantages are:- Lower absolute capital cost, potentially easing the path for investors; reduced construction risk via off-site factory production, standardisation of components and systems; shorter construction and installation times – factory construction of standardised components; lower cooling requirements, potentially allowing installation on inland sites; reduced investment in the transmission network (as they could be deployed in a more dispersed pattern); easier to decommission; design of safety features made easier by smaller reactors, since less heat would need to be dissipated in the case of emergency; reduced refuelling needs; and with some designs claimed to be capable of ‘breeding’ plutonium to create more fuel by ‘burning’ existing waste (U238). The latter appears most unlikely, remember the failure of Magnox reactors anybody?
Disadvantages of SMRs
However small a reactor is, it will still need control systems, waste disposal infrastructure, cooling infrastructure and a whole host of other supporting structures and all of these will need, in turn, staff to operate them. These costs are insensitive to the size of the reactor (being fixed costs for any size), so the nuclear industry has tended to make them as White Elephant large as possible to generate the maximum electricity possible after these fixed costs have been met, usually by government subsidy. Smaller (White Mice?) reactors lose these economies of scale and so will probably have to charge higher prices for electricity generated as fixed costs will eat further into their smaller money-making potential as they generate less electricity to sell.
All this remember with nuclear power currently only cutting our CO2 emissions by a maximum 6%. - BUT….the biggest current disadvantage of the SMR concept is simply that they do not yet exist as reactors for power generation. In fact, none of the designs actually exist even as prototypes, all of them are based on purely academic speculation, dreams and demands for cash. All would still need regulatory approval, which would take more years. The earliest any of them are likely to exist, even at prototype stage, is 2030 - all the while renewables are advancing in real life and providing ever cheaper electricity.
"Debunking the Myths of SMRs":- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d-lhV-gAEUc&feature=youtu.be . PowerPoint presentations available here.
This disconnect has always existed in the nuclear industry. Let's introduce Admiral Hyman G. Rickover, in the 1950's the father of the US Nuclear-powered Navy said:-
"An academic reactor or reactor plant almost always has the following basic (claimed) characteristics:- (1) It is simple. (2) It is small. (3) It is cheap. (4) It is light. (5) It can be built very quickly. (6) It is very flexible in purpose. (7) Very little development will be required. It will use off-the-shelf components. (8) The reactor is in the study phase. It is not being built now."
"On the other hand a practical reactor can be distinguished by the following characteristics:- (1) It is being built now. (2) It is behind schedule. (3) It requires an immense amount of development on apparently trivial items. (4) It is very expensive.(5) It takes a long time to build because of its engineering development problems. (6) It is large. (7) It is heavy. (8) It is complicated."
So, 70 years ago the nuclear industry was promising the moon on a stick and still is. Nothing has changed and still the same fundamental issues remain.
Abundant evidence shows that renewable energy supply, storage, distribution and management technologies are being developed ever cheaper and swifter at a time when real urgency is required across society and government to tackle climate breakdown. Nuclear power in general and SMRs in particular are no answer to creating low-carbon economies by 2030 or even close to that date.
Why Continue Down the Nuclear Path with SMRs?
Possibly the muddled thinking indicates the following two main reasons, but who knows given all of the above? :-
- Renewable energy is a dispersed source of energy. Solar and wind farms can occupy large areas (but the land can be used for other things too) and are highly visible – so there’s some opposition to their construction often in rural areas where people have not previously had to deal with the consequences of their energy use. Nuclear Plants on the other hand, occupy comparatively smaller remote areas so any opposition may be concentrated over a smaller area where a higher proportion of local people may also be employed at them, so less opposition.
- The "need" to maintain nuclear weapons capability.
Where and Who?
In July'20 the AMR projects Advanced Modular Reactor competition: phase 2 development - chosen project was Westinghouse to develop a Generation IV nuclear power plant based on lead-cooled fast reactor (LFR) technology. The plant features a fast neutron spectrum core in a primary system operating at high temperature and atmospheric pressure is interfaced with an air-cooled supercritical carbon dioxide power conversion cycle provided with an energy storage system. Westinghouse will collaborate with the Italian national agency for new technologies, energy and sustainable economic development (ENEA), Ansaldo Nucleare, Frazer-Nash Consultancy, Jacobs, National Nuclear Laboratory, Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing and Research Centre, Vacuum Process Engineering Inc., as well as Bangor University, University of Cambridge and University of Manchester.
Also a second, with U-Battery designing a SMR for energy intensive industry and remote locations, capable also of being deployed specifically for (yellow) hydrogen production. U-Battery is a subsidiary of uranium enrichment firm Urenco, supported by Jacobs, Kinectrics, Cavendish Nuclear, Rolls Royce, National Nuclear Laboratory, Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing and Research Centre, BWXT and Mammoet. Possibly at Urenco UK Limited’s nuclear licensed site at Capenhurst in Cheshire.
Apart from the existing reactor sites above being generally included as potential sites:-
The Wales government announced that Trawsfynydd, site of the first inland civil Magnox nuclear station in Snowdonia, Gwynedd, Wales will house a development company known as Cwmni Egino aiming to help exploit the claimed economic benefits of SMR's on site.
In July'20 Copeland Council said two consortia had now submitted plans for a "clean energy hub" on the Moorside site, adjacent to the Sellafield reprocessing plant. A "Rolls-Royce-led" UK SMR consortium plans a SMR of the "light-water" type. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-cumbria-53253102
On 9th Nov’21 Rolls Royce were provided with a £210m grant (matched by private funding) following the £18m invested in Nov’19 as part of the government’s so-called Low-Cost Nuclear project, to continue development of their SMR prototype to phase 2: GDA. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-59212983 . Some private funding has now been forthcoming with £85m from Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund (for a 10% stake in Rolls-Royce SMR) joining BNF Resources and Exelon Generation as other shareholders. (London) Evening Standard Dec’21:- https://www.standard.co.uk/business/rollsroyce-lands-ps85m-qatar-boost-for-small-nuclear-reactors-b972953.html# . The Financial Times reported on 24th Jan'22 that Rolls-Royce have now written to various bodies around the UK touting for applications to site an SMR factory:- https://www.theregister.com/2022/01/24/rollsroyce_smr_factory/ . Plans to build SMRs at Wylfa and Trawsfynydd took a step forward with the designs having been sent for regulatory assessment in Mar’22.
For the same investment in onshore wind, we could get four and a half times the energy. Go ahead for Small Modular Reactors chooses the most expensive option. – Urban ramblings (urbanramblings19687496.city)
No Jazz Hands as Fusion Won't Save Us
Apart from:- neutron embrittlement of reactor cores; radioactive waste and emissions; deuterium/tritium availability; the socio-economic issues surrounding further centralisation of electricity generation and associated transmission losses; fusion development is never ending and so can't possibly be considered a solution. As a potential source of electricity, it suffers from the same problems as SMRs, i.e. it always seems to need a bit more time/investment to bring it to fruition and is always on the edge of a major breakthrough - the long standing joke being that fusion power is only 20 years in the future and was in 1960. We really don't have that time in a Climate emergency. Huge technical issues remain: the proposed UK Spherical Tokamak for Energy Production (STEP) system suffers from those issues of neutron embrittlement of the core and may have a solution but it's too far into the future. Plus, if you think fission centralises power generation, with all of the security and consistency of supply issues that entails, fusion would be even worse due to it's even greater costs dictating fewer, but much larger plants, to reap maximum returns from any initial colossal investment. However, the UK gov Energy White Paper says "We aim to build a commercially viable fusion power plant by
Where & Who?
In July'20 the AMR projects Advanced Modular Reactor competition: phase 2 development - chosen project was Tokamak Energy for the "Engineering design and development
of technology for advanced modular fusion reactors". The June'18 UK gov Nuclear sector deal provided £86m for a National Fusion Technology Platform at Culham in Oxfordshire, reportedly now £222m (Jun’21). Tokamak Energy is a private company based in Oxfordshire . The project is split into 4 work packages. Tokamak Energy are leading the project, with CERN and Qdot Technology Ltd as key subcontractors with support from Universities of Oxford and Illinois, plus Oak Ridge National Laboratory in the US.
The Government has now committed £400M (July’21) to a fusion programme and the UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) put out a call for sites to host STEP, the prototype fusion plant. A shortlist of 5 potential sites was announced in Jan’22 https://www.gov.uk/government/news/step-closer-to-naming-site-of-first-fusion-energy-power-plant of Ardeer, North Ayrshire; Moorside, Cumbria https://thebulletin.org/2017/04/fusion-reactors-not-what-theyre-cracked-up-to-be/?fbclid=IwAR1xlaZ5HhOjuD8Torb2phTifwmRkoosJ-1Y3C7CwH7GDbRA8ZSBnQnNiNU ; Goole, E.Yorks; West Burton, Notts. ; and Severn Edge, Gloucs. ; The original 15 are listed here and some may well end up as SMR potential sites: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/uks-prototype-fusion-energy-plant-is-one-step-closer-to-finding-a-home . The next stage of the process is a technical assessment to assess the comparative site suitability, then Secretary of State for BEIS will make a final decision on the site; anticipated around the end of 2022.
Additionally in Jun’21, Amazon's Jeff Bezos’ decade backed Canadian General Fusion (GF) is set to build a 70% scale magnetised target fusion demonstration plant at Culham, Oxfordshire. It won't generate power but they will enter into a long-term commercial lease with the UK Atomic Energy Authority following the construction of the facility at the UKAEA Culham campus. Commercial details have not been disclosed but the development is said to cost around $400m, be operational by 2025 and made possible by funding from the UK government, with the monetary amount described by GF CEO Christofer Mowry in wire agency reports as "very meaningful".https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-57512229
Thorium, a Further False Solution
Apart from the fact that extracting finite Thorium salts from their sand deposits shares the same problem as extracting finite uranium ore from rock in terms of increasing processing, thorium (or molten salt) reactors, require a breeding cycle with consequent reprocessing and associated waste issues. Thorium itself isn't fissile (but is fertile) and requires bombardment with neutrons to convert it into Uranium 233 which is then separated in the reprocessing and fissioned. The neutron source can be U235 or Plutonium. So, the waste issues are similar but different - just as much risk/radioactivity as conventional reactors but different elements. The thorium reprocessing issue is probably the biggest stumbling block as no solutions have yet been found, much like THORP - the Thermal Oxide Reprocessing Plant which was a reprocessing failure for spent uranium fuel.
The most powerful lobby on the planet, the nuclear industry, has attempted to frame nuclear power as a solution for our future energy provision needs. Evidence strongly disputes this. New nuclear power is the most expensive form of electricity generation, with long lead times and many modern reactor builds running well over budget. Particularly with SMR/AMRs, there has been a major push to try and insert nuclear energy into the (so-called) ‘Net Zero’ discourse, a bogus and increasingly confusing and corporatised conversation shrouded in greenwash.
Military, Terrorism & War, What is it Good For?
A determined terrorist (or other) assault team, or aircraft style crash, could trigger a meltdown situation with the power stations themselves becoming targets as dirty bombs. Trains carrying nuclear waste still run through several high population centres exposing those residents to the threat of contamination by such terrorism or even derailment.
There is No Such Thing as ‘Civil’ Nuclear Power
Nuclear energy is and has always been closely connected to military use and has always been about the power in continued weapons proliferation.
Much has been made regarding the recycling of fissile plutonium from spent nuclear fuel but this results in huge amounts of weapons usable plutonium available worldwide, when it only takes about 4kg of plutonium-239 to relatively easily manufacture a nuclear device and provides consistent quantities of uranium 235 and plutonium 238 needed in nuclear weapons. Nuclear power exists to supply the military-industrial complex and the UK has stockpiled Albert Halls worth of fissile isotopes over the years and now “needs” them not just for bombs but for new battlefield weapons.
Nuclear technology transfers to further military use in submarines and other military reactors, with the need to continue those specialist "civil" nuclear skills in order to perpetuate that. David Thorpe (2020) - How The UKs Secret Defence Policy Is Driving Energy Policy With The Public Kept In The Dark:- https://www.thefifthestate.com.au/energy-lead/how-the-uks-secret-defence-policy-is-driving-energy-policy-with-the-public-kept-in-the-dark/
Unsolved & Unresolved Dangerous Waste
“Let’s get one thing clear right off the bat”, says Linda Pentz Gunter writing on the Beyond Nuclear website 29/11/20:- https://beyondnuclearinternational.org/2020/11/29/all-casked-up-with-nowhere-to-go/ , “You don’t “dispose” of nuclear waste. The ill-suited, now cancelled, but never quite dead radioactive waste repository at Yucca Mountain was not a “disposal” site. The radioactive mud being dredged from the sea bed at the Hinkley C nuclear site in the UK, is not going to get “disposed of” in Cardiff Grounds (a mile off the Welsh coast). When Germany dumped radioactive waste in drums into the salt mines of Asse, it wasn’t “disposed” of. Taking nuclear waste to Texas and New Mexico border towns and parking it there indefinitely is not “disposal”. To talk about radioactive waste "disposal” is simply dishonest. It’s disingenuous at best and deliberately misleading at worst. “Once you have made radioactive waste, then you are looking at long-term isolation, not disposal,”. - again from Items 7 & 8:- http://no2nuclearpower.org.uk/maillist/dl.php?id=9&uid=a1da15302a817fd86c8b657294c7e485 .
The UK Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) "has admitted that it still doesn’t have a full understanding of the condition of its sites, including its 10 closed Magnox stations. Its most recent estimate of the cost of decommissioning its sites is £132bn with the work not being completed for another 120 years. This is an increase of £8bn from last year. This was driven by a £5bn increase to the estimated cost of decommissioning the Magnox sites, which is now put at almost £20bn, and a £2.5bn increase in costs at Sellafield, taking the costs at the reprocessing site to £97bn. This was revealed by the house of Commons Public Accounts Committee (PAC) whose (Nov'20) report said the NDA has a perpetual lack of knowledge about the state and location of waste on its 17 sites. This results from decades of poor record keeping and weak government oversight. Combined with a “sorry saga” of incompetence and failure, this has left taxpayers footing the bill for “astronomical sums”. The MPs recommended the NDA speed up its work: “It may be possible to reduce the time it will take to fully decommission the sites from around 85 years to more like 40-45 years. This could significantly reduce the long-term cost.” They also said taxpayers’ money could be saved by accelerating the programme to create a geological disposal facility to permanently store highly radioactive waste currently held in interim facilities. The lack of knowledge of the sites was a significant factor in the failure of a 2014 contract the NDA signed with Cavendish Fluor Partnership to decommission the Magnox sites. The government was forced to take back the contract in 2018 and the botched tender has now cost taxpayers £140m, the MPs found. The Magnox clean-up contract was wrongly awarded to the Cavendish Fluor Partnership in 2014. A High Court judge then ruled that the losing bidder, Energy Solutions and its partner, Bechtel, should have won the 14-year contract to bring the plants to a state of “care and maintenance”. The Times 27/11/20 https://www.thetimes.co.uk/edition/business/nuclear-clean-up-bill-needsscrutiny-h7c3xcz27
"Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, deputy chair of the PAC, said: “Although progress has been made since our  report, incredibly, the NDA still doesn’t know even where we’re currently at, in terms of the state and safety of the UK’s disused nuclear sites. Without that, and after the Magnox contracting disaster, it is hard to have confidence in future plans or estimates.” . Guardian 27/11/20 https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/nov/27/uks-nuclear-sites-costing-taxpayers-astronomical-sums-say-mps
"Estimates of the cost of getting the Magnox sites to a “care and maintenance” stage, which is cheaper than clearing them entirely, were questioned by the committee. It warned that the cost of getting to a care and maintenance stage of the decommissioning process had risen by between £1.3bn and £3.1bn since 2017, to as much as £8.7bn. The committee also suggested the costs could rise again.". Daily Telegraph 27/11/20 https://www.telegraph.co.uk/business/2020/11/27/taxpayers-face-132bn-bill-cleaning-unwanted-nuclear-sites/ . The PAC Report is available here: https://committees.parliament.uk/publications/3703/documents/36067/default/ ".
The essential reason that after 70 years at gargantuan cost, the industry cannot "dispose" of nuclear waste is that it cannot be permanently isolated from the environment on a tectonically active planet, with the crust moving, cracking - and with water passing through it. It would need to be secure for 100,000 years. Any buried waste will eventually find its way in part back to the surface. People in the north of England share that view:- https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/aug/23/nuclear-storage-plans-for-north-of-england-stir-up-local-opposition .
Mar’22 round-up of Waste “Disposal” Facility here:- https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2022/mar/28/push-for-new-uk-nuclear-plants-lacks-facility-for-toxic-waste-say-experts and a special issue on the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority by Prof. Steve Thomas Emeritus Professor of Energy Policy, PSIRU, Business School, University of Greenwich:- https://www.no2nuclearpower.org.uk/wp/wp-content/uploads/2022/03/nuClearNewsNo138.pdf
Nuclear power is a technology of broken but dangerous promises. The declining nuclear industry currently hopes that climate breakdown is its last means to greenwash rescue its technology. In various countries, there are discussions about lifetime extensions, or new nuclear power plants, which are being presented as an alternative to the expansion of renewables. The fact that nuclear power is not capable of solving the climate crisis is hidden from view. Even if all the dangers, problems and associated social injustices are ignored, it is simply too slow and too expensive – and thus prevents any real climate protection. It primarily serves as a distraction: As ever, nuclear power is dressed up in green to supposedly stabilise the existing system, suggesting that something is being done to solve the climate crisis when it is not. Oppose it!
1) We still want the COP26Coalition to agree upon these:- Key Messages
- We dismiss Nuclear Power as a false solution to climate breakdown;
- We oppose all types of new nuclear build anywhere;
- We oppose lifetime extensions of existing reactors;
- We are alarmed and concerned about past "accidents", the ongoing Fukushima crisis - and future accident risks;
- There is still no safe solution to the waste problem;
- The economics of nuclear power do not add up;
- We are working towards a vision of a sustainable, nuclear-free future, with a decentralised and socially-just energy system;
- As part of this, we need to reduce energy use and general levels of consumption.
- We work towards creating a mass movement that will mobilise people for action on the climate & ecological emergency.
- We encourage everyone to gen-up on the nuclear false solution and not allow ambivalence to triumph or go unchallenged.
2) You can start by subscribing to NuClear News at: http://www.no2nuclearpower.org.uk/nuclear-news/ - a free monthly newsletter designed to keep climate campaigners informed about nuclear developments worldwide and anti-nuclear campaigners about climate issues. Please help by also donating what you can.
3) Sign-up your organisation to the "Don't Nuke the Climate" Statement. The current list of signatories, further background information and translations of the statement can be found at: https://climatejusticeagainstnuclear.noblogs.org/ . This was launched on the 10th anniversary of the Fukushima disaster on 11th Mar’21 but you can still sign it by emailing email@example.com , giving your group name and country.
4)...and also by watching this webinar "Zero Carbon – Why NOT Nuclear?” from Feb’21 organised by Salisbury CND. View the recording here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sHqL1OS2og0&feature=youtu.be Speakers Dr Andy Stirling and Dr Phil Johnstone of Sussex University informing us of their discoveries of links between civil and military nuclear power which is perpetuating a toxic, obsolete technology that is undermining renewable energy generation - and speaking about their evidence that nuclear power is obsolete in achieving zero-carbon but exists now purely to underpin military use. We have a renewable sector that is growing far more quickly and successfully than was anticipated ten or twenty years ago. The message is confusing, until the link between civil and military nuclear programmes are exposed.
5) …this was further exposed by Andy Stirling in the COP26 Coalition Political Strateggy Working Group webinar we organised “False Solutions and Dangerous Distractions” in Jul’21 which included Nuclear Power and why it’s still not in the bin , where he provides a short and crisp explanation on why nuclear power is nowhere close to being an option for reducing emissions and links the use of civil nuclear power to the true reason the UK keeps pushing for it: Military status as a nuclear power. All his sources were directly from the UK government itself, to be found here.
Thanks for reading!