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Sunday, January 04, 2009


Congratulations to Paul Flynn, who has been pursuing the multi-billion pound subsidy to an American company in the event of a catastrophic accident at Sellafield during part of the massive £93 billion clean-up of the nuclear legacy there.

As the Independent on Sunday reveals the Government pushed through the handover of Sellafield to a private business at breakneck speed because it feared that the "unstable management arrangements" of the controversial Cumbrian nuclear complex risked its safety. In doing so they effectively by-passed Parliamentary scrutiny by preventing MPs challenging the deal.

The paper tells us that 'the cover-up arises from the awarding, late in November, of a contract to run the nuclear complex to Nuclear Management Partners, a consortium of US, French and British companies. Although the contract is worth some £22bn, the consortium told ministers that it would walk away from the deal unless it was fully indemnified against the costs of cleaning up an accident at what is one of the world's most hazardous nuclear sites.

Normally, as the documents repeatedly acknowledge, the Government would place a special minute before Parliament if it intended to undertake a liability of more than £250,000. MPs would then have 14 days to raise an objection, which would stop the undertaking going ahead until it had been dealt with. But MPs were not told about the Sellafield indemnity until 75 days after the last moment when they could object, even though it potentially exposes the taxpayer to liabilities running into billions.

The energy minister Mike O'Brien blames a "clerical oversight" for this. But the documents clearly show that the senior civil servants and nuclear administrators had been actively discussing how to limit MPs' chance to object at least since early last year.'

This whole incident highlights a number of issues with nuclear facilities such as Sellafield. Firstly, for those who argue that alternative energy sources such as wind power have an unfair advantage because of public subsidy, it is worth noting that nuclear power has far greater amounts of public money propping it up and that the hidden subsidy for this form of generation lies in the clean-up costs and the public indemnity of risk.

Secondly, it underlines the aura of secrecy and the lack of accountability that surrounds civilian nuclear projects. Ministers and civil servants find the level of subsidy involved to be uncomfortably high and seek to avoid effective scrutiny on it. The security issues involved too make proper oversight difficult though not impossible.

With Wylfa Nuclear Plant on Anglesey due to be shut down and decommissioned in 2010 and with Trawsfynydd in the process of being decommissioned then there will inevitably be questions about the cost to the public purse involved there as well as well as the level of accountability. How does this episode impact on proposals for a Wylfa B to be built on Anglesey?
I don't think anyone can say that nuclear does not get a masive subsidy. The hint in your statement Peter, comparing it with wind is again typically off mark like most politicians. Our country's massive thirst for energy needs a massive base load. That can only be achieved by using foreign Gas or our (clean) Coal or Nuclear or a combination of this big three. Wind is not an option as it is so insignificant in its volume (as I write the Wind Turbines all across Europe have been operating for over a week at just 5% load factor in this cold snap when energy is really needed). The arguement has been that it has been a travesty and disgrace to waste millions of £ pounds and $ dollars on subsidies for such a pittance of wind energy. Tidal could be an option in some parts of the world like the Bristol Channel but Andrew Davies AM has effectively blocked that consistently in favour of wind turbines. We do not have big rivers in high mountains so Hydro is not a choice for us in the UK. So it's either Gas or clean Coal or Nuclear or a combination of those three. Politicians have destroyed our Energy Policies by chasing the whispy and costly wind. Solar will never ever power our industrial nation. So it's time for all politicians to talk and think real and get off the fence and make a decision over the big three before the Energy Crisis makes this Creedit Crunch to look like a child's picnic.
I think Green Man puts the challenge into a proper perspective. Coal, natural gas and nuclear are the big three, representing about 94 per cent of the energy source for electricity generation in the UK.

We face a serious challenge to meet the growing energy gap caused by the retirement of aging nuclear and coal powered stations.

There is also the issue of energy independence particularly given the volatile geopolitical climate in the regions which produce the bulk of the hydrocarbons currently used in power generation.

Thirdly, there is the need to meet our climate change obligations and newly set targets. Building a new generation of nuclear power stations will help meet these targets as will a move towards developing clean coal technology, which in some cases can be retrofitted on existing plants.

The big three (coal, nuclear, gas) are also baseload providers and not subject to intermediation like wind turbines. Over the past week or so on Anglesey, the wind turbines have been virtually idle, generating no electricity, given the lack of wind.

One renewable form of energy that should be fast tracked is tidal power, which is far more efficient than wind power. It is also very predictable,guaranteed to generate 24/7 and does not face anywhere near the same objections as wind, which are based on the visual impact on the natural aesthetic as well as the intermediation problem.

Go to Strangford Lough and see an example of the Seagen technology already providing electricity for the grid in Northern Ireland. island.

As for advancing new nuclear build on Anglesey, RWE Npower have now expressed a strong interest in building up to three new reactors at Wylfa, on land adjacent to the existing power station.

The momentum is clearly with nuclear new build and an overwhelming majority on the island is in favour of Wylfa B.
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