Australian news, and some related international items

Why Are Nations Throwing Cash At Nuclear ‘White Elephants’?

Jeremy Leggett: Why Are Nations Throwing Cash At Nuclear ‘White Elephants’?, 14 June 18 

In recent weeks we have seen evidence on the one hand of the fast advance of renewable energy, and on the other the incredible resilience of the energy-incumbency defence against that advance, including big oil and nuclear.

Celebrations of the fast growth of renewables I will leave to the inestimable REN21 report, published on 4 June. All clean-energy advocates should spend some time immersed in it, arming themselves with bullish ammunition. The point I want to make in this column is about the residual strength of the incumbency rearguard action.

In the last week of May and the first week of June the UK, US, and Canadian governments all tried to bail out uneconomic or stranded fossil fuel and nuclear projects with many billions in public funds. I have dubbed it “The Week of the White Elephants.”

First, the Canadian government bailed out a stranded Kinder Morgan oil pipeline system for US$3.5 bn. They hope to sell this, the Trans Mountain pipeline, in due course. Analysts doubt they can, so economically unattractive and risky is the proposition. In the interim, protestors have labelled Canadian PM Justin Trudeau – who says he aspires to be a climate hero – a climate criminal.

Second, US President Donald Trump ordered emergency federal action to stem coal and nuclear plant shutdowns. Proposals in a leaked memo included forcing utilities to buy electricity from coal and nuclear operators for two years, despite the fact that renewables and gas are both better value. The Economist describes Trump’s gambit as follows: “The plan would benefit a handful of firms the president favours at the expense of consumers: it entails up to $12bn worth of ‘cash for cronies’.”

Third, in a remarkable U-turn, the UK government agreed to a £5bn injection of taxpayer money into a Welsh nuclear power station, Wylfa. The total cost, to be shared with Hitachi and Japanese government, is £16 bn. The price of power will be £75-77 MWh (they say). That is more than solar and wind.

These are all very strange things to do when you consider not just the economics but the general direction of travel in all relevant areas

……..As for the UK nuclear decision, in France nuclear regulators now fear an “epidemic” safety-culture collapse at Flamanville, the supposed precursor of the British Hinkley Point C reactor. 150 weld failures mean the nuclear plant scheduled online in 2012 at €3.5bn is now probably delayed to 2020, at €10.5bn and counting. This is not the same type of reactor that Hitachi intends for Wylfa, but the horror show at Flamanville shows how badly, and quickly, things can go wrong in modern nuclear.As the formerly pro-nuclear The Economist put it in 2016, in a analysis entitled “Hinkley Pointless”, “Britain should cancel its nuclear white elephant and spend the billions on making renewables work.”…….

June 15, 2018 - Posted by | General News

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