Sunday, 29 November 2020

Nuclear dissembling: From “too cheap to meter” to a clean-up bill for £132 billion (and counting)

The nuclear industry has perpetrated a lot of untruths in six decades of dissembling. But the brazen atomic assertion repeated endlessly in the 1950s that atomic energy would produce power “too cheap to meter” ( originally said by the then chairman of the US Atomic Energy Commission, Lewis Stauss, on 16 September 1954, speech to the US National Association of Science Writers when he opined: “It is not too much to expect that our children will enjoy in their homes electrical energy too cheap to meter..”) Parliament’s public spending watchdog body, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) reveale don 27 November the huge costs escalations for dealing wwiththeBritish nucleaer waste stockpile, stating: “The cost of the long-term liability to decommission the UK’s civil nuclear sites now stands at £132 billion, though by its nature this estimate is inherently uncertain. Even the cost to take the Magnox sites to the care and maintenance stage of the decommissioning process is highly uncertain, with the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) currently estimating that it will cost anything from £6.9 billion to £8.7 billion.” [The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority’s management of the Magnox contract] The PAC goes onto explain that the timetable for completing this work is “similarly uncertain,” with a current estimate of anything from 12 to 15 years, adding “ past experience tells us that these estimates could increase further.” The MPs believe that the efforts to produce a reliable estimate are “made more difficult by the historical legacy of decommissioning being an afterthought when the nuclear industry was established, and poor records of what hazardous materials are on the sites. In this context, the NDA faces a considerable challenge to produce a reliable cost estimate. However, lack of knowledge about the sites was a significant factor in the failure of the Magnox procurement and original contract, which seriously damaged the NDA’s reputation and has now cost the taxpayer in excess of £140 million, and it continues to be a major barrier to making progress.” They also identify a further barrier to proper long term radioactive waste management as development of sufficient skills and capacity to decommission sites efficiently. The MPS assert that the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) “recognises that its oversight of the NDA has been weak in the past”. They say they “welcome the BEIS and the NDA’s “commitments to improve performance over the next 10 years…and also look forward to reviewing the latest quarterly performance reports which the Department has offered to send us, and note there is an enhanced commercial assurance review to consider all future commercial decisions. We will hold the Department and the NDA to account for their progress in improving the transparency of the nuclear industry and making a success of the new delivery and governance approach. One key conclusion of the report states: The uncertainty affecting the Magnox sites reflects a wider uncertainty about the costs and timetable of decommissioning the whole civil nuclear estate. The NDA estimates that the work will not be completed for another 120 years, the MPs state. The nuclear generation programme has been going less than 60 years to date. The largest proportion of this cost is to clean up and decommission the NDA’s largest site at Sellafield, but the cost to decommission the NDA’s Magnox sites is also substantial, as is the liability associated with decommissioning the next family of nuclear power stations, known as the Advanced Gas-Cooled Reactors (AGRs). The PAC reveals that money held in the Nuclear Liabilities Fund - which exists to fund the decommissioning of the AGRs specifically- was increased from £9.5 billion by an additional £5.07 billion this year to reflect the latest estimate of the work required. The NDA is consulting publicly about its strategy for cleaning up its nuclear sites. It may be possible, the PAC observes, to reduce the time it will take to fully decommission the sites of former nuclear power stations from around 85 years to more like 40–45 years. This could significantly reduce the long-term cost of decommissioning the sites as 40% of the overall decommissioning cost can be spent in maintaining, operating and safeguarding the sites while decommissioning activity is taking place. There is also, the MPs suggest “ an opportunity to save taxpayers’ money by accelerating the programme to create a deep storage facility, known as the Geological Disposal Facility, to store highly radioactive waste that is currently held at interim facilities at Sellafield and the sites of former power stations elsewhere in the UK.” I very much doubt a GDF will save money. It will just reposition spending from storage to below ground emplacement. of waste package. The committee recommends: The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority and the Department should make it a priority to progress their plans to find a location for a Geological Disposal Facility in order to reduce interim storage costs at Sellafield and elsewhere, and should confirm when they consider such a Facility might feasibly become available for the storage of waste. This recommendation demonstrates a poor understanding of what the real problems are. Its continued creation! The MPs further point out that a “shortage of the right skills within the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority and across the nuclear industry remains a significant barrier to progress.” They recall that “In our 2018 report on the failure of the Magnox contract we were highly critical of the lack of skills—particularly commercial skills—in the NDA. There is also a shortage of technical skills in the pipeline.” (emphasis added) Since then, the NDA has increased its focus on recruiting experienced staff to its own The PAC notes that BEIS tells us that “its relationship with the NDA has changed, with improved oversight of both the NDA’s strategy and progress with its major projects, a dedicated team in the Department [BEIS] looking at the NDA, and a representative of UK Government Investments on the NDA’s own board who reports to the BEIS’s accounting officer” It them adds ominously:“ But we remain concerned about the Department’s capacity to oversee the NDA effectively, and about the number of players from different parts of Government who are involved. Key to learning lessons from the past and establishing appropriate oversight and governance will be implementing the recommendations of the Holliday inquiry into the Magnox contract and the Department’s ‘Tailored Review’ of the role of the NDA. We welcome the Department’s commitment to completing and publishing these reports as a priority, but it is frustrating and concerning that it is taking so long for these important reviews to be published.” (emphasis added) The MPs assert that “ The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority is not doing enough to exploit its various assets, either for the benefit of local communities or the UK economy as a whole….. The NDA receives around £800 million a year in income from its commercial activities. Given the expertise and technologies which the NDA and the UK nuclear industry have developed over the years, there are further opportunities, in fields such as Artificial Intelligence and robotics, with export potential which could benefit the UK economy and provide jobs for people in local communities.” It adds: “The NDA also owns and occupies substantial amounts of land. It is encouraging to hear that around 50 acres of land at Harwell has been released and is currently home to a manufacturing centre for coronavirus vaccine. The NDA’s wider estate contains land which could be exploited for commercial and socially beneficial use and could provide much needed employment in nearby communities.” The important thing is that the NDA does not promote the building of further nuclear power plants- such as SMRs- that would add to the already unmanageable national nuclear waste stockpile The MPs also rightly highlight the secrecy that shrouds nuclear decisions made by the NDA, stating: “Public accountability is hindered by a lack of transparency about the scale and nature of the challenge of decommissioning and the performance of the NDA.” Nuclear decommissioning will cost current and future generations of taxpayers’ substantial sums of money and has a significant impact on the lives of those who live near one of the NDA’s sites. However, little information about, for example, the timescales for completing decommissioning work and returning land to communities is readily available to the public. Greater transparency about progress with decommissioning would improve public accountability, help to stimulate improved performance, and increase the visibility to local communities of the activities and opportunities available on NDA sites.” Indeed. ________________________________________ Published: 27 November 2020 Site information ________________________________________ Contents Summary Introduction Conclusions and recommendations 1 Understanding and managing the burden of nuclear decommissioning on the taxpayer Uncertainty over the cost and timetable for decommissioning Maximising the potential of assets 2 Meeting the future challenges of nuclear decommissioning Shortages of the right skills Departmental oversight and the new delivery model Transparency about the scale and nature of the challenge Formal minutes Witnesses Published written evidence List of Reports from the Committee during the current Parliament

Thursday, 26 November 2020

El Diego: class is eternal

I only saw the incomparable Diego Armando Maradona play one in the flesh, in a friendly encounter at Wembley Stadium in the summer of 1987, when Maradona outshone everyone else on the pitch - Michel Platini and Gary Lineker- -big stars all: but not as blazingly bright as the unique urchin of Buenos Aires. El Diego’s team lost 3-0 on that day, 8 August 1987, but the score-line was irrelevant: the master had performed. ( Maradona was brave to show up for this match, as just over a year earlier, he had helped dump England out of the 1986 World Cup, in Mexico City’s Azteca Stadium, with his infamous Hand-of-God ‘Goal’. To say the least, he was widely disliked in England. I had watched that game, not in England, but in a bar in Miami, on holiday. I recall it very well. When Maradona punched in his first goal, it barely caused a ripple in the bar. The US was not, then, much interested in soccer (as it was called, in contrast the football - the US version that permits handling the ball by all players). Maradona, barely five feet five inches tall, had out-jumped England’s excellent goalkeeper, Peter Shilton, 6 feet one inches tall. But a few minutes later, when Maradona won the ball in a skirmish in the centre circle on then bumpy recently re-laid turf, and headed at speed for the England goal, leaving six desperate England players in his wake in a mazy run, before poking the ball passed an already shattered Shilton for the winning goal, the entire bar rose to its feet in unison, applauding. They- we- had just witnessed in real time, the best World Cup goal ever. And the little diablo from Argentina had scored it. Gary Lineker, in that England team, later said it was the only time he felt like clapping a goal scored against his own team. Extraordinary. Fast forward to November 2020. In the current issue of the monthly football magazine 4-4-2 whose cover is adorned by current Argentine super star, Lionel Messi, they perchance run an excellent series of articles on Maradona: the untold stories. Being barely educated urchin from a barrio on the SE outskirts of Buenos Aires, refined speech was not his forte. And so, fresh off a 6-1 thumping by Bolivia in La Paz, early in his managerial term of Argentina in October 2009, he faced off a hostile Argentine football press at the press conference before his next match, in Montevideo, opening his press conference with “You lot take it up the arse!” As 4-4-2 observed, that’s a tone setting sentence if there ever was one. Indeed. Messi said on hearing of EL Diego’s death: “He leaves us but he does not leave, because Diego is eternal.” Too true. A short life, Diego died at barely 60; but his memory will live long.

Wednesday, 25 November 2020

Government mismanagement and Orwellian Secrecy

Two letters to the press on Government mis-managment: I was very interested to read your article on the new report ‘Art of Darkness’, by the information lobby group Open Democracy, (“'Orwellian' government unit obstructs freedom of information, says report,“ 25 November) Since the FOI Act 2000 came into force in 2005, I have made many FOI submissions to several different Government departments and quangos. It has become clear that the speed of response has slowed down markedly, and degree of disclosure has become significantly eroded through redaction, or downright refusal to provide substantive response. In one instance, an application made to the national nuclear regulator, the Office for Nuclear Regulation, (ONR) on its review of small modular nuclear reactor (SMRs) and advanced nuclear reactors (ANTs) - originally submitted in August 2019 - has still not been fully substantively answered. ONR several times asked me to limit the scope of my application by time periods and areas on interest. I was invited to speak to different ONR experts by phone, nominally so they could understand exactly what information I was seeking, but in practice to reduce significantly the scope of my FOI request, to limit disclosure. I persisted with my application early this year, despite being hospitalised by a serious illness, and in the spring received an opprobrious letter from the chief executive, de facto telling me off for being so persistent in demanding they disclose the requested information, and complaining the delays were unacceptable.. Now, with the revelation of this cabinet office clearing house, I can put 2 and 2 together, and understand why ONR has creatively stalled replying in full. I have asked ONR whether they passed on my original request to this clearing house, rightly labeled as Orwellian. I trust it will not take another 15 months to find out the answer! >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> The Daily Mail has provided an important public service in its excellent Monday morning expose of the widespread misuse and waste of hard-earned taxpayers’ money( Daily Mail) on an extraordinary range of luxuries and fripperies. I would however take exception to the inclusion of ergonomically designed office chairs. I regard Government departments and some quangos providing these for staff forced to work at home due to the Coronacrisis as a sensible investment. Significant time off work is caused by chronic lower back trouble, which is sometimes initiated or exacerbated by poor sitting posture at work desks. Such problem are recurring. Even at several £ hundred each, such properly designed chairs engineered to create proper body posture are sensible ways to avoid very painful absence from work in future. Don’t throw out the baby with the bath water!

Saturday, 21 November 2020

Priti imperfect

The country does not want to be run by people who behave “discourteously and unpleasantly.” So said Allegra Stratton, the Prime minister’s new spokeswoman at the beginning of the week. Barely five days later, her new boss exonerates one of his own cabinet, after an independent report finds her guilty of the very nasty bullying behaviour Stratton excoriates. Welcome to 10 Downing Street, Allegra. And good luck!

Thursday, 19 November 2020

Boris Johnson plays truth or dare with nuclear power

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is not a details man; and he often plays fast-and-loose with the truth. So it should not really come as a surprise that the document he issued in support of his ‘Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution’ contains inaccuracies. (“Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution, Cabinet Office, 19 November 2020;”) I am sure he did not write it himself, so specialist officials who prepared it, have been prepared to write in his happy-go-lucky casual relation with the truth in the text they crafted. The section covering Point 3: Delivering New and Advanced Nuclear Power, is a good exemplar of a perpetuated inaccuracy by nuclear cheerleaders, who rewrite history for modern convenience. In the second paragraph of this section, its states: “The UK was home to the world’s first full-scale civil nuclear power station more than sixty years ago… “ The nuclear plants in question are not named, but sixty years ago there were only four nuclear power reactor plants operating in the UK. Two were experimental reactors in Scotland: the Dounreay Materials Test Reactor (DMTR) that went critical in May 1958; and the Dounreay Fast Reactor (DFR), which achieved criticality on 14 November 1959.( The only other two reactors operating were the Chapel Cross Magnox production reactor in Annan, Dumfries and Galloway, in 1959, which did generate electricity, but primarily was used to produce weapons-useable plutonium, and tritium from inserted lithium, to enhance hydrogen nuclear warhead explosions (https://www.secretscotla And Calder Hall, on the Sellafield site in Cumbria, which was opened on 17th October 1956 by Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth 2nd (“60th anniversary of 'iconic' Calder Hall opening” (Monday 17 October The young Queen Elizabeth’s script writer penned the following for Her Majesty to say from the podium: “This new power, which has proved itself to be such a terrifying weapon of destruction, is harnessed for the first time for the common good of our community." It was hailed as an "epoch-making" event by then Lord Privy Seal, Richard Butler; but it was, however, a gross deception of the British public. ( 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 in October 1956 by the Government’s Atomic Energy Research Establishment at Harwell to mark Calder’s commissioning. 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." As it happens, on Monday this week I took part in a conference call with four officials from Radioactive Waste Management Limited (RWML)- responsible the long-term management/ disposal of the UK’s radioactive waste stockpile- arranged had complained about several factual misrepresentations in RWML’s digital and/or printed media materials. One of the misrepresentations of complained, was the persistent description of Calder Hall as a commercial or civil nuclear power plant. When we arrived at the discussion of this point, RWML head of Communications , Guy Esnouf, conceded I had been right all along, and henceforth they would describe Calder Hall correctly. So should Boris Johnson!

Wednesday, 18 November 2020

Green deal Boris Boosterism fails to make power choices

Letter submitted to The Financial Times: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, writing from inside his isolated bunker at Downing Street, seems to be more out of touch with reality than normal (“Now is the time to plan Britain’s green recovery,” Opinion, November 18). His mish-mash of ideas on greening the UK economy is not a plan in any thought out m way, as he has not recognised that in energy/electricity systems planning, you just cannot have a bit of everything on offer. The physical systems require very careful integration. Thus, he asserts he wants lots more offshore wind (point one; and more large and small scale nuclear (point 3). This won’t work, especially if the aim is to set in place a long term strategy for power generation to ensure the UK meets is carbon emission reduction target of net zero by 2050. The main exigency he fails to understand is the more nuclear is deployed, recent empirical evidence shows it crowds out the deployment of wind, solar and potentially tidal power. In early October, two experience energy academics at the University of Sussex, by Professor Benjamin K. Sovacool and Professor Andy Stirling, published detailed analytic paper “Differences in carbon emissions reduction between countries pursuing renewable electricity versus nuclear power” in Nature Energy. ( Their paper focuses specifically on situations in which real-world constraints mean strategic choices must be made on resource allocation between nuclear or renewables-based electricity, and explores this dilemma retrospectively, by, they stress “examining past patterns in the attachments (i.e. investments) of different countries to nuclear or renewable strategies.” They conclude, inter alia, that countries with a greater attachment to nuclear will tend to have a lesser attachment to renewables, and vice versa. They strongly assert: “Put plainly – if countries want to lower emissions as substantially, rapidly and cost-effectively as possible, they should prioritise support for renewables rather than nuclear power. Pursuit of nuclear strategies risks taking up resources that could be used more effectively and suppressing the uptake of renewable energy.” And end up stressing their belief that their analysis is “the organised skepticism of independent science.” This is something sadly lacking in the Prime Minister’s boosterism for a bit of everything. Mr Johnson holds the top job. He needs to make choices.

Tuesday, 17 November 2020

SMRs: too close for comfort!

Letter sent to The Guardian: Your business commentator, Nils Pratley, concludes his evaluation of small modular nuclear reactors (SMRs) (“Rolls’s mini nuclear plants are appealing- but also I untried,” Finance, 12 November) by suggesting these so-called advanced nuclear technologies (ANTGs) “are an experiment worth exploring.” SMR proponents, such as Dr Mike Middletion, formerly of the defunct Energy Technologies Institute (ETI), have concluded such reactors would only ever be economically competitive if the surplus heat they inevitably create in operation can be used as either industrial process heat, or piped as domestic central heating. ( ETI's Strategy Manager Mike Middleton presented 'SMRs in the | The ETI The Energy Technologies Institute is a UK based company formed from global industries and the UK government. Delivering affordable, secure and sustainable energy. ) For this to happen, SMRs would have to be built on greenfield sites in, or close to urban populations, or industrial parks near to centres of population. This would reverse the decades- long safety policy of siting nuclear plants far away from concentrated centres of population. Would Mr Pratley be sanguine - as part of the experiment he welcomes - if the first SMR was built next to his home, so he could benefit from its surplus heat?

Saturday, 14 November 2020

Why two-tier nuclear safeguards systems undermines universality of safeguards application

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi has made a series of outreach initiatives in recent times. This past week he spoke via video conference to the UN General Assembly on “the Crucial Role of Nuclear Technologies in Fighting Pandemics and Climate.” Part of what he told diplomats in New York was under the headline: ‘Safeguards under the pandemic’, on which he said: “To carry out time sensitive safeguards verification work during the pandemic, the IAEA chartered airplanes to transport inspectors during the period of travel restrictions. This and other measures enabled the IAEA to continue its work inspecting nuclear facilities around the globe– verifying that the use of nuclear material is not diverted from peaceful purposes.” (emphasis added) (“UN General Assembly: IAEA Director General Highlights the Crucial Role of Nuclear Technologies in Fighting Pandemics and Climate Change, “ But this week, DG Grossi also made the highly unusual decision to respond personally to several questions on nuclear safeguards and the UK I posed to him during a webinar between DG Grossi and Paris-based Nuclear Energy Agency Director-General Dr William D. Magwood 1V on 15 October 2020. In response to my question: If D-G Grossi will make comment on the precedent set by the United Kingdom in establishing its own national nuclear safeguards system; how can the international community verify the validity of the UK self-reporting; and if he will say whether he would be happy for other IAEA member states, for example, Iran to have a similar self-reporting safeguards system? And if not,why not? Dr Grossi said “It is not a precedent for the UK to establish its own national nuclear safeguards system. A bilateral voluntary offer safeguards agreement (VOA) between the Agency and the UK in connection with the NPT was approved by the Board of Governors and signed in June 2018. As the UK is a nuclear-weapon State (NWS) party to the NPT, it is not required like non-nuclear-weapon States (NNWS) parties to the NPT to conclude a CSA in connection with Article III of the Treaty. The bilateral VOA, which is not yet in force, will replace the trilateral VOA between the UK, EURATOM and the Agency for the application of safeguards in the UK in connection with the NPT which entered into force on 14 August 1978, as a result of the withdrawal of the UK from the EURATOM Treaty. The content of the bilateral VOA is similar to the trilateral VOA, except that EURATOM is not party to the agreement. Article 7 of the bilateral VOA requires the UK to establish and maintain a national system of accounting for and control of all nuclear material subject to safeguards under this agreement (SSAC). This provision is based on INFCIRC/153 (Corrected) and has been included in the VOAs concluded by the Agency with all nuclear-weapon state (NWS) parties to the NPT, as well as in all Comprehensive Safeguards Agreements (CSA) concluded with non-nuclear weapons state (NNWS) parties to the NPT. In particular Article 7 of the bilateral VOA provides, like in other VOAs and CSAs, that “the Agency shall apply safeguards in accordance with the terms of this agreement in such a manner as to enable the Agency to verify, in ascertaining that nuclear material which is being safeguarded in facilities or parts thereof designated in accordance with Article 76(a) is not withdrawn from civil activities, except as provided for in this agreement, findings of the accounting and control system of the UK. (emphasis added) The Agency’s verification shall include, inter alia, independent measurements and observations conducted by the Agency in accordance with the procedures specified in Part II. The Agency, in its verification, shall take due account of the technical effectiveness of the system of the UK”. In terms, this confirms that the UK- as with other nuclear weapons states- is legally at liberty to weaponise, should it wish to do so, its entire fissile material stockpile ( the UK has circa 160 tonnes of stockpiled separated plutonium at Sellafield I followed up his initial question by asking: Is the DG relaxed about the Agency being a signatory to five so- called voluntary safeguards agreements with the P5 nuclear weapons states that allows each state to withdraw safeguarded fissile i.e. explosive nuclear materials from the scope of IAEA safeguards coverage with a simple notification to the Agency of this intention? What if non-nuclear weapons states were granted this opportunity? DG Grossi responded: “The scope of VOAs is not the same as the scope of CSAs. Under the VOAs the States may exercise the right set forth in the agreements to withdraw nuclear material from safeguards in accordance with the procedures specified for this purpose in the VOAs and Subsidiary Arrangements thereto. Such right does not exist under any CSA which require the application of safeguards to all nuclear material in all peaceful nuclear activities within the State territory, under its jurisdiction or control anywhere.” (emphasis added) This confirmed that a discriminatory two tier-system of voluntary and involuntary ( ie mandatory ) safeguards systems operates The UK Government has stated in official disclosures that it has requested nuclear materials be removed from safeguards on more than 600 occasions since 1978, when the UK “voluntary” safeguards agreement entered into force. (; [ The reponse to me came from Ms Francine Lontok, Executive Assistant, Director General’s Office International Atomic Energy Agency | Vienna International Centre, PO Box 100, 1400 Vienna, Austria | Email:| T: (+43-1) 2600-21005]

Wednesday, 11 November 2020

Why nuclear is a cul-de-sac en route to net zero carbon by 2050

Letter submitted to theGuarian on 10 November 2020: Your environment correspondent’s otherwise excellent report on the urgency of government action on net zero carbon (“Experts warn economies must act now on climate,” 9 November) includes nuclear power in a list of “low carbon efforts.” This is misleading. It is true that British business ministers (and politicians more widely) continue to include nuclear as a low carbon energy option. For instance, the Financial Times has reported (“US consortium revives plan for Welsh nuclear power plant, 10 November; “a revival of plans for a [new] Wylfa nuclear plant would also underline Britain’s commitment to pursuing large atomic reactors as a way to achieve its net zero emissions target by 2050.” Indeed, new US President–elect Biden last July released a $2 trillion clean energy plan designed to achieve a carbon-free energy sector by 2035, which included keeping existing nuclear energy plants in operation. (“Biden’s $2 Trillion Clean Energy Plan Includes Nuclear NucNet, 16 July 2020;( Nuclear power will not provide any useful dent in curbing harmful emissions, as when the carbon footprint of its full uranium ‘fuel chain’ is considered- from uranium mining, milling, enrichment ( which is highly energy intensive), fuel fabrication, irradiation, radioactive waste conditioning, storage, packaging to final disposal – nuclear power's CO2 emissions are between 10 to 18 times greater than those from renewable energy technologies, according to a recent study by Mark Jacobson, professor of civil and environmental engineering at Stanford University, California. ( An important new report collectively issued by six UK Parliamentary committees on 10 September, titled “The path to net zero”, prepared by a group of scientifically selected representative British citizens named the ‘Climate Assembly’ ( concluded after over six months detailed collaborative work that 46% of participants strongly disagreed nuclear could play a part towards reaching a net zero carbon economy by 2050, with a further 18% undecided. Amongst the reasons for the scepticism were “cost, safety, and issues around waste storage and decommissioning.” Ministers should pay heed to these arguments.

Saturday, 7 November 2020

Nuclear con-fusion at i newspaper

Two letters on nuclear issues submitted to the "i" newspaper: >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> If the i is going to write about nuclear power, please use reporters who know something about it! In an article labelled “exclusive” on 6 November, your reporters asserted that Boris Johnson is “poised to give the go ahead to a new nuclear power station at Sizewell C”. The PM is not in any position to give any such green light: the UK energy planning system requires a proper examination in the Infrastructure Planning commission and a full design evaluation by the nuclear regulator, the Office for Nuclear regulation (ONR), neither of which has been done. You also assert “nuclear power offers the PM a solution to reaching net zero carbon by 2025”. Earlier, in another article on nuclear power (i 29 October) your environment reporter made the same factual error. Nuclear is not, nor can ever be, “zero carbon” when the full production chain of its uranium- based fuel is considered. >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> Your article on nuclear fusion power (“Hotter than the Sun” i 7 November) asserts that fusion “does not produce long-lived radioactive waste.” This is untrue. Dr Daniel Jassby, who was a principal research physicist at the Princeton Plasma Physics Lab and for 25 years worked on plasma physics and neutron production related to fusion energy wrote in the prestigious Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists on April 19, 2017 (“Fusion reactors: Not what they’re cracked up to be”) “the fuel assemblies themselves will be transformed into tons of radioactive waste to be removed annually from each [fusion] reactor…” adding “while the radioactivity level per kilogram of waste would be much smaller than for fission-reactor wastes, the volume and mass of wastes would be many times larger.”

Friday, 6 November 2020

The importance of telling the full truth on UK nuclear waste burial

This letter was submitted to three local newspapers in Cumbria on 5 November 2020: >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> Your article on the announcement that Copeland Council has formed a so-called ‘Working Group to initiate explorations in the area to find out the possibilities of developing an underground Geological Disposal Facility (GDF) for high activity, very long lived radioactive waste (“Copeland nuclear storage facility to create thousands of jobs” NW Evening Mail, 4th November 2020; is illustrated by an artist’s impression of what such a GDF might look like, taken from the promotional brochure recently released by Radioactive Waste Management Limited, the body given responsibility to manage the UK’s significant stockpile of radioactive waste. This illustration is highly misleading, and people in Copeland community should be aware of this fact as they begin their local assessment of whether they really welcome such a radiotoxic burden to where they live. The reason it is misleading, is it shows a vast subterranean complex of access tunnels and storage caverns below ground, but only very small above ground set of building, which would comprise the transport receipt terminal, the nuclear waste package transfer building, some administrative offices and the entry to the tunnels used to deliver the waste packages to the point of emplacement deep underground. This facility will remain open for least 100 years, as it receives a continuing stream of radioactive waste packages. Ministers have repeatedly reassured concerned citizens that were any significant accident or leakage of radioactivity event to take place underground, they could order the complete retrieval of the stockpiled waste packages, to ensure the subterranean water table is not contaminated. Were such a retrieval to take place, there would need to be in place an above ground storage building capable to storing the entire inventory of waste packages removed from the giant repository. Look as hard as you like, you will see no such building in the RWML illustration. The above ground building footprint will inevitable be far larger than the very small – and highly misleading- illustrated set of GDF buildings. When plans come forward, local people should demand to know where retrieved radioactive packages will be safely and securely stored above ground, should the repository need to be evacuated of its toxic contents.

Tuesday, 3 November 2020

R.I. P. Robert Fisk

We have lost what the New York Times called "probably the most famous foreign correspondent in Britain." I would a say in the world . He lived his life in war: RIP Robert. >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> 'All I wanted to do was to be a reporter' For decades he was based in the Lebanese city of Beirut, and occupied an apartment located on its famed corniche. He lived and worked there as the nation was torn apart in a civil war, and a number of journalists fell victim to kidnappers. Robert Fisk, a veteran Middle East correspondent for The Independent and the most celebrated journalist of his era, has died after an illness. He was 74. Fisk was renowned for his courage in questioning official narratives from governments and publishing what he uncovered in frequently brilliant prose. He joined The Independent in 1989 from The Times and rapidly became its most recognisable writer and searched-for byline. He continued to write for The Independent until his death in Dublin. Christian Broughton, editor of The Independent until last week and now managing director, said: “Fearless, uncompromising, determined and utterly committed to uncovering the truth and reality at all costs, Robert Fisk was the greatest journalist of his generation. The fire he lit at The Independent will burn on.” Much of what Fisk wrote was controversial, something he appeared to savour. In 2003, as the US and UK prepared for the invasion of Iraq, Fisk went to the United Nations in New York, where he watched then Secretary of State Colin Powell make an unimpressive case for war. “There was an almost macabre opening to the play when General Powell arrived at the Security Council, cheek-kissing the delegates and winding his great arms around them,” he wrote. “Jack Straw fairly bounded up for his big American hug Fisk, who was born in Kent, and studied at Lancaster University, began his career on Fleet Street at the Sunday Express. He went on to work for The Times, where he was based in Northern Ireland, Portugal and the Middle East. Fisk, who was the recipient of numerous awards, including from Amnesty International and the British Press Awards, wrote several books, most notably Pity the Nation: Lebanon at War and The Great War for Civilisation: The Conquest of the Middle East. He completed a PhD at Trinity college and had a home in Dalkey in Co Dublin. He interviewed Osama bin Laden three times. After the attacks of 9/11 and the subsequent US and UK invasion of Iraq, he travelled to the Pakistan-Afghan border, where he was attacked by a group of Afghan refugees, furious about the killing of their countrymen by western forces. He famously turned the incident into a front page report, complete with an image of his battered face. He wrote: “I realised – there were all the Afghan men and boys who had attacked me who should never have done so but whose brutality was entirely the product of others, of us — of we who had armed their struggle against the Russians and ignored their pain and laughed at their civil war and then armed and paid them again for the ‘War for Civilisation’ just a few miles away and then bombed their homes and ripped up their families and called them ‘collateral damage’." Fisk, who took Irish citizenship, was praised by the Irish president, Michael D Higgins. “I have learned with great sadness of the death of Robert Fisk,” he wrote in a statement. "With his passing, the world of journalism and informed commentary on the Middle East has lost one of its finest commentators. “Generations, not only of Irish people but all over the world, relied on him for a critical and informed view of what was taking place in the conflict zones of the world and, even more important, the influences that were perhaps the source of the conflict.”