Antinuclear

Australian news, and some related international items

UK election manifestoes: they are losing faith in nuclear power!

It now looks increasingly as if the Hinkley C project may be quietly shelved, or even cancelled, with the agreement of both UK and French governments.

And beyond that the prospects for new nuclear power in the UK have never been gloomier. The only way new nuclear power stations will ever be built in the UK is with massive political and financial commitment from government. That commitment is clearly absent.

So yes, this finally looks like the end of the UK’s ‘nuclear renaissance’. Not with a bang, nor even with a whimper, but with a deep and profoundly meaningful silence. Not a moment too soon.

Conservative election manifesto signals the end of new nuclear power, Ecologist, Oliver Tickell & Ian Fairlie, 18th May 2017  After years of pro-nuclear bombast from the Conservative Party, its 2017 manifesto hasn’t got a single word to say about nuclear power, write Oliver Tickell & Ian Fairlie. Instead it announces a renewed focus on cutting energy costs, and a big boost for increasingly low-cost wind power; while both Labour and Libdems offer only weak, highly qualified support for new nuclear build. And so the great British ‘nuclear renaissance’ reaches its timely end.

All of a sudden the UK’s political parties want to have nothing to do with nuclear power.

This much is clear from the party manifestos – notably that of the Conservative Party, published yesterday.

OK, it does not announce an end to Britain’s massive 10GW nuclear power programme set out in the Cameron-Osborne years of government.

In fact, it does not even mention nuclear power. Instead it states that a future Tory government will remain sublimely indifferent to how our electricity is generated, so long as it’s reliable, cheap and low carbon:……

now, it’s all about keeping costs down, says the 2017 manifesto: “We want to make sure that the cost of energy in Britain is internationally competitive, both for businesses and households … Our ambition is that the UK should have the lowest energy costs in Europe, both for households and businesses. So as we upgrade our energy infrastructure, we will do it in an affordable way, consistent with that ambition.”

And one sure way not to deliver cheap energy to the UK is to build new nuclear power stations. if Hinkley C is ever built, UK energy users will be paying more than double the current wholesale power price, inflation adjusted, for 35 years from the time it opens, something that could cost the UK economy £50-100 billion.

Labour and the Libdems: a pocketful of mumbles

By contrast, Labour does give nuclear power a specific mention it is manifesto – just a rather small one that adds up to no real commitment to anything.

“The UK has the world’s oldest nuclear industry, and nuclear will continue to be part of the UK energy supply. We will support further nuclear projects and protect nuclear workers’ jobs and pensions. There are considerable opportunities for nuclear power and decommissioning both internationally and domestically.”

Let’s decipher. Yes, nuclear power will continue to be part of energy supply as we still have quite a few old nuclear power stations that we are not about to shut down.

What about “We will support further nuclear projects”? What kind of nuclear projects? How about decommissioning, nuclear waste management, production of medical isotopes … ? Do these projects include nuclear power? They’re not telling. Most likely (after all we know that Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is firmly anti-nuclear) these are warm but empty words to placate powerful nuclear-supporting trades unions like the GMB and Unite.

And what kind of ‘support’? Speeches in the House of Commons? Or tens of billions of pounds of hard cash. It’s hard to say. Does this add up to a firm commitment to build a fleet of new nuclear power stations at massive public cost? Hardly.

The Libdem position is similarly weak, promising only that “We will … Accept that new nuclear power stations can play a role in electricity supply provided concerns about safety, disposal of waste and cost are adequately addressed, new technology is incorporated, and there is no public subsidy for new build.”

We know perfectly well that nuclear power is hugely expensive, intrinsically unsafe due to its potential for massive harm (look only to Fukushima), can only operate with enormous public subsidies, and that no one has yet figured out a way to keep nuclear wastes safely contained for tens of thousands of years, an informed interpretation of this statement might go: “Nuclear power? Not on your nelly!”…….

Meanwhile the SNP says it wants no new nuclear power stations in Scotland; and Plaid Cymu leader Leanne Wood is opposed to new nuclear power, but her executive supports Wylfa because of the jobs. Got that?

Why the turnaround?

It has surely become clear to politicians that nuclear power is in a death spiral, terminally afflicted by:

  • very high costs, at least double those of conventional generation, which can only be carried by governments, taxpayers and energy users at the expense of more deserving and productive investments;
  • apparently unconstructable reactor designs hit by massive cost overruns and delays in France, Finland and the USA;
  • the bankruptcy of the world’s biggest nuclear power contractor, the Toshiba-owned Westinghouse – lined up to build a massive new nuclear complex at Moorside in Cumbria with three AP1000 reactors – mainly as a result of these cost overruns and delays on AP1000 projects in the USA;
  • the parlous condition of the French parastatals EDF and Areva, which survive only thanks to the inexhaustible largesse of French taxpayers;
  • investor reluctance to have anything to do with new nuclear power stations unless returns are guaranteed in cast iron contracts at huge expense to taxpayers;
  • the continuing lack of a long term solution for nuclear waste storage / disposal;
  • the inflexibility of nuclear power stations, which means that they overproduce when electricity is in surplus, while being unable to keep up with demand when power is desperately needed;
  • the continuing precipitous decline in the cost of disruptive ‘new energy’ technologies such as solar, wind, including offshore wind, grid-scale batteries, power to gas, smart grid, set to continue and gather pace for many years to come.

So what’s the alternative? Given that onshore wind is already the cheapest new source of power generation, and offshore wind costs are falling rapidly (and are already far cheaper than new nuclear), wind power really should have a big role. So check out this statement from the Conservative manifesto:

“While we do not believe that more large-scale onshore wind power is right for England, we will maintain our position as a global leader in offshore wind and support the development of wind projects in the remote islands of Scotland, where they will directly benefit local communities.”

This commits a future Tory government to maintaining a strong pipeline of large offshore wind projects, while opening the door to medium and small scale onshore wind power in England, as well as to large scale wind on Scottish islands and elsewhere in the devolved nations. What it ultimately means is that wind power has a great future in the UK – in stark contrast to previous policy…….

Not with a bang, nor even a whimper

It now looks increasingly as if the Hinkley C project may be quietly shelved, or even cancelled, with the agreement of both UK and French governments.

And beyond that the prospects for new nuclear power in the UK have never been gloomier. The only way new nuclear power stations will ever be built in the UK is with massive political and financial commitment from government. That commitment is clearly absent.

So yes, this finally looks like the end of the UK’s ‘nuclear renaissance’. Not with a bang, nor even with a whimper, but with a deep and profoundly meaningful silence. Not a moment too soon.http://www.theecologist.org/News/news_analysis/2988965/conservative_election_manifesto_signals_the_end_of_new_nuclear_power.html

 

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May 20, 2017 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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