Monday, 11 November 2019

Nuclear nonsense of the highest order from UK Energy department


As Parliament is closed for the UK General election, and thus MPs are not sitting on select committees scrutinising Government activities, the energy department (BEIS) chose Friday last week to release an extraordinarily tendentious report promoting new &  untried  design nuclear  power plant development within the UK, and nuclear technology and related services sales abroad

Written by the consultancy Vivid Economics, it is supported by The Carbon Trust, E4Tech, Frazer Nash Consultancy and Imperial College London, with modelling support by Catapult Energy Systems.

They should all be ashamed to put their names to such a desultory, biased and  ludicrous report, based on complete fantasy. Even true nuclear believers, BEIS,  includes the disclaimer: “The views expressed in this report are the authors’ and do not necessarily reflect those of the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.”

The nuclear energy sub-theme analysis focusses exclusively on nuclear energy, covering three categories of nuclear power: Generation III (Gen III), Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) and Advanced Modular Reactors (AMRs).

It explains that in preparing the report “A full-day workshop was held on 14th December 2018 with key delegates from the nuclear industry, academic community and research agencies. Key aspects of the EINA analysis were subjected to scrutiny, including innovation opportunity assessment, and business and policy opportunities assessment.”

Here are the nuclear industry bodies, the academic institutions and  research agencies that took part in the workshop.

Cavendish Nuclear  • Dalton Institute • Energy Systems Catapult • Frazer Nash • HM Treasury • National Nuclear Laboratory • Nuclear Decommissioning Authority • Nuclear Innovation and Research Office • Rolls Royce • Westinghouse


With such a group of nuclear cheerleaders, the outcome is predictable,

The report has four sections:

• Nuclear and the whole energy system: Describes the role of nuclear fission in the energy system, based on ESME modelling performed by the ESC.

• Innovation opportunities: Provides lists of the key innovations available within nuclear fission, and their approximate impact on costs.

• Business opportunities: Summarises the export opportunities of biomass and bioenergy, the GVA and jobs supported by these opportunities, and how innovation helps the UK capture the opportunities.

Market barriers to innovation: Highlights areas of innovation where market barriers are high and energy system cost reductions and business opportunities significant.


It sets out several “ business opportunities for the UK.”


Innovation provides a business opportunity to grow nuclear-related exports, contributing up to £1.3 billion of GVA per annum in the 2030s, and £0.7 billion of GVA per annum by 2050.

• Two key strengths for the UK are exports related to the fuel cycle and decommissioning, which combined are roughly half the business opportunity. Although decommissioning is expected to peak in the 2030s given the age profile of the current nuclear fleet.

• To fully unlock the export opportunity around nuclear technology, the broader UK nuclear supply chain must be developed, likely through the export of a UK reactor design, possibly an SMR.

• Domestic business opportunities can contribute around £9.6 billion per annum in GVA and support 130,000 jobs by 2050 (Table 8). This is significantly larger than export opportunities primarily because of the GVA from services that are not traded extensively, such as decommissioning and waste management.


The report generally makes limited reference to radioactive waste management. In looking at innovation opportunities, it states on ‘advanced fuel recycling, reprocessing and assessmentthat “Innovations in fuels offer opportunities for more efficient waste management. Without government intervention, innovation will likely continue.”


However, the report also notes “Decommissioning costs might be under-represented. There is some concern about the discounted rates usually utilised to calculate costs for decommissioning. Workshop feedback has suggested that the rates tend to be too low and lack accurate reflection of final costs at the end of nuclear life.


And on Gen 111 reactors, it states: “Waste management: innovations allow for advanced qualification of waste forms, packing density, fuel recycling and assessment.”


Amongst the UK strengths identified are those in “waste management and decommissioning:” Examples given are “Sellafield Ltd, who oversee the safe and secure operation and clean-up of the Sellafield’s site.” The report cites as evidence this reference: This is public affairs promotional web site ie no evidence is presented. in respect of the quality of safety or security provided.



The report further states:


“Waste management: the UK market share is assumed to be 80% up to 2050, in line with decommissioning. Waste management is a strength of the UK, with most UK waste handled at the Sellafield site; domestic waste management is expected to continue, driving a broadly constant domestic market share.”


It adds:  


“The UK also has leading expertise in decommissioning and waste management.

The UK has previously won decommissioning contracts in Europe, and the US and has an established decommissioning supply chain capable of dealing with all aspects of the safe and efficient clean-up of nuclear facilities.44 As the global nuclear fleet ages, there is a significant opportunity for the UK to win further decommissioning contracts, particularly in the European Union (EU), US and Japan. Key firms in this industry are:

• Magnox Decommissioning, which has employed innovative ‘lead and learn’ techniques to the 12 nuclear decommissioning sites it manages.

• Low Level Waste Repository Ltd, which has recently deployed new high-precision containers to deliver radioactive waste.

• Dounreay Site Restoration Ltd, which is involved in demolition and waste management.”


But waste and decommissioning are only addressed in terms of services the UK nuclear sector could sell, eg

Firms in the UK supply chain can export innovative decommissioning techniques that reduce the cost and human involvement. To capture this, the UK market share grows to 5% of the EU and the RoW markets by 2050. This was considered plausible at the workshop as the UK is competitive in this area.

Innovation can enable the UK to capture greater market share by leveraging existing facilities and the advanced capabilities that its supply chain has in this sector. To capture this, the UK market share grows to 5% of the EU and the RoW (Rest of World) markets by 2050. This was considered plausible at the workshop.”


And separately later:


“The UK’s strength in decommissioning is relatively well-established, but the potential GVA and jobs from exports for a UK designed reactor hinge on the UK developing a competitive advantage it has not yet demonstrated. Rapid innovation and (likely domestic) demonstration are crucial to deliver this outcome.”


A footnote (60) explains:

The decommissioning value to the UK is around £1.7 billion annually (Source Nuclear Industry Association) and nuclear power imports are around £300 million annually (Source House of Commons (2017)  



It also asserts:

The back end of the fuel cycle can contribute £3.1 billion in GVA per annum and support 43,000 jobs by 2050. As the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) continues the decommissioning process for previously shutdown facilities and EDF oversees the decommissioning of the Advanced Gas-cooled reactor fleet, back end of the fuel cycle opportunities increase substantially. Decommissioning can contribute around £1.8 billion GVA annually by 2050 and support 20,000 jobs; whilst waste management can contribute around £1.3 billion annually by 2050 and support 23,000 jobs. Unlike other opportunities, back end of the fuel cycle opportunities are not reliant on the growth of nuclear stock with most decommissioning and waste management costs up to 2050 tied to plants that have already shutdown or soon will.”


However, waste and decommissioning are barely if at all considered as a burden that would be created from each new GEN111, SMR or AMR nuclear power plant that may be built. This is almost totally ignored.


Here are two passing mentions:


“Decommissioning for new build takes place in the far future and is heavily discounted, resulting in little incentive to innovate to reduce costs in the design stage”
Decommissioning and waste management market turnover: Annual new deployment and costs cannot be used to determine the market turnover for decommissioning waste management because these costs are not realised until the end of the fuel cycle. Instead our analysis considers historical nuclear deployment in the UK (every reactor ever deployed) and existing operating reactors. The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority’s (NDA) planned total expenditure up to 2050 is used to determine the market turnover associated with nuclear plants that have already shutdown. For the soon-to-be decommissioned existing Advanced Gas-cooled reactor fleet, our analysis assumes no decommissioning and waste management costs are realised for the lifetime of the plant, but that their costs will be realised in equal annual flows for the 50 years after the plant is decommissioned. This method gives the market turnover for decommissioning and waste management associated with currently operating plants and is added to the NDA figure for already shutdown facilities. Although some costs will be realised for waste management during the operation of the plant, we make the simplifying assumption that they are all realised after the plant has closed e.g. long-term waste management. This analysis assumes the UK continues to pursue a SAFSTOR policy.


This shoddy scholarship is typical of the entire report


The authors stress:


“Like any whole system model, ESME (Energy Systems Modelling Environment)  is not a complete characterisation of the real world..” emphasis added


But nevertheless concludes: ““Whole system analysis using the BEIS EINA methodology described above shows that there is significant value to the UK in continued (and accelerated) innovation in nuclear technology” emphasis added.


Taken together, the disjunction between these two assertions demonstrates the muddled thinking egregiously  populating the entire disreputable report.


  1. ""...there is significant value to the UK in continued (and accelerated) innovation in nuclear technology”...""

    Nuclear power technology hasn't done badly in the past and has benefited many people we all know and maybe even your goodself, Dr Lowry: