14 Oct 2016
29 September 2016 was a landmark day for the British people. Greg Clark, the newly appointed head of the newly formed department of Business, Energy and Industrial strategy, signed an agreement with EDF, a company owned by the French government and with the Chinese government as a 33% investor, to proceed with the construction of the first new nuclear power plant in the UK in a generation. Despite all the fuss and furore, the dream of Hinkley C in Somerset is poised to become a reality, albeit by 2030. The Government claimed that UK businesses will benefit from 60% of the estimated £18 billion to be spent on the plant, with 26,000 jobs and internships created.
This decision is a disaster for our nation, primarily because it is an extreme waste of taxpayer money, poses a great threat to our country’s energy security, and to the safety and security of future generations.
Extreme waste of taxpayers’ money
60% of 26,000 jobs is no benefit when one considers that over 27,000 jobs have been lost in the past two years by the solar industry, decimated by Government cuts to the Feed in Tariff and by the death of the Green Deal. The EPR technology is not yet proven in the three countries already constructing the new nuclear power plants, causing each of their budgets to skyrocket out of control. The Olkiluoto 3 (OL3) plant in Finland was supposed to be operational in 2010. It is still not running today.
In December 2012, Areva (the nuclear plant supplier), estimated that the full cost of building the Finnish reactor will be about €8.5 billion, or almost three times the original delivery price of €3 billion. Compare this to the estimated price of the UK plant, estimated at between £18 billion to £29 billion. The UK taxpayer is not privy to the reasons why the plant cost more than 3 times the price in Finland. In Flamanville, France, cracks were found in the plant’s construction. Cracks have also been found in the Taishan facility, in China creating delays and mounting fear of radioactive leakage in Hong Kong, just 130 miles away.
If it is ever completed, the Hinkley C plant is expected to account for 7% of our electricity supply, with a capacity of 3.2GW. UK Power Networks has recently revealed that it has applications to install 6GW of energy storage to our electricity network, virtually eliminating the issue with renewable energy intermittency for a fraction of the cost of Hinkley C and a bringing lot more safety.
Dangerous stockpiles of plutonium in Britain
A catalogue of errors that occur unresolved eventually culminates in disaster. On 5 September 2016, the BBC broadcasted a Panorama programme on the serious accident that is likely to happen at Sellafield in Cumbria. It is hard to believe that our government will ensure UK jobs through the nuclear industry when Sellafield does not employ sufficient employees to sustain reliable safe operations.
The Nuclear Management Partnership, a consortium of French, UK and US companies that were running Sellafield was sacked in 2015 because they were spending too much money. The government has taken over control of the management of Sellafield. Since then, alarms are frequently reset without being investigated, creating conditions that pose an intolerable risk according to those who have managed Sellafield.
The Windscale fire on 10 October 1957 ranks 5 out of seven on the International Nuclear Event Scale. While the name has been changed to Sellafield, the severe dangers persist. An accident occurred in November 2013 forcing the plant to close for 11 months because exposure to radioactive dust made it unsafe to work there.
Experts who have worked at Sellafield say that if something happens, the safety team employed there are not equipped to handle it. Many experts believe that an accident is inevitable, because the plant frequently operates at below minimum safety levels. The poor management and run down infrastructure could lead to a fire that would emit a radioactive plume contaminating our air for 150km. Cracks could allow seepage that could expose the radioactive chemicals to the air. To date, no nuclear waste has been removed from a building that won’t last another 25 years.
Sellafield has the largest stockpile of plutonium in the world, more than the United States and Russia combined. Experts estimate that it will cost £162 billion to clean up Sellafield to make it safe. This experience alone makes it very clear that there is no room for new nuclear power generation on our small island home.
National & Energy Security
Concerns about our national security were raised by politicians and energy experts because of a lawsuit in the US against a Chinese investor in their nuclear power station. The concern is that the Chinese are using their position as investor to improve their knowledge of nuclear science that could be threatening to the national security of the host country.
Real energy security comes when our electricity and heat are affordable for everyone. The Hinkley C plant will not create energy security; in fact it is sure to increase our energy prices because of the guaranteed price that has been secured in the energy Capacity Market. The only way to create real affordable energy is for communities to take the power back into their own hands. This is what we at BHESCO believe, and this is what we will ceaselessly work towards until our own dream has become a reality, when the people of the UK will be writing about a new landmark day in our history.
09 Mar 2016
The Age of the Atom was to herald a new dawn in humanity’s quest for energy. Euphoric reports at the time declared that this revolutionary new energy source was so abundant it would be “too cheap to meter“. Our energy worries, we were assured, were over forever…
History of course, has shown none of this naive optimism to be true, and sadly will it prove the same for our current cabinet’s total reliance on nuclear power as the basis of energy policy.
Hinkley is expected to cost between £18-24 billion to construct, of which UK taxpayers are expected to subsidise a significant portion. To compound matters, a substantial share of the profits generated will leave the country due to the plant being owned by French and Chinese investors. Worse still, a future based on nuclear power will maintain the centralised energy system we have now, and let’s not even get started on the cost of clean up, transport security and waste disposal that future generations will thank us for…
Similarly, nuclear weapons are an expensive and dangerous consumer of taxpayer money, and BHESCo is steadfastly against the renewal of Britain’s Trident defence system. We were very proud to join Caroline Lucas, Jeremy Corbyn, and the thousands of protesters in Trafalgar Square to voice our opposition to this £100 billion so-called deterrent, and were profoundly moved to see that so many people shared our view of a nuke-free future.
BHESCo suggests that all money intended to be invested in new nuclear power stations or weapons be transferred to the production of clean, renewable energy. Imagine what we could build with £100 billion? This money could be invested in all manner of new and proven technologies as well as going towards an electricity grid that can handle the distributed energy system we need in order to create real energy security.
The Stone Age didn’t end because we ran out of stones. It is time to say goodbye to our atomic past, and move toward a brighter, cleaner, and fairer future. We say No to Nuclear Power because this makes the most sense for the future inhabitants of our planet. We say No to Nuclear Power because it does not make sense for our country.
The Conservative budget announcement in July was not good news for the renewables industry, nor for members of the public who are concerned about climate change, rising energy prices and the impact that extreme methods of extracting oil and gas will have on our air, water and soil (1,2). Support for the renewable industry and tackling climate change appears be drying up at a time when we need them more than ever (3).
We see that there are cuts ahead, so that even large coal–fired power stations like Drax, who were seen as the UK’s worst carbon dioxide polluter, are complaining about how their transition to biomass is being undermined(4,5). Instead there is massive funding of taxpayers money pouring into the nuclear industry to support the construction of new nuclear power plants, decommissioning and the long-term management of its toxic waste legacy (6). We know that nuclear is not a solution for climate change or keeping the lights on as the problems are looming and it takes 15 years to build a nuclear power station. Then there’s tax breaks for the shale gas extraction industry(7), although most of us oppose “fracking” which creates numerous problems for local communities, wastes more taxpayers money because the protests against fracking in areas that are precious to us will not abate. Besides the obvious detriment to our environment, the untold clean-up costs after it’s sucked the last drop of ‘fracked’ gas from the ground beneath us (8,9) and the impact on our water supply.
We need to ask some questions; who benefits from these subsidies? How are the investments made by this government going to benefit us, the taxpayer, in the long-term? Are we receiving value for money on governments investment of our taxes and finally – Why aren’t they listening to us? Already we are paying too much for our energy. Even the Prime Minister, has moved on to the former Labour leader’s territory, and is considering a temporary cap on our fuel bills as a result of the monopolising power of just 6 big energy corporations controlling over 90% of the UK energy market (10). Unfortunately, this is only a plaster for the bigger problem, which is that our energy strategy that is not fit for purpose.
There are solutions to these problems. There is a growing movement of local community energy groups across the UK, particularly, social enterprises and co-operatives like BHESCo here in Brighton and Hove. By building our own renewable energy generation and improving the thermal efficiency of our built environment, we can take some of the power out of the hands of the big corporations inflicting price increases and reduce our energy costs, improve the energy efficiency of our homes, stimulate the local economy, tackle fuel poverty and contribute to mitigating the biggest global threat to our existence, climate change. We can join other successful communities across Europe and all across the globe who are turning to more democratic, decentralised, community-owned, renewable energy solutions, controlled by us and for us (11).
After the success of the last 2 years, the Big Energy Saving Network (BESN) BHESCo is part of a consortium of community energy groups that has applied for support for two energy champions starting again this autumn/winter (12). We will be encouraging vulnerable customers to make themselves known to us because we can help them save money by reviewing their energy bills, offering impartial switching advice to the cheapest tariffs, general advice on energy efficiency in the home and how to keep warm this winter. We will also be taking action to help people be more energy efficient through small measures that we will implement in home visits.
We really can reclaim the power. It’s up to us to do it together. That’s what Community Energy is all about.
1. Budget 2015: Key climate and energy announcements: http://www.carbonbrief.org/blog/2015/07/summer-budget-2015-key-climate-and-energy-announcements/
2. Chancellor to push up renewable energy taxes in Budget with ‘climate shaped hole’: http://www.businessgreen.com/bg/news/2416918/chancellor-to-push-up-renewable-energy-taxes-in-budget-with-climate-shaped-hole
3. Former BP geologist: peak oil is here and it will ‘break economies’: http://www.theguardian.com/environment/earth-insight/2013/dec/23/british-petroleum-geologist-peak-oil-break-economy-recession
4. End of climate levy exemption dents Drax: http://nicosiamoneynews.com/2015/07/08/end-of-climate-levy-exemption-dents-drax/
5. End support for Drax: stop subsidies for biomass power and phase out coal! http://www.theecologist.org/campaigning/2840617/end_support_for_drax_stop_subsidies_for_biomass_power_and_phase_out_coal.html
6. County councils sidelined from nuclear waste dump site decisions: http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2013/sep/12/county-councils-nuclear-waste-dump-sites
7. UK’s shale gas revolution falls flat with just 11 new wells planned for 2015: http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/jan/19/uk-shale-gas-revolution-falls-flat-just-11-new-wells-planned-2015
8. Fracking plans rejected: Lancashire council throws out Cuadrilla proposal – at it happened: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/earth/energy/fracking/11705333/Fracking-decision-Lancashire-live.html
9. No fracking at Balcombe, says energy company Cuadrilla: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/no-fracking-at-balcombe-says-energy-company-cuadrilla-9081875.html
10. PM ‘to consider’ temporary cap on high UK energy bills (July 7th, 2015 5:50 pm): http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/843585e6-2474-11e5-9c4e-a775d2b173ca.html
11. Tory ‘blue crap’ means UK is falling behind in global switch to clean energy:
12. Big Energy Saving Network 2015/16: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/big-energy-saving-network-grant-offer-fund