09 May 2013
In his own admission, George Monbiot writes in the Guardian on 4 February, he has spent “the last two years defending the atomic industry”. Now Mr. Monbiot is promoting an energy generation opportunity that only two years ago was described as “one of the most embarrassing failures in British industrial history”.
He is reopening the case for reusing the UK stockpile of 112 tonnes of plutonium, 28 tonnes of which is foreign imported, the largestcivil stockpile in the world, as feedstock for a new MOX fuel processing plant.
The technology has an abysmal track record – Sellafield’s existing MOX plant had a target of 560 mt, but has produced only about 15 mt in nine years of operation. The plant has cost the taxpayer about £1.3bn so far, representing about the amount of money that is invested in our electricity grid every year. When one includes the full cost of nuclear power, it is not an efficient, low carbon energy solution. To demonstrate the folly of including nuclear power in our energy strategy, we are going to devote the next two articles to the topic of installed cost of electricity generation by type and the running costs, as well as an infrastructural analysis to demonstrate, along with the plethora of other studies (listed below for your reference) the alternatives to nuclear power that will keep the lights on and secure our safe and affordable energy future.
Exposure to certain levels of radioactive materials causes cancer, so it is important that the existing contaminated material is disposed of properly. Why we would create more of this material when we don’t know what we are going to do with current stockpiles? Disposal costs, whether they involve a means of reducing the waste, as My Monbiot supports, still means that there is waste to safely store,albeit less even more highly concentrated radioactive materials that eventually. No civilian waste may be distributed by the military in depleted uranium weapons. We read recently that the US Department of Energyproposed that low level radioactive materials be released as recycled metals in everyday products like belt buckles or surgical implants. The examples are put forth in terms of long haul flights or exposure to granite rock or an x ray, which does expose the body to radiation. There is no answer to does this radiation accumulate or is it expelled? How much exposure is harmful exposure, the medical opinions are diverse and difficult to measure.
The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) recognises that in order to accommodate the future of electricity supply, where homes, businesses and communities become power generators, we will need to establish a smarter electricity network, where electricity generation from multiple, smaller sources, combined with the two way flow of electricity, being consumption and generation, may be managed by the grid operator without damage to equipment or disruption to supply. And yet, there is no provision in the new energy plan to stimulate a direct investment in this grid, requiring the breakup of the system operator monopoly, the National Grid. National Grid has other responsibilities, as its liabilities resulting from Hurricane Sandy have mounted into the millions. Their plans for investment in the UK grid are clearly inadequate, at £4.7 Billion to 2020, when OFGEM estimates the amount of investment required is £100 Billion. The industry is growing internationally, where commercial incentives have been put in place to invite infrastructural investment and to create jobs.
The National Grid is not a “natural monopoly”, as DECC refers to it, but a legislated monopoly. The lack of liberalisation on the systems operator conflicts with the free market principles that the government proposes to uphold. In fact, the transmission infrastructure can be broken up into sections like any other asset and the rights to use sold off in bits to investors. Investment in our transmission infrastructure will create jobs and kick start the economy. We need to focus on economically sound investment, not the creation of more waste.
- 100% renewables by 2050 in Europe – WWF, Ecofys and OMA
- 100% renewable electricity – A roadmap to 2050 – PriceWaterhouseCooper, Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, International Institute for Applied System Analysis and the European Climate Forum
- 100% Renewable Energy for European – European Renewable Energy Council, EREC
- 80% carbon reductions in Europe – European Climate Foundation
- Roadmap to a low carbon economy – European Commission
- Zero Carbon Britain – Centre for Alternative Technology
- Zero Carbon Denmark – Danish Commission on Climate Change Policy
- Towards 100% renewable electricity in Germany – Advisory Council on the Environment (SRU)
- A look at some cutting-edge low carbon tech – Boston Consulting Group
- Zero Carbon Australia – Energy Research Institute of the University of Melbourne and Beyond Zero Emissions.
 Now there is an international moratorium on trade in nuclear materials, it is unclear if this amount will ever be returned.
01 Feb 2013
Cumbria County Council has taken the pivotal decision to reject the placement of a nuclear spent fuel storage site in the Lake District, an area of outstanding national beauty and importance. In a report prepared in March 2011 by Sir David King, the storage facility would cost about £14 billion and create about 500 jobs in construction and about 300 jobs to operate. Ed Davey, the Energy and Climate Secretary, said “there will be a substantial community benefits package, worth hundreds of millions of pounds. That is in addition to the hundreds of jobs and major investment that such a huge infrastructure project could bring.” We congratulate the Council for their courage and sensibility in rejecting a proposal that would only bring more hazardous waste to the region.
Sellafield is already the unfortunate repository of 6,000 tonnes of heavy metal (radioactive materials) being stored in ponds. This storage is estimated to be viable until 2075 when this material will have to be stored again safely in some kind of newly constructed deep geological storage facility – costing billions – all financed by the taxpayer.
Nuclear power produced 19% of our electricity production in 2011. This was the total portion of generation, although 67% of that electricity is lost in transmission and distribution across high voltage wires that traverse the land. The government insists that nuclear power is an important part of our energy mix. One must question the logic of building new nuclear power plants when there are so many alternatives available that do not poison our environment and cost the taxpayer absurd sums of money to maintain. The nuclear power legacy will cost the taxpayer billions to ensure that the toxic waste is safely decommissioned and stored. None of this money contributed to the generation of electricity. The renewables contribution increased 3% in one year. This is attributed to the success of the Feed in Tariff for Solar electricity.
At Brighton & Hove Energy Services, we are dedicated to providing the people with low cost energy now and in the future. By joining BHESCo, you can participate in the creation of a new energy future, one that is powered by the sun, wind and biomass. We are starting now, so that you can rest assured that as nuclear power plants are shut down, the lights will stay on and you will stay warm in winter without paying a fortune for the privilege. Go on, join us.