Wednesday, 4 September 2019

UK NDA publishes 'fake news' on Sellafield plant on eve of World Nuclear Association Symposium in London

I believe that some energy industries are better off in public ownership, and as such , support the public ownership ethic.

It was therefore very disappointing to read the press release  - reproduced below - this morning from the national UK Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA), owner of the Sellafield nuclear site, which included two significant factual errors, so egregiously inaccurate, that they may be deemed deliberate ”fake news.”

The  media release asserted of the Calder Hall  ‘Magnox’ nuclear plant: “Hailed as the dawn of the atomic age, it made Britain a world leader in the civil nuclear industry.”

But, in fact, Calder Hall was not a ‘civil’ nuclear power plant, but a plutonium production plant run by the UK Atomic Energy Authority for the Ministry of Defence ( then called the Ministry of Supply) to provide nuclear explosive materials for nuclear warheads.

In fact it 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’s commissioning in October 1956.  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."

The media release also asserted, entirely inaccurately, that Calder Hall “provided carbon-free electricity for 47 years.”

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.”

NDA must know these two assertions were false: why did they include them?

History made as final fuel leaves iconic nuclear plant

Defueling operations are complete at Sellafield’s Calder Hall.

Published 3 September 2019



Then and now merged image of the charge floor in Calder Hall

The Charge floor in Calder Hall - back in the 50s and now

It means the world’s first full-scale nuclear power station is empty of fuel for the first time since the 1950s.

The achievement marks an important milestone in the decommissioning of Sellafield.

It also means the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority’s Magnox Operating Programme is a step closer to completion.

The opening of Calder Hall by the Queen in 1956 sparked national celebration.

Hailed as the dawn of the atomic age, it made Britain a world leader in the civil nuclear industry.

When the station was switched on, nearby Workington became the first town in the world to receive heat, light, and power from atomic energy.

Calder Hall’s Magnox design was the template for Britain’s first generation of nuclear power stations and the technology was exported around the world.

The station provided carbon-free electricity for 47 years. It stopped generating power in 2003 and defueling began in 2011.

Stuart Latham, head of remediation for Sellafield Ltd, said:

This is a truly iconic moment.

Calder Hall was the birthplace of the civil nuclear industry. It inspired the world and put our site at the forefront of the atomic age.

Completing the defueling programme is an important moment for Sellafield.

The defueling team have completed the task safely and professionally and have a made a huge contribution to our mission.

Removing fuel from Calder Hall’s 4 reactors was a complex task.

A total of 38,953 spent fuel rods had to be carefully retrieved from the station’s 4 reactors.

The same machines that were used to load fuel into the reactors during its operational life were used to pull it out.

Once removed, the fuel was transferred in shielded flasks to Sellafield’s Fuel Handling Plant.

After being cooled in a storage pond, its casings are removed and the rod taken to Sellafield’s Magnox Reprocessing Plant to be reprocessed. This extracts the reusable uranium and plutonium from the fuel.

Calder Hall’s reactor buildings will now be placed into a state known as ‘care and maintenance’. In due course they will be fully decommissioned and demolished.

More information on Calder Hall


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