Friday, October 14, 2011

Huhne calls nuclear policy an expensive failure

Chris Huhne, the UK's Energy Secretary, yesterday called the UK nuclear policy "a runner to be the most expensive failure of post-war British policy-making"?

But it's even more expensive than he says!

Speaking to the Royal Society, Britain's most prestigious scientists, he was astonishingly frank.

"We manage the world’s largest plutonium stocks – more than a hundred tonnes – and they will need guarding for as long as it takes us to convert it and build long-term deep storage. And if we don’t, we will have to guard it for tens of thousands of years." he said.

High thought they seem, the figures he quotes are actually relatively low.

Those for managing the existing legacy are higher than the £59bn he mentions - referencing the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority.

The NDA's Nuclear Provision for 2010/2011 alone was just over £49 billion.

The last estimate for the cost of dealing with the waste and decommissioning of the U.K.'s 19 reactors, by the National Audit Office in January 2008, was £73 billion over 100 years, almost £12 billion (18 per cent) higher than the 2005 estimate.

But if one year's custody and decommissioning cost £49 billion, how much will it cost over the next century?

As Huhne said, though "I cannot be confident that the figure will not rise again as we discover yet more problems."

Meaning: it sure will.

The cost of dealing with this existing situation - mostly waste management - is huge - almost half of DECC's budget, and already, using the NAO's 2008 figure, about £1000 per UK individual.

Then Huhne quotes Arup's figures for the cost of energy: "Offshore wind is assessed at £130 per megawatt hour, gas with carbon capture at £95 per megawatt hour, and nuclear at £66 per megawatt hour".

I don't believe a gas plant with CCS will be built for at least 10 years. The technology is untested and too expensive.

SSE is having a wobble about the cost and asking for more cash from the Treasury now.

I'm not optimistic about its chances.

By 2020, offshore wind costs will have come down much further, just as nuclear costs are rising.

Offshore wind is a good bet. DECC has just launched a programme to bring costs down.

Tidal energy is fast rising. 31 projects are underway.

It is good that progress on keeping nuclear safe is being made. The safety record of UK nuclear reactors is excellent.

But this progress means that there are further delays and costs associated with new build. It's not surprising that companies like E.ON and SSE are pulling out.

My prediction is that no more than one new nuclear build will happen, and maybe not even that.

It will go over budget, over schedule, and do nothing to help us meet 2020 carbon reduction targets.

Too little, too late, too expensive, too risky, too compromising for future generations.

People call anti-nuclear campaigners irrational, but there is nothing irrational about that.

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