22 Oct 2008
Dear Joan Pye Project,
Thank you for stimulating the nuclear debate. I have read through this discussion and your website and have a found a number of points I disagree on.
Nuclear power stations require a lot of concrete, which requires a lot of energy to make (380kg of CO2 per m3). Currently the only way to produce the temperature (1500°C) needed to make concretes is by coal fired kilns – this is cheap dirty coal. Concrete also requires the decomposition of limestone, which itself releases CO2. The Concrete industry already accounts for over 5% of global CO2 emission, do we really want to increase this?
What about the damage to the environment from Uranium mining? This is a very intensive process, uranium is found in small concentrations and most mining is open pit mining. What about the energy involved there and the damage to the local environment?
Global demand for Uranium is currently 4 times that of supply – is this a “secure” source of energy? In Europe less than half the uranium comes from developed and secure countries. Most of is comes from Russia – do we really want to be largely relying on Russia?
Nuclear only provides 3.5% of our total energy needs (19% of electricity), and most of these power station will need replacing soon (al bar one will be closed at the latest by 2025). Even if we replace our existing power stations and then double their number we will only see an estimated 8% reduction in emissions, and this we will not see until 2035!
Vast amounts of water are needed both in the mining of uranium (to suppress airborne dust levels) and in the cooling towers at the power station. Considering at last half the uranium sources are countries where water shortages are going to become more of an issue, what about the effect on the local ecosystem? In the UK you have to site the power stations near the sea to meet this water demand – most will have to be built in England and Wales as the Scottish government has already stated it will not give planning permission for any plants.
This again I disagree on. Taking the nuclear path will divert money away form more cost effective solutions. According to energy policy analysts at the Rocky Mountain Institute, a pound invested in energy efficiency buys 7 times more “energy solution” than a pound invested in nuclear. So why not invest the money we would on nuclear in retrofitting homes – this would lead to a 60% reduction in housing related CO2 emissions. We could also invest this money in micro generation (homes making their own electricity) – the Energy Savings Trust estimates this could generate 30-40% of the UK’s electricity by 2050.
No nuclear power plant has ever been built in the world without public funding! The UK government says there will be no public subsidises unless in an emergency – the cost of building these plants is a lot, how can this be cheap energy, surely this will be passed on to the consumer?
I am not an expert on finance, but I have tried my utmost to summarise this article on where the funding actually will come from for future nuclear power plants:
I think that what it is saying is that the tax payer will pay for insurance claims in the event of an accident, as the plants are uninsurable – this is essentially an insurance subsidy! This conclusion is drawn from a written statement from Malcolm Wicks (Energy Minister) to Paul Flynn (Labour Backbencher).
Finland is the currently building a reactor north of Helsinki, it is already 2 years behind schedule. It is claimed that this plant is not publicly funded, but if you look into the paper work, it is actually been financed by the French and Swedish – Greenpeace are currently battling in the European Court of Justice over whether these can be classified as non state aids!
What about the cost of disposal of waste – estimated at £56 million in the UK alone! The UK Government still hasn’t decided how and who will pay for this. What is has done is put a cap (for the Nuclear Industry) on how much this disposal will cost, with any excess being passed on to the tax payer. So whilst the taxpayer wont pay for the building, it will have to foot the cost for the disposal of the waste (most likely) and if there is an emergency it will have to pay for the cleanup both in money, environment and health! There is also still no suitable site to store the waste – it is currently being stockpiled at interim above the ground facilities at Sellafield.
So who will staff these power stations? I understand that there are currently not enough qualified nuclear engineers and there wont’ be enough new recruits for future reactors, with there being a shortage in graduates.
Regarding your statement about them being impossible to store, what about hydrogen load balancing and flow redox batteries? The money proposed to be invested in nuclear would be much better spent on making this a reality, using abundant natural resources as our source of energy and investing developing and improving existing ways of storing it.
Whilst I cannot say that nuclear will not play a part in our future energy needs, I don’t think it is sensible to promote it as the answer to our energy needs and as a clean/low carbon source of energy. For the time being, nuclear will have it’s place providing base load power for industry. It is not a near or long term answer to our problems, and the money needed I personally believe could be better spent.
I look forward to your response
22 Oct 2008
Oh, and i almost forgot.
How do you propose we deal with the waste? There is still no safe way of dealing with it. I friend of mine worked on a report for the French government on dealing with the waste, and they concluded that the only way to dispose of it was to send it up into space. Considering the space industry's safety record, do we really want to risk rockets filled with nuclear waste exploding in the atmosphere?
24 Oct 2008
There is a consensus amongst the scientific community that if greenhouse gases continue to increase at the rate they are, we will at some point reach a ‘point of no return’ where ‘positive feedback mechanisms’ are activated which make the problems much worse. (An example of a positive feedback mechanism would be ocean warming. The oceans play a critical role in absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, however global warming will warm the oceans, and as the ability of oceans to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere decreases with increasing temperature, the oceans will be able to absorb less carbon dioxide than before, making the problem much worse!)...
So my first point is this: We have a race against the clock to stabilise global greenhouse gas emissions which are currently over 380 part per million (PPM), and at current rates set to exceed 400 or even 450 PPM within the next 10 years. Though it is impossible to say for sure when the point of no return is, many scientists believe it is somewhere between 400 to 450 PPM – i.e. we have to address this within the next 10 years!
My second point is then: As any new nuclear power plants will take at least 10 years to construct, producing large amounts of greenhouse gases in the process of constructing them, surely this means that rather than reducing the concentration of green house gases in the air, building new nuclear power plants will significantly increase greenhouse gas concentrations - at a time when we need to be reducing them!!!???
18 Nov 2008
Just a quick note to say that I've reformatted these discussion posts to make it more readable - thanks all for contributing to what I think is an interesting discussion.
I'll take the opportunity to butt in on this point. BBC story saying Sellafield clear-up with cost £70bn (paid for NOT by the generator I believe but by government/public): http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/4859980.stm.
Granted, this is an old reactor/site and I'm sure things are a lot better now in terms of remediation and decommissioning, but it's something I'd want to be SURE of before I backed any new nuclear builds.
21 Nov 2008
If the testing of a new unit 'OZ Injector' is successful then there will be no need for this.
The first proto type will be finalized this week and testing will start soon afterwards, if successful these units can be retrofitted to existing the coal, gas, or diesel fired boilers.
This will be the end of using COAL, GAS OR ANY OTHER FUEL OF THIS NATURE.
All you will need is WATER, the best water for the process would be from a new wastewater process, this is the best for make up water and for IT FUEL.
There is also a plan that will enable these units to be retro fitted to NUCLEAR plant there will be no need for the uranium at all, better still close them, and use this new technology.
All inquiries to Bayliss Controls Australia at firstname.lastname@example.org or at email@example.com subject line 'Oz Injector power generation'.
Contact 61 412396140
28 Nov 2008
The OZ Injector is now ready for the next stage.
The unit has been made and is now ready to have electrical and electronic controls made for the testing stage, there should be some results in the next two to three months.
The success of this unit will start a new phase in power production, powering ships with gas turbines and even the possibility being used in aircraft.
Why can't some of these big companies do something like this?
13 Jan 2009
Electricity from new nuclear power stations in the US to cost three times as much as the current electricity cost, and ten times as much as saving the equivalent through energy efficiency.
22 Jan 2009
I can't help myself.
agrees that renewables are cheaper than nuclear.
29 Jan 2009
An excellent article from Scientific American looking at the .
30 Jan 2009
OK - so it looks like I'm mainly have this discussion with myself, sorry if it's a bit one-sided. Is that a sign that I'm right? ;)
Anyway, I found an that I thought was worth flagging. I couldn't help responding, as you'll see at the bottom of the article, but I'll paste my response here anyway.
I'm very keen to have an actual discussion about nuclear - does anyone have any response to this?
30 Jan 2009
I take all predictions of future costs with a pinch of salt, and that applies to renewables as much as any. I'm no expert on them, but if nuclear energy is so expensive, why is French electricity (78% nuclear-generated) so much cheaper than ours?
As for decommissioning, don't forget that current nuclear plants were not designed for ease of dismantling. In fact the cost at Sellafield relates largely to plants built in haste for military purposes when cleaning up afterwards was the last thing on anyone's mind.
Unfortunately the Stanford study that you commend is incomprehensible as downloaded, so I can't comment.
I agree that we ought to live less wastefully but we have to work within the limits that are politically as well as technically possible. Nuclear is far from ideal, but it's less damaging than fossil hydrocarbons.
03 Feb 2009
Peter - thanks for the response, I will get back to you but want to do some research and have a think first. In case it doesn't come across this way, my intention with this discussion is not to 'win' or 'lose', but to try to explore the issues surrounding nuclear power and crystalise the arguments a little.
An interesting new company and technology emerged yesterday - (and potentially other elements in the future). This seems promising in terms of avoiding Peak Uranium (although fast breeder reactors could do that too) and perhaps more importantly helping avoid the proliferation of nuclear weapons technologies and reducing the amount of the worst types of nuclear waste.
03 Feb 2009
David - it's good to hear from you. This is a second attempt at a reply as my first evidently didn't register.
Reactors have been run on natural (unenriched) uranium for decades, but they need better neutron economy than is possible with ordinary water cooling; the natural reactors at Oklo ran when the proportion of U-235 was much higher than at present. The British Magnox type has a large core with a graphite moderator eventually presenting problems of disposal; the Canadian Candu uses heavy water with a necessary expenditure of energy to separate the minute proportion of deuterium from the bulk of the hydrogen. It would be interesting to know what technology TerraPower is contemplating.
I noted the mention of thorium, which took a good deal of my attention in the last decade before retirement. You may have come across Alvin Radkowsky's scheme for a thorium-based fuel structure interchangeable with standard PWR elements; I admired its ingenuity but had to point out that it would not achieve the anti-proliferative benefits claimed for it. There was also a doubt of whether the required mechanical separability of components could be maintained in view of the distortion to be expected during irradiation, and I haven't come across any report on the trials at the Kurchatov Institute. The approach taken in India may be more practicable.
04 Feb 2009
Thank you for your comment
I am not a nuclear engineer and i imagine like most people reading this don't understand some of the terminology and processes involved. To save everybody having to go away and research this topic further and to make this page more excessible to the general public, could you please explain your points in laymens terms?
04 Feb 2009
Lowcarbonranger - thanks for helpful advice. I'm not an engineer either, but here goes.
Neutron economy - the proportion of neutrons released by fission that go on to cause further fission or breed more useful material.
Cooling - transferring the heat of reaction directly or indirectly to electrical generators.
Moderator - a material that slows down neutrons to raise the likelihood of reacting with nuclei. Commonly water used also for cooling.
Deuterium - the second isotope of hydrogen. Its oxide is "heavy water". The similarity to the vastly more common first isotope makes separation an expensive multi-stage process.
PWR - pressurised water reactor - cooled and moderated by ordinary water kept under pressure to prevent boiling itself but heating a separate steam generator.
Thorium - an element not itself subject to fission (except at very high energies) but readily absorbing neutrons from fission of uranium or plutonium to form a fissile isotope of uranium.
20 Mar 2009
Recently heard a statistic that a nuclear power plant uses a third of the amount of energy it produces in it's lifetime just in it's construction!
Anyone know if this is true or have any comments?
20 Mar 2009
That estimate seems to come from , an apparently hostile source. A lower value of little more than 1 percent is presented in rebuttal by an industry source . I'm not qualified to judge which is the more credible.
28 Apr 2009
Sorry it's been a while since I posted. I have, however, continued my reading and thinking about the nuclear issue - and I've tried to be as neutral as possible. Ultimately, there is of course no right or wrong - it all comes down to value judgement, and I still come down against investment in new nuclear power generation.
There four major reasons I just can't support it:
1. Nuclear waste. It seems like palming off responsibility for dealing with it to our unborn grandchildren - surely it is not only morally reprehensible but stupid to commit future generations to have to deal with problems that we have not only created, but cannot ourselves solve.
2. Security/Proliferation. Dependence on any kind of centralised power generation introduces unnecessary risk at one of the most important and basic of human endeavours, threatening everything built thereupon. Then add the environmental, military and human risks of nuclear waste! And all that's quite apart from the very real danger of nuclear weapons proliferation.
3. Lack of graceful degradation. You can’t run half a nuclear power station, or run one at all without the very cream of human knowledge and technology.
4. The need for carbon reductions . It will take at least 10 years to get event the first nuke online, during which time carbon emissions will be during the fabrication and construction phases. Let’s spend those ten years reducing emissions year on year through efficiency improvements, behavioural change and rolling out the low carbon solutions we already have.
I hope this is interesting to someone - I'm always interested to learn where others' values lie - and always open to new information!
28 Apr 2009
I can't be neutral but I try to be objective. The points you raise deserve serious answers, and I'll do my best.
1. Waste. We've known for decades how to solve the problem, but successive governments have lacked the political will, and it's noticeable that green activists oppose any step towards it - in order to keep the issue alive? Properly managed, nuclear waste would arguably present less of a risk to future generations than wastes such as toxic metals that are treated much more casually. In any case, everything we do affects our successors for good or ill; for instance, they won't have access to the abundant fossil fuels that we have squandered so wastefully.
2. Security and proliferation. If the risk is to security of supply, then conventional fossil-fired stations are more vulnerable. Environmentally, nuclear is far superior to them. On proliferation, are you aware that high-energy proton accelerators as used in physics research are ideal for producing very effective bomb-making materials? I'm not aware of any particular precautions against such misuse. In any case, I don't see that our denying ourselves nuclear energy would have any influence on a state determined to pursue a weapons programme.
3. If you mean that nuclear is suitable only for base-load generation, then I agree. Other more systems will certainly be needed as well.
4. The problem of carbon emissions won't go away after the ten years you quote, and in my view there isn't a cat in hell's chance of meeting the subsequent reduction targets without it, at least in any way that the population would tolerate. That doesn't mean that I oppose other means; we'll need all we can get.