Tuesday, February 28, 2006

The meaning of 'Beyond Petroleum'

We now know what BP means by 'beyond petroleum' thanks to a talk by Lord Browne of Madingley, BP Group's Chief Executive, as the keynote speaker at the Energy Institute's International Petroleum (IP) Week dinner on 15 February.

It means petroleum. And then more petroleum. Only different.

Browne said, "Moving beyond petroleum doesn't mean abandoning petroleum, but rather identifying different ways in which the petroleum products which people want to use can be supplied."

Going beyond petroleum needn't mean giving up on hydrocarbons with technology opening up some great new possibilities. The peer provided the dinner guests with details of BP's latest project. "Last year we announced a plan to take natural gas from the North Sea, to separate out the carbon and the hydrogen molecules; to re-inject the carbon into an existing North Sea oil field - thereby increasing the amount of recoverable reserves, and extending the life of that field by 15 to 20 years - and then to take the hydrogen to a power station on the Scottish coast at Peterhead, to produce carbon-free electricity."

The aristocrat tried unsucccessfully to debunk peak oil, as in: "There is no physical shortage of oil or gas. However, demand for energy, and in particular for oil and gas, is growing."

And so with BP raking in record profits from petroleum we will see that beyond petroleum lies oodles of cash.

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For a Nuclear Free Wales

With Scottish Labour opting for nuclear, Wales is hoping not to follow suit. Montgomeryshire MP Lembit Öpik and Ceredigion MP Mark Williams have pledged their support for a Nuclear Free Wales.

Confirmation is awaited from other Welsh MPs. The Welsh anti-nuclear campaign has called a public meeting at Bro Dyfi High School, Machynlleth on Thursday 16th March 7.30pm. Speakers will include Mick Bates AM, Paul Allen of CAT, possibly the Low Carbon Kid and Gwilym Fychan.

The campaign was launched in December 2005 and has attracted support from a large number of organisations and individuals across Wales and cross-party support from MPs.

Wales could be nuclear free when Wylfa power station on anglesey closes in 2010, provided we win the battle against Blair and his nuclear cronies.

Greenpeace volunteers projected an enormous 'KAPOW!' onto Wylfa nuclear site last Thursday 23rd February 2006 to highlight the risk of a terrorist attack on Britain's nuclear power stations.

Read about it and watch a scare-mongering video about possible terrorist atttacks on our unprotected nuclear power stations. However the Low Carbon Kid thinks this video is irresponsible and could put ideas into Al Qaida folk's heads. You know what sort of dangerous information is available on the internet.

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Monday, February 27, 2006

Nuclear body says waste not a problem - do you believe them?

British Nuclear Group has said nuclear waste isn't a problem, and Reuters has reported this as if it is true and independent.

But the committtee set up to look into the issue of waste disposal has yet to report, and they are pessimistic in an interim report (see earlier blog).

"From a technical point of view we can deal with any waste that comes from nuclear plants," Graham Fairhall, chief technology officer at Nexiasolutions, the research arm of the British Nuclear Group, told Reuters. "The only question left is disposal or storage of the waste."

Well that's the main question isn't it?

The nuclear industry faces a huge trust gap. I don't believe them, and neither should you. Let's wait for the independent report.

Labour opts for nuclear power

Energy Minister Malcolm Wicks has come out of the closet and all but admitted he supports nuclear. And the Scottish Labour Party has voted for nuclear power yesterday.

Labour is clearly wedded to the old dinosaur of nukes, and not looking ahead to a warm-blooded safer, cheaper, alternative that doesn't lay radioactive eggs that sit around in the geology for millenia like deadly fossils. What a nice present for the future.

Malcolm Wicks has been travelling round the country telling special interest groups what they want to hear - oilmen that oil's fine, coalmen that coal's future's secure, and, most recently, Welsh voters that Wales "has the potential to meet up to 18 per cent of its electricity demand from renewables and will play a vital role in achieving the UK target of 10% electricity from renewables by 2010". As if we didn't know this already because of existing policies.

Wicks was in Scotland last week and was accused of hypocrisy in calling for a 'mature' debate whilst at the same time labelling anyone who disagreed with his pro-nuclear position as a 'fundamentalist'.

Jack McConnell, the First Minister, "appears to have been preparing the way for the Executive to back a new generation of nuclear power stations in Scotland" reported the Scotsman newspaper. And we thought Scotland would do things differently after devolution.

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New British nuclear test - interesting timing

New nuclear missiles and new nuclear power stations at the same time? Well there's a coincidence.

U.S. and British government scientists performed an underground nuclear experiment, short of a nuclear blast, last Tuesday at the Nevada Test Site.

This makes the Low Carbon Kid wonder, not for the first time - is the real reason for Labour wanting more nuclear power stations, to have a reprocessing chain with a new generation of Trident missiles? Bush is also planning a new generation of nuclear missiles.

If the need for 'energy security' is the reason given for us having our own new nuclear power stations, it's a funny kind of security being offered to the world for more WMDs to be stored around our not-so-green and waste-strewn land.

You can watch a video of preparations for the subcritical experiment here. The operation, dubbed without irony, "Krakatau," involved detonating high explosives around a radioactive material in a vault about 1,000 feet below ground at a remote part of the desert testing range. What fun.

The MoD described it as an "experiment by a responsible government insuring the safety and reliability of the existing nuclear warhead stockpile". It was designed to examine the effects of ageing, "in no sense" linked to any possible successor to the Trident nuclear force, said a spokesman. Well, quite. As in, giving my old banger an MOT in no way makes me think about whether I should replace the old crock.

John Ainslie, of the Scottish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, wasn't fooled: "This is sending the wrong message to countries that are considering whether to build their own nuclear deterrent."

"This test could be the latest in a series of developments designed to secure Britain's new generation of nuclear weapons before parliament and the public has had a chance to debate the issue," said the executive director, Ian Davis, of British American Security Informational Council (Basic).

£1bn has been invested at the Atomic Weapons Establishment at Aldermaston and Burghfield, "to keep safe the existing Trident warhead stockpile". However, given the government's stated intention to decide about a replacement for Trident before the end of this parliament, it's a sure bet that new warhead designs are on the drawing board there.

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Taxpayers' subsidy of nuclear power increases as industry profits rise

The bill to clean up the UK's existing nuclear sites has risen by by £956m to £5.3bn. But British Energy's profits are increasing yet they won't have to pay a penny more.

British Energy is indemnified by the government against any shortfall in the nuclear liabilities fund which meets the clean up costs. In return British Energy contributes 65% of its net cash flow to the fund.

But although the liabilities have increased the company will not have to pay more to the fund. This is despite the fact that British Energy's operating profits are rising due to higher fuel prices: for the nine months to January 1 they were £377m, with £242m coming in the third quarter.

Why on earth nuclear electricity's prices should rise just because oil prices have is a mystery of capitalism which strikes the Low Carbon Kid as bizarre - isn't competition meant to drive prices down?

BE has eight nuclear power plants and one coal fired station. It has pre-sold all its planned output for the current financial year at an average price of £33.3 per megawatt hour - and has sold 60% of next year's output at an average price of £37.8 per megawatt hour. But it's still experiencing shutdowns due to malfunctions.

These artificial profits, underwritten increasingly by the taxpayer, you and I, are but a small taste of what's to come if we go down the nuclear route. The government should force BE to pay more towards clean-up.

But that would make it look unprofitable, and we can't have that when Tony wants to build more nuclear power stations.

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Shell's ankle-biters expose oil's other downside

Ijaw activists, in their guerilla campaign for justice, have continued their attacks on Shell oil facilities in the Niger Delta by vandalising a flow station and a gas flow line in Warri South-West and Burutu areas of Delta State, Nigeria.

A senior SPDC official claimed the attack happened on Wednesday night.

On Friday Shell was told by a Federal High Court to pay $1.5billion to the Ijaw in Bayelsa State as compensation for environmental damages - decades of oil spills into creeks, fires, spoiling crops and damage to fishing in the area.

The decision was a major victory for the Ijaw people — who have campaigned for compensation for more than a decade — and one of Shell's worst legal setbacks. But Shell said it would appeal the ruling because there was "no evidence to support the claims".

So, Shell, with your green image, where did the oil come from then? The sky maybe? Did these unfortunate people buy it in and spill it all over their back yard just to spite you? Who else operates in the area except you and your heavy mob, your hired hitmen and paid-off government sleaze-bags?

Stop stalling for time any more and cough up you filth merchants. The Low Carbon Kid says: people - boycott Shell till they do so.

Renewable energy? Can't wait.

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Sunday, February 19, 2006

Nuclear unrest? Well if you insist.

It seems as if the dash for nuclear is underway, with several European countries either building or on the point of deciding to build, nuclear power stations.

But even in France the problem of what to do with the waste hasn't been resolved.

Recently a shipment of waste between France and Germany was halted by demonstrators. 15,000 police were required to confront them.

Mass arrests were made, but the German courts, sympathetic to civil and human rights, threw out the charges saying mass arrest is unlawful.

The same pattern is likely to be repeated throughout Europe if the decision to build goes ahead. We'll see a return to the days of the '70s and '80s - mss protests and civil unrest. If that's what the authorities want, that's what they'll get. But we'd all rather stay at home, and watch tv powered by renewable energy - yes please.

The Low Carbon Kid is off to Berlin for a week now so the blog will quieten for a few days. Let's see how Europe's greenest country does things.

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Government should solve veg oil tax madness

The current issue of Private Eye says that Revenue and Customs has increased the duty on biodiesel to the same as sulphur-free fuel.

This is not so, but the situation is still stupid. It has always been like this.

If you put raw vegetable oil in your car, you will have to pay 47p a litre tax.

If it is treated first by transesterification, you only pay 27p.

If the government was serious about making it easy for everyone to run carbon-neutral cars they should just encourage the car industry to make engines into which you can pour normal veg oil bought from the shop (or, filtered, from the chippy). As you can with some cars like the Ford Mondeo.

Kent businessman Dominic Goodwin runs his modified car on pure vegetable oil and he says: "If the government were to encourage manufacturers to make vehicles that would run on pure vegetable oil that would be a fantastic solution to the problem of global climate change."

Revenue and Customs says its definition of biodiesel reflects the working of the Hydrocarbon Oils Duty Act 1979. "We have concluded that vegetable oil used as a fuel substitute is not biodiesel and does not qualify for the reduced rate of duty."

How moronic can you get? Greening government? Don't make me laugh.

And to think this ungreen Chancellor is to become PM.

>> Low Impact Living factsheets on biodiesel and motoring

Friday, February 17, 2006

EC seeks to accelerate biofuels

The European Commission has adopted a new Strategy for Biofuels.

“There has never been a better moment to push the case for biofuels,” said Mariann Fischer Boel, Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, citing oil prices, the Kyoto Protocol, energy security and CAP reform.

But the Commission also said that the introduction of biofuels would reduce the pressure to produce more fuel-efficient cars. The Low Carbon Kid finds this one hard to get his head round as 10% max is the % of biofuel likely to be added to carbon fuels.

Development Commissioner Louis Michel also highlighted the potential opportunities for sugar-producing developing countries, notably those affected by the sugar reform. The Commission said it may revise the biofuels directive, encouraging Member States to favour biofuels, and pledged to:
  • examine how biofuels can best contribute to emission targets
  • propose a specific group to consider biofuels opportunities in rural development programmes
  • make sugar production for bioethanol eligible for CAP support schemes
  • assess possibilities to process cereal intervention stocks;
  • bring forward a forestry action plan
  • look into the possibilities for using animal by-products and clean waste
  • assess a proposal for separate customs codes for biofuels imports
  • develop a coherent Biofuels Assistance Package for developing countries
  • support the development of an industry-led ‘Biofuel Technology Platform’ which will make recommendations for R&D in this sector.

>> http://europa.eu.int/comm/agriculture/biomass/biofuel/index_en.htm

Tory forces planning rethink on renewables

An amendment to the Climate Change and Sustainable Energy Bill that would require developers to “incorporate on site renewable energy in all new commercial developments over 1000m2 and all residential developments over 5 units" was defeated on 9th February by 10 votes to 5 by MPs.

The amendment was tabled by Conservative Shadow Environment Minister Gregory Barker MP who said "tinkering at the edges is not enough".

However, the importance of the issue and the need to look again at PPS22 was accepted by the Government. ODPM Minister for Housing and Planning Yvette Cooper has committed to undertake an "urgent review" of PPS22 (Planning Policy Statement for Renewable Energy).

The Low Carbon Kid hopes the review won't get bogged down in red tape and is completed soon.

Happy Birthday Kyoto Protocol

It's a year since the Kyoto Protocol entered into force. What's the chance of meeting its goal?

Slim, but possible, says the UN.

The goal is a small first step to force about 40 rich nations to reduce emissions by at least 3.5% below 1990 levels by 2008-12.

The 15 original European Union member states have cut greenhouse gas emissions by 1.7% from 1990 levels.

In 2003 emissions by rich nations had fallen to 17.3 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide in 2003 from 18.4 billion in 1990.

But the UNFCCC says most of the fall was due to the collapse of Soviet-era smokestack industries. With China and India industrialising fast, this inadvertent gain will be wiped out.

The Protocol's Clean Development Mechanism has the potential to cut 700m tonnes of CO2 emissions by the end of 2012. The UN says more investment is needed in the CDM and JI to meeet the goal.

Richard Kinley, acting head of the UNFCCC, said "with extra measures, Kyoto nations could reach the overall target of at least a 5 percent cut below 1990 levels."

High oil prices are an additional spur, and make investment in renewable energy and energy efficiency more attractive.

In the UK fuel prices have almost doubled over the course of this year.

What's coming up internationally

The Montreal Action Plan (MAP), the key outcome of last December’s international climate change conference in Montreal, sets out how the 155 countries, having ratified the Kyoto Protocol, will negotiate deeper emission cuts for the second phase of the Kyoto Protocol after 2012.

The G8 Summit in St Petersburg this summer will discuss energy security. Governments will have to come up with strategies and incentives to fuel the switch to clean energy and secure energy efficiency measures.

The international climate change conference in November in Nairobi will be where we see how committed governments actually are to implementing the Montreal Plan of Action.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Wicks shows his true colours

Energy Minister Wicks spoke in favour of nuclear power on Monday despite saying he's neutral on the subject

He said nuclear provides energy without producing carbon dioxide emissions - which is not true - and it also lessens dependence on external energy imports - and so does renewable energy.

"The challenge (of climate change) reopens the question of whether we should have a new generation of nuclear reactors," Wicks told an oil conference. "On the pro-nuclear side, it's a clean form of energy. And geopolitics would suggest that it might make sense for the UK to home-grow more energy."

But nuclear is not sustainable

Current industry estimates are that there is only a 50 year supply of uranium left in the world at present rates of use. It is possible that more could be found, but if we build more nuclear power stations, then the existing fuel will be used faster. Nuclear power is a dead-end technology. It is not sustainable.

The nuclear waste problem is unsolved

Wicks told the oil men that he believed the answers to how to deal with the waste existed. But even the government Committee on Radioactive Waste Management (CORWM), set up to look into this doesn't know, so how can he?

Nuclear is a dead end technology

The many renewable energy technologies, when developed to maturity, will be available forever and contribute to this country's export earnings for a long time to come, as well as providing our energy safely and securely.

Nuclear power is not carbon free

Dr David Lowry, scientist and nuclear issues coordinator for Labour's environment campaign, Sera, has quoted a study on the CO2 emissions of the nuclear life cycle by Professors Smith and Van Leeuwen at the University of Groningen, Netherlands. This concludes that emissions from the fuel chain are close to those of natural gas and significantly higher than emissions from renewable energy sources and efficiency technologies.

Nuclear takes too long

New nuclear power stations will not come on stream for around 12 years if begun today. We can develop much renewable energy with the same funds in that time, which would begin to make a difference sooner.

The Low Carbon Kid says Wicks should get out of the pocket of the nuclear industry, broaden his vision and set his sights higher.

Monday, February 13, 2006

"I may be nuclear neutral but I am not renewables neutral.

Malcolm Wicks says "the renewables sector has nothing to fear from the Energy Review."

The energy minister was saving energy by giving his speech via videolink at the British Wind Energy Association's wave and tidal conference.

He should be for renewables. But the real issue is whether there will be ANY nuclear power and HOW MUCH renewables.

He said ""I'm aware of course that nuclear dominates the headlines, and there's a lot of lobbying from that direction. But this is my Energy Review, I am in no doubt that our future lies in a healthy mix of energy sources. This isn't about nuclear versus renewables, my eyes and ears are open to evidence on all technologies. This sector needs to carry on engaging constructively and realistically during this consultation phase of the Review. There is everything to play for."

He announced a paltry £1.5 million of funding for three new marine energy prototypes under the DTI's Technology Programme and a 8 May deadline for grant applications under the first round of the Wave and Tidal Stream Demonstration Scheme.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Environment Agency comes out against nuclear power

Sir John Harman, Chairman of the EA, has said he doesn't want to see new nuclear power coming out of the enrgy review.

His opinion, as the chief environmental protection agency chief for England and Wales, must carry considerable weight.

His opinion is based on the problem of nuclear waste and that investment in new-build nuclear would suck investment from renewables.

He was speaking to the Select Committee on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on 25 January when he was asked his opinion on nuclear power and the energy review. He responded:

"We want to see a clarity about UK policy on radioactive waste management before we embarked on creating any more of the stuff when there is plenty of it already."

He followed this up by expressing a preference for renewable energy:

"It may be the case in practice that if there was a coherent and national drive for new nuclear there may not be room in the investment markets both to afford that and to keep up the pressure on investment for renewables.

"Whatever else happens in the energy economy, I do not think that we can envisage a future energy economy which does not have a substantially greater renewable component than we have now.

"Anything that will take investor initiative, investor incentive, away from that sector would be a pity in our view. It is not an absolute rock solid certainty that nuclear would do that but there is a danger which must be navigated."
>> Hansards

Kofi Annan urges oil producers to switch to clean fuels

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan has called on oil producing nations to develop clean energy.

In a speech made in the United Arab Emirates on February 6 while receiving the Zayed International Prize for the Environment he said, "Protecting the environment has been considered an afterthought, or even a luxury ... Prosperity built on destruction is not prosperity at all, but rather only a temporary reprieve from tragedy. There will be little peace, and much greater poverty, if this assault continues."

It would make sense for the oil pushing nations to invest in future fuel technology where they're still raking in the oil dollars. Then they'll still have an income after the oil runs out. But most of them are unlikely to heed such sage advice.

Besides, that's not what Annan means. He means do it now before the oil has run out. But the producers, like any drug pushers, will just shrug their shoulders, pat Kofi on the head and say "Nice idea Kofi. Keep up the good work. Now go away and leave us alone - after all, we're just supplying a demand."

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Bush cuts fuel poverty programme

Although The Bush administration has spent $820 billion on the Iraq War it wants to save a few million dollars cutting back fuel poverty / energy efficiency programs.

The oil-loving cartel, in its budget plan sent to Congress this week, wants to cut funding for the Energy Star program, mostly administered by the Environmental Protection Agency, by 9 percent from this year's $55.9 million, and the weatherization program by nearly a third from $243 million to $164.2 million.

This helps low-income families buy storm windows and insulation for their homes to make them more energy-efficient.

The budget would also eliminate all of the current $23.1 million for geothermal technology.

US Energy Secretary Sam Bodman said the government wanted to put its money in programs that would yield better results.

But everyone knows that it's cheaper to save energy than invest in new generation plant.

It's "a remarkable about-face" by the administration "after spending several months extolling the potential for energy efficiency," said Kateri Callahan, president of the Alliance to Save Energy.

Bush neither cares about the poor, who can freeze, or reducing America's obese energy demand.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Shell's obscenity

Shell's £13 billion record profits have been called by some 'not enough'. What does this mean?

The Low Carbon Kid says it means The Chancellor and pension groups are relying too much on oil companies to provide their bread and butter.

It means that even this level of profit is not resulting in significant new oil finds and 'peak oil' is getting nearer.

It means that the Ogoni tribe in Nigeria where Shell is in dispute with villages near the field where its oil workers were kidnapped last month will be sick with rage and frustration.

According to Keith Myers, an expert in African oil and gas exploration at Chatham House, "The value of that oil is about 80 cents a day for every Nigerian."

Shell has consistently refused to clean up the vast environmental destruction it has caused there, stop the violence, or take any responsibility for the social, cultural and environmental damage its oil extraction has brought.

Nnimmo Bassey, of the Nigerian group Environmental Rights Action says of Shell. "We see a multinational corporation that has no respect for the rule of law, but who at every turn loves to characterise local people as vandals and saboteurs."

"It's astonishing that Shell has not complied with this court order preventing it from continuing gross violations of human rights," added Peter Roderick of the international organisation Climate Justice. Shell is facing contempt of court proceedings in Nigeria over gas flaring. Flaring creates awful local pollution and health problems, and is inherently wasteful of a resource which could bring income to local communities and perhaps the biggest source of carbon emissions in Africa. There are regular spillages of oil and accidental fires. Waterways are polluted with oil slicks.

Shell has just announced one single contribution to the local community. It is to fund 70% of the cost of the construction of a road with 10 bridges into the area.

So the army and robber barons can get in and out faster with less risk of being kidnapped perhaps.

>> Nigeria's Environmental Rights Action report on Shell's activities '10 Years After Ken Saro Wiwa' [2.5MB PDF download].

Thursday, February 02, 2006

DTI and Defra disagree over carbon trading

The BBC has reported that the DTI wants big emitters only to be responsible for 30 million tonnes of carbon a year under the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS). Defra argues they should be responsible for 80 million tonnes

The DTI believes this harms big business unfairly. The argument with Defra is hampering a deal over the next stage of the ETS. A compromise of 50 million may be in the offing.

This may explain the leak yesterday that small and medium-sized firms may be included in the scheme, to spread the burden.

It also follows a report by the Carbon Trust that showed many firms - particularly in retail and commerce - were guilty of squandering energy.

The Low Carbon Kid argues that this is a reason to bring in TEQs (see link on the right). Everyone can then make money out of carbon trading, and help the environment.

How safe is nuclear power?

Eighteen years ago The Low Carbon Kid wrote Doc Chaos: The Chernobyl Effect, in part inspired by his reactions to the Chernobyl nuclear accident. Now, he revisits the topic and the subject of nuclear waste disposal in the context of the UK Energy Review.

Several official sources have recently tended to downplay the negative aspects of nuclear power. For example an IAEA/WHO report last year trivialised the effects of Chernobyl, and is being quoted by the Nuclear Industry Association, the trade association representing operators of nuclear power stations, whose representative has said only 12 people died as a result of the accident.

The arguments against the astronomical costs of nuclear energy are losing their weight in the face of arguments about the UK's energy supply security and the rise in oil prices. But it is worth examining what the facts are.

Chernobyl -- the world's worst accident

On April 26, 1986, reactor number four at the Chernobyl atomic energy station exploded. The cause was mismanagement. In a subsequent investigation, former chair of the US nuclear regulatory commission, Joseph Hendry, concluded that "they dumped the full inventory of volatile fission products from a large power reactor into the environment. You can't do any worse than that." The Union of Concerned Scientist's senior energy analyst, Kennedy Mayes, concluded that "the core vaporised" - all 190 tonnes of fuel - which emitted 9 billion Curies. Estimates of the exact amount of radioactivity vary. But Vladimir Chernousenko, the chief scientific supervisor of the 'clean-up' team responsible for a 10 kilometre zone around the reactor, holds the opinion that 80% of the reactor's radioactivity escaped -- about 7 billion Curies. By contrast, the IAEA's 1986 report claimed that only 100 million Curies were vented.

The true extent of the damage caused by the explosion would take a much longer article than this to document. But here are a few facts:

During the past decade, approximately 40,000 cleanup workers have died, mostly men in their thirties and forties. A permanent 30 kilometre dead zone is established around the power station where human habitation is forbidden, but 1.2 million people continue to live on lands contaminated by "low-level" radiation -- approximately 1800 villages are affected. Gradual seepage of radiation into the water table is threatening the water supply for millions of people in the coming decades.

Shortly after the explosion, thousands of children and adults in Ukraine and Belarus suffered from acute radiation sickness. Experts from the University of Hiroshima analysed data on newborns and 30,000 stillborn foetuses in Belarus and concluded that birth defects have nearly doubled since 1986. These two countries are the only ones in Europe with negative population growth. A report from the UN Office on Population in 1994 attributed this decline in part to increased infant mortality and adverse health conditions stemming from the Chernobyl disaster. Infant mortality in Ukraine is twice the European average. 50% of all men between the ages of 13 and 29 have fertility problems, the highest rate in the world.

According to radiation health experts at the National Academy of sciences, most cancers resulting from radiation exposure to take 10 to 20 years to develop. The highest incidence of cancer is expected to occur over the next five to 10 years and therefore no accurate assessments of the overall impact of the accident can be made until after this time.

The continuing problem of nuclear waste

The United Kingdom is the guardian of a vast amount of nuclear waste. There are 1340 cubic metres of high-level waste, 217,000 cubic metres of intermediate level waste, and 2.06 million cubic metres of low-level waste. High-level waste kills almost instantly following direct exposure and is dangerous for thousands of years.

Nirex, the government's adviser on nuclear waste, has calculated that 94% of existing waste comes from the reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel. The nuclear industry likens this process to recycling, but in fact instead of reusing waste products to reduce waste, the process creates more waste than originally existed. Large volumes of land on some nuclear sites is believed to have been contaminated by leakages of radioactive liquids but most of it is still to be characterised, which means that the total volume of radioactive waste could be much greater.

Our low-level waste is stored underground at Drigg in Cumbria. Drigg is expected to be full within two years. There are no facilities for the permanent storage of intermediate or high-level waste. Only 8% of all nuclear waste is "securely stored". The rest is held at 37 temporary sites, 24 of which are coastal, and potentially at risk from rising sea levels.

The cost of burying the UK's nuclear waste has been estimated to be as high as £85 billion -- The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority is "almost certain" that its initial estimate of £56 billion will be revised upwards following closer inspections of all nuclear sites. Furthermore, the original estimate only took account of the costs of decommissioning civil nuclear sites and did not include weapons facilities or privately owned plants like Sizewell B.

The cost is lightly to be therefore, around £2000 for each citizen of the United Kingdom. And that is before we start to build any new nuclear power plants.

Any new repository would have to be between 300 meters and two kilometres underground and designed to withstand up to one million years of geological change. Recently, nuclear waste was found dumped from Hunterston A nuclear power plant on the beach at North Ayrshire in Scotland. It has been there for about 25 years. British Nuclear Group, the company running the site, formerly BNFL, said that they have lost the records describing what was dumped there. If we cannot keep records accurately for 25 years, what hope do we have for one million years?

The independent Committee on Radioactive Waste Management, appointed by the government in 2003, is due to give is final report in July on methods of managing this radioactive mountain. The published draft of its final report says "if ministers accept our recommendations, the UK's nuclear waste problem will not be solved. Having a strategy is a start. The real challenge follows."


The nuclear lobby appears to be confident that the nuclear waste issue is virtually solved, and that nuclear power is safe. But the problem is not solved, and nuclear power is not safe. Supporters of nuclear power argue that although it has problems, it is the lesser of two evils, of which climate change is the worst. But capital invested in nuclear power is not available for renewable energy. The fuel for renewable energy is free and everlasting. All of its outputs are beneficial. There is no security problem.

The international arena is currently coping with the problem of Iran's nuclear power programme. Developed countries opting for new nuclear power run the risk of inspiring all other countries to follow suit, which will inevitably lead to a more insecure world.

Nuclear power is not carbon free. Dr David Lowry, scientist and nuclear issues coordinator for Labour's environment campaign, Sera, has quoted a study on the CO2 emissions of the nuclear life cycle by Professors Smith and Van Leeuwen at the University of Groningen, Netherlands. This concludes that emissions from the fuel chain are close to those of natural gas and significantly higher than emissions from renewable energy sources and efficiency technologies.

It is also worth mentioning that nuclear power stations use vast amounts of water. During the European 2004 summer heatwave, many reactors, for example in France, were forced to reduce power levels or shut down completely because of reduced river flow.

Current industry estimates are that there is only a 50 year supply of uranium left in the world at present rates of use. It is possible that more could be found, but if we build more nuclear power stations, then the existing fuel will be used faster. Nuclear power is a dead-end technology. It is not sustainable. The many renewable energy technologies, when developed to maturity, will be available forever and contribute to this country's export earnings for a long time to come, as well as providing our energy safely and securely.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Bush and oil addiction

What is less likely than Tanzania sending a rocket to the moon? america coming off oil dependency in the next 30 years.

Bush speak in his address to the nation with forked tongue. Let's get this straight:
  • Last year Bush's energy plan gave the oil companies billions in tax breaks
  • Oil company profits are at an all time high
  • Exxon is a major donor to the Republicans
  • The technofixes Bush describes will take 25 years to arrive at the rate he intends to support - even by adding 22% to alternative energy research it will be below the funding level of the Clinton administration

Bush's answer is thus: clean coal; Artic oil fields; nuclear power.

What is really needed is a drastic reduction in demand, which Bush does not mention.

America must abandon its fuel-guzzling vehicle dependency and embrace energy efficiency. This however would take a cultural leap similar to putting a wild monkey in a suit and expecting it to act like a responsible President of a democratic, world-leading country.

Wait a minute....