Sunday, 7 October 2018

Nuclear Neanderthals need to learn some facts

Alan Simpson’s excellent article on the progressive transformative economy plan to deliver a sustainable energy and resource use future unveiled by John McDonnell and Jeremy Corbyn at the Labour Conference in Liverpool overlooked one great dinosaur in the room: the industrial  unions’ support for nuclear power (“Labour’s vision for a smarter, cleaner future,” Morning Star, 6-7 October; )

An earlier fascinating feature by Nicolas Laguna (“The nuclear debate is a cover for sustaining exploitation,” 28 September; ) pointed out how some senior Labour figures still hang onto support of new nuclear as a way to combat climate change.

In between these two articles the GMB published a press release headed “Go Ahead With Sizewell ( 1st October; arguing that “Starting with Sizewell C Britain needs at least five new very low carbon nuclear power stations if we are to meet our energy needs and reduce our dependency on foreign imports of power says GMB Union,” whilst hailing the “excellent progress” on Hinkley Point C (HPC), a dual reactor complex in north Somerset that is much delayed and vastly ( several £billion) over cost

They then claim the costs of building Sizewell C (SZC) are expected to be up to 30% cheaper than HPC as it would largely be a replication of HPC. The lower risk from a ‘repeat project’ would lead to savings from the design and development and lower equipment qualification costs

Yet actual experience from HPC’s builder, Electricite de France (EDF Energy) demonstrates that, uniquely, EDF has a record of a ‘negative learning curve’ ie the more experience it has in building and operating reactors, the more expensive they  become ( see Energy Policy journal, September 2010, Pages 5174-5188, “The costs of the French nuclear scale-up: A case of negative learning by doing” ;!)

Jude Brimble, GMB National Secretary for Manufacturing, still extraordinarily insisted: “Hinkley Point C has been a triumph for UK Construction and Engineering Construction and added “HPC will provide 7% of the UK’s energy needs when completed.”

In asserting this, Jude misleadingly conflated  ‘energy’ with ‘electricity’ Even if its output met 100% of its generating capacity this would be  less than 2% of national energy output.

The GMB also asserted in a second press release next day (“Hinkley Point Legal Case Withdrawn, 2 October 2018; that it was  satisfied that the licence granting conditions”  for the dumping of radioactively contaminated mud dredged from off the HPC site to enable construction by opening up a channel for  barges to deliver components “were very strict in relation to sediment testing.” GMB’s Regional Secretary for GMB Wales and South West, John Phillips, also asserted “the radioactivity levels from the dredged deposits do not pose any hazard to the environment or human health” concluding “As there is currently no evidence demonstrating that the mud contains radioactive materials above the specified threshold, GMB believes that the marine sediment is suitable for disposal at the designated site, based on both current legislation and internationally accepted standards."

To believe this, GMB must have deliberately ignored extensive evidence provided to the Welsh Assembly Government by Professor Emeritus of Physics at Imperial College, London, Keith Barnham; radiation risk professional Dr Richard Bramhall, national secretary of the Welsh Ant Nuclear Alliance, and the detailed report commissioned from  expert biologist, Tim Deere–Jones, presented to an earlier hearing of  the Welsh Assembly  Petitions Committee. (National Assembly for Wales, Petitions Committee Summary of evidence Petition P-05-785 Suspend Marine Licence 12/45/ML to dump radioactive marine sediments from the Hinkley Point nuclear site into Wales coastal waters off  Cardiff,  May 2018;

The Welsh Assembly is due to debate the whole issue again on 10 October.

I recommend GMB officials to attend, and listen!  As should Labour Assembly  members. They do those they represent no favours by ignoring the evidence

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