Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Tidal vs Nuclear

Even as Gordon Brown gives support for more nuclear newbuild, tidal stream energy makes big strides forwards while nuclear costs rise and problems continue

Decommissioning costs rising

The cost of cleaning up the UK's nuclear facilities - some of which date back to the 1950s - will rise above £73bn, even as Gordon Brown is rushing to build new ones. Jim Morse, a senior director at the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) told the BBC this week that the costs of dismantling 19 sites will rise by billions of pounds. The National Audit Office upgraded the figure to £73bn. it just keeps going up.

Morse said: "I think it's a high probability that in the short term it will undoubtedly go up. We've still a lot to discover. We haven't started waste retrieval in those parts of the estate where the degradation and radioactive decay has been at its greatest. No-one's done this before."

Nuclear shutdowns

In other nuclear developments this week, two of British Energy's ageing nuclear reactors - the Hunterston B7 reactor at Largs, Ayrshire, and the Sizewell B reactor in Leiston, Suffolk - also shut down unexpectedly triggering blackouts.

Robin Oakley, head of Greenpeace's climate and energy campaign, said: "The nuclear industry has had a woeful 24 hours that must be shaking confidence in this outdated technology. Sizewell B shut down unexpectedly, clean-up costs are soaring and the reactor that France wants to sell us has had construction halted for safety reasons."

EDF's not to be trusted

On Tuesday, the French nuclear safety authority (ASN) ordered EDF Energy to partly suspend the construction of its new-generation nuclear reactor in Flamanville after concerns about the quality of the construction work. This is the same company that has recently been buying up farmland adjacent to Wylfa nuclear power station on Anglesey, expecting to be given the green light to build a new nuclear power station there.

The local council is in favour of the project, because it is fearful that a nearby steel plant, dependent on the energy from the power plants, will have to close down when the power station is decommissioned after 2012. But the Welsh Assembly government has not given its view.

Marine current turbine world first

A Friends of the Earth Wales report has said a marine tidal farm could generate the equivalent energy to Wylfa rendering a new nuclear power station unnecessarily. The marine currents just alongside the power station are amongst the strongest around Britain's coast. Construction is to begin on a 10.5MW project, expected to be commissioned around 2011/2012.

The pioneering project is a joint initiative with Marine Current Turbines and npower. Marine Current Turbines has successfully installed the world's first megawatt-scale tidal turbine, a 1.2MW SeaGen tidal energy system, in Strangford Narrows, Northern Ireland in May. It should start regularly feeding power into the Northern Ireland grid in August.

Marine Current Turbines tidal turbine, a 1.2MW SeaGen , in Strangford Narrows, Northern Ireland

Martin Wright, Managing Director of Marine Current Turbines said: "This has been a ground-breaking operation, the like of which has never been attempted before and it has attracted interest from around the world. SeaGen's installation has been filmed by TV crews from North America, Germany and France as well as from Ireland and the UK." When fully operational the tidal system's 16m diameter, twin rotors will operate for up to 18-20 hours per day.

These turbines are modular, so if these installations are successful more may be added later, spreading the cost, unlike with tidal barrages or nuclear power stations.

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