Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Fissioned facts on nuclear


Lib Dem energy secretary Ed Davey asserts in an interview published in this month’s Total Politics (“All hands on DECC: Ed Davey interview”, http://www.totalpolitics.com/articles/445832/all-hands-on-decc-ed-davey-interview.thtml)

 

“One great thing about renewables, about nuclear, about energy efficiency, is you don’t have to import them. They are home-grown. They provide jobs. And you’re secure.”

 

This statement if far from being true. Currently wind power  machines and solar  photovoltaic cells are imported, although in both cases the wind and solar energy are free and indigenous. But nuclear power technology and fuel is almost 100% foreign, and very insecure.

 

The Hinkley C nuclear power plant, if  ever built, will be owned by the French State power generator, EDF;  constructed by the French State nuclear company, AREVA, co-financed by the Chinese State Investment bank; with final radioactive waste repository being modeled on the Swedish/Finnish   model and concept. In between times, the  irradiated nuclear fuel will be stored at Sellafield, currently (mis) managed by Nuclear Management Partners, who consist of an American company URS Washington, AREVA and AMEC (a British company!).

 

The Hinkley reactor pressure vessel would be built by a South Korean or Japanese steel forger, and the uranium for the fresh nuclear fuel used in the reactor would come from Kazakhstan, Canada, or Australia..

 

And it is not just the energy secretary who has difficulties with facts on nuclear power.

 

At last week’s Prime minister’s question time, on 30 April, David Cameron asserted: “Under this Government, we have got Hinkley Point going ahead. We have got the exciting developments at Wylfa in Anglesey. I believe there is the opportunity of more to come. That is what we are doing: putting our money where our mouth is and ensuring that we have nuclear power providing a high-quality base load power which is carbon-free.”

(Hansard, 30 April 2014: Column 824; http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201314/cmhansrd/cm140430/debtext/140430-0001.htm#14043035000005)

 

Veteran Labour back bencher, Paul Flynn MP, was unconvinced, and  asked Mr Cameron for the  evidential basis for the statement that nuclear power is “carbon-free.”

 

He was told in a written answer on 6 May:

There is a strong consensus in the global scientific community that nuclear energy represents one of the lowest carbon forms of baseload electricity generation.

The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) estimates that the life cycle emissions associated with the generation of electricity from nuclear power groups are 16g CO2 per kWh electricity produced. This is very low compared to the equivalent figure for electricity produced by natural gas turbines, which is in excess of 400g CO2/kWh, and similar to the IPCC's estimate for widespread non-baseload form of electricity generation, such as wind.

The Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology report ‘Carbon Footprint of Electricity Generation’ states that the operation of the nuclear power station accounts for less than 1% of the total life cycle emissions of nuclear electricity generation. (Hansard, 6 May 2014: Column 6W; http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201314/cmhansrd/cm140506/text/140506w0001.htm#14050638000032 )

The Prime Minister de facto admits that 99% of the carbon-emissions from generation of electricity using nuclear power comes from the nuclear fuel chain, but he misleadingly ignored this in his original assertion!

 

A day before Mr Cameron’s original comment on nuclear power being  “carbon-free” Gareth Wynn, communications director for nuclear new build at EDF Energy, delivered the opening keynote speech at the  PR Summit, a PRWeek-run event attended by 140 communications professionals in London on 29 April

 

He told the Summit: "I’m championing one of the activities, which is called Bringing Nuclear to Life. It comes back to building advocacy. What I’m building is a couple of hundred employees who are properly prepped and briefed on how to cope with the story why does nuclear matter in the energy mix and why is new nuclear important to EDF Energy.

"They are helping me internally and to go out into the community and schools to tell the story. Out of my relatively small team I’m now amplifying the impact we can have with their help."

He added: “This is us trying to normalise nuclear for consumers.”

(PR Summit: EDF's Gareth Wynn on its Olympic legacy and new nuclear, PR Week, April 29, 2014; http://www.prweek.com/article/1292267/pr-summit-edfs-gareth-wynn-its-olympic-legacy-new-nuclear)

They should try facts instead, for a change.

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