Nuclear Power - Fukushima, Clegg & Greenwash

#1
A clear sign that I'm getting old, the overwhelming desire to harrumph and rustle my Telegraph over Nick Clegg's latest:

The Deputy Prime Minister cast doubt on the future for nuclear power by predicting that a review into existing plants – ordered after the explosion at the Fukushima power station — would recommend higher and more costly safety standards.

The Liberal Democrat leader insisted that no extra government money would be found to meet additional costs and suggested that energy firms would struggle to raise investment from the private sector as a result of the Japanese near-meltdown.
His remarks, made in a briefing to journalists on a visit to Mexico, throw into doubt the future of Britain’s energy supply.

The Government has given provisional approval to the building of at least 10 new nuclear reactors, costing around £50 billion each, at eight sites as part of the pledge to cut carbon emissions by 80 per cent in coming decades. Experts have cast doubt on the capacity of the oil, gas and coal sectors to fill the energy gap if the 19 existing reactors are not replaced as they age over the next decade.

The Lib Dems had long opposed nuclear power but agreed in Coalition negotiations last year that existing power stations could be renewed as long as no public funds were involved. They demanded that energy firms no longer benefit from generous public subsidies and be self-funding. Now Mr Clegg believes the extra costs of protecting the new plants could prove unsustainable.

“We have always said that there are two conditions for the future of nuclear power,” he said. “They [the next generation power stations] have to be safe, and we cannot let the taxpayer be ripped off, which is what they always have been in the past.”
Mr Clegg said that, under the terms of the Coalition agreement, he had the right to veto the provision of any additional government funds. He insisted that no further public funds would be made available to fill the gap. “There will be no rowing back from the Coalition agreement on this.”

The Deputy Prime Minister’s remarks are likely to alarm his Tory Coalition partners. He further risked irritating them by insisting that the Government was going ahead with plans for a mansion tax on rich home owners. Mr Clegg claimed that George Osborne, the Chancellor, had agreed that he would only scrap the 50p top rate of income tax in conjunction with a form of mansion tax. Despite Tory opposition, the Deputy Prime Minister told reporters on his tour: “They are linked.”

Mr Clegg also entered the Libyan debate in terms which are likely to trigger still more irritation among some of his Coalition partners. He admitted that military action could result in the Gaddafi regime being replaced by an Islamist government hostile to the West, but insisted it was worththe “gamble.” But it is his words on the future of nuclear power which are likely to most alarm the rest of government and the industry, after appearing to break the consensus on energy policy.

The safety review is being led by Mike Weightman, the chief nuclear officer, who is expected to report this summer. There will be anger in the industry that Mr Clegg is appearing to pre-empt his findings.

Chris Huhne, the Energy Secretary, who is also a Lib Dem, has also appeared to hint that the Government’s existing nuclear plans may not now be financially viable. In an interview earlier this month, he said one issue “is what the economics of nuclear power post-Fukushima will be”.

Mr Clegg said that if the private firms are able to prove they can deliver all the necessary safety features within their budgets, then he would not stand in their way. But, he said, he anticipated that the “extra liabilities” likely to be involved after the Japanese disaster would make it almost certain that costs would rise.

Mr Clegg also spoke out about his mansion tax plan, after a Tory government source told The Daily Telegraph: “This is not going to happen.” Mr Clegg claimed that Mr Osborne had been explicit in the Budget last week that he would examine ways to make the well-off pay more in taxes, at the same time as he was investigating the scrapping of the 50p rate.

He said that in the Budget the Chancellor “talks about people paying their fair share and how that affects the tiny, tiny number of people in very expensive properties”.
“George is saying that he will look at that, and he has also said he will look at rolling back from 50p. They are linked in the Chancellor’s speech.”
Do these people actually believe there is any other alternative if we want to continue living in nice warm houses with all the things that make modern life worth living?

Of course the problem is that the latest events in Japan have allowed people to cast doubt on nuclear power's safety. This is just ludicrous when you consider that the nukes are about the only thing left standing in that area, proving that they are pretty robust after all. Now I'm not normally a huge fan of Lewis Page but a couple of his articles in the Register on this subject are spot on:

The situation at the quake- and tsunami-stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear powerplant in Japan was brought under control days ago. It remains the case as this is written that there have been no measurable radiological health consequences among workers at the plant or anybody else, and all indications are that this will remain the case. And yet media outlets around the world continue with desperate, increasingly hysterical and unscrupulous attempts to frame the situation as a crisis.

Here's a roundup of the latest facts, accompanied by highlights of the most egregious misreporting.

First up, three technicians working to restore electrical power in the plant's No 3 reactor building stood in some water while doing so. Their personal dosimetry equipment later showed that they had sustained radiation doses up to 170 millisievert. Under normal rules when dealing with nuclear powerplant incidents, workers at the site are permitted to sustain up to 250 millisievert before being withdrawn. If necessary, this can be extended to 500 millisievert according to World Health Organisation guidance.

None of this involves significant health hazards: actual radiation sickness is not normally seen until a dose of 1,000 millisievert and is not common until 2,000. Additional cancer risk is tiny: huge numbers of people must be subjected to such doses in order to see any measurable health consequences. In decades to come, future investigators will almost certainly be unable to attribute any cases of cancer to service at Fukushima.

Nonetheless, in the hyper-cautious nuclear industry, any dose over 100 millisievert is likely to cause bosses to pull people out at least temporarily. Furthermore, the three workers had sustained slight burns to their legs as a result of standing in the radioactive water - much as one will burn one's skin by exposing it to the rays of the sun (a tremendously powerful nuclear furnace). They didn't even notice these burns until after completing their work. Just to be sure, however, the three were sent for medical checks.

So - basically nothing happened. Three people sustained injuries equivalent to a mild case of sunburn. But this was reported around the globe as front-page news under headlines such as "Japanese Workers Hospitalized for Excessive Radiation Exposure". Just to reiterate: it was not excessive.

Reporters clamoured to know more - in particular how could the water in the basement of the reactor building have become so radioactive - no less than "10,000 times normal". One might note that in general radiation levels 10,000 times normal mean that you could achieve a tiny fraction of an extra percentage point of cancer risk by being exposed for a fortnight or so.

Japanese government spokesmen briefing the press obligingly gave a list of possibilities. Among these was the possibility that the suppression chamber at No 3 may be leaking water or steam due to damage (as well as doing so due to planned venting operations which are being carried out on purpose).

The suppression chamber is technically part of the core's primary containment, though in fact the core itself lives in its own central cocoon at the middle of the doughnut-shaped, water-filled suppression chamber. The plant owner, TEPCO, in conjunction with Japanese government officials, stated that the No 3 suppression chamber might have suffered damage well over a week ago: this possibility was well known. We here at the Reg reported it back then, and not being goldfish we still remember doing so.

And yet we hear "Japan fears nuclear site reactor damage", "Dangerous breach feared at Japanese Nuke Plant" - as if this was some grave new piece of news today.
Right I'm very pleased to have got that off my chest!
 
#3
Like it or lump it, Nuclear is our only viable option. Wind doesn't work, Solar isn't viable yet and whilst fossil fuels aren't running out they are getting pricier. Nuclear can be perfectly safe so long as you don't build your plants next to a fault line with both the reactors and backup systems about 3 inches above sea level.

You can't charge an iPhone on good intentions!
 
#4
I look forward to the point, in a few years time, when we have pre-planned power outages (as well as ones when demand is too high) and all teh LimpDems and Greens start demanding power. I imagine a few will also sue the Govt when they have accidents that the ambulance chasing lawyers will say were down to reduced light levels etc.

Do we live in an earthquake zone ? No (though i concede we get a few tremors now and again)
Do we use the same type of reactors as the Japs ? You know, the ones that were found by Nuclear Experts to be dangerous back in the 1970's and who's advice the US Govt decided to ignore and build and export said dangerous design ? No

What is the ******* deal here ? Do we want to be strategically dependant on our main domestic power to Norwegians, Russians and ragheads ?

We do ? Oh well, alright then :)

D_B
 
#5
The safety side is like saying "Mr Mercedes and Mr Benz made a car that wasn't up to current safety standards in 1926, so cars are unsafe."

The Japanese plants are of an old design and doing OK despite a mahoosive earthquake. New ones will have far more passive safety! ARGH!

BTW - wind and solar do work - I'e seen them generating electricity. They are part of the answer, not the whole answer.
 
#6
A quick look at wiki suggests that nuclear accidents happen a bit more than what people think

Nuclear and radiation accidents - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

If this country wanted to be more energy efficient, there is plenty it can do. Recently there was a scheme where you could get rockwool put into your walls, subsided by the goverment, this makes a big difference to your energy bills, why not pass a law where nearly all new builds (including commercial buildings) have to be energy efficient. That will make a dent in energy comsumption. Tax breaks for solar power, investment in tidal, wave and hydro electric etc.
I don't like nuclear because I think in the long term it is very expensive, its waste products last for thousands of years and need looking after for all that time. It can also be dangerous as the link states there have been various accidents.
 
#7
stacker - the new build regulations are way higher than they used to be and will only increase. I agree that the 'Fabric First' approach is the best and offers the biggesst return on investment.

However, some people throw around the figure that about 70% of UK total housing stock has already been built! The renovation of what we have is a massive problem as it is far harder than building new efficient buildings.

I don't know what your Wiki link is supposed to support - it tells us that there are far fewer people killed in nuclear power production than coal, gas & oil, lists nuclear accidents through history (not that many) and is a disputed article on neutrality grounds.

Renweables can't meet UK demand alone - even a reduced demand. We need a way to store all that energy to use it when we need it (same as a tac base). We need something else that isn't coal, oil or gas and nuclear is about all there is.
 
#8
stacker - the new build regulations are way higher than they used to be and will only increase. I agree that the 'Fabric First' approach is the best and offers the biggesst return on investment.

However, some people throw around the figure that about 70% of UK total housing stock has already been built! The renovation of what we have is a massive problem as it is far harder than building new efficient buildings.

I don't know what your Wiki link is supposed to support - it tells us that there are far fewer people killed in nuclear power production than coal, gas & oil, lists nuclear accidents through history (not that many) and is a disputed article on neutrality grounds.

Renweables can't meet UK demand alone - even a reduced demand. We need a way to store all that energy to use it when we need it (same as a tac base). We need something else that isn't coal, oil or gas and nuclear is about all there is.
While they may be higher than waht they were they are still fairly crap, Why not make a law making all solar panel/ wind turbine (where pratical) on all new builds? I think we both know its because people/goverment want something cheap now and pay later.
A quick scan of HMRC site shows that energy-saving materials are taxed at 5%, why are they taxing something that would lower the use coal/gas/oil nuclear?
My wiki link shows that there are nuclear accidents that cost a fortune and lives. With coal, gas and oil when they go tits up you rarely have an exclusion zone the size of those around Fukushima and Chernobyl.

I think renewables can provide at least the bulk of our needs, there just isnt the political will for it (after all a great many jobs are tied to the energy industry as well) Look at tidal power, it is guaranteed. Wave, wind and Sun are clean but can't always be guaranteed. I take your point about storing it so maybe some investments in Hydroelectric and pumped storage would help, pumped water back into both during slow periods and pump it back out during peak.
Coupled with some energy saving building, it will take a massive chunk out of our reliance non-renewables.
 
#9
While they may be higher than waht they were they are still fairly crap, Why not make a law making all solar panel/ wind turbine (where pratical) on all new builds? I think we both know its because people/goverment want something cheap now and pay later.
A quick scan of HMRC site shows that energy-saving materials are taxed at 5%, why are they taxing something that would lower the use coal/gas/oil nuclear?
My wiki link shows that there are nuclear accidents that cost a fortune and lives. With coal, gas and oil when they go tits up you rarely have an exclusion zone the size of those around Fukushima and Chernobyl.

I think renewables can provide at least the bulk of our needs, there just isnt the political will for it (after all a great many jobs are tied to the energy industry as well) Look at tidal power, it is guaranteed. Wave, wind and Sun are clean but can't always be guaranteed. I take your point about storing it so maybe some investments in Hydroelectric and pumped storage would help, pumped water back into both during slow periods and pump it back out during peak.
Coupled with some energy saving building, it will take a massive chunk out of our reliance non-renewables.
Theres already a scheme in place called ISO 14,001 which is an acrredited award for industry looking at sustainable means ( that includes energy use). It basically involves spending a lump sum to increase efficiency and productivity with a decrease in waste and other negative environmental factors, most of the systems will pay themselves off within a ten year timeframe. Under such scheme's even small companies can save thousands a year in costs, but some industries need it pointing out that its a good way to drastically reduce costs. In my opinion making it a law would definatly help.
 
#10
Whatever anyone says it's too late. We should have started building new reactors five years ago. Of course, the last government sold our nuclear know-how to the Japs so we'll have rely on the Frogs to build new ones for us.
Expect brown-outs from 2016!
 
#11
While they may be higher than waht they were they are still fairly crap, Why not make a law making all solar panel/ wind turbine (where pratical) on all new builds? I think we both know its because people/goverment want something cheap now and pay later.
I also believe the Building Regs should be improved upon, but I also accept that will take time - training in new methods and materials etc. That would also bring greater gains than slapping solar and wind on anything at a lower cost.

My wiki link shows that there are nuclear accidents that cost a fortune and lives. With coal, gas and oil when they go tits up you rarely have an exclusion zone the size of those around Fukushima and Chernobyl.
It doesn't mention the claims in rather large losses of life in coal, gas and oil extraction as claimed in New Scientist a couple of weeks ago. Thousands every year.

Look at tidal power, it is guaranteed.
Where and how? I agree it is there, but the potential damage to the coastline has been a stumbling point for years.
 
#12
I also believe the Building Regs should be improved upon, but I also accept that will take time - training in new methods and materials etc. That would also bring greater gains than slapping solar and wind on anything at a lower cost.
It takes time to build nuclear power stations and nuclear waste disposal but that doesnt seem to be a problem, Its not really time thats the factor its the reluctance to pay up front for something that will return the investment in later years
It doesn't mention the claims in rather large losses of life in coal, gas and oil extraction as claimed in New Scientist a couple of weeks ago. Thousands every year.
But thats not the same as exclusion zones though? Harsh as it sounds, those dying are working in the industry, not those who live near a power station, Do people die in Uranium mining? A quick scan on this links suggest that although they might not get a seam falling on their heads, cancers are higher than normal.
Health Hazards for Uranium Mine and Mill Workers - Science Issues
Nuclear power only contributes 15% if the worlds electricity output (note only electricity, people obviously use coal/gas/oil for other things).

Where and how? I agree it is there, but the potential damage to the coastline has been a stumbling point for years.
There are several areas, a quick google
Tidal Power · I'm interested in · Sustainable Development Commission
reveals the goverment is thinking about from the Severn estuary, which has the potential to produce 4.4% of the UK needs, a few of them would take away a lot of our dependance on other fuels. When you say damage to the coast line, do you mean enviormental damage? I would suggest digging up resources from all around the world uranium/coal/gas/oil is probably damaging alot more. As an added bonus once its built the power its generates is virtually free (less running costs).
Despite that buffoon Salmond jumping on the bandwagon, it also looks viable in the north of Scotland.
Ten sites named in £4bn UK marine energy project | Environment | The Guardian
 
#14
He sets the tone right from the start "A crappy old plant with inadequate safety features".
Naturally all the ones that will now be built will be state of the art and never ever fail, honest guv, what excuses did they give after Windscale, Three mile island and Chernobyl? He then goes on to some very weird and wonderful ideas of the fanatically green rather than concentrate on more modest ideas

The second link seem to be mainly about the perils of coal, which may or may not be worse than uranium but if we don't need to use either, then lets not.
 
#15
Coal is the future. We have millions upon millions of tons ot the stuff, enough to provide electricity for a century.

Besides, it'll really piss the tree huggers off.
 
#17
He sets the tone right from the start "A crappy old plant with inadequate safety features".
Naturally all the ones that will now be built will be state of the art and never ever fail, honest guv, what excuses did they give after Windscale, Three mile island and Chernobyl? He then goes on to some very weird and wonderful ideas of the fanatically green rather than concentrate on more modest ideas

The second link seem to be mainly about the perils of coal, which may or may not be worse than uranium but if we don't need to use either, then lets not.

Atomic Insights

Have a scan through this guys blog.
He makes quite a bit of comment on three mile island and Chernobyl ;)

From what I remember though, the Windscale plant was built to breed material for the nuclear weapons of the day I.e electricity was a little earner on the side. I can't for the life of me remember where I heard that.. It'll come back to me!
 

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