Thursday, 19 September 2019

Nuclear errors of commission and omission by UK on international stage


On Monday this week, inexperienced new energy minister Nadhim  Zahawi made a speech on behalf of the UK to the annual General   meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)  in Vienna. (full speech is  reproduced below)

These are the key career elements of Mr Zadawi’s CV according to Wikipedia,

Following a career as European Marketing Director for Smith & Brooks Ltd, Nadhim Zahawi co-founded pollster YouGov, and  was YouGov's CEO from 2005 to 2010. In 2010 he was selected by the local Conservative association for Stratford-on-Avon as a prospective parliamentary candidate in the 2010 general election, and won the seat. He was subsequently re-elected in 2015 and 2017.

As a backbench MP, he served on the Business, Innovation and Skills Committee. In October 2013, he became a member of the Number 10 Policy Unit. From 9 January 2018 to 25 July 2019 he served as Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department for Education, with responsibility for Children and Families.
Since 26 July 2019 he has been Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Industry at the business and energy department, BEIS. ( )
His expertise on energy has been less than two months. So perhaps he can be excused for not being very conversant with details of nuclear, or wider energy policy. But his BEIS departmental speech writers have no such excuse.

Why, then, have they chosen to put significant  disingenuous words into the new energy minister’s mouth?

For example, Zadawi  told the IAEA General Assembly: “The UK Government is committed to tackling the global challenge of climate change. We recently became the first major economy to set a target of net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. We believe nuclear energy will play a key role in achieving this..”

This assertion misrepresents nuclear’s relationship to carbon emissions: it represents a significant error of omission:

A recent and comprehensive Life Cycle Assessments (LCAs) of greenhouse gas emissions from differing power generation technologies by Mark Jacobson, professor of civil and environmental engineering at Stanford University, California - and director of its Atmosphere/Energy Program - have indicated that nuclear CO2 emissions are between 10 to 18 times greater than those from renewables. He is very qualified for such analysis, being also Senior Fellow at the Precourt Institute for Energy, and at the Woods Institute for the Environment, where he has developed computer models to study the effects of fossil fuel and biomass burning on air pollution, weather, and climate.

Review of solutions to global warming, air pollution, and energy security† Energy & Environmental Science, 1 December 2008; 

In a newly completed chapter by Professor Jacobson in a forthcoming energy book, Evaluation of Nuclear Power as a Proposed Solution to Global Warming, Air Pollution, and Energy Security, in 100% Clean, Renewable Energy and Storage for Everything [Textbook in Preparation] he argues cogently:

 “There is no such thing as a zero- or close-to-zero emission nuclear power plant. Even existing plants emit due to the continuous mining and refining of uranium needed for the plant. However, all plants also emit 4.4 g-CO2e/kWh from the water vapor and heat they release. This contrasts with solar panels and wind turbines, which reduce heat or water vapor fluxes to the air by about 2.2 g-CO2e/kWh for a net difference from this factor alone of 6.6 g-CO2e/kWh. 

“Overall,” he concludes, “emissions from new nuclear are 78 to178 g-CO2/kWH, not close to 0”
[See also, a meta-study by Dr Benjamin K Sovacool, Professor of Energy Policy at the Science Policy Research Unit (SPRU) at the School of Business, Management, and Economics, part of the University of Sussex, who serves as Director of the Sussex Energy Group and Director of the Center on Innovation and Energy Demand [which involves the University of Oxford and University of Manchester]  “Valuing the greenhouse gas emissions from nuclear power: A critical survey, Energy Policy, 36, 2940-2953, 2008.

He concludes the following:“This article screens 103 lifecycle studies of greenhouse gas-equivalent emissions for nuclear power plants to identify a subset of the most current, original, and transparent studies.

It begins by briefly detailing the separate components of the nuclear fuel cycle before explaining the methodology of the survey and exploring the variance of lifecycle estimates. It calculates that while the range of emissions for nuclear energy over the lifetime of a plant, reported from qualified studies examined, is from 1.4 g of carbon dioxide equivalent per kWh (g CO2e/kWh) to 288 g CO2e/kWh, the mean value is 66 g CO2e/kWh. The article then explains some of the factors responsible for the disparity in lifecycle estimates, in particular identifying errors in both the lowest estimates (not comprehensive) and the highest estimates (failure to consider co-products). It should be noted that nuclear power is not directly emitting greenhouse gas emissions, but rather that lifecycle emissions occur through plant construction, operation, uranium mining and milling, and plant decommissioning.”]

Why do BEIS officials not know this?

Later in his speech, Zadawi asserts “some States continue to challenge the global non-proliferation system”, and immediately fingered Iran. Yet Iran has no nuclear weapons. Meanwhile, the UK is a self-appointed nuclear weapons [of mass destruction] state, which pledged in 1968, under article 6 of the nuclear non -proliferation treaty (NPT)  - which British diplomats helped to draft in the mid1960s  – “to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament…”(

Not one UK nuclear weapon has been withdrawn from operational deployment in the e51 years since as a result of “negotiations”. The only nuclear weapons withdrawn from service are those deemed redundant by the Government. The UK’s nuclear destruction capacity has massively increased in this period, with the deployment of the mass killer  Trident WMD.

The hypocrisy of the speech writer (s) text is spectacular.

UK Statement to the 63rd International Atomic Energy Agency General Conference


Delivered by Minister for Industry and Business Nadhim Zahawi in Vienna, 16 September 2019.

Published 17 September 2019


Delivered on:

16 September 2019 (Original script, may differ from delivered version)

Nadhim Zahawi MP

Madam President,

Congratulations on your appointment as President of this Conference. It is my great pleasure to lead the UK’s delegation this year, and to continue the close partnership between the UK Government and the IAEA.

It is with sadness that I reflect on the passing of former Director General Amano. A committed public servant and friend of the United Kingdom, he led the Agency through significant challenges and leaves a positive legacy for global peace, security and development.

Madam President,

The UK Government is committed to tackling the global challenge of climate change. We recently became the first major economy to set a target of net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

We believe nuclear energy will play a key role in achieving this, so our landmark Nuclear Sector Deal is bringing industry and Government together to ensure the nuclear sector thrives in the UK.

As work progresses on our new nuclear power plant at Hinkley Point C, we are exploring innovative financing models for new build projects and ways to reduce the costs of decommissioning. We are also exploring the potential of small and advanced modular reactors.

At the same time, our Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Strategy will develop new talent and a diverse workforce for the UK.

Mindful of our responsibilities to future generations, we have also launched consent-based processes to identify a location for a Geological Disposal Facility for our higher activity radioactive waste.

Madam President,

Next year’s 50th anniversary of the Non-Proliferation Treaty is an important moment to emphasise the importance of its three Pillars, and celebrate the Agency’s support for its peaceful uses and non-proliferation aspects.

The UK is among the biggest supporters of the Agency’s Technical Cooperation Programme for sustainable development. I am proud to pledge our 2020 contribution of €3.8m to the TC Fund today. I urge all Member States to join us in pledging and paying their full share.

It is right that more countries benefit from peaceful nuclear technologies. But this brings responsibilities to protect people and maintain public acceptance of nuclear energy.

If something goes wrong, whether accidental or deliberate, all States must meet their obligations to openness and transparency with their neighbours.

We strongly support the IAEA’s work to help Member States implement robust nuclear safety and security measures. To ensure our own regulations meet the highest standards, the UK will host an Integrated Regulatory Review Service mission next month. We encourage others to use IAEA advisory services.

Madam President,

The application of IAEA safeguards is indispensable for global peace and security. All States should ratify an Additional Protocol, the gold standard for safeguards agreements. The UK’s own new safeguards arrangements are ready and will ensure we continue to meet our obligations once EURATOM arrangements no longer apply to the UK.

However, some States continue to challenge the global non-proliferation system.

The UK calls on Iran to reverse its suspension of stockpile and enrichment limits and comply with its obligations under the JCPOA. We welcome the Agency’s monitoring of Iranian compliance with the deal, and we remain committed to its full implementation.

North Korea’s recent missile launches and violations of UN resolutions are of great concern. We are clear that sanctions must remain in place until North Korea takes concrete steps towards denuclearisation. Finally, Syria has not met its safeguards obligations since 2011. This issue must remain on the Board’s agenda until Syria returns to full compliance with its obligations.

Madam President,

The UK will continue to give the Secretariat, and the future Director General, our full support in fulfilling the Agency’s unique and important role.

Thank you.

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