Antinuclear

Australian news, and some related international items

Needs of nuclear submarine project are what is driving UK’s whole ”peaceful” nuclear power push .

Beyond and beneath megaprojects: exploring submerged drivers of nuclear infrastructures, Taylor and francis Online, Phil Johnstone & Andy Stirling, Received 15 Mar 2021, Accepted 19 Oct 2021, Published online: 28 Apr 2022   

Bernard Levy of EDF said:

”we must continue to build nuclear power plants in France and in Europe – if I had to use one image to describe our situation, it would be that of a cyclist who, in order not to fall, must not stop pedalling.”

Ed. note. Sadly, I have mutilated this remarkable story – chopping so much outof it. The original is written at times in dense language, and with some sections that seem very technical.

I just feared that people might miss the huge significance of this story – the way that the nuclear weapons industry, in particular, nuclear submarines, is cunningly being developed and maintained -hidden through the confidence trick of the unnecessary ”commercial” nuclear power industry.

Abstract

Nuclear power has long offered an iconic context for addressing risk and controversy surrounding megaprojects – including trends towards cost overruns, management failures, governance challenges, and accountability breaches. Less attention has focused on reasons why countries continue new nuclear construction despite these well-documented problems.

Whilst other analysis tends to frame associated issues in terms of energy provision, this paper will explore how civil nuclear infrastructures subsist within wider ‘infrastructure ecologies’ – encompassing ostensibly discrete megaprojects across both civil and military nuclear sectors. Attending closely to the UK case, we show how understandings of megaprojects can move beyond bounded sectoral and time horizons to include infrastructure patterns and rhythms that transcend the usual academic and policy silos.

By illuminating strong military-related drivers modulating civil nuclear ‘infrastructure rhythms’ in the UK, key issues arise concerning bounded notions of a ‘megaproject’ in this context – for instance in how costs are calculated around what seems a far more deeply and broadly integrated ‘nuclear complex’. Major undeclared interdependencies between civilian and military nuclear activities raise significant implications for policymaking and wider democracy.

1. Introduction: nuclear megaprojects in a changing energy system

The global nuclear power industry is facing unprecedented challenges. Despite the clamour since the early 2000s, the long-promised UK and US ‘nuclear renaissance’ has not materialised in these or any other countries (Milne 2011). In the USA, only one new nuclear power station is being constructed – well behind schedule and over budget (Mycle 2020). At the time of writing, European Pressurized Reactor (EPR) construction faces delays of over ten years in Finland and France (Vakarelska 2020) – with significant delays also in the UK (World Nuclear News 2021). Between 2010-2020, global nuclear costs increased by 23% (Dunai and De Clercq 2019). Several major nuclear suppliers went bankrupt; or decided not to invest in the technology on grounds that it is not ‘economically rational’ (BBC News 2019).

why it is that nuclear enthusiasms remain so unabated in a few countries?……………………   In this paper we seek to build an understanding of the dynamics that give momentum to the UK’s persistent enthusiasm for nuclear technology.

……………………………    What emerges in practice from this unusual spanning of attention across infrastructure silos, are some novel empirical findings concerning previously under-researched interdependencies between nuclear energy and submarine-building megaprojects…………………….  In short, without a wider national ‘nuclear industrial base’ for maintaining and renewal of large scale nuclear energy infrastructures, it becomes effectively impossible to sustain national capacities to build and operate the nuclear-propelled submarines that lie at the heart of contemporary strategic military nuclear capabilities (Stirling and Johnstone 2018)………………  A clear picture emerges that something beyond energy policy commitments is driving UK nuclear enthusiasm.

………………………………This picture chimes with explicit high-level policy statements in France and the USA, where senior figures have recently begun to acknowledge very directly, how hitherto notionally separate civil and military sectors actually amount to a single complex…………………………………………..

2. Methods

……………………………….. Unlike other nuclear weapons states, UK military nuclear capabilities are entirely dependent on nuclear powered submarines (Ritchie 2012). The UK thus presents an ideal case for interrogating possible cross-sectoral interdependencies between these respectively largest forms of megaproject in the civil and military sectors. ……………….  at its core is the practical question: why is a country with such an internationally poor history of nuclear performance and such abundant alternatives, remaining so persistently committed to new nuclear construction?

………………………………This picture chimes with explicit high-level policy statements in France and the USA, where senior figures have recently begun to acknowledge very directly, how hitherto notionally separate civil and military sectors actually amount to a single complex…………………………………………..

2. Methods

……………………………….. Unlike other nuclear weapons states, UK military nuclear capabilities are entirely dependent on nuclear powered submarines (Ritchie 2012). The UK thus presents an ideal case for interrogating possible cross-sectoral interdependencies between these respectively largest forms of megaproject in the civil and military sectors. ……………….  at its core is the practical question: why is a country with such an internationally poor history of nuclear performance and such abundant alternatives, remaining so persistently committed to new nuclear construction?

………………………………   it is worth considering the ……… evidently deep and pervasive strategy of deliberate concealment on the part of the central actor in these policy dynamics: the UK Government………………….

3. Nuclear power in the UK: a history of disappointment

……………………………. The long history of internationally poor performance by the British nuclear industry (Birmingham Policy Comission 2012), is clear. …………………………… The British nuclear industry hit an especially low point at the turn of the 21st century, with the bankruptcy of British Energy and its subsequent bailing out by the tax payer in 2002 (Taylor 2016)………………………….  the UK’s ‘nuclear renaissance’ is performing arguably even worse than the 1979 programme…………..  The government’s aim to build several new reactors ‘significantly before 2025’ is simply not happening. This time there is no ‘public inquiry’ nor ‘public opposition’ to blame.

……………….the UK Government – as signalled by the recent Energy White Paper (HM Government 2020) – evidently remains desperate to construct new nuclear plant. In the absence of clear economic, technological, resource or policy rationales, there are big questions over what is driving this deep infrastructural entrenchment? Why does the UK remain so wedded to nuclear megaprojects?

4. Beyond energy megaprojects: civil-military nuclear interdependencies

4.1. Beyond energy policy: the UK ‘nuclear defence enterprise’ 

……………………………….   Relevant here, is that the UK’s leading independent scrutiny body, the National Audit Office (NAO) emphasised in a highly critical report on the Hinkley C project, that factors beyond the ‘energy trilemma’ were evidently influencing these decisions…………………….. With the Hinkley C deal seeing consumers paying higher energy bills for 35 years and transferring tens of billions of pounds from consumers to nuclear supply chains, the consumer rights organisation Citizens Advice Bureau likewise raised major questions over why the nuclear path is pursued at all (Hall 2017). The UK Government has yet to respond to these recommendations…………..  Sustaining extremely expensive military nuclear capabilities is one of the most cherished ambitions of successive British Governments.

Arguably itself comprising ballistic missile submarine, attack submarine and nuclear warhead renewal ‘megaprojects’, current renewal of UK nuclear military infrastructures may confidently be recognised as this nation’s largest megaproject. …………………………   The delays, mismanagement and cost overruns that are common in these submarine-building megaprojects are so severe as to jeopardise the entire national defence budget (Bond and Pfiefer 2019)…………………………………..

4.2. Interlinked civil and military nuclear pressures

……………………………….  this section will show that a crucial factor in driving these otherwise inexplicably persistent attachments are military pressures to sustain overlapping infrastructures, supply chains, skills, expertise and industrial capabilities around nuclear submarine propulsion.

…………………………..    detailed reports by the RAND Corporation highlighted the problem of sustaining the national ‘submarine industrial base’ at a time of civil nuclear contraction.

…………………………  Subsequent military policy documentation is replete with confirmations that civil nuclear power and naval nuclear propulsion are inseparably entangled …………  With declared submarine programme costs already on the edge of being insupportable, it was crucial to associated interests, that the bulk of this wider expense be covered by parallel commitment to new civil nuclear power.

With this civil nuclear megaproject more fundable in anticipation of decades of electricity revenues, the trickle-down to shared supply chains would allow associated costs to stay outside the defence budget, off the public books and entirely invisible to critical scrutiny.

………………………………   Permanent Secretary of the MoD confirmed the aim of ensuring that civil nuclear would benefit the nuclear submarine industry: ………….the Nuclear Industry Council (NIC), placed emphasis on ‘…increasing the opportunities for transferability between civil and defence industries’ (Nuclear Industry Council 2017, 37) with ‘greater alignment of the civil and defence sectors with increased proactive two-way transfer of people and knowledge’

…………..  maintaining and renewing UK military nuclear capabilities are underwritten by support for an otherwise untenable civil nuclear programme. This is directly conceded by the submarine nuclear reactor manufacturer, Rolls Royce who state clearly that support for notionally civil Small Modular Reactors will ‘…relieve the Ministry of Defence of the burden of developing and retaining skills and capability.

…………..   Spending on new civil nuclear projects (at costs much higher than competing zero carbon options) channels funds into a combined civil/military nuclear supply chain that constitutes a de facto hidden subsidy for sustaining the UK’s submarine industrial base. 

5. From nuclear megaprojects to a nuclear infrastructure complex

5.1. The nuclear infrastructure complex beyond the UK

……………..   Around the world, it is the leading military powers who are generally and proportionally most committed to large scale new nuclear build. ……………..

The state-owned Russian company Rosatom is responsible for 76% of nuclear reactor exports (Astrasheuskaya 2021). So it is significant that this organisation openly declares that ‘[r]eliable provision of Russia’s defense capability is the main priority of the nuclear industry’ (Rosatom 2017). Another nuclear weapons state that is also vigorously pursuing a nuclear reactor export agenda, China, makes no attempt to conceal that leading firms involved are centrally positioned in the nations nuclear weapons programme (Hayunga 2020). 

…………………….  under-documented military motivations are responsible for more of the momentum in favour of civil nuclear power than is openly acknowledged. 

………………..    ‘without civilian nuclear, no military nuclear, without military nuclear, no civilian nuclear’ (French President Macron 2020).

,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,, Bernard Levy of EDF said:

”we must continue to build nuclear power plants in France and in Europe – if I had to use one image to describe our situation, it would be that of a cyclist who, in order not to fall, must not stop pedalling.”

The same dynamics are even more clear in the USA. Here multiple high-level reports highlight that industrial capabilities necessary for a ‘nuclear navy’ are ‘tied to the fate of the commercial nuclear industryThe same dynamics are even more clear in the USA. Here multiple high-level reports highlight that industrial capabilities necessary for a ‘nuclear navy’ are ‘tied to the fate of the commercial nuclear industry……………………………..

5.2. The ‘drumbeats’ of the ‘nuclear infrastructure complex’

………………………………………  this distinctive terminology of the ‘drumbeat’ ….   oriiginated in this country ……….– around the intractable industrial challenges associated with constructing nuclear-powered submarines……………..  it seems to signal a policy intimacy that is otherwise effectively concealed. 

6. Discussion and conclusion

…………………………………… our findings – that nuclear military and energy policies (and so their associated megaprojects) are intimately entangled………………..

Interdependencies across civil and military nuclear megaprojects

Using extensive evidence from the UK, as well as France and the USA, we have highlighted tight industrial interdependencies between civil nuclear activities and political commitments and industrial capacities in the ostensibly disparate field of nuclear submarine propulsion……….

Economic and policy evaluation of megaprojects

……………. Hinkley Point C in particular has been identified as the most expensive power station on Earth, with leading insurers describing it as a ‘£25 billion waste of money’ (Cockburn 2021). The National Audit Office has pointed out that the subsidy from consumers to the nuclear industry over the next few decades will amount to tens of billions of pounds…………………….  nowhere either in UK energy or defence policy debates – let alone in wider political discourse – is there any focus whatsoever on the dynamic at the centre of these manifestly serious problems. ………  this absence of reasoned discussion constitutes a quite shocking failing in official processes, media institutions and academic disciplines alike.

Climate efficacy, policy rigour and democratic accountability

With the slow pace and high cost of power reactors undermining the stated climate policy rationale, it is clear that UK civil nuclear commitments are actually driven to a large extent by military nuclear interests that are almost entirely concealed in energy policy. …………………  The national industrial base is being steered away from the benefits of alternative (more export-viable and jobs-intensive) energy industries. Military-driven national lock-in to nuclear power also means excessive economic burdens are falling on taxpayers and – more regressively – on electricity consumers………. That such large scale political irreversibilities are unfolding with so little attention raises grave queries about the health of British democracy in the widest sense……………………   https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/24724718.2021.2012351

May 5, 2022 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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