SSE to follow Siemens out of the nuclear industry
On Thursday Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE) announced its wish to end its involvement in the project to build new nuclear reactors at Sellafield. The company said it would make an “official announcement in the next few days” about its energy plans, which could see the firm selling its 25 per cent stake in the NuGen consortium to the other partners, Iberdrola and GDF Suez.
There has been the inevitable temptation for the Scottish government to interpret this as a vindication of SNP energy policy, with the Minister for Energy, Fergus Ewing, claiming: “Some of the biggest energy companies, both Scottish-based and international firms, are making major investments in Scotland’s huge renewable energy potential, and we warmly welcome the fact that leading energy companies increasingly see the future as one powered by renewables rather than nuclear.”
While there may be an element of truth in this it is worth remembering that SSE have no nuclear track record, owns two huge wind farms and may simply be choosing a particular type of technology to concentrate on for the future. Ian Marchant, the CEO of SSE, is on record as saying in May that SSE had “no experience in running a nuclear plant, so we would inevitably be the junior partner of a consortium, whereas in renewables, we could be leading a consortium”.
Nonetheless, coming so closely on the heels of Siemens’ decision to pull out of the nuclear industry altogether this is a discouraging announcement for those determined to push forward UK plans for new nuclear build that simultaneously sends a strong signal to the Scottish government to continue to accelerate the deployment of renewables. No new nuclear South of the border would imply a bigger market for low-carbon Scottish electricity.
YouGov poll shows nuclear still has support
We need nuclear power along with other forms of energy
The latest YouGov poll indicates that in spite of the recent events in Japan there is still no widespread support for the SNP’s ‘no nuclear’ policy, with support for nuclear power having only dropped one percentage point since a similar poll in 2008.
Events in Japan are still playing out however, and it is four weeks until the election. It will be interesting to see if support for nuclear power si still as strong on polling day.
The ‘green’ message from the nuclear industry has obviously been getting through – people do seem to understand that whatever other problems nuclear energy may pose the CO2 costs are low.
Scotland’s energy should only come from renewable sources, not from nuclear power stations or coal and gas
Curiously, there are a greater number who believe that our energy should only come from renewables than are against nuclear power – which proves, if anything, that the results of a poll depend very much on which questions are asked and how they are phrased.
So – is the SNP ‘no nukes’ policy dead in the water, or is there stil some life in it?
Monbiot and Lynas Don’t Get It
UN nuclear monitors have advised Japan to consider expanding the evacuation zone around the stricken reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi plant. An exclusion zone with a radius of 20km (12 miles) is currently in place but the UN says safe radiation limits have been exceeded 40km away. Meanwhile, radioactive iodine levels in seawater near the plant reached a new record – 4,385 times the legal limit.
What do the apologists reckon the total cost of the first evacuation, a second evacuation and the eventual clean-up is going to be? Certainly many many billions. And who will pay for that? Not TEPCO – it looks like they are going to be nationalised. When it comes to climate change mitigation there is no such thing as a cheap lunch – and nuclear power is once again proving to be very expensive and more than a bit indigestable.
This is the first nuclear accident in a densely populated area in a ‘civilised’ country with a top engineering reputation . . . and it has exposed the true potential cost of nuclear power, far beyond the ability of a private energy company to deal with. Why should the Japanese taxpayer put up with the disruption and cost? Where now ‘unsubsidised’ nuclear power in the UK?
No, this does not prove how wonderful nuclear power is – and every day TEPCO and the government fail to get on top of it and the situation worsens another nail is driven into the nuclear industry’s coffin. Monbiot and Lynas are going to look like utter idiots when this is over – Monbiot more so because at least Lynas is not a recent convert.
Tidal barrages or nuclear power – U-turns and twitchers
On October 18th 2010 Chris Huhne, the UK Energy Secretary, publicly scrapped plans for a Severn tidal barrage that would have generated 5% of the UK’s future energy needs. In its place he announced eight potential sites for building new nuclear power stations by 2025 that would generate an equivalent amount of electricity.
There are several facets of this that are disturbing. From the political point of view this represented another huge LibDem U-turn. Huhne stood on a no-nuclear ticket at the general election and had long been a vocal opponent of nuclear power. Here’s what Huhne had to say about nuclear power in 2007:
“Nuclear is a tried, tested and failed technology. New nuclear would be economically foolhardy, environmentally irresponsible and pose long-term security questions that are impossible to address. “If we opt for a new generation of nuclear reactors, future generations may rue the day. We will be encumbering them with high costs and enormous and unknowable liabilities. We will miss a key opportunity to pioneer a green future.”
One of the major objectors to the Severn Barrage was the RSPB, who were primarily worried about the effect on the habitat of wading birds. There is no evidence that a long-term decrease in overall UK wader populations would occur despite strenuous efforts on the RSPB’s part to show otherwise, but they seemto be an unnaturally powerful body. This remarkable little quango of middle-aged cardigan-wearing twitchers seem to have taken over swathes of our countryside for no logical reason and with little success (think corncrakes) even by their own standards. In addition to their barrage wars they have objected to every major windfarm, making them de facto friends of the nuclear industry.
Nearer to home, the only estuary in Scotland with potential for a useful tidal barrage is the Solway. The largest scheme looked at here could provide nearly 6GW, a useful percentage of the UK’s total future needs. Guess what Peter Robinson of the RSPB said about it:
“We need to stop wasting taxpayers’ money on feasibility studies for old-fashioned technologies such as tidal barrages.”
Yes, It’s wading birds again. So, no wind turbines, no tidal barrages, not anywhere, not ever. Well, we’ve got news for the RSPB – if we allow runaway global warming to happen climate change will cause more damage to the Severn and Solway estuaries through rising sea levels and species diversion than a barrage ever would. Yes, the environment will change if we build a barrage. Some niches will disappear, other new ones will open and wildlife will adapt to the new environment. In the Rance estuary – the only large-scale tidal barrage in Europe, commissioned in 1966 – there are the same number of bird species (120) as there were before the barrage was built, and it attracts over 200,000 tourists every year.
Nature can adapt, unlike the dinosaurs of the RSPB.
Japan – A Game Changer For UK Nuclear Power?
Sometimes you have to wonder if there is an ironic and demonically mischievous deity out there. After the LibDems’ U-turn on the issue last May it seemed that with the exception of the SNP all the major parties had accepted the inevitability of a new generation of nuclear power stations in the UK and it was only a matter of time before we started constructing.
Last night we tweeted our concern at anti-nuclear groups using the developing situation in Japan as a platform for their own agendas as we felt it was not the time. This morning we woke up to terrifying images of a huge explosion at the Fukushima plant. We desperately hope that the containment building has not been breached and that the radioactive leak reported turns out to be trivial – the next few hours will tell.
But even if the worst that happens is a messy clean-up operation, four men dead (as currently reported) and a small gap in Japan’s grid the damage to the nuclear industry worldwide is likely to be much greater. It won’t matter that the explosions and fires at the petrochemical refinery were worse, or that we will never experience an earthquake of that magnitude here; that short piece of film we all watched with horrified fascination this morning will be played over and over. The grim spectre of Three Mile Island has raised its head once more, and will shrivel the UK’s newly risen nuclear aspirations in the same way it did over thirty years ago.