Antinuclear

Australian news, and some related international items

Small nuclear reactors a poor solution for UK’s and the world’s climate action.

it is difficult to see how a technology that will only be operational after the UK power system is supposed to be carbon-free will contribute to climate action in the next ten years or so. And the situation is similar globally.

Other questions around traditional nuclear power stations, such as the thorny issue of waste, would also still apply to SMRs…….

Is nuclear power the best solution to climate change? The UK, like China, the US and Canada, is attracted to nuclear power. But high costs and slow delivery means many energy experts remain unconvinced. New Statesman, By Philippa Nuttall 21 Jan 22,  debate in the House of Commons on 19 January, led by a group of MPs known as the “atomic kittens”, suggested nuclear energy can be a panacea for all ills – including a solution for the climate crisis and the gas crunch. The facts suggest otherwise.

Isn’t nuclear energy a no-no after Chernobyl and Fukushima?

Disasters clearly reduce appetite among the public and policymakers for nuclear power………………

Today, new nuclear construction projects are few and far between, even in countries such as France and the US whose energy systems are heavily reliant on the technology, and the number of operational reactors is in decline globally.

Are any countries investing heavily in nuclear?

In addition to safety concerns, rising costs are a central reason why the number of new plants under construction remains limited. Since 2011, nuclear power construction costs globally have doubled or even tripled. China is, however, notable in its nuclear ambitions. The country is planning at least 150 new reactors in the next 15 years, more than the rest of the world has built in the past 35, though cost could ultimately change this direction of travel.

The price of nuclear generation has moved in the opposite direction to solar and wind

Mean levelised cost of energy in US$/MWh, 2009–20………..

Others countries such as the UK, the US and Canada also see a limited role for new nuclear as part of their response to climate change. The UK government in its 2021 net zero strategy talked about “cutting edge new nuclear power stations”, and plans to launch a £120m Future Nuclear Enabling Fund.

There are some big nuclear power stations on the cards – think Hinkley Point C or Sizewell C in the UK. But the major excitement among many nuclear enthusiasts, including plenty of UK MPs is around so-called small modular reactors (SMRs). If you believe the hype, they are the answer to all climate and energy ills………………

Rolls Royce, and companies working on the technology in other countries, argue that smaller solutions can be constructed more cheaply and come online more quickly as they can be built in a factory, transported in modules and fitted together “like meccano”, said Rolls Royce’s Alastair Evans. Large nuclear plants are built fully onsite. The idea is that the modules could then be mass produced. However, nothing is rolling off any conveyor belts yet. The only SMR up and running in the world is a 35 MW floating nuclear plant in Russia.

Sounds interesting. Are SMRs the solution to the climate crisis?

Unlikely.

“To meet the requirements of the sixth carbon budget, we will need all new cars, vans and replacement boilers to be zero carbon in operation by the early 2030s,” Virginia Crosbie, a Conservative MP from Wales and the original self-proclaimed “atomic kitten”, enthused to fellow MPs. “We must quickly move away from generating that electricity from fossil fuels… Nuclear power, which has been a neglected part of our energy mix, can bridge the gap.”

There is, however, no silver bullet to the climate crisis, and renewables, in conjunction with other existing technologies, look like a better, cheaper solution.

……….. traditional, big nuclear projects look likely to provide only a sliver of the world’s electricity in the future. They are hugely expensive to build, their construction runs over time, and they are frequently struck by technological issues. Moreover, they need to be built close to the sea or a large river for cooling reasons, highlighted Paul Dorfman from the University of Sussex. France has already had to curtail nuclear power output in periods of heatwaves and drought, which are only set to get worse as climate change takes hold. Greater storm surges and eroding coastlines also don’t make the prospect of building by the sea any easier.

SMRs solve few of these issues………… “The latest economic estimates available for SMRs are still quite expensive relative to other ‘clean’ energy alternatives, and it would be pure speculation to assume that will change dramatically until the concept has been more proven,” said Mike Hogan from the not-for-profit Regulatory Assistance Project.

……. the designs still need to get licensed, factories need to be built, orders placed, projects financed, etc,” said Hogan.

In short, it is difficult to see how a technology that will only be operational after the UK power system is supposed to be carbon-free will contribute to climate action in the next ten years or so. And the situation is similar globally.

Other questions around traditional nuclear power stations, such as the thorny issue of waste, would also still apply to SMRs…….

So what is the solution? Renewables, renewables and more renewables?

In short, yes. The costs of solar, wind power and storage continue to fall, and by 2026 global renewable electricity capacity is forecast to rise by more than 60 per cent, to a level that would equal the current total global power capacity of fossil fuels and nuclear combined, says the IEA.

Some argue nuclear can be a clean back-up option for when the wind doesn’t blow and the sun isn’t shining. But again, other options already exist, including demand response (for example, plugging in your electric car when there is lots of energy and not switching on your washing machine when the system is under strain), large-scale storage and interconnections between different countries.  

Final word?

Craig Bennett, chief executive of the Wildlife Trusts, summed up the general mood of those less enthused by nuclear than Crosbie and her fans:

“If successive governments had given even half the love and attention they afford to nuclear power to scaling up home insulation, energy efficiency and smart storage technologies, it’s likely we wouldn’t be facing current challenges around energy and household bills, and we would have done a lot more good for the climate and nature.”…..   https://www.newstatesman.com/environment/climate/2022/01/is-nuclear-power-a-genuine-solution-to-the-climate-crisis

January 22, 2022 - Posted by | Uncategorized

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: