of the Latest
Information Found in the Media & Sent To Us From D.E.C.C.
disaster is both avoidable and inevitable. Nuclear
technologies have too many inherent risks and widespread consequences
to be a sensible choice for energy production."
Rebecca Johnson, former senior advisor to the Blix commission on weapons of mass destruction, writing about the Fukushima disaster.
|Opinion||The Voice of Experience||Editorial|
An excellent website with many links to a variety of aspects of the nuclear expansion programme, opinions, reports, and industry-related news can be found here.
While appreciating the aims of th site, we would find it easier to accept if the Japanese companies, such as Hitachi and Misubishi, were not seeking to develop nuclear reactors in the U.K., when 70% of their kinsmen are against nuclear at home. It seems that the list of people involved in the nuclear industry are mainly those whom you would not wish to introduce to your mother. Mitsubishi's own links, via a company which they took over in the early 2000s, the innoccuous-sounding Green Cross Corporation, are, according to several sources, especially horrific: http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-backroom/1521072/posts?page=55#55
With backgrounds like these, it makes Électricité de France's exploits seem almost benign.
One Law For The Rich
North Korea's leader, Kim Jon-un has announced that the country's nuclear facility, which was dismantled six years ago after global political pressure, is to be restarted. This will enable it to produce the weapons grade material that is needed to build even more nuclear weapons. Not what one might consider too clever, perhaps. Indeed, the move is being frowned on severly by the rest of the world.
It is strange then that the South Koreans have been welcomed to join in the U.K.'s own nuclear development programme, alongside Japan, France and China.
Korea Electric Power Corporation will be opening an office in London very shortly and will be looking at investment opportunities, including building new reactors in the U.K. The company has already said it is interested in joining Hitachi, who bought out the Horizon venture, hoping to build new reactors at Wylfa on Anglesey, Oldbury in Gloucestershire, and the Nugen development on the Sellafield site.
All this involvement and learning will help considerably when it comes to building nuclear reactors on their own soil. Apart from any other considerations, do we really need people to be learning on-the-job when it comes to our own lives and environment?
What is the difference between the two Koreas? Why is it a Good Thing for South Korea to gain nuclear expertise and knowledge and very wrong for North Korea? Will there be any guarantee that the nuclear knowledge and expertise afforded to South Korea will not be used against us in the future - as has been the case with so many other technologies and arms?
More Nonsensical Rhetoric From The Government
DECC ( with the kind consent of the large number of Électricité de France staff, no doubt) have issued a Press release, 2013/025, which tells us that:
The UK positioned itself firmly at the forefront of Europe’s nuclear expansion as it hosted the signing of a joint communique between 12 EU member states with an interest in nuclear energy.
The 12 states set out their belief that nuclear energy can play a part of the EU’s future low carbon energy mix and committed to collaboration on safety and creating greater certainty for investors in low carbon infrastructure projects.
The signatories also agreed that Member States should continue to be free to determine their own energy mixes, and to press ahead with their decarbonisation objectives through the deployment of the fullest possible range of low carbon technologies. This could include renewables, carbon capture and storage (CCS), and nuclear power.
A pledge by the UK and France to work closely on research and development was underlined by a £12.5M funding commitment to the Jules Horowitz research reactor. This will allow UK-based academics and the nuclear industry guaranteed access to the reactor, and enable collaboration on safety and innovation.
Edward Davey, UK Energy and Climate Change Secretary, said, "It’s vital for our economy that we work with our European partners to make the EU a leading destination for investment in new low-carbon energy infrastructure. This communiqué signals a move to a stronger, better and closer working relationship between Member States on nuclear energy. By working together to enable low carbon energy projects to come forward we will go some way to reducing the EU’s carbon emissions and ensuring greater energy security”.
John Hayes, Minister of State for Energy, said, "Nuclear power not only provides vast amounts of low carbon electricity, but thousands of skilled jobs too. We’ve been clear on its role in a UK energy mix and I’m pleased that a significant number of European nations have today signalled the importance they attach to nuclear power. It’s vital that we cooperate on issues like safety and R&D. We are putting our money where our mouth is by confirming our contribution of £12.5m to the Jules Horowitz research reactor in France and guaranteeing the UK access rights to the project.”
The Czech Republic will now take forward coordination of this group of Member States and will host the next informal Ministerial meeting next year.
Hang about, how much of a commitment? £12.5 million? Well, that might buy the coffee for them all. After all, these people do have expensive tastes. We spend more than a hundred times that each year on moving radioactive material around the country and dustinf off the Sellafield site, shooting seagulls, etc. The projected cost of the reactor, which is being built in Provence, France, is "about €750 million". On that basis we can hardly be the most influential of partners. How much will the French condescend to share with us for that small stake? We may have a bit of a nuclear centre, but are we leading Europe in expansion of the nuclear industry? What a pile of ordure - sorry, merde.
Jottings made re. the debate on:
House of Commons, Backbench Business, 7 February 2013
New Nuclear Power
[Relevant Document: The Twenty-fourth Report from the Committee of Public Accounts, on Nuclear Decommissioning Authority: Managing risk at Sellafield, HC 746.]
In fact, the energy chief executive of Electricité de France, Vincent de Rivaz, told the Financial Times:
“. . . the only thing missing is the contract for difference. Once we have that, we’ll have a compelling investment case to attract partners into the project”.
In other words, “If you don’t subsidise us, there is no business case.” Even with the prospect of subsidy, the business case is not that compelling. On Monday, Centrica pulled out of its partnership with EDF, writing off a cool £200 million and launching a share buy-back scheme to return another £500 million of unused capital to its investors. Like RWE and E.ON before it, and like any sane investor in my view, it has decided that it is not going to touch these new nuclear plans with a bargepole.
Martin Horwood, M.P. (Cheltenham)
The UBS financial group said recently that investing in nuclear power is a “courageous 60-year bet on fuel prices, discount rates and promised efficiency gains.”
Margaret Thatcher was a key advocate of removing subsidies from “outdated industries, whose markets were in terminal decline”. Today the market in decline is the British nuclear power industry when pitted against the alternatives.
First, why is DECC being permitted to agree a contractual set price for nuclear power, in contravention of the coalition agreement not to allow nuclear subsidies? Secondly, why will this contract be presented as a non-reviewable document to Parliament? Thirdly, will the risks detailed earlier in my speech be taken into account in any price agreed? Fourthly and most importantly, will the Secretary of State consider delaying the negotiations until the relevant Committees have had a chance to review whether it represents value for money?
Finally, the frightening statistic: using formulas developed by Steve Thomas of Greenwich university and Peter Atherton of Citi, at a strike cost price of £161 per megawatt, which they have calculated, set against today’s wholesale price for electricity of around £51 per megawatt, and a 30-year contract life for the two proposed plants at Hinkley and Sizewell, it would cost householders and businesses or taxpayers £155 billion by 2050, and that is without any of the additional costs that I identified earlier. Imagine the renewable energy industry if we had invested over £155 billion in it. We would be world leaders, and I have every confidence that it would be low carbon and meeting all our energy needs.
Mike Weatherley, M.P. (Hove)
Areva's EPR: Finland, costs x3 and six years behinds schedule; France, costs more than doubled and five years behind.
. . . there is no way of telling how much of the Treasury money that was intended to be used for feed-in tariffs and to provide the long-term investment in renewables that we need is being diverted into nuclear power. If that money is being used, it is in direct contradiction to the coalition agreement that any new nuclear would come forward on the basis of market forces.
It is impossible to understand how Government policy is being taken forward in this area, because of the complete lack of transparency and of an evidence base. There is real urgency, not only because we have to act on climate change, keep the lights on and invest for the long term, but because the Energy Bill is going through the House and all the decisions are going to made with no possibility of scrutiny. As the Chair of the Public Accounts Committee has said, she will be able to scrutinise the decision only after it has been made. This is a complete double whammy and we have no way of knowing about the situation.
I want an energy policy that is fit for purpose, creates jobs and reduces carbon levels, but I believe that the current lack of transparency is not in the interests of good governance or science-based evidence.
Joan Walley, M.P. (Stoke-on-Trent)
Given recent threats from EDF Energy over the past couple of days, it seems to me that we are already being held over a barrel in relation to the strike price. We are being asked for extraordinary levels of subsidy by an industry whose subsidy appetite should be not disappearing but declining after 50 years. Instead, it seems to be increasing.
Zac Goldsmith, M.P. (Richmond Park)
Our party kept its anti-nuclear position right up to the general election, and it was in our manifesto. When we negotiated the coalition agreement with the Tory party, which is pro-nuclear, with a few dissenters, obviously we had to come to a deal.
The reality is that if the strike price is £100 per megawatt and there is a 30-year contract life, that would be a subsidy of £1 billion a year above today’s wholesale price for electricity. That would be £30 billion to EDF from Britain’s householders and businesses—the very people we are trying to protect from high energy bills. If the whole of the 16 GW nuclear energy currently planned by the Government were financed on similar terms, that figure would be £150 billion by 2050.
. . . we believe there is a danger of a really big subsidy being agreed under the table, as it were, in terms of parliamentary transparency, that we cannot then pull out of or unscramble.
Simon Hughes M.P. (Bermondsey and Old Southwark)
. . . the Government agreed that Cumbria county council also needed to vote in favour in order to proceed to the next stage, but it did not, which is disappointing. However, the invitation for communities to come forward remains open.
The views in Copeland and Allerdale make me confident that the programme will ultimately be successful.
Our aim is for a broadly standardised approach to contracts for difference that will allow for comparability between technologies and the introduction of competition for CFDs. I do not think that what is needed is a line-by-line comparison of the terms of each contract. That is not what our policy says or requires. In fact, there are likely to be variations in CFD designs between one technology and another, and perhaps also between different projects within the same technology. What is important is that the terms agreed deliver a similar result across technologies and projects, and that they result in a proper allocation of risk. In addition, each contract will need to deliver value for money for the consumer and be compatible with state-aid rules. A contract with a nuclear developer that does those things would be compatible with our no-subsidy policy.
We are embarked on the largest infrastructure programme in Government, with £110 billion of investment over 10 years. Are there risks? Of course, but the risks to the country and to the planet if we do not meet this challenge are infinitely worse. Affordable, low carbon new nuclear is just one part of the answer, but let the House be in no doubt that it is part of the answer.
Will the Secretary of State clarify a point for me? I understand that, in chapter 5 of the Energy Bill, a single sentence gives effect to schedule 3 of the legislation and that it has been drafted with intentional obscurity to give the Secretary of State the power to make an agreement with the generator to purchase electricity at a fixed price, as well as the power to vary the price that has been set in the contract and to keep secret any details of the price except the reference price and the strike price.
Martin Horwood, summing up:
We could be talking about £30 billion being transferred over 30 years to Électricité de France, not from the Department, as the hon. Member for Suffolk Coastal (Dr Coffey) seemed to think, but from British householders and businesses. That is an extraordinary level of transfer to be committing to without any real scrutiny.
The hon. Member for Hove (Mike Weatherley) talked about the other hidden subsidies as well as the contracts for difference. They include the unknown liabilities relating to geological storage and disposal, and the £1.2 billion cap on the liability for nuclear accidents when the actual cost of the Fukushima nuclear accident was $250 billion or more. We can say that we have a very good safety record and that we have never had a nuclear accident, but that is what Japan could have said, the day before Fukushima, and it is one of the most technologically advanced countries on the planet.
High-Energy Underground Cable Installation
Earlier this month, the Liverpool Echo contained an article relating to power cables that are to be installed in the Irish Sea. Elsewhere on this site we have already noted the advice by a previous senior executive from Sellafield who, using his inside knowledge, was against disturbing the sea bed of the Irish Sea. We used this advice in a variety of the submissions we have made over the years. Anyone in power interested? Apparently not, as they prefer the far more immediate advice obtained by those with a serious interest in expanding the national grid.
Why? Well, the last government guaranteed a fully index-linked income for 20 years to companies providing the infra-structure for the likes of offshore wind-farms. To accomodate new nuclear power stations, of course, connections to the National Grid need to be improved, and residents in Cumbria have already registered their dismay at proposals to run overhead cables from the Sellafield site to near Carlisle. (There are already several runs of overhead cables striding over the countryside, some of which must surely have been made redundant by the cessation of energy production at Sellafield several years ago.) One way of doing this was to have a power line running from Scotland down to the Wirral, joining the network at Deeside. That this will undoubtedly benefit the proposed nuclear power stations is obviously more important than the potential danger of stirring up highly contaminated sediments which will then work their way ashore much more quickly. Still, the authorities have managed to suppress any link to health conditions and nuclear materials for quite some time now. From their offices a long way from any danger they can make decisions that will affect people and the environment with considerable immunity.
As Old Sparky in Private Eye, 1332, notes, the reason for the deep interest in such projects stems from the number of projects which can be commenced - with their guaranteed 20-year-long profits - all of which represents a licence to print money. The end-payer for these wonderful get-rich-quick schemes will, of course, be the customer and the tax-payer. So yet again we see a scheme whereby an apparently private company is being awarded substantial sums from the national purse to further their own development when such investment should surely be from their own substantial resources.
Wasting no time to get the scheme up and running (before the politicians change their mind?) the Western Link, as the Wirral project is named, will be commenced in spring this year.
Hot News of Tunnel Fires
The government has recently been obliged to respond to a question regarding the number of fires on nuclear submarines: 266 in the last 25 years (with 74 on vessels carrying nuclear ballistic missiles). Thirty of those events have been in the last three years. The inevitable glib covering remarks from the suggest that most of the fires were very minor, such as electirical wiring faults (which surely in a well-designed system should have been isolated within milliseconds by a fusing system) without dwelling too much on what the consequences could have been. That we have been lucky so far seems to be over-looked and have led to the idea that we always will be so lucky! So far as we know we have (to-date) been spared the wilful arson such as that of the civilian painter who set a fire costing $400 million on an American submarine because he wanted to go home early!
A recent report drawn to our attention by Radiation Free Lakeland, can be found here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NgZ1Wzlir4o&feature=player_embedded
In an accompanying critique (http://mariannewildart.wordpress.com/) the ultimate effect of any fire occurring within the miles of proposed tunnels to built in the Cumbrian subterranean dump, would be widespread contamination of radioactive material. As we have always said, fallout does not respect boundaries, so even the Lake District National Park is likely to be affected - despite their abandonment of the bordering lands to the west.
Unless foam or other extinguishing medium other than water is used in the event of an outbreak, the whole concept of an arid storage area will be negated. We note from the study that temperatures in the test tunnel reached over 1300°. With the additional safety margin required, we presume that it will be necessary to cope with upt to 1500° in the dump. We understand that canisters of nuclear waste are to be housed in copper - which melts at 1083°.
The Pangea project was sold to Australians as, "The only place dry enough on the planet to host a nuclear dump", a point now apparently irrelevant as Cumbria's rainfall exceeds 26" for the ½ year so far! Amusingly (perhaps?) this is the third year in a row that has seen "untypical" rainfall levels, way above what is average.
However, alongside the difficulties in fighting the fires is the damage to the rock through which the tunnels are built. As the Lake District rocks are already very brittle and fractured, any thermal effects would most likely have the effect of permanently disabling access to all emergency services, which might mean that leaking containers would become inaccessible and beyond control. It would be nice to think that those individuals who seem to be going for personal glorification and government recognition, possibly at the expense of scientific rigour, might reconsider their position.
Tilting the Playing Field Some More
The energy industry is developing its own management speak, and Edward Davey, Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change is obviously a quick learner. He hs announced a new draft Energy Bill. In the announcement he says the bill “includes measures necessary to reform the electricity market to deliver secure, clean and affordable electricity. At the heart of our Electricity Market Reform (EMR) measures are Feed-in-Tariffs with Contracts for Difference (CfDs), long-term instruments which will provide stable and predictable incentives for companies to invest in low-carbon generation.”
Rapidly losing the will to live as we ploughed through the reports, which were well seeded with " to prevent the lights going out", we felt considerable aggravation. These people are supposed to know what they are talking about and must know that there is no reason at all for the lights to go out. Indeed, the policies they are pursuing are more likely to ensure that they lights remain frimly in the control of foreign companies. Again and again we ask how energy security is obtained by buying foreign-made reactors and allowing foreign companies to run them in our country. Will these people still be there in the event of an accident? How can we be sure that we will always have amicable relations with these countries and what happens if, once again, we go to war with them - as we have done so many times? They may well be happy to take the profits, but can we be sure that they will honour their commitments in the event of things going wrong? Will they still be around to deal with the copious amounts of waste that their plants will produce?
What Price Independence?
Fresh from her webcast show, in which she gave her version of the proposal to irretrievably damage the west coast of Cumbria, in support of the proposed dump, it would appear that the Leader of Copeland Council has been awarded an increase in her "annual special responsibility allowance" to the tune of £6,250 p.a. (A 25% rise!) The Conservative party were not happy, apparently, about the presence of Sellafield's head of public affairs who, with two others, decided the matter. Having seen the leader's support for Sellafield on numerous occasions, it is easy to see why any Sellafield manager would wish to keep her on-side and not give cause for discontent. Once again though, we see this as another example of the inappropriate manipulation of local affairs by the nuclear industry.
What is, perhaps, more interesting, is the comment attached under the article, which seems to suggest that there may well be a much bigger issue to investigate - something which any of our readers will know we concur with. Also interesting is the fact that these squabbles have broken out at all - with any amount of luck the public will be entertained to a clearer picture of what the various factions have been up to in order to please their masters at Sellafield. The Sellafield management declined to comment. It does take some time to formulate a PR version of events when caught out unexpectedly, after all.
Staying with local interests, the proposed cuts in the policing of nuclear installations, has given rise to the co-operative use of Cumbria Constabulary in the event of an incident. Given that the force is already too stretched to deal with some things, for example, the straightforward investigation of the findings of the Redfern Inquiry, this does not bode well. Perhaps one of the movers and shakers could devise a time-table showing when any "unfortunate incidents" could be accommodated? If such things could be scheduled to avoid the horrendous queues to get through Whitehaven and Egremont at peak hours, this would be much appreciated, as it seems unlikely that many would get clear from the area otherwise.
Sadly, it is not too reassuring to learn that the Sellafield site's fire and rescue team are not very good and have been critised by the Office of Nuclear Inspectors. Given the hands-off approach of the inspectors, and the comparative rarity of their inspections (the U.K. has one of the lowest inspection rates in the whole world), perhaps we could have expected the team to be better prepared for the event. Naturally, management at Sellafield were quick to respond, saying that they take such matters very seriously and health and safety are their primary concern. I think we may be forgiven for suggesting that if that were truly the case then there would have been no shortcomings in the fire and rescue team's performance at the inspection.
Earlier this month (May) a power cut hit parts of the Sellafield site. Needless to say there was no emergency, no problems and no animals or children put at risk. Everything was utterly tickety-boo.
Japan's nuclear industry has been found to have been employing yakuza-supplied labour. An article in the Atlantic Monthly tells us that the Kudo-kai is an extremely violent group based in Kyushu. Bizarrely it then goes on, "like other southern Japan groups they are known for the fondness for pineapples." (?) More seriously, the Japanese nuclear industry has been hiring these mobsters and under-age teenagers to man their plants. Currently, Tepco, owners of the Fukushima plant, are being nationalised.
Happily, of course, our own industry is above board and contented. Well, that is, except that one company, recently awarded a £200 million contract, now finds that it may have to actually earn that money. Whether due to poor contract control or some other reason, Sellafield now demand more and more work be done with no increase in contract price. With terms as vague as "asset management and maintenance", one has to wonder. The increased burden has led to the company having to consider making men redundant. Meanwhile, elsewhere in the Whitehaven News we read about Sellafield staff being too tired after working shifts that are too long. Quite how this enhances safety we don't understand.
How Long Is a Piece of String?
Électricité de France have announced that the cost of their reactors will increase by 40% to £7 billion each. Their plans to build two of the Areva reactors are already four years behind schedule, but they have spent around £1 billion already on preparing the site at Hinkley. Apparently there is some difficulty for Électricité de France who are short of finance, apparently. One observer we have spoken to suggested that the company are almost bankrupt, technically, but we don't think that can be true. After all, what self-respecting government would deal with an insecure company over such important matters? It remains to be seen whether the new President, Hollande, has a different view of nuclear to that of Sarkozy. If he does what he suggested he would in the run-up to the elections, then even French nuclear development could grind to a halt as Hollande has promised to reduce French dependency on nuclear power by 25% by 2025. A Chatham House spokesperson, reported in The Times, suggested that Électricité de France may do the same as RWE and E.on did, and withdraw. A French nuclear expert, Mycle Schneder, had already suggested that the plans for French involvement in the U.K. were being reconsidered even before the election removed Sarkozy. He suggested that at the very least the plans would have been delayed. According to the Financial Times, Centrica, the parent company of British Gas, are already concerned that the U.K. government will not give a unit price for future electricity so that they can see the economics of the deal. http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/bb7f393c-8af0-11e1-912d-00144feab49a.html#axzz1v1wqF6y7
That article concludes with: a DECC spokesperson is reported as having said, "Government remains committed to its efforts to ensure that the conditions for new nuclear are right for cost-effective investment without public subsidy in the U.K. So, we can surely rely on our government to honour its promise not to give subsidies to the nuclear industry - although it already does so. There is, of course, still no explanation as to what will happen to the waste products of any new-build in the U.K. Aye, just like their assertion that no dump will be imposed on anyone.
There have also been a couple of white papers which appeared at the time of the Queen's speech:
http://www.decc.gov.uk/en/content/cms/legislation/white_papers/emr_wp_2011/emr_wp_2011.aspx, and a technical follow-up,
Economies with the Actualité
"On the 30th April, 2012, 72 Japanese non-governmental organizations lead by Shut Tomari and Green Action sent an urgent request - endorsed by experts from Japan and abroad - to the UN and to the Japanese government, urging immediate action to stabilize the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant Unit 4's spent nuclear fuel pond. The letter warned that the seriously damaged Unit 4 spent nuclear fuel pool contains Cesium-137 (Cs-137) that is equivalent to ten times the amount released at the time of the Chernobyl nuclear accident. If an earthquake or other event were to cause this pool to drain, this could result in a catastrophic radiological fire.
"The letter also urged United Nations to organize a Nuclear Security Summit to take up the crucial problem of Unit 4's spent nuclear fuel pond. It stated that the United Nations should establish an independent assessment team on Unit 4, and co-ordinate international assistance in order to stabilize the unit’s spent nuclear fuel and prevent radiological consequences with potentially catastrophic consequences."
Of course, whether this will happen is a matter of conjecture. We believe that those "experts" in the various pro-nuclear groups will be horrified if they have to admit that things at Fukushima are not, in fact, stable and under control. After their Herculean efforts to keep the whole thing quiet and persuade the world that the Level 7 accident was soon dealt with, their anticipation of a quick return to promoting nuclear as a cure for global warming will be dashed - perhaps fatally so. Another website has the following:
"According to Christina Consolo, an award-winning biomedical photographer and host of Nuked Radio, Reactor 4 has remained in such bad shape that even a very small earthquake could quickly level the building, sending the fuel from more than 1,500 unused fuel rods into the environment. And with Reactor 4 still filled with the highest levels of radioactive MOX and other fuels, the consequences of this potential collapse could be far worse than anything that has happened thus far as a result of the earthquake and tsunami.
'"Sitting at the top of Reactor 4, in a pool that is cracked, leaking, and precarious even without an earthquake, are 1,565 fuel rods (give or take a few), some of them 'fresh fuel' that was ready to go into the reactor on the morning of March 11 when the earthquake and tsunami hit," writes Consolo. "If they are MOX fuel, containing six percent plutonium, one fuel rod has the potential to kill 2.89 billion people."'
Perhaps there are parallels with the spent fuel ponds at Sellafield, which are in a dangerous condition, and have been the subject of criticism even by the NDA?
Anyone still convinced that nuclear is the way to go, despite all the examples on this website, could do worse than to read the following critique:
One might almost believe that the international pro-nuclear lobby had somehow "got at" the Washington Post's board members. Just as with the true situation in Fukushima, there are powerful forces at work to minimise the media fall-out, even though the nuclear fall-out continues unabated.
Another rather silly "pro-nuclear" person has written an article for the Daily Mail, which can be found here: Daily Mail Article. We have no difficulties with the story per se. It is just that the kind of mind that can remain pro-nuclear despite all he is relating to the contrary is a mystery to us.
The Can't Lose Nuclear Industry
Most people would assume that a disaster on the scale of Fukushima would be bad news for the nuclear industry, but is it? Wherever there is radioactive material to be handled or processed there is a need for specialist (i.e. costly and highly-profitable) knowledge and equipment. Thus the clean up required is in fact good news for the likes of France, Russia, the U.K., and America where they allegedly have the experise to deal with the meltdown and decommissioning ensuing from the earthquake and tsunami. Quick off the mark were the French team, headed by their Prime Minister, Sarkozy. Although Sarkozy claimed to have visited the Fukushima site he had to retract that when challenged, saying, "I'm not an engineer, I don't need to stick my nose in the situation at Fukushima," The sub-text might be that he might catch something nasty.
According to some sources (e.g. Fukushima Diaries) the French team were labelled as chi no shinon - which apparently means "merchants of death". Of course, the stakes are very high - some estimates put the figure in hundreds of millions of pounds. Our own Prime Minister and a suitable entourage also toured Japan, including a company representative from Wrexham who were interested in selling their mass spectrometers, which can be used to determine the number of radio isotopes present in materials, thus allowing them to be graded and treated accordingly.
Naturally, the clean up process is long and slow, which means employment for decades to come. Very rewarding.
According to http://www.dnaindia.com/world/report_dangerous-radiation-from-fukushima-could-remain-for-10-years_1680498 more radioactive material than the design catered for was stored at the Fukushima site when the disaster happened. The article goes on to explain that more than 50 millisieverts will be discharged into the atmosphere from the plant annually for the next decade. We think that may be an understatement.
In Canada, their own government departments floundered as events at Fukushima enfolded. Michael Binder, the relevant M.P. set up an enquiry to discover what went wrong. According to the report's findings, "The potential for confusion over roles and responsibilities is even greater - involving federal, provincial and municipal governments, with each containing its own responsible organizations."
It is difficult to see that our own government would actually fare any better in the event of anything similar. Mostly they tend to hide behind the "experts" from the industry with their inherent bias and blinkered approach.
Arnie Gunderson, an industry expert, writes and has podcasts explaining how things are developing at Fukushima. It is well worth taking the time to watch or read his reports. http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/eo20120418a4.html also has a good explanation of what happened at Fukushima and why. It differs significantly from the authorised version and is well worth reading.
At present the pollution from Fukishima has reached the west coast of America, and as far as Australia. Sadly, far from being safe and stable, the various installations around the Fukushima site are still extremely dangerous and vulnerable. The main broadcasters in the west have lost interest in Japan's problems and it is only on rare occasions that any up-date if forthcoming. Thus people in this part of the world tend to think all is back to normal. A Russia Today television programme actually made the classic error of suggesting that the International Atomic Energy Agency is a watchdog body. It isn't. There is a pretence that they are in some way condoned by the United Nations organisation, but it is only in the military aspects of nuclear materials that they are sanctioned by the United Nations. Otherwise, as their website states, they are interested only in furthering the aims of the nuclear industry and its development. There is no impartiality. They do, however, have great expertise in media relations. Currently there are reports of Japanese people being allowed back into areas once evacuated. One might wonder why American advice to its own people is not to go within 50 miles of the plant.
http://fukushimaupdate.com/where-is-japans-missing-plutonium/ queries what has happened to more than 70 kilograms of plutonium which has been misplaced by Japan. Like the U.K. operations, it seems this may have ended up being used for weapons - secretly, naturally. Still, it is an easy thing to lose, eh?
Mitsui Chemicals in Yamaguchi province suffered an explosion. Accidents happen, but the worrying thing about this one is that the force was so great that it caused seismological equipment to register it. One piece of debris weighing six tonnes was hurled almost half a mile! Accidents do happen, but this factory had a store of depleted uranium.
More From the "You Can Trust Us" Camp
In a continuing squabble in France, the previous chief executive of Areva, French manufacturers of nuclear reactors, "Nuclear Annie" Lauvergeon claims she was pushed to sell nuclear reactors to Gaddafi right up until the outbreak of the Libyan uprising in 2010. The claims have been dismissed by senior politicians as "fantasy arising from her anger over her dismissal last year".
According to Lauvergeon, a plot at the highest levels of government caused her and her husband to be spied on, her phones hacked and confidential documents accessed by a Swiss company, following Areva's purchase of UraMin, a uranium mining company. Sadly, it was bought at the top of the rise in the commodity's price for €1.8 billion, and it is now worth considerably less than its purchase price. In a comradely gesture, the spying is alleged to have been commissioned by the head of Areva's mining division.
According to the claims, illegal activities were engaged in to acquire details of Lauvergeon's life. There is, of course, nothing new in any of this type of spyuiing, as Areva's sister company, Électricité de France, were fined heavily and two of its managers jailed for similar conduct last year. Yet out politicians still see nothing wrong in handing our resources to foreign companies with this type of record.
Meanwhile, the French General Election looms larger, with both Sarkozy and Hollande being labelled as dishonest and incompetent. Standard traits for most politicians it seems. However, the wisdom of causing someone like Lauvergeon to be sacked under the circumstances may seem a bit foolhardy. It seems that she may know where the bodies are buried. Is this another reason why the nuclear industry has been stampeding the U.K. government into making a decision on future nuclear in this country? More bad news about nuclear would surely spell the end of it.
Meanwhile, back home, Nick Clegg has announced large subsidies for low-carbon generation, according to the Financial Times. Of course, it depends on what is to be classed as a low-carbon generator. For some strange reason other, more toxic, pollutants than carbon dioxide are seemingly exempt. How long before nuclear is classed as low carbon and thus eligible for a subsidy - by whatever name. Politicians have demonstrated their integrity and honesty in many other matters before, so the promise not to subsidise the nuclear industry is probably not considered binding in any way.
11/4/12Fuel for Sellafield?
We have just received an e-mail from our Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) which advises us what Prime Minister David Cameron is selling to the Japanese government:
Could it be that some of the worst waste will end up with Sellafield - who are currently struggling to justify their existence? For some reason the Japanese people are not over-enthusiastic about their government's proposals to disperse the contaminated soil and other debris around the rest of the country. As one group say, the accepted principle for dealing with radioactive waste is to contain it, seal it, and decontaminate it - not just disperse it in an effort to dilute it. (Which companies like Sellafield have been quite adept at, and which continue with companies like Studsvik, who add contaminated metal to uncontaminated metal in their products.) http://www.studsvik.com/en/
Are we detecting the hand of the U.K.'s pro-nuclear lobby here? Are we taking a further step to becoming the nuclear dustbin for the world?
A Lesson as What People Can Expect to Happen With Future Pollution Claims?
We mention the similarity between Sandside Beach, near Dounreay, Scotland, and Sellafield/Braystones/Seascale beaches in Cumbria. The Cumbrian beaches present radioactive particles on a daily basis, at a level exceeding those found at Sandside. Unlike the latter, though, the Cumbrian beaches are open to holiday-makers and residents without restriction.
Dounreay's beach became contaminated after an explosion underground back in the 1970s. Particles have been found considerable distances away. The owner of the land was expecting to receive fair compensation for the loss of his land and resources. Sadly, that is not the case. With typical attention to detail, those determining the level the laird is to receive have imagined that the particles have a half-life of 30 years at most and that such things as salmon fishing rivers have no value.
Amusingly, the Scotsman points out that the company contracted to clean up the abandoned nuclear site will gain far, far more to do so. A consortium including Babcock engineering will be paid £1.6 billion to clean up.
Needless to say the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency say that the risk to the public from the particles - described by experts as being big enough to pose a significant health hazard - is minimal. Now where have we heard that before. No doubt no-one has suffered adverse health effects and the environment is unscathed, too.
Of course, Dounreay is being decommissioned, but what will happen if and when Cumbria is affected by similar pollution? We cannot recall anyone receiving much compensation for the damage inflicted on the region following the many leaks and fires. When the powers-that-be get round to building their nuclear dump (they have their investments to protect, don't forget!) we can surely expect accidents and incidents arising. Is this the treatment that will be meted out?
U.S. generator closes San Onofre (midway between San Diego and San Francisco) nuclear plant. See Voice of Experience Page, 7/4/12.
French President, Sarkozy, has announced that he will cut nuclear by one third if he wins the election. Not sure whether the French politicians are any more worthy of respect than our lot. (Less than 32% of U.K. residents apparently think our lot are honest and trustworthy.)
Weather Or Not
Anyone who remains convinced that global warming or its more accurate counterpart, climate change, is solely due to the burning of fossil fuels might care to consider whether the HAARP and Woodpecker projects and similar weather influencing paraphernalia might just be a little bit involved. In 1997, a Russian company offered to alter the climate over Malaysia to clear the atmosphere of smog, and experiments into localised heating of parts of the troposphere are gathering pace. The HAARP project is based in Alaska and is being built by those paragons of virtue, Bae. Needless to say, everything is open and above board, and naysayers are conveniently labelled conspiracy theorists and greenies.
Deserting The Sinking Ship?
In "The Times" 6~4~12, is a short article about the uranium enrichment company, Urenco, jointly owned by Germany, the U.K., the U.S. and the Netherlands. Statements issued by the company are typically positive, with a healthy outlook, except that profits last year fell by 3% and, according to the last paragraph, even the British government wish to sell their stake for £1 billion prior to the whole lot being broken up. What a vote of confidence. Still, some countries have no alternative energy sources, so the company has them over a barrel. Hah.
Interestingly, the article informs us that Urenco's chief financial officer was Prince Friso van Oranje who suffered an unfortunate accident whilst skiing, which has left him severly incapacitated. See the article below entitled "A Deadly Serious Industry" for further unhealthy incidents.
What Is a Safe Level of Education When It Comes to Nuclear Energy Production?
A Guardian article earlier in the week raises a strange question. What level of competence and education should be required of workers in a nuclear environment? Its judgement is somewhat harsh:
"The reality that atomic plants are basically steam engines staffed by thousands of casual workers who would otherwise be picking strawberries or digging up roads somehow never impinges. Perhaps one of the most shocking images post-Fukushima, was of unskilled workers hosing sea water onto the smouldering wreckage. Not here the calm, fatherly figures in their white lab-coats in front of consoles worthy of the Starship Enterprise."
Source: Guardian Article A recent book by Hunter Davies demonstrates the mentalities of the various strata amongst Sellafield employees. Management and PR people are all gung ho about nuclear, and cannot or will not see anything wrong with the pollution and potential for devastation inherent in the processes. Lowever down we can read the typical union man who wanted to go and blow gas over people who had the temerity to disagree with his company's right to pollute and jeopardise. At the lower levels there is a lot of criticism of the senior management, combined with a cynism that we feel a strong concord with. The contributor who contracted cancer as a result of working there, but carried on regardless; continuing even when he contracted further cancers, certainly demonstrates something. One of the lower echelons explained the situation very well, "The nuclear industry is one third truth, one third lies, and one third bullshit."
Global Journalists Comment on Nuclear Being "On Its Deathbed"
Around the world journalists are discussing the death of nuclear energy. Most concur with our belief that it is far too costly, dirty and risky a process to boil a kettle. Energy Fair have produced a report saying just that. http://bit.ly/zGgbHF
Scientists may well like to perpetuate the industry as part of their learning process, but there must surely come a time when the risks outweigh the gains. The viability of nuclear energy has recently received a bit of a shock as DECC announce that the cost of liability for nuclear energy producers has risen seven-fold (see following article). Not that this represents any real insurance, as demonstrated by the cost of Fukushima - and yes, we are talking solely about the nuclear compensation. Currently, this stands at over £340 million, and the event is far from over. Only one reactor has thus far been looked at in any detail. The remaining ones are still too hazardous to approach, and in any case the equipment currently in use would not withstand the radiation. Costs will inevitably rise greatly before the decades of de-commissioning have elapsed. How many private companies can provide insurance for the cost of any single such incident? None. The only bodies who can possibly cope are the national governments - i.e. the tax-payers. A problem thus arises, as we have mentioned before, that the profits will be taken (mainly abroad) by private companies and the risk will remain at home. See: http://bit.ly/zYGR2Q
The price of natural gas has to be around $7 per unit for nuclear to be viable. It is currently at $4 and the current surplus in production as shale gas extraction comes on-line is likely to keep it at that level for quite some time yet. "As you might expect, even with government-backed loan guarantees, bankers aren’t rushing to finance bet-the-company-size construction projects with budgets of $10 billion to $14 billion for a plant with 2,000 megawatts of capacity that might not come online for a decade."
. . . and After All That Effort to Sway The Meerkat!
Government response to consultation on the implementation of changes to the Paris and Brussels Conventions on nuclear third party liability
The Government today confirmed its intention to substantially increase the third party liabilities of operators in the event of a nuclear incident. This follows a public consultation held last year on the UK’s proposals to implement changes made to an international treaty on nuclear third party liability – the Paris and Brussels Conventions, to which the UK and most of the other EU countries are signatories. Currently, operator liability is limited to £140m per incident. The UK is increasing this to €1.2bn, to ensure that more compensation will be available to a larger number of claimants in respect of a broader range of damage. This €1.2bn is €500 million more than the minimum necessary under the revised Conventions. The new level will be phased in over five years starting at €700 million when the new regime comes into force and increased annually by €100 million. The changes will apply to existing nuclear operators in the UK as well as any potential new build operators
The Government’s response to the consultation on the Paris and Brussels conventions is available at:
One might be forgiven for thinking it was the U.K.'s government that wanted to change things. We rather think that that is not the case, and that the attempt during the last government's reign to limit the liability of nuclear companies to a derisory amount was the final straw - just as this new imposition may well have been the final straw in the decisions outlined in the next article.
Statement on Horizon Nuclear Power
On 29th March E.ON and RWE announced that they have taken the decision to end any further investment in nuclear power in the UK and intend to sell Horizon Nuclear Power. The full statements are available to view on the E.ON and RWE websites:
Commenting on the announcement, Energy Minister Charles Hendry said:
“E.ON and RWE’s withdrawal is clearly very disappointing, but the partners have clearly explained that this decision was based on pressures elsewhere in their businesses and not any doubts about the role of nuclear in UK’s energy future. “The UK’s new nuclear programme is far more than one consortia and there remains considerable interest. Plans from EDF/Centrica and Nugen are on track and Horizon’s sites offer new players an excellent ready-made opportunity to enter the market.” Surely, if E.ON and R.W.E. cannot see any future in the project few others will? If they cannot afford the investment, where will the money come from? (Answers on a postcard, please.)
Things Are Looking Black
Four years ago we forecast that the major consortia proposing to expand nuclear in the U.K. would end up holding the government over a barrel. Seems like we were right and we have almost reached that stage.
The government is now well-entrenched in the "nuclear will be part of the energy mix" mantra that they will not be able to back down. Those hoping to make considerable amounts of money from nuclear, having presided over the closing down of many conventional powered power stations, can now point to what they see as the energy gap that is looming. Their figures demonstrate that there will be a shortfall of energy produced and energy consumed in the near future. These figures of course, have been produced using skewed data that forecasts a continuing consumption extrapolated over the next half-century. In fact, energy demand has started to fall and seems set to continue its downward trend, but that doesn't aid the pro-nuclear lobby. Using these "facts" we have been inundated with "when the lights go out" scenarios for the last decade or so. Those in government, and their advisors, who have seen the nuclear light - for whatever reason - have played along and used even more flawed data to prove the viability of nuclear power - even being able to fix the price of waste disposal (when no such facility exists anywhere) and decommissioning costs 150 years ahead! Coupled with the cap on liability in the event of a nuclear incident, which leaves the taxpayer liable and foreign companies with any profit, there isn't much more the politicians and their aides could do without breaking the "no subsidy" promise made and repeated over the years. Now, of course, we are in the situation where it is demonstably the case that nuclear is not viable, or even financially viable without government subsidy. What are the politicians to do? Can they really go back on the promise they have made? Will all the changes put in place to facilitate and expedite nuclear development come to naught? Or will they try to hide subsidies as something else?
Whatever action they take, we consider that the recent announcements by RWE and Électricité de France are merely opening gambits to the kind of industrial and commercial blackmail which the government has left itself wide open for. According to the BBC's report, the two consortia are pondering about development in the U.K. RWE has decided to pull out of the game altogether, whilst Électricité de France is considering financial aspects of going ahead. However, this is not the whole story, as suggested by the following on their website:
"BBC business editor Robert Peston says sources at the energy companies describe this as "a make-or-break decision" as to whether the government is prepared to abandon its previous position that there won't be any substantial subsidies for nuclear, either from taxpayers or customers." We reckon that leaves the door wide open in the event some politicians find a very large and convenient pot of money somewhere. Those who have purchased their shares ready will be looking very hard.
The Chief Executive Officer of Électricité de France, Vincent de Rivaz, has a very large advert in The Times, 30/3/12, asking that we trust him and his company. Fat chance! When they can't even be honest about a fine imposed by the energy regulators, pretending instead that is is an altruistic gesture made without any pressure being brought to bear on them for malpractice. 70,000 of their most vulnerable customers were misled by Électricité de France salespeople (no doubt without the bosses knowing!) and will be reimbursed £50 each. (See article on Home page dated 9/3/12) Lovely gesture; pity it was necessary, but not surprising given the history of the company.
The advertisement continues with guff about how hard they are trying to please. We would suggest that they take a look at their history and ask whether they deserve to be trusted. Do they remember the way that they hacked into the Greenpeace computers and stole files? How many other companies have had senior managers jailed for malpractice? Have they now amended their ways and dispensed with the services of the likes of Kargus?
Électricité de France have been the beneficiary of much manipulation by the government, especially over recent years. We don't think they have rewarded us with the honesty and transparency which would have earned them respect and trust. To us, the contraction of the full title: Électricité de France to EdF is merely a ploy to get round the fact that they are a non-U.K. company who wish to impose nuclear expansion on the U.K.'s residents when the majority are against it and the attitude globally to nuclear has changed dramatically since Fukushima. We would also point out the green union jack advertising campaign - again, in our opinion, designed to persuade the gullible that they are an indigenous company. Where will the profits end up?
The Times of the 30/3/12 has a series of articles of a pro-nuclear nature, replete with many iterations of the "when the lights go out" phrases beloved of those with no ideas of their own. We are quite sure that the timing being contemporaneous with the large - costly - advert from Électricité de France is coincidental, of course. (Trust us?) Even the leader article is in favour of nuclear and suggests that, whatever the necessary subsidy is called, money needs to be made available for the nuclear expansion to go ahead. Who has the shares in Électricité de France then? Hang on, though, if nuclear is viable and sound, why is there any difficulty with obtaining the necessary capital? Who knows something, and why is The Times hyping Électricité de France?
Then, of course, there is the question of margin for manoeuvre. If Électricité de France cannot even afford the money to build the reactors in the first place, how would they find the money to pay out compensation if there were to be a catastrophic accident? Tepco have had to find £1.6 billion thus far, and the Japanese government have also been required to assist. Total cost at the moment is around ten times that. Yet this is not to be confused with the earthquake and tsunami, this is just the nuclear incident.
The International Atomic Energy Agency
It is a common mistake for people to think that the International Atomic Energy Agency is independent of the industry and an impartial regulator. In fact the aim of the agency is to promote the use of nuclear power worldwide. Established back in 1957, it works under a United Nations banner, which can be very misleading. Many observers have said that they have been shocked at the way in which the I.A.E.A. has jumped in to limit the media damage emanating from the likes of Chernobyl, Fukushima and others. Yet this is their rôle. They are not impartial. The only aspect of their involvement which is in any way compatible with the shelter afforded by the United Nations organisation is that of inspections of nuclear establishments, especially in places such as Iran. The agency is opposed to the use of nuclear science for non-peaceful purposes. Strangely, they appear to have no compunction about the use of materials supplied by Sellafield for the construction of atomic weapons, whether in the U.K. or U.S.A. Nor, it seems, in the use of atomic power plants in, for example, submarines - which really only exist to provide an aggressive force.
The Agency apparently costs £375 million per year, but the amount of funding supplied by the nuclear industry is not known. Since the agency is designed to promote nuclear expansion we would expect the industry's contribution to be substantial. Nevertheless, some experts are critical of the agency following both Chernobyl and Fukushima. Saying that it did not learn lessons from the former and its implementation of actions in the latter were slow and ineffective, with the emphasis being on protection of the nuclear industry rather than its perceived rôle as independent assessor. Certainly this writer remembers how soon after Fukushima's problems became internationally known, the I.A.E.A. were on camera saying that there was nothing to much to worry about, and this was long before any proper investigation or assessment had been made. Influential bodies such as this should surely be more circumspect and professional? If a reactor has reached the stage of meltdown - or is well on the way to one - then there should be an authority willing and able to advice and keep people informed. The I.A.E.A. is not that body.
A Deadly Serious Industry
Last October, Rick Santorum, a Republican nomination candidate in America bragged: "On occasion, scientists working on the nuclear programme in Iran turn up dead. I think that's a wonderful thing, candidly."
Somewhat scarily, US citizens accused of involvement in terrorism can now be placed on a kill or capture list by a secretive panel of senior government officials, which then informs the president of its decisions. There is no public record of the operations or decisions of the panel. Neither is there any law establishing its existence or setting out the rules by which it is supposed to operate. There appear to be no boundaries either. Nor does it matter whether you are American or foreign. With such attitudes and the perceived dangers inherent in permitting Iran to gain nuclear knowledge, it is hardly surprising then that four scientists involved in Iran's nuclear programme, and at least one civilian, have been killed in the last two years
However, if you think it can't happen in the U.K., have a look at this article published in the Guardian recently, entitled "Hilda Murrell murder: call to examine 'MI5 link' to murder of nuclear activist".
http://www.guardian.co.uk/law/2012/mar/18/hilda-murrell-michael-mansfield, reproduced here.
This stuff is truly the Big Brother vision, and we have to wonder whether this is what the Queen referred to when she talked of "Dark Forces at work". With the removal of the personal liberties over the decades from Thatcher through Blair, to Brown and now Cameron, we should surely be concerned that those imposing these conditions are impeccably moral. This must surely be a prime requisite of anyone sitting in sole judgement of others? Yet we have seen time and again that these people are not honest and working solely for the common good. We have yet to meet a millionaire that is entirely honest and hasn't walked over others to achieve his goal.
Wouldn't you want to ensure that any company to whom you are handing control of your utilities - especially ones involving deadly poisons - were honest, upright, decent people? Much is being made of Rupert Murdoch's suitability merely to have control of a satellite channel at the moment, (leaving aside the political connections) and there seems to be little doubt as to what the outcome will be. We watched the Panorama television programme on 26/3/12 about the allegations that News Corporation were behind the theft of the codes that controlled ITV Digital's keycards. (ITV Digital was a competitor to Sky, owned by Murdoch's company.) Interesting that the allegations should only surface in time to be considered by the panel sitting in judgement on whether Murdoch is a suitable person to own the majority of BSkyB satellite television service.
Consider, then, the rôle of the French - now the main proponents of nuclear expansion and wonder whether you would let them control a bike, never mind a whole nuclear operation:
Opération Satanique, was an operation by a branch of the French DGSE, (i.e. their foreign agents) on July 10, 1985. Using two mines, they sank the Greenpeace-owned "Rainbow Warrior" in Auckland harbour, New Zealand, to prevent her from interfering in a nuclear test in Moruroa where she had been a bit of a nuisance. New Zealand is anti-nuclear and has banned all nuclear materials from their territory.
A whole team of operatives were employed in the mission. One couple, using false passports showing them to be married, residing in New Zealand and being responsible for the logistics of the plot. Perhaps unintentionally, a photographer called Fernando Pereira, died. He had gone back to retrieve his camera after the first mine exploded. The delayed second mine then killed him and sank the vessel. With typical Gallic incompetence, the two resident French spies were caught by the New Zealand Police and were charged with arson, conspiracy to commit arson, willful damage, and murder. Following much embarrassment in France, and huffing and puffing in New Zealand, as part of a plea bargain, both spies pleaded guilty to manslaughter and were sentenced to ten years in prison, of which they served just over two. Naturally, the bulk of the French administration denied any knowledge of or support for the actions taken, leaving the French Defence Minister Charles Hernu somewhat exposed - he later had to resign. Some time later, an enquiry decided that the then President, Francois Mitterand, had authorised the raid.
In an interesting precursor for the more recent hacking of Greenpeace computers and theft of files, French agents had infiltrated the goup in advance, and were forwarding intelligence to the French government.
Illustrating their decency and honesty, the French broke the agreement which had been reached - after France blackmailed the New Zealand government with the threat of an embargo on New Zealand goods being imported to the EEC countries (on which New Zealand depended) - that the two agents caught would spend three years in prison on Hao atoll. Ever true to their word, the French removed the pair after just two years, and showed how contrite they were by promoting both on their return to France.
The exercise cost the French $6.5 million in compensation to New Zealand.
One might have expected those stalwarts of integrity and righteousness, the U.K. and the U.S.A. to jump up and down a lot demonstrating anger with the French. Yet neither country condemned the attack.
Then there was the Kargus affair last year . . .
We Can't Stay In A World Without Love
In 2009, Obama declared his vision of a world without nuclear weapons. To prove his determination, in 2010 he hosted a summit in Washington, aimed at "securing or destroying" the whole world's stocks of plutonium and highly enriched uranium (HEU) by 2014. Quite what was meant by the securing or destroying is unclear.
Moving on a little, South Korea is the current host to 50 nations in Seoul. Although it had been running for several days before he arrived, you could have been forgiven for not knowing, as nothing appeared on U.K. news programmes until our Dave's Best Mate arrived on the scene. Even then, a different slant was put on the meeting, as it shifted focus onto North Korea's announcement of the launch of a meterological rocket [ahem] and Iran's progress in enriching uranium - something that only decent honest countries, or those with greater arms capacity than the U.S. should be permitted to do. Is it really possible to stop people learning, once they have the basics?
Actually, according to announcements and reports on foreign broadcaster's channels, the meeting was really about the substantial mass of nuclear material that had gone missing. Literally. They have no idea where it has disappeared to. It might have been flushed out with the bathwater or been sold by arms dealers to terrorists. Alternatively, it could be sitting in warehouses slowly decaying. World leaders were also trying to tackle the threat posed by loosely-guarded radioactive material in hospitals and other sites, which could be combined with high explosives to make a "dirty bomb". I rather think that flying a 747 into a reactor somewhere, 9/11-style, might also be a problem, especially for somewhere like Sellafield with its Olympic swimming pool-sized cooling ponds containing rapidly decaying spent fuel and other, unknown but highly toxic, waste. The world still has some 1,600 tons of highly enriched uranium and 500 tons of plutonium – enough to make more than 100,000 nuclear weapons. An Interpol representative from Germany told delegates that there is lots of evidence that al-Qaeda would use nuclear weapons if it had them. There had been 3,000 cases in 119 countries in which nuclear material had gone missing
"We are fulfilling the commitments we made in Washington. As a result, more of the world's nuclear material will never fall into the hands of terrorists who would gladly use it against us," Obama said. "What's also undeniable is that the threat remains. There are still too many bad actors in search of these dangerous materials and these dangerous materials are still vulnerable in too many places. It would not take much – just a handful of so of these materials – to kill hundreds of thousands of innocent people." Interesting that he seems to think that the material is only dangerous in the hands of terrorists. Has he never heard of Chernobyl or Fukushima?
Happily, as a consequence of the Seoul summit, Obama reckons, "More of our citizens will be safer from the danger of nuclear terrorism". We are not sure we can agree with that - some of their soldiers can't even be trusted with conventional weapons. Addressing the summit, Mr Obama warned there were "Still too many bad actors'' who were threatening to stockpile and use ''dangerous'' nuclear material. Er, you mean like the U.K., France, U.S.A., Germany, Russia . . . ?
In typical fashion, following the approved Civil Service style, a communique issued at the end of the two-day meeting of more than 50 world leaders in Seoul contained no specific measures to reduce the risk of atomic materials falling into bad hands, merely calling for all vulnerable material to be secured in four years. Secured? Put in handcuffs, stuffed in a carrier bag and shoved in a hole, washed out to sea? How about stopping the production of the stuff in the first place?
Obama concluded, "It would not take much, just a handful or so of these materials, to kill hundreds of thousands of innocent people and that's not an exaggeration, that's the reality that we face". How about stopping production of the stuff in the first place? (Or have we already suggested that?) Still, there is a moratorium on building new nuclear reactors in the States at the moment. Presumably at some stage they will find a hole in which to put their waste and then they will be able to continue. Sadly, Sellafield is now run by an American company and it is they who are pushing for a nuclear dump in Cumbria. Great news for the Americans, but not so good for the U.K. residents.
With now typical foresight, the U.K. government is pressing ahead with cuts everywhere with no consideration of the ramifications. Despite the above acknowledgement by world leaders of the vulnerability to terrorism, one third of the Ministry of Defence's armed police, who provide security at nuclear sites, arsenals, and submarine bases, are to be cut. The MoD say that 700 of their police and 1100 of the armed guards are to go. In 2009 there were 3,600 but by 2016 they will be down to 2,400.
Just as reassuring, given the scale of theft noted at the Seoul conference, the MoD's Criminal Investigation Department, which investigates fraud and theft, are to be cut by 90%.
In Japan, only one out of 54 reactors is still functioning, after the pen-ultimate one was shut down a couple of days ago. By shifting electrical load times, industry and social life continues. Factories, instead of working days, have altered to shifts, with the result that power demands are now more evenly spread. The country is still prone to the odd power failure, but infinitely safer than having reactors built on fault lines. The estimated cost of the incident (not including tsunami or earthquake effects) so far is greater than $30 billion.
|A comment about the closeness of the
nuclear industry in
America to the regulators:
"One more federal regulatory agency had turned into a puppet of the industry it was supposed to oversee."
|We have long
been suspicious of the claims that nuclear power is low carbon, we
would recommend the following reports relating to the greenhouse gas
intensity of nuclear power plant, 4th generation reactors and thorium:
Nuclear power can be referred to as “low-carbon” only when using high grade ore grade (0.1 bis 2%). However, ore grades of around 0.01% cause the CO2 emissions to increase to 210 g CO2/kWhel. While those emission values are still lower than those of coal or oil (600–1200 g/kWhel), they are significantly higher than for wind (2,8–7,4 g/kWhel); hydropower (17–22 g/kWhel) and photovoltaics (19–59 g/kWhel).
Nuclear would be costly and slow to use as a means for reducing green house gas emission; it will take decades, before a net reduction of greenhouse gases occurs (Pasztor, 1991; Findlay, 2010).
Wind power stations and cogeneration of heat and power are 1.5 times more cost-effective in reducing CO2 than nuclear power; energy efficiency measures are 10 times more cost-effective.
Weather Or Not
An interesting programme on BBC' television on 27/3/12 investigated the global warming phenomenon. We have to admit to a certain scepticism over the effect - we belief that the origins of the scare stem from nuclear industry propaganda dreamt up by the PR. team at Sellafield back in the 1980s. We cannot recall having heard about it before, yet it seems to have been around for over 100 years according to the current "infallible" data. Prior to the 1980s we only had "weather", but according to the book "Inside Sellafield" by Harold Bolter - PR manager at the time, CO2 and global warming was an extremely useful adjunct in the promotion of nuclear expansion. By an odd coincidence, dinner with the Prime Minister of the time was also useful, causing her to change her mind about the benefits of nuclear. Press Secretary Bernard Ingham (later knighted, naturallly) was an advisor to Sellafield.
The television programme examined a variety of effects, but we were left with the feeling that the experts called in to give opinion were struggling to explain some of the local anomalies in weather patterns. Just as the term "global warming" had to be modified when it was discovered that the world was actually cooling, so now it had to be called "climate change" - even though the cause was still to remain the same! With all the confidence of a true expert it rather seemed as if they had supported a theory only to find it was not quite as well-defined as they had thought, but now had to save face and come up with plausible reasons why the theory might have to be modified to explain why the general doesn't apply to specifics.
Then, of course, there is the fact that the earth will survive, no matter what. There are many factors that will modify the earth's atmosphere and endeavour to rectify changes, whatever the cause. Or perhaps Darwin got it all wrong and the politicians and nuclear lobbyists are right. However, these natural measures have actually worked very well over the last 5,000 years at least. There have been dramatic swings in climate everywhere, including the U.K., and man-made CO2 was not a factor then. Simple things will also have an effect: the warmer it gets the less fossil fuel will be burnt to warm houses, for one. The gas suppliers in the U.K. have already noted a downturn in demand over the last winter. Demand was much lower than they had forecast. Extrapolate that kind of thing over the next 30 or 40 years, take into consideration the reduction in power consumption over the last couple of decades and add a suitably reduced demand over the same 30 or 40 years and it will become evident that current supplies will be more than adequate.