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Sunday, October 07, 2012

No nuclear future?

There is an interesting piece in the Financial Times from a few days ago outlining how Government plans to deliver the most ambitious expansion of nuclear power in Europe have gone a little awry.

The plan, which was set out by the then Energy Secretary, Ed Miliband in 2009 was to build up to 12 new reactors  on 10 sites stretching from Somerset to Cumbria. The idea was that by the late 2020s about 30 per cent of Britain's electricity would come from nuclear power. That would be an increase from the present level of 18 per cent.

However, the paper says that recent events have conspired to puncture Ed Miliband's nuclear plans. They add that last year’s Fukushima disaster in Japan, combined with the lingering effects of the global economic slowdown and rising costs in the industry, have deprived atomic power of much of its lustre:

The latest troubling news came from the sale of Horizon, a joint venture owned by the German utilities RWE and Eon that had plans to build nuclear reactors at sites in Anglesey and Gloucestershire and which was put up for sale in March. Areva and Westinghouse Electric were expected to submit bids – by a September 28 deadline – backed by Chinese state energy groups. This week it emerged that had failed to happen. Areva pulled out and Westinghouse ended up going it alone. They are now up against another consortium led by Japan’s Hitachi.

The government put a brave face on it. “We are seeing a high level of interest in the UK nuclear market, including from a diverse range of potential new entrants,” says a spokesman for the Department of Energy and Climate Change.

But one government insider says the lack of Chinese involvement is a “serious blow” for DECC officials who had been “over the moon” about Beijing’s interest.

There is now a question mark over who will ultimately foot the bill for what are expected to be massively expensive infrastructure projects: the most advanced of them, EDF Energy’s plan to build a new plant at Hinkley Point in Somerset, could cost as much as £14bn, according to some industry estimates.

"We need people with big balance sheets to take that construction risk and we can’t work out if the companies still in the bidding have deep enough pockets,” the insider says. “There is a worry that there may not be enough equity being offered.”.

Where this leaves Wylfa B however is unclear.
I am not totally opposed to Nuclear power as an energy source. It has much to commend it. The problem is that we do not as yet have the technology to address the serious problems that occur when things go wrong. Chernobyl remains a no go zone and Fukushima is still not under control.
It seems to me that any further development in Nuclear power sources needs to be halted until we have the capability of complete control. Any other policy is irresponsible.
situsChPete - a sensible comment.

"Where this leaves Wylfa B however is unclear"

Every major nuclear disaster has has a different cause. The next might be at Wylfa - where would that leave North Wales?

Am I correct in stating that only three western European states intend to continue with nuclear power, and that the others are abandoning their plans? Successive Labour and Tory governments have failed to plan for the future, and the UK now faces the prospect of blackouts in a few years' time. For politicians of all parties, situsChfiring squads might be a remedy.
Makes the case for the Severn Barrage max. even more sensible!
Not on topic - but will be of interest to you Peter: "Vaccine breakthrough may mean no more badger culls"; in the UK's Independent.


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