Thursday, 18 August 2016

Nuclear never is what it looks like....

Letter to the Daily Telegraph:

In Ambrose Evans-Pritchard’s interesting article on nuclear past and possible nuclear futures (“ Britain should leap-frog Hinkley and lead 21st Century nuclear revolution, Daily Telegraph, 18  August he  misleadingly asserts: “Our Queen opened the world's first nuclear power plant in 1956 at Calder Hall.”

Her Majesty did indeed open Calder Hall, on the Sellafield site ( then called Windscale). But  Calder Hall was not a normal nuclear power plant, but a plutonium production plant run by the UK Atomic Energy Authority for the Ministry of Defence to provide nuclear explosive materials for nuclear warheads.

This fact  was clearly stated at the time of the plant’s opening, in a remarkable little book entitled Calder Hall: The Story of Britain’s First Atomic Power Station, written by Kenneth Jay, and published by the Government’s Atomic Energy Research Establishment at Harwell to mark Calder Hall’s commissioning, when Mr Jay wrote:

“Major plants built for military purposes such as Calder Hall are being used as prototypes for civil plants . . . the plant has been designed as a dual-purpose plant to produce plutonium for military purposes as well as electric power . . . it would be wrong to pretend that the civil programme has not benefitted from, and is not to some extent dependent upon, the military programme."

I would also  be sceptical about the claims of the promoters of a potential atomic alternative to Hinkley C. Such pies-in-the-sky options have been postulated for decades; and any projected costs of electricity from such fantasy reactors is pure guesswork, always erring on the optimistic low end of the scale.

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