Antinuclear

Australian news, and some related international items

The life and slow death of nuclear power plants

The UK government and EDF have pledged 20% of the cost each, but the additional 60% is yet to be found. Some of that is a levy on our electricity bills for a decade before Sizewell generates a single Kwh.

once planning permission is given, construction of a small-scale wind farm, 10MW or less, could take less than two months.

A further elephant in the room is that the costs of new nuclear are highly “back loaded”, i.e., that by building them you commit to high levels of expenditure at the end of their working life, to remove the fuel rods, decommission, remove and store nuclear waste.

The Life and Death of nuclear power plants By NEWSROOM, Apr 18, 2022, By Peter Rowberry with additional reporting by Newsroom

It seems that the policy [in the UK] to build new nuclear power stations has caused some friction at the heart of the cabinet, with the Prime Minister trying to get the agreement of the Chancellor to spend at least £100 billion on eight new nuclear power stations. This didn’t stop the government issuing its energy security strategy last week.

Such a huge commitment merits careful scrutiny. Hinkley Point C was one of eight announced by the British government in 2010 with a nuclear site licence granted in November 2012. EDF’s board approved the project in July 2016 and on 15 September 2016 the UK government approved the project in principle. Construction work on-site began by late September 2016. Completion of the reactor bases was completed in June 2019 for reactor 1 and June 2020 for reactor 2. The two bases required a total of 633,700 cubic feet of concrete.

Hinkley C is the only one of the 2010 eight designated sites to have commenced construction. The UK government strategy paper calls for 8 further new nuclear plants but does not name locations. This is similar to the Brown government’s announcement in 2008 which the coalition government pinned down in 2010. With only 1 of 8 since 2010 actually under construction the conclusion is the new 8 suggested could be decades from coming online.

Earlier costs for Hinkley C were estimated at around £18 billion. The current cost estimate is around £22 to £23 billion, and the first reactor will not be complete until June 2026 at the earliest, and the second at least six months later.

This timetable is currently being reviewed, with a fault found in similar nuclear reactors in China meaning the design may need to be changed. EDF have not commented on whether this will affect the timescale for completing the projectThese delays, and the consequent impact on other nuclear projects, such as Sizewell C and Wylfa, have resulted in serious failures to meet the government obligations to move to low carbon generation and taken up time, time which we are now desperately short of if we are to meet our target of reducing carbon emissions by 50% by 2030 and to net zero by 2050.

The building of the two reactors that form the Sizewell C project is still not fully financed. Nor has the planning process been completed. All the work in progress so far is on vast quantities of paper and construction cannot commence until Sizewell C plant receives planning permission.

There remains considerable opposition to Sizewell C over the high cost of nuclear energy and environmental issues. The cost of a plant that is over 10 years away from generating power will start hitting electricity bills sometime soon. The BBC reported “Legislation allowing construction and financing costs to be added to customer bills, as Sizewell C is built over the next decade, is due for a second reading in the House of Commons next month.”

The UK government and EDF have pledged 20% of the cost each, but the additional 60% is yet to be found. Some of that is a levy on our electricity bills for a decade before Sizewell generates a single Kwh. The government’s plans to have eight nuclear reactors up and running by 2030 seem naively optimistic. New nuclear is not a quick fix, as our near neighbours will attest. The Finnish reactor, Olkiluoto 3, was started in 2005, but only went onto the grid seventeen years later, on 15 March this year.

Of the eight nuclear power plants announced back in 2010, Hinkley Point C might be generating by 2026 (16 years) and Sizewell C by 2032, subject to planning permission (22 years) None of the other 6 proposed nuclear plants are anywhere near getting off the ground.

France, a country which historically generates a large percentage of its electricity from nuclear, is in the process of building only one new reactor, a third at the Flamanville site. EDF, the state-owned energy giant, began work in December 2007 and the cost was estimated to be €3.3 billion. It is now expected to cost more than €12.7 billion and it is yet to generate a single kilowatt of power.

In contrast, according to the European Wind Energy Association, once planning permission is given, construction of a small-scale wind farm, 10MW or less, could take less than two months. A larger 50MW facility may take six months, although considerably smaller in scale, this is substantially quicker than any new nuclear. This has not stopped president Macron from announcing that his government will support the building of between six and fourteen new reactors.

A further elephant in the room is that the costs of new nuclear are highly “back loaded”, i.e., that by building them you commit to high levels of expenditure at the end of their working life, to remove the fuel rods, decommission, remove and store nuclear waste. The UK Nuclear Decommissioning Authority currently spend around £3 billion a year for Site Licence Companies to make the current decommissioned reactors safe.

The Nuclear Provision is the best estimate of how much it will cost to clean up 17 of the UK’s earliest nuclear sites over a programme lasting over 120 years……………………………………………………

All of this will be less significant if nuclear could deliver low carbon electricity at an affordable price. The biggest issue on the cost of nuclear energy is the so called “strike price”, the price which the government has agreed to pay the owners, EDF, for electricity from their nuclear stations. Originally EDF said that electricity from nuclear could be produced at around £24 per megawatt hour. The strike price is now set at £92. It has also been agreed that the strike price should rise in line with inflation, which as we know has reached a thirty-year high and is likely to continue to be high for the foreseeable future.

Although the cost of the raw materials for building wind turbines has increased, copper and steel in particular, the cost of generation by renewables has steadily decreased over time. The latest strike price for offshore wind is around £40 per megawatt hour and less for onshore wind. There have been several missed opportunities and poor decisions by both the Labour and Conservative parties and both party’s obsession with new nuclear have put us in a position where we need urgent action. In February 2004 the Labour party undertook a £40 billion project to update schools, but, despite intense lobbying, energy efficiency did not form part an integral part of that plan.

The Conservative party made changes to the planning system to make it virtually impossible to get permission to build onshore wind farms, although that policy has now been reversed. They also brought an end to the “feed in tariff (FITs)” for local solar power and increased VAT from 5% to 20% on solar installations – now VAT is zero as part of Sunak’s Spring statement.

Although FITs were replaced by the Smart Export Guarantee, this was significantly less financially attractive and has reduced the incentive to install Solar photovoltaic cells…………………………… more https://newsnet.scot/news-analysis/the-life-and-death-of-nuclear-power-plants/

April 20, 2022 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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