Thursday, April 27, 2006

Nuclear Waste Sites Vulnerable to Attack

group of senior nuclear security experts have warned about the danger of a massive release of radiation form Britain’s nuclear waste sites, saying that they are vulnerable to attack and the storage arrangements are unacceptable.


The warning is in a report presented to the government appointed Committee on Radioactive Waste Management which is due to make recommendations about the future of Britain’s nuclear waste in July.

According to the BBC, signatories to the report include:
  • Dr Gordon Thompson of US Institute for Resource and Security Studies
  • OFNS Office for Civil Nuclear Security, linked to the UK intelligence services
  • BNFL British Nuclear Fuels
  • Nuclear physicist Professor Frank Barnaby
One such vulnerable site is Facility B215 at Sellafield in Cumbria, with 21 tanks of high level radioactive waste, containing 88x the amount of Caesium 137 released in the Chernobyl disaster.

In an interview for the World at One programme, Dr Gordon Thompson of US Institute for Resource and Security Studies said, “The amounts of radioactive material that we’re talking about are at a magnitude where they represent a strategic threat to the UK and to surrounding countries. By releasing large amounts of radioactive material attackers could render large land areas uninhabitable for periods of decades or longer and could wreak great economic and psychological damage."

Regarding the probability of a 9/11 style attack he added, “It is more likely that an attacker would use a smaller aircraft equipped with explosives, because that can be precision targeted and will produce a more focused form of damage. An attack of that nature could with high probability penetrate the tanks and damage the cooling systems associated with them.”

Signatory nuclear physicist Frank Barnaby, consultant to Oxford Research Group, said, “These are obvious targets for a terrorist group. They are unacceptably vulnerable. A successful terrorist attack on the high level waste tanks could result worldwide in about 210 000 fatal cancers per tank.”

There was no comment from BNFL or OFNS.

Bob Jones, head of operations at Sellafield tried to reassure us with a description of the precautions curently in place: “We have a number of different layers of security… which involve people and also involve planned design.”

To this, Patrick Mercer (Shadow Security minister for Homeland Security) added: “In my visits to Sellafield I have been very impressed by their forethought and their way that they’ve tried to design, as far as they can, the siting of the tanks to make it difficult to attack. It would be impossible of course to make it completely proof. But, as we’ve heard in the report, there is no government programme which is designed to deal with this.”

Vitrification, converting to a form of glass, is the main route to stabilising the liquid waste, but this is not due to be completed until 2020.

Feeling reassured?

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Biomass renewable heat - the way ahead is still slow and tortured

A new 5 year capital grant scheme for biomass boilers, with funding of £10 - £15 million over the first two years and a second round of the Bio-energy Infrastructure Scheme, with funding at, or close to the level, proposed by the Task Force is part of the Government's Response to the Biomass Task Force Report announced today by Defra.



The Task Force's recommendation that the Government should not pursue a renewable heat obligation which was attacked by many groups, will be considered further and the evidence reviewed.

Other features include:
  • Agreement in principle to support for energy crops under the new Rural Development Programme for England to be introduced in 2007, closely integrated with bioenergy market development
  • Announcement of the Forestry Commission's new Biomass Energy Centre as a major new hub for bioenergy advice and best practice for industry and the public
  • Further measures to integrate environmental assessment in the planning of energy crop development
  • Government leadership through public procurement, including the commitment to map the potential use of biomass across the main procuring departments of the Government estate
  • Working with Regional Development Agencies and other organisations to ensure effective, coordinated mechanisms for delivery of policy and advice
  • Action already taken to improve the Renewables Obligation
  • Use of the planning system to stimulate renewables development, including our support for planning authorities applying a minimum percentage of renewable energy in new developments
  • Action to address regulatory barriers identified by the Task Force and to develop standards to improve efficacy and confidence in biomass
  • Support for the EU Biomass Action Plan and agreement on UK membership of the Global Bioenergy Partnership from its launch in May 2006.
  • The introduction of new Building Regulations, from April 2006, with new procedures and tougher standards which will encourage the use of Low or Zero Carbon (LZC) systems, such as biomass
The Renewable Energy Association calls the proposals a missed opportunity.

Graham Meeks, Head of Heat at the REA, said: "Eighteen months after the Government launched the Biomass Task Force we are still waiting for new measures to drive real growth in the market for renewable heat supplies. The opportunity to deliver real progress in tackling climate change, lift households out of fuel poverty and create sustainable jobs in the rural economy is still being squandered.”

Graham Meeks called on the Government to move quickly to implement an overarching policy that directly rewards the environmental, security and social benefits of supplying heat from renewable sources.

"Biomass can meet 7% of UK demand for heat, reduce our dependence on imported fossil fuels, and cut CO2 emissions by over 20 million tonnes each year.

"The Government has used obligations on suppliers to stimulate demand in the renewable electricity and transport fuels markets. So it seems bizarre that we are still waiting for the same level of incentive for heat.

"The measures outlined today, including a new capital grant programme, will certainly help the biomass industry. But they will have only a limited impact in delivering the sustained, long-term industry growth Government should be looking for."

>> The Strategy

>> The Biomass Task Force report

Barrages, lagoons, or marine current turbines?

A Severn barrage is proposed by the Welsh Assembly to generate 6% of our electricity. But conservationists argue that a lagoon is better.



Today's You and Yours on BBC R4 exmained the pros and cons, with a debate between greens, WAG's Andrew Davies and renewables academic Dave Elliot of the OU, who argued for marine current turbines.

Listen to it here. Scroll to half way along the programme.

Speakers suggested that lagoons are less well tested than barrages, ie an unknown quantity, and would require public money (not true according to Tidal Electric).

Also that the tidal barrage at La Rance in France has actually increased biodiversity.

The RSPB says it's the wrong sort of biodiversity (not what is there now). And that the £15bn (private finance all according to Taylor Woodrow's consortium) would be better spent on many more smaller projects.

Davies says that global warming will alter the biodiversity anyway.

Dave Elliott, who has been writing for 30 years on renewable energy, says that marine current turbines are cheaper than either of these options.

"15% of UK electricity could be obtained from these, built on the sea bed, and each could be built in a matter of weeks as the money became available." We should do this first he says, and the barrage, maybe, later.

Elliott says that the barrage could produce electricity at the wrong times sometimes. But this could be stored in fuel cells/hydrogen.

The barrage project now heads for evaluation, over at Westminster.

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CoRWM says bury the nuclear waste

Do you live in any of these places? A nuclear waste dump could be coming to you, acording to the draft report of CoRWM published today.

  • Adjacent to Bradwell nuclear power station in Essex
  • Ministry of Defence land on Potton Island, 8 km from Southend on Sea. Essex
  • Under the North Sea, accessed from the port at Redcar, Yorkshire
  • Under the sea between the Inner Hebrides and Northern Ireland, accessed from the port at Hunterston in North Ayrshire
  • Killingholme, South Humberside
  • Ministry of Defence training area, Stanford, Norfolk
  • Adjacent to Dounreay nuclear plant in Caithness
  • Two sites near the Sellafield nuclear plant in Cumbria
  • Altnabreac in Caithness 18 km south of Dounreay
  • Fuday, small, uninhabited island north of Barra in the Western Isles
  • Sandray, small, uninhabited island south of Barra in the Western Isles
Hmm. How come Westminster isn't on the list?
After years of shilly-shallying, is deep storage the best they can do? Yes. Which just goes to show how dumb it would be to create more of the stuff.

Listening to the report being announced, it was clear from the tone of voice of CoRWM Chairman Gordon MacKerron on BBC's World At One, that he is deeply reluctant about any of the options, and realises full well that any community earmarked for the endeavour will rise up in opposition.

Although he said 'no comment' to a query on his thoughts on waste transport and new nuclear build, because he doesn't want to be drawn into that minefield, again, his tone suggested anyone would be mad to create more of this nightmarish stuff.

CoRWM has said that if Britain builds 10 new reactors this would produce an extra 31,900 cubic metres of spent fuel, on top of the 8,150 cubic metres currently stored. The implication being that there's simply no room for it.

A month ago, travelling on the M54 at night, the Low Carbon Kid passed a nuclear waste convoy. Five specially built vehicles were trundling over two lanes down the road. Only one was carrying the waste.

Are these costs and safety issues built into these expensive reports or industry lobbying documents? The Low Carbon Kid would love to see any evidence of this.

Greens say that any method eventually found to manage a legacy of radioactive waste for thousands of years would require it to be retrievable and monitorable. And that deep storage underground is an 'out of sight out of mind' method of dealing with the legacy and reinforces the extent of the problem we have created for future generations.

Green MSP Baird has said today: "The nuclear industry claims that new nuclear power stations will only add 10% to our current problem. This is a dishonest claim and I am pleased that CORWM clarify this on their website that it will in fact add over 300% to the high level waste mountain."

>> CoRWM’s package of draft recommendations for the long-term management of the UK's radioactive waste


>> CoRWM’s Radioactive Waste and Materials Inventory

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Europe's largest windfarm gets go-ahead

The go ahead for Europe’s largest wind farm has been announced today by Allan Wilson MSP, Deputy Minister for Enterprise & Lifelong Learning at the Scottish Executive


ScottishPower's application for the Whitelee wind farm project, south of Glasgow, has been given planning consent.

It will have a capacity to generate 322 megawatts (MW) of electricity, enough to power nearly every home in Glasgow.

It will provide over 11% of the 2010 Scottish Executive’s renewable energy target (18% of all electricity generation in Scotland), and 2.4% of the UK wide target for 10% of electricity generation from renewables by 2010.

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WHO are they kidding?

The World Health Organisation's estimate of the number of people dying as a result of the Chernobyl tragedy is laughable. But I'm not laughing.



WHO's report says a total of up to 4000 people could eventually die of radiation exposure. Official UN figures predict up to 9,000 Chernobyl-related cancer deaths.

Dr Michael Repacholi, Manager of WHO's Radiation Program has said there have been 4000 cases of thyroid cancer, mainly in children, but that except for nine deaths, all of them have recovered. "Otherwise, the team of international experts found no evidence for any increases in the incidence of leukemia and cancer among affected residents."

Greenpeace responded on Tuesday quoting recent studies estimating the actual toll will be 93,000. Other illnesses could take the toll to 200,000.

Part of the problem is that a comprehensive plan to dispose of tons of high-level radioactive waste at and around the Chernobyl NPP site, in accordance with current safety standards, has yet to be defined - so who knows what terrors lie in the future? £1.2bn is the current estimated cost of a new sarcophagus to cover it.

But also it depends whether you take account of just direct, or indirect causes. Furthermore tens of thousands have suffered health problems which don't result in death but which are still significant.

Green MSP Mark Ruskell speaking in a parliament debate today on the 20th anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster, said that it was unlikely that the precise death toll would ever be finally known and dismissed claims made by pro-nuclear campaigners that the public health damage from Chernobyl had been overstated.

In April this year, in a report for the Green group in the European Parliament, independent radiation scientists from the UK said that the death toll from cancers caused by Chernobyl will lie somewhere between 30,000 and 60,000.

"Chernobyl serves as a reminder of our obligation and responsibility to future generations to deliver safe, clean, sustainable energy supplies for the future," he said.

"In a country with among the world's best renewable energy resources it is unbelievable that we should be taking such a gamble when we have completely safe alternatives."

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Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Is it all over for nuclear power?

The Features Editor, Michael Brooks, of the prestigious New Scientist magazine seems to think so, in an article in the current issue.



He quotes a January Standard & Poors report saying that even the new incentives for the US nuclear industry will not be enough to persuade investors to climb aboard; from a business perspective, nuclear remains the highest-risk form of power generation.

He criticises the European Pressurised Reactor (EPR) at Olkiluoto, Finland, the only nuclear power station presently under construction in Europe. A relatively new design of pressurised water reactor, the EPR is being built jointly by the French nuclear company Areva and the German company Siemens, and is being financed at extremely low rates of interest by French and German state-owned organisations.

The scheme is being investigated by the European Commission, following a complaint by the European Renewable Energies Federation that the financing breaches the commission's rules.

If the complaint is upheld, it will be a serious blow to the nuclear industry, which likes to point to Olkiluoto as evidence of the
viability of new nuclear stations.

Additionally, the company the plant is being built for, called TVO, is not a conventional electricity utility, but a company owned by large Finnish industrial concerns that supplies electricity to its owners on a not-for-profit basis. The sums wouldn't add up for any other project.

Brooks concludes "Nuclear power continues to prompt concerns based on safety issues, regulatory problems and the danger that it encourages proliferation of nuclear materials and weapons. Now it also faces a bigger hurdle: there are better economic options that are no less climate-friendly."

>> Read the full article as a PDF

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The dirty energy boom fueling Europe

A new online map of energy projects in South-east Europe, put together by Stability Pact Watch, shows how the region is being turned into a fossil fuel transit corridor and a source of dirty energy for the European Union.



Current and planned fossil fuel and nuclear projects total at least $18 billion, dwarfing the roughly $253 million required for current and planned IFI-supported renewable energy and energy efficiency projects.

And this is despite the desperate need for improved energy efficiency across the region and its massive potential for the development of renewables.

Key regional players such as the World Bank and the EBRD say they have recognised the importance of developing energy efficiency and renewable energy in the region, but so far the evidence on the ground is desperately thin.

The EBRD was behind the dubious funding of the new Chernobyl reactors (see previous blog item).

See the extent of the Balkan energy carve-up click here.

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Could Chernobyl happen again? Have Ukraine, Russia and Belarus learnt anything?

Today, as we remember the tragedy of the world's worst accident (the title of a 1987 book on he explosion), we also remember all the lives affacted by its legacy


Children with terrible mutilations and mutations, a huge area's population left without hope, and many more with a ticking time bomb of cancers many still waiting to fruit.

The consequences of the 'peaceful atom' (as it was called in official Soviet propaganda) has, according to some estimates, affected more than seven million people.

Hundreds of people died from direct exposure to the high doses of radiation; many more continue to die from related diseases.

The economic damage to the regions affected in Ukraine and Belarus, brings its human cost too. And all over northern Europe, conaminated land still results in restrictions on animals.

The nuclear industry is adamant that the combination of events which led to Chernobyl's explosion could never happen again. The reactor design is different. Safety procedures are more stringent, information flow is more open, and so on.

All of this is true. but the very nature of an accident is that it occurs as a result of a combination of unforseen factors.

And foreseen ones. Like greed and the desire to make money. How so? Read on. We begin with a short story...

Back to 1986


"On the 1 May, me and my parents went to the countryside, to have a nice day together in the sun and gather some dandelions.

"We walked around, ran in the fields, played, dined on the grass and collected a whole bag of flowers.

"Happy, tired and covered with dust, we came home.

"Next evening my father, who worked in the energy sector, came home pale-faced and brought something I've never seen before.

"He said it was a 'dosimeter' to measure radiation - a word known to me only from political propaganda of the so-called 'peace lessons' in school.

"He measured the flowers first, and the dosimeter beeped madly.

"We threw them away, as well as the trainers, clothes we'd been wearing that day.

"Only at that moment we started to realise what had really happened on 26 April at Chernobyl- the scale of disaster official propaganda was silent about.

"We hardly knew that it was only the beginning of an endless story, and that we'll remember the year 1986 forever."

This is the testimony of one survivor.

Has the region learnt from the experience? Could it never happen again? Let's see what Ukraine, Russia and Belarus have done since then.

Ukraine



In 1993, overturning a previous resolution banning new nuclear development, the moratorium was cancelled, and nuclear projects were renewed, focusing on the unfinished 2nd reactor unit at Khmelnitsky and 4th unit at Rivne nuclear power plants (K2/R4).

Ignoring warnings about the danger of continuing with outdated technology, as well as the technical difficulties of 'crossbreeding' Soviet projects with Western ones, the government had only one concern; where to get the cash.

Western governments and international bodies, which insisted on the closure of Chernobyl, were told it would only be possible after receiving the funds needed for K2/R4.

Initially the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) promised to pay but then changed its mind, perhaps realising that nuclear energy is not the best option - especially in a country where a similar amount of energy could be saved by energy conservation programmes, which were practically non-existent.

This changed when a determined man, the head of the state nuclear energy company "Energoatom", Serhiy Tulub, was appointed energy minister.

In spite of public opposition and international concern, K2 was launched in August, and R4 in October 2004.

In July 2004 EBRD and Euroatom made an unprecedented decision - to provide Ukraine a loan of $125m on the security of K2/R4.

The loan is over 18 years, with the payments coming ultimately from people's taxes.

Poor Ukrainian citizens have already paid for the new units due to a governmental decree in which energy prices were raised to pay for the construction.

Regardless of the proclaimed 'independence' from Russian oil provided by nuclear power, Ukraine still imports nuclear fuel...from Russia, and until recently sent back the nuclear waste.

To reduce this dependency, two liquid nuclear waste storages were created.

In Jan 2005 "Energoatom" announced that work on a new solid waste storage plant will be carried out by US company Holtec International.

The new Ukrainian government thought that seeking US cooperation in the construction of its own nuclear fuel-cell capabilities would finally eliminate the dependence from Russia and allow Ukraine to produce even more energy.

But really, Ukraine has no need to produce more - already much of its energy is exported to Central and Eastern-European neighbours.

So: Europe gets cheap energy, the Ukrainian government some cash, Western companies get contracts and the Ukrainian people have the loans and debts to repay, 15 nuclear power stations, three nuclear waste storages and the prospect of a fully complete nuclear industry in their disaster-ravaged country.

Russia


Some of Russia's old reactors are of the same type as Chernobyl - RBMK - as well as outdated versions of Soviet-constructed VVER.

But the disaster never seriously affected the powerful Russian nuclear lobby.

In December 2004 the lives of the oldest reactors were extended and the Russian nuclear energy agency, Rosatom, is developing new nuclear power stations.

In 2001, the Russian parliament, under pressure from the Kremlin and in the face of public opposition, adopted a law allowing the importation of nuclear waste from other countries.

Officials painted a picture of huge amounts of cash pouring into Russia's coffers but this didn't happen: frightened by the appalling environmental conditions and prospects of technological disaster, no major Western government has dealt with them.

The only countries that export waste to Russia are Bulgaria and Ukraine.

The waste from Bulgaria and Ukraine arrives by long-distance railway but the security and disaster prevention measures are either unknown to the local authorities, or labelled "top-secret".

Every now and then a smuggler carrying weapons grade plutonium is caught leaving Russia. How many get through undetected?

Belarus


Chernobyl is 7 km from the Ukrainian-Belarus border and so Belarus was hit hard by the disaster.

About 23% of the whole territory has been officially recognised as radioactively contaminated.

In 1996 MPs adopted a 10-year moratorium on nuclear power.

It's unlikely it will be renewed this year.

Belarus' authoritarian president Aleksandr Lukashenka, started to talk about the prospect of a "Belarus nuclear power plant" a couple of years ago, and now this proposal is talked about openly in partnership with the French.

Last year many of the contaminated areas were proclaimed 'clean'.

At the same time, compensation was given only to selected people - those designated "really harmed" by the disaster.

While the impact of radioactivity on human health is still unclear, a government paper claims that the only indicator of harm is cancer of the thyroid gland.

The strategy includes the idea that these 'clean' territories should now become economically 'self-sufficient', develop private business and compete on the global market.

Such a change has been met enthusiastically not only by Belarus officials, but also international institutions: the World Bank agreed to provide money to the isolated regime to help implement the project.

So, the governments of all three affected states have managed to effectively silence or ignore anti-nuclear opposition and plan openly to revive the industry.

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Tuesday, April 25, 2006

End car-aholism!

A new book by Lynn Sloman, who lives locally to the Low Carbon Kid, protests against our car-dependent culture.



Called ‘Car Sick: Solutions for our Car-addicted Culture’ it is about the issues posed by caraholism.

It also features a lot of local places and people from here in the Dyfi Valley – including highlighting the problems with poor public transport east of Machynlleth, and solutions such as flexible taxibuses, the credit-card sized timetables that the Dyfi Valley Public Transport Users group has been developing, and the Machynlleth car club.

If you would like to obtain a copy, it can be ordered directly from the publishers on Green Books or from The Guardian for a £1 discount. It costs £10.95.

There was also an article about it in the Guardian.

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Cameron "hard to take seriously on climate change"

David Cameron wants to reform the Climate Change Levy. He's adopted the recommendations of the left-wing ippr - Institute for Public Policy Research. But do they agree with the Tory chameleon?



Tony Grayling ippr associate director today said:
"The Conservatives are right to accept ippr's recommendations to reform the Climate Change Levy.

"Basing the Levy on carbon emissions rather than energy use would make it more effective.

"But there is a real contradiction in Conservative policy towards climate change because of their attitude to Europe.

"Without the EU there would be no Kyoto Protocol and no European carbon market. These are the building blocks of a global solution to climate change, including the Clean Development Mechanism that binds in the developing countries.

"David Cameron may be distancing himself from the 'fruitcakes' in the UK Independence Party but he is withdrawing the Conservatives from the mainstream centre-right grouping in the European Parliament.

"Unless he changes his tune on Europe, he will be hard to take seriously on climate change."

Tony Grayling is the author of Climate Commitment: Meeting the UK's 2010
carbon dioxide emissions target. It recommended reform of the Climate Change Levy and Agreements.

The Climate Change Levy is a tax on energy used by businesses.

The ippr say it should be reformed so that it is based on CO2 emissions from different fuels and the rates are increased towards the estimated social costs of greenhouse gas emissions of about £70/tCe.

The increased revenue should be earmarked for climate change mitigation measures.

Sectors covered by Climate Change Agreements should continue to receive an 80 per cent discount on the levy and agreements should be enhanced and extended.

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Irish tell Scots to end their nuclear age

As the 20th anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster is being marked across the world, the General Secretary of the Irish Green Party (which has six members of parliament and 29 councillors across Ireland) is today handing in a petition to the Scottish Parliament concerning its potential backing for building new nuclear power stations in Scotland.



The Irish Government has been trying to stop Sellafield from polluting the Irish sea for decades, through the European courts, and the prospect of more nuclear power stations in Scotland is seen as increasing the threat to the people and environment of Ireland.

Scottish Greens will also announce new campaign plans to 'resist the nuclear menace' and release new information which Greens say dispels the myths and disinformation promoted by the nuclear lobby.

A photocall and interviews took place outside the public entrance at 11am with an extra-large 'nuclear power: not needed, not wanted' symbol, and the Irish petition will be officially handed in to parliament.

The petition said: "The petitioner requests that the Scottish Parliament investigates the impact of the building and operation of new nuclear power stations in Scotland on neighbouring countries including Ireland, particularly with respect to radioactive pollution, nuclear accident and on the development of renewable energy technologies and that the Parliament makes these impacts known to the Scottish Executive in advance of any decision to allow new nuclear power stations to be built."

The petitioners drew attention to 'Nuclear Power: What you Need To Know' information leaflet.

Among the myths are that the lights are about to go out and that renewable energy can't meet our needs. This despite there being massive renewable energy resources in Scotland, estimated to be able to power Scotland many times over and huge potential for greater energy efficiency.

Nuclear lobbyists regularly claim nuclear energy will tackle climate change but in fact will do the opposite - high levels of fossil fuels are required in mining, processing, transport and construction - never mind cost of nuclear reducing investment in alternatives.

Another common myth is that new nuclear reactors will only produce 10% of the waste of the old ones - when in fact CORWM, the government's own advisers, have admitted that the increase in high level waste is more than 300% and that the total amount of radioactivity is even higher than that.


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If Chernobyl happened in the UK

Tomorrow is the 20th anniversary of the world's worst accident. Some of the Low Carbon Kid's colleagues in the Keep Wales Nuclear Free group have been modelling what would happen if a similar incident occured in the UK.


The model assumes it happens at Wylfa, Wales' only nuclear plant on Anglesey. The map below links to a bigger version.

Chernobyl fallout applied to Wylfa

Other maps:

Chernobyl-like accident at Oldbury

Chernobyl-like accident at Hinkley Point

We are not saying it's likely to happen, but it's not outside the bounds of possibility as this article explains.

Quite apart from accidental disaster, in light of 9/11 we also need to be aware that nuclear reactors are potential terrorist targets and that they are not designed to withstand impacts from passenger jets like those that demolished the Twin Towers.

We are currently waiting for the Government's decision on whether to build a new generation of nuclear power stations following its current energy review.

The Keep Wales Nuclear Free campaign received full-page coverage in the Western Mail on April 22. The Western Mail article is here.

Thanks to David Baines and Ian Taylor.

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Friday, April 21, 2006

Back the Severn Barrage

Wales' First Minister Rhodri Morgan and Welsh Secretary Peter Hain have backed plans for a barrage over the Bristol Channel. It could produce the same amount of electricity as three to five nuclear power stations.


It would provide 6% of the UK's electricity. But the RSPB and Friends of the Earth Cymru oppose it at present because its design endangers birds.

The Low Carbon Kid espoused tidal and marine energy in his energy review submission. It's proven technology. It's cost-effective over its life cycle (hydro in Scotland is now the cheapest form of electricity).

There are ways around the ecological damage - reserves can be created. And tidal lagoons can also work.

I say to environmentalists who oppose it - be imaginative - think of the damage caused by other forms of electricity. Or stop using electricity at all.

The Severn has a tidal range approaching 14m, the second highest in the world. Other possible UK sites are in Liverpool Bay (area to the north of Rhyl) and the Thames Estuary.

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Is Blue the new Green?

Cameron goes to Norway and discovers ice melting, shock horror. Brown tells UN and G8 to make environment top priority.


The two contenders are slugging out the early rounds of the next election (and the local elections) in a green-tinged boxing ring. Who'd have thought it?

Full marks to the Tory whizz-kid for pushing green to the top of the agenda. About time, say many.

But beware. Anyone who seriously thinks blue can be the new green (we know red wasn't): remember Catch-23.

You can't have your cake and eat it. Business as usual - high consumption lifestyles - are simply not compatible with saving the planet. To get the UK's ecological footprint down from 3.1 earths to less than one, would mean something neither party could espouse - drastic change.

Not, for example, flying with a retinue of hacks to the arctic circle.

The Low Carbon Kid wonders if Cameron carbon-neutralised his air travel. Next time perhaps he'll go the true low-carbon - Viking - way - by boat.

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Thursday, April 20, 2006

Nuclear / energy review round up of views

Anyone following the nuclear / energy review may find the following reports helpful, released over the last week, in addition to those already covered:

Further, recent energy costs in the US have indicated wind generated electricity costs as falling below that produced from gas.

However there is the issue of offshore wind stalling because of steel prices rising by 50% due, says the BWEA to Chinese and India demand. Turbines have risen is cost also due to Chinese and US demand.

Amicus, the trade union of manaufacturers, came out pro-nuclear, following the TUC having been scared by the 'lights out' propaganda of the nuclear lobby. So did the Major Energy Users’ Council.

Many small groups gave submissions, for example Regen SW, who said:
  1. Allow local authorities to require zero carbon buildings in new development.
  2. Require every District Council to set its own renewable electricity target.
  3. Give local and regional authorities the ability to take responsibility for reducing carbon emissions.
  4. Create a financial incentive for the use of renewable energy for local heat needs.
and our own local Ecodyfi [Word doc 26kB].

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Tuesday, April 18, 2006

MPs slam Energy Review

An influential body of MPs has said that a new generation of nuclear power stations cannot solve our energy supply problems in the short term and crucial questions of security, cost and effectiveness remain unanswered.



The cross-party parliamentary Environmental Audit Committee's report 'Keeping the lights on: Nuclear, Renewables and Climate Change' warns that "The Government must be far more imaginative and radical in pursuing the twin goals of the Energy White Paper - energy efficiency and renewables. The last three years since the White Paper have been something of a wasted opportunity."

It raises concerns over the risk of terrorist attacks and the full costs of nuclear generation, which could crowd out other new energy sources. "You cannot claim nuclear is the answer to problems of supply in the gas market [in the next few years] ... Nuclear power couldn't appear over that sort of timescale".

The MPs complained about the lack of transparency in the Review, and a lack of "due process of monitoring and accountability", adding "If the Energy Review is focussed mainly on electricity generation and, in particular, a decision on nuclear, then it is unclear what the nature of such a decision could be and the Secretary of State himself was unable to explain this." Surely, they say, it's up to a liberalised energy market to decide on the fuel mix?

They conclude by calling for a return of the aims aspired to in 2003's Energy White Paper.

The Low Carbon Kid says these MPs are clearly unreconstructed and off-message. Blair will no doubt treat them with the contempt he feels they deserve.

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Keep Wales Nuclear-Free goes to Downing Street

The Keep Wales Nuclear-Free petition signed by 2,350 people is being presented at Downing Street today.


Presenting it are Lembit Ă–pik (Lib Dem MP for Mongomeryshire), Jenny Willott (Lib Dem MP for Cardiff Central), Nia Griffith (Labour MP for Llanelli), plus representatives from Pembrokeshire Friends of the Earth, the Centre for Alternative Technology, Wales Green Party and Friends of the Earth Ltd.

Speaking at the event Roger Higman, Climate Campaigner at Friends of the Earth, when asked if the Prime Minister was keen to press ahead with nuclear as part of the Government?s Energy review, Mr Higman told a Westminster news conference: "We (Friends of the Earth) commissioned a former Number 10 staffer to look at what was actually going on inside Whitehall about this and there?s no doubt that the Energy Review was promoted by a small clique of four or five civil servants and David King (Professor Sir David King, the Government's Chief Scientist) and Tony Blair has gone along with it, probably because he personally thinks that nuclear power stations are needed."

The Wales Green Party has become the latest group to join the growing campaign, which means they join
  • Pembrokeshire Friends of the Earth
  • the Centre for Alternative Technology
  • Friends of the Earth Cymru
  • the Welsh Liberal Democrats
  • CND Cymru
  • the Wales Anti-Nuclear Alliance and the Wales Alliance Against Nuclear Weapons.
Last month the Welsh Nuclear Free Local Authorities Forum announced its support for the campaign. This effectively adds the ten Welsh local authorities that have declared themselves nuclear-free to the list of endorsements. The authorities are:
  • Caerphilly County Borough Council
  • Ceredigion County Council
  • Flintshire County Council
  • Gwynedd Council
  • Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council
  • Neath Port Talbot County Borough Council
  • Newport County Borough Council
  • Pembrokeshire County Council
  • Rhondda, Cynon, Taff County Borough Council
  • City and County of Swansea.
There are two key associated Early Day Motions which you can get your MP to sign, tabled by the Welsh Lib Dems with cross-party support: EDM 1565 "Keep Wales Nuclear-Free Campaign" and EDM 1564 "Debate and Vote On Nuclear Power".

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35-strong alliance supports 'no nuclear' in Energy Review

Thirty-five organisations, concerned with securing clean, sustainable energy supplies, have joined forces to issue a joint statement tomorrow in response to the Government’s Energy Policy Review.



'A Sustainable Energy Policy', outlines what priorities and specific policy actions should come out of the Energy Review.

The manifesto is being launched tomorrow at the Houses of Parliament with high level, cross party support.

The manifesto calls on the Government to:
  • uphold the vision, objectives and targets of the 2003 Energy White Paper and re-affirm its commitment to all related statutory and non-statutory targets;
  • develop the long-term policy framework needed to promote business investment;
  • minimise the ‘energy gap’ before trying to fill it, by reducing demand, encouraging efficient energy production and usage, and then boosting renewables;
  • focus on sustainable heat and transport as well as electricity; and
  • identify a single body responsible for achieving sustainable energy targets.

Spearheading the alliance, Philip Wolfe, Chief Executive of the Renewable Energy Association, said: "This is the last chance for Government to bring forward a sustained package of measures to deliver the objectives set out in 2003. Industry is looking for strong signals so we can invest in the necessary changes to our energy system."

The environmental think tank Green Alliance was the other prime mover in the initiative and its Director, Guy Thompson said: "It is only two years since the last energy review put energy efficiency and renewables at the heart of the fight against climate change. The government needs to grasp the nettle and develop a long term framework that will allow these technologies to deliver the carbon reductions that we so urgently need."

The National Energy Foundation (NEF) is another body joining in. It is urging the Government to do more to encourage small-scale installations of renewable energy across the country and to reduce energy demand.

"Householders can already invest in cost-effective and clean renewable options, including solar water heating, modern wood pellet stoves and ground source heat pumps, but are reluctant to do so owing to a lack of information, and the hassle factor of finding a quality approved installer.

"The Government should address these barriers and encourage greater energy efficiency, rather than focusing on building new large-scale generating capacity, if the UK is to close the 'Energy Gap' and meet its carbon dioxide targets," said Dr Tim Lunel today.

>> National Energy Foundation

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Legacy of Chernobyl

Photographer Paul Fusco went to Chernobyl and documented the effects of radiation on locals.



As the 20th anniversary approaches, we must remember its horrors so it doesn't happen again.

This FiftyCrows short film directed by Andy Patrick is a moving film showing Paul's incredible photos.

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Taxman sees sense over biodiesel

A few weeks ago I mentioned biodiesel supplier Dominic Goodwin's problem with the taxman.



If you run your car on pure vegetable oil, a form of biodiesel, you should only pay road duty of 27.1 pence per litre, compared to 47.1 p/l for normal diesel.

Vegoil should be 20p cheaper than diesel.

HMRC was charging the full whack late last year, because they didn't know that a stringent quality standard exists for pure rapeseed oil as a diesel fuel.

Once Dominic had showed them the test results of his vegoil, based on german quality standard E-DIN 51605, the central oils policy team of HMRC understood that it was, actually, eligible for the lower duty rate.

>> The full story - and the true tax situation for vegoil.

Is rapeseed biodiesel ecologically beneficial?



However, whether vegoil actually is more environmentally sound than diesel is questionable.

It may depend on the crop and how intensively it is farmed - all pesticide and fertiliser is hydrocarbon based, and there are transportation and ther energy issues.

Rapeseed is a relatively expensive crop to grow, requiring frequent rotation and extensive use of expensive fossil-fuel fertilisers, with major environmental concerns.

It is estimated that the cost of producing biodiesel is twice that of conventional diesel. And just to meet the EU's 5.75 percent target, more than 9 percent of the EU’s agricultural area will be needed.

Wikipaedia lists some of biodiesel's environmental benefits.

The following article goes further by discussing a life cycle analysis of biodiesel.

The UK’s biodiesel industry group commissioned a study that found producing biodiesel from oilseed rape “strongly energy positive”, with an output/input energy ratio of 1.78 where straw was left in the field; where straw was burned as fuel and oilseed rape meal used as a fertilizer, the ratio was even better at 3.71.

But this report has been criticised. Critics say the figures were arrived at by a combination of dubious measures, such as inflating the yield of oilseed to 4.08 t/ha when UK’s 2004 average national yield was only 2.9 t/ha, assigning illegitimate energy credits to coproducts, leaving out legitimate energy embodied in buildings required for processing and in farming implements and machinery, and ignoring many external environmental costs. >> More.

The EC is supporting biofuels because it needs to support its farmers and meet Kyoto targets. But whether the energy balance figures behind vegoil's apparent benefits really add up will depend, it seems, on more detailed energy accounting.

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Friday, April 14, 2006

MPs tell Blair to abandon his nuclear dream

As the Low Carbon Kid kind of predicted, the Environmental Audit Committee's report 'Keeping the lights on: Nuclear, Renewables and Climate Change' has said that a new generation of nuclear power stations cannot solve our energy supply problems in the short term and crucial questions of security, cost and effectiveness remain unanswered.

.
The findings of the cross-party parliamentary committee raise concerns over the risk of terrorist attacks, but also focus on the full costs of nuclear generation, such as the disposal of waste and decommissioning.

Its report on nuclear power, renewables and climate change questions whether new plants would cut carbon emissions as dramatically as promised and suggests they could crowd out other energy sources such as windpower. "You cannot claim nuclear is the answer to problems of supply in the gas market [in the next few years] ... Nuclear power couldn't appear over that sort of timescale".

Today is the last day to contribute to the Energy Review and so the timing is crucial.

It would take upwards of 12 years to gain approval for and build new plants.

The government's energy review - given the specific task of reconsidering nuclear power after it was rejected in the energy white paper two years ago - is expected to report back in July.

A source who has read the report described expert testimony on the risk of attacks as "impressive and alarming", adding: "If Blair is right that the world has changed, then it must apply to this area as well."

Professor Keith Barnham, energy security consultant and emeritus professor of Physics at Imperial College London, told the committee: "The possible outcome of a terrorist attack is so terrible that we feel it has to be faced up to before any new build. Basically, we have so many potential targets as a result of the waste policy."

Critics of nuclear energy accept that new reactors are safer than their predecessors. British Nuclear Fuels told the committee that even existing structures were extremely robust and that sites had good security arrangements, approved by the Office for Civil Nuclear Security.

But there are concerns that the reactor models favoured by the nuclear industry are not the safest available and that increasing the number of plants and the amount of nuclear material transported will inevitably increase the risks.

"It's not just about [guarding] installations, but also any transport involved against theft - not just terrorist attacks. That tends to be ignored," said the source. Alan Johnson, the trade and industry secretary, insists that ministers are open-minded about the case for a renewal of nuclear generation, but anti-nuclear campaigners are concerned that the prime minister has already decided new plants are necessary. Critics say private firms are unlikely to invest in nuclear energy without powerful incentives, such as long term guarantees of costs or demand.

Sir David King, the government's chief scientific adviser, who is pro-nuclear, warned the committee: "I do not believe the utilities are going to take on the onus of purchasing a new nuclear power station unless the government has discussed with them what kind of guarantees can be given over the expected lifetime of such a power station."

No silver bullet



A member of the committee said that closing the energy gap would require a range of solutions: "There is no silver bullet to meet the nation's growing energy demands."

Earlier this year the government's Sustainable Development Commission concluded that there was no justification for bringing forward a new programme of reactors.

Like the audit committee, it also identified several major disadvantages to nuclear, including waste, cost, inflexibility and undermining energy efficiency.

Yesterday Jonathan Porritt, director of the commission, said: "We sought to demonstrate that Britain is not a country that needs recourse to nuclear to meet energy security or climate change objectives".

Tony Juniper, head of Friends of the Earth, said that a new programme would inevitably leave Britain vulnerable. "All it needs is one accident and the impact is devastating."

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Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Chernobyl legacy still haunts the UK

Close to where the Low Carbon Kid lives, in Dolgellau, farmers like Emlyn Roberts still have to call in the government inspectors with their Geiger counters before taking their sheep to market.



The land they graze is still contaminated from the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. If the radiation levels are too high, they cannot be sold for meat.

Emlyn is one of 375 British farmers, with over 200,000 sheep, whose land is subject to restrictions introduced after radioactive rain fell on Britain in 1986.

When they were established, farmers were told they would last for only a few months at most. But many are still affected - and the Nuclear Industries Association - the lobbying firm persuading Government and the public that nuclear power is ok - doesn't tell you this.

The NIA is busy placing stories in the press making out for example that the area around Chernobyl is now a haven for wildlife therefore radiation is ok. The reality is very different. 40,000 Chernobyl clean-up workers have died.

Immediately after the disaster, almost 9000 British farms were placed under restrictions. Now 95 per cent of the land has been given the all-clear, but 355 farms in Wales, 11 in Scotland and nine in Cumbria are still affected. The land is monitored by the Food Standards Agency.

The farmers need a licence to move their sheep and must call in inspectors to scan each animal before it can be sold. They are paid £1.30 compensation for each sheep scanned, the same as in 1986.

Emlyn says "At peak times, we have to give the inspectors seven days' notice, so we can never take advantage of sudden improvements in trade," he said. "It's worrying that something that happened thousands of miles away can still have such an effect on us."

Glyn Roberts, 50, a father of five with a sheep farm in Padog, said: "When the restrictions first started they said it would only last for six months … It makes you wonder how safe nuclear power is."

Protesting about the Scottish restrictions, Green MSP Mark Ballard today joined activists along with Little Bo Beep and her sheep outside Our Dynamic Earth in Edinburgh as the Committee on Radioactive Waste Management met to consider options for the long-term management of nuclear waste.

CoRWM is currently considering options for waste storage and is due to report in July. CoRWM has already concluded in an outline report that "If Ministers accept our recommendations, the UK's nuclear waste problem is not solved", throwing into doubt the Executive's pledge to not allow any new nuclear power stations until the waste issue has been "resolved".

Mr Ballard said, "Twenty years since Chernobyl and even in Scotland the disaster is still taking its toll. This is a potent reminder of the folly of nuclear energy and the need to choose the only route that will safeguard against the dangers of radioactive waste - that is, rule out any future nuclear power projects and instead focus on renewable energy and energy efficiency.

"On grounds of cost to the taxpayers' purse, the need to protect public health and the environment, nuclear fails miserably. More nuclear power will mean more multi-billion pound invoices to the taxpayer - just a fraction of that invested in clean, green renewable energy will ensure Scotland can become self-sufficient in safe and secure methods of energy generation."

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BP's CO2 emissions increase

BP has revealed that its global carbon dioxide emissions increased 0.46% in 2005 compared to the previous year


BP has also launched its Sustainability Report 2005 entitled ‘Making energy more’.

More polluting?

Now we know what they mean by Beyond Petroleum.... see the coming wasteland.

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Why Transport Minister Alistair Darling loves nuclear power

Transport Minister Alistair Darling would love to see a new generation of nuclear power stations - that's no secret. But why?


The Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) is examining transport's carbon emissions, it announced in January.

Carbon emissions from transport are expected to grow by about 10 per cent from 2000 levels by 2010, while emissions from other sectors are due to fall.

On 29 March it took evidence from the motor industry and the Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership, led by Graham Smith, also Managing Director, Toyota GB - sounds like a conflict of interest to me - and the Energy Saving Trust.

Colin Challen, the MP behind the TEQs bill, observed: "Every morning I walk past Alistair Darling's office in Marshall Street under which there is a BMW showroom. Every car in the window is F rated (the worst possible), so where is the evidence that the motor manufacturers are actually trying to improve choice even in what I dare say is an upmarket showroom? There is no choice there at all."

Greg Archer, Director, LowCVP, said: "The Partnership has felt for some time that the absence of a sectoral target for transport emissions and for road transport emissions [from the Dept of Transport] specifically means that there has not been the focus on controlling transport emissions generally within the Department for Transport because there is not an overall target that the Department is trying to achieve. We recognise that they share in the PSA 20 per target but there is no clarity as to what proportion of that overall burden the Department for Transport is actually taking.

"It was one of the questions that was posed in the Climate Change programme. Two hundred pages of Climate Change programme later there is not one mention of sectoral targets or even why the Government has decided not to go ahead with them."

Ie, they're doing sod all.

He continued:

"Personally I think that if we had a clear target for road transport then the Department for Transport would have to look and say, "Okay, what are we going to achieve through the shift to low carbon vehicles? What are bio fuels going to deliver us? What do we need to do by way of developing the rail infrastructure, encouraging walking and cycling and all the other low carbon options so we can get to our carbon target?" Without that clarity and that directional policy I am afraid the Department for Transport will never put together the package of measures which are needed to address this issue."

Graham Smith said: "With an overall target... the possibility of more integration of different aspects of the responsibility of the Department of Transport would come into play and we believe that would be helpful."

The Government is going backwards on incentives to decarbonise transport. When the PowerShift grant was removed in 2005 there was a 50 per cent reduction in sales of the Honda Civic IMA from 2004 to 2005. The Budget's changes in VED will make no difference too consumer choice - it is tinkering.

Darling continues to want to build roads and air terminals. He even turned down a proposal for a public information campaign which included a Cleaner Vehicle League Table.

No wonder he wants nuclear power - he can then carry on business as usual and pretend not to worry about carbon emissions.

One solution for transport carbon emissions


If you had a certificate trading system which required each manufacturer to have certificates allocated to every car that they sold based on the carbon of that vehicle they would then have to trade their certificate and, if they produced a number of high carbon cars, there would be a negative balance and they would have to purchase green credits.

At the other side of the scale you could have a company selling a number of greener cars, hybrid cars and they would generate a lot of green certificates and they would be able to sell those certificates and generate a profit based on the number of greener cars which they were selling.

this is mooted by amongst others Richard Tarboton, Head of Business Unit, Transport, the Energy Saving Trust.

By the way, look out for the EAC's report Keeping the lights on: Nuclear, Renewables and Climate Change to be published as the Committee’s Sixth Report, HC 584, at 00.01 on Sunday 16 April 2006... copies have been sent out now so will be considered as part of the Energy Review.

The EAC is usually highly critical of the government's environmental record.

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Sunday, April 09, 2006

Last chance to contribute to the Energy Review

The deadline for making your views known to the Government about the future of energy in this country is the end of the week.



There can be few more important subjects than where we get our energy from - and that we maintain sufficient supplies sourced in the most sustainable manner.

The UK Energy Review has been ongoing for 3 months. After this week the government will chew over all the submissions and spit out their response in the summer.

Some say it's always been a foregone conclusion - that they will opt for a full mix of sources which leaves the door open for nuclear power funded, ostensibly, not by taxpayers.

But this will be a sham, as the private sector simply cannot be trusted with such a task - look at the legacy of many PFI deals and government sell-offs. Taxpayers will have to underwrite such contracts and will end up paying a price for a long time to come.

When I survey the web sites and press artucles about nuclear power I am struck by the wilful short-sightedness of their enthusiasm, and their economy with the truth.

The certainty with which they aver that nuclear is a straightforward and simple fix for all our energy problems is astonishing. These people are scientists and engineers, and they are in love with the technology.

They see energy efficiency as unnecessary, because nuclear power can produce so much energy, and they see all the renewable energies as too diverse, complex, distributed, expensive, unproven and immature to bother with.

For them, nuclear is carbon-free, safer than most technologies, and mature. It is centralised, and therefore easier to deal with. And it is reliable.

Well, many of these things are true. But:
  1. I don't trust them. They have lied before and they are lying and concealing facts now
  2. We don't actually know a lot yet about the effects of radiation - even the Chernobyl accident's effects are not yet fully felt.
  3. Energy efficiency also conserves other resources - necessary for ashrinking planet suferign resource depletion.
  4. Diverse and distributed energy means greater local control, more flexibility, more awareness and sense of responsibility, more local jobs and economic benefit, and active involvement even to the household level in this essential part of our lives.
  5. Nuclear power relies on fuel closely linked to illness, war, terror, insecurity. It is fuel that will run out in fifty or so years.
  6. Renewable energy relies on a great variety of safe, non-polluting, free, reliable energy sources available almost anywhere, that will never run out.
  7. Renewable and decentralised energy projects can make money for anyone who chooses to invest in their local projects, whereas nuclear power makes money for big multinationals and their bankers. A side effect of this is that you have no control or say in it
  8. In the long run, nuclear power will be a far more expensive option.
Perhaps it comes down to personality and ideology which you prefer. The likes of Transport Minister Alistair Darling are gung-ho about nuclear power - maybe it's a macho thing. And that's why it's so difficult to have 'an open and reasonable debate' to use Wicks' words.

Whatever, use the links on the right. Make your views know by the end of the week. You won't get another chance for a long time.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Renewable energy brings more jobs

Opponents of the Kyoto model for climate change argue that jobs are at stake. What's the truth?

Lobbying groups such as The International Council for Capital Formation (ICCF) aver that job losses of at least 200,000 in each of Italy, Germany, UK are in order.

This type of scaremongering is believed by some people. In any switchover of technologies, people need retraining - job losses here mean gains there.

So what's the bigger picture? In 2002, the European Commission looked at the potential for new jobs in renewable energy in each European country (the MITRE study).

They estimated what would happen if each country achieved its current renewables target (10% for the UK by 2010, 22% for Europe as a whole). This was compared with what would happen if each country worked to exceed the 2010 targets (about 14% in the UK by 2010) and extended this enhanced commitment until 2020.

The net number of full-time equivalent jobs that would be created in the UK is shown below. These figures take into account any reduction in jobs in traditional energy industries.

FTE jobs in renewable energy

2010

2020

Current policy

49,000

113,000

Advanced policy

105,000

230,000



The number of extra UK jobs created in each sector of the economy with an advanced energy policy (number of jobs in 2020 vs 2000):

Small hydro: 2,000
Wind: 35,400
PV solar: 1,500
Biomass/biofuels: 124,200
Waste/biogas: 17,500
Solar thermal: 2,400
Agricultural fuels: 40,400
Total: 223,600

The figures above do not include any work done towards exporting these technologies, but there is of course also an enormous export market available to European countries that pioneer renewable technology.

The ICCF advocates the reductions of tax, regulatory, anti-trust, and trade barriers to promote business investment, strong job growth and competitiveness.
The Board of Trustees of ICCF includes bankers, financiers, and Sir Richard Greenbury, a former Chairman and CEO of Marks & Spencer (responsible for its disastrous results), right-winger Dr. Vincenz Liechtenstein, member of the Upper House of the Austrian Parliament and George Shultz former US Secretary of State. So that shows where this bunch of dinosaurs are at.

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Thursday, April 06, 2006

Wicks explains the Energy Review to the Lords

Energy Minister Malcolm Wicks gave evidence to the House of Lords Select Committee on Science and Technology on the Energy Review on 29 March.

Mostly, the honourable Lords were not terribly well informed, as, say, the Environment Committee is. Nevertheless some interesting points arose.

Nuclear power



Wicks said: "I think the question about future civil nuclear is one that we can make a judgment on by the summer in the full knowledge that soon there will be a specific judgment on the outcome of Quorum."

In other words the judgement on nuclear power's future in the energy review will precede the report on what we should do about nuclear waste, and Wicks said he is happy with that.

There was also a slip of the tongue:

He said: "My own view about [nuclear power] is that, in terms of nuclear waste, it will be difficult to have a reasoned public
debate until we can convince public and Parliament that we have an answer, as it were, a strategy for dealing with a legacy of nuclear waste. Part one of that strategy is the work of the Nuclear Decommissioning Agency."

Note that he said "until" not "unless", which is the word a dispassionate party would have used. And the giveaway that there is a strategy to 'convince' the public (his definition of a "reasoned public debate"), and it is proceeding. The NDA report, now out, says it is possible to deal with the waste, but Quorum - the Committee on Radioactive Waste Management (CoRWM) - in its interim report, has not been able to find a solution.

Is the strategy then to sideline Quorum and instead make the NDA's report the authoritative one for the Energy Review by having the Review conclusion before Quorum's?

Nuclear power in Westminster?



There was a joke - but maybe it should be serious - about the siting of nuclear power stations:

"In Sweden," the Chairman said, "they have made the mistake of putting their nuclear power plants in remote locations where, in effect, they have to waste 40 per cent of heat, whereas in France the power stations are put close to towns and villages where the heat is efficiently used."

Malcolm Wicks: "It does raise wider issues about public opinion and the siting of nuclear power stations, however. It may be sensible to have one in Westminster, but that may be controversial."

No, the Low Carbon Kid thinks that if they believe in the technology, why, then they should install one in, say, Westminster Palace's cellar.

The Renewables Obligation subsidy is about one billion pounds


Baroness Finlay of Llandaff asked: "Can you give me some idea what the Government’s estimate is of the current cost to consumers of the Renewables Obligation?"

Malcolm Wicks: Yes, I think by 2010 the Renewables Obligation, in a sense the subsidy there for these industries, is about one billion pounds.

When pressed on the idea that electricity bills should indicate the amount of the subsidy to consumers, he said "I think also myself that we need to bring down some of these extraordinarily large CO2 statistics globally down to almost a household level so that each of us has some understanding of how we are part of the problem when it comes carbon dioxide emissions and how we can begin to become part of the solution, maybe with microgeneration, and, we launched the strategy paper on that yesterday, by energy efficiency measures.

"The Chancellor found some money to help us develop the concept of smart metering, so that instead of the very old-fashioned meters, which do not seem to have changed for many decades, so far as I can tell, you would have a smart meter that would begin to tell you much more about your energy use and abuse and the CO2 you are using, what your wind turbine was contributing.

"I think there is quite a development really where our supply companies, instead of just selling us gas and electricity and billing us, and so on, and reading the meter occasionally, start to become energy services companies. I think we need to develop that idea."

This is very good news. It has worked well in Italy.

Tidal lagoons


Wicks said: "I am advised - it has suddenly come to my mind - that tidal lagoons are technically feasible, they are a well understood technology, and that they are eligible for the Renewables Obligation."

Wicks confessed to being ignorant of the proposed Swansea tidal lagoon.

A 2004 independent report from leading engineering firm, WS Atkins Engineering shows that the low-head hydroelectric technology, developed by Tidal Electric Limited, is "ready to make a huge contribution to the government's 2010 emissions reduction and will be the UK's most competitive renewable power source producing electricity at 3.4p per kilowatt-hour from the relatively small (60 MW) Swansea Bay project".

It is backed by environmental campaigners, who welcomed the Atkin's study but warned that "continued reticence from the DTI in supporting the concept could result in the UK once more lagging behind rather than leading the world in this new environmental technology".

If Wicks is ignorant of it, developers Tidal Electric need to do some work!

A 2005 Ofgem report said that, notwithstanding the high degree of uncertainty surrounding marine technologies, the ‘best estimate’ of the evolution of unit costs for the five marine technologies are that the estimated base case current unit equivalent annual cost (EAC) for onshore wind is around £41/MWh, £62/MWh for off-shore wind, £60/MWh for tidal lagoons and £187/MWh for both wave and tidal stream technologies. In other words tidal lagoons are cheaper than offshore windfarms. These are central estimates for a ‘typical’ project and actual costs will vary significantly around these central estimates.

In the same conversation with the Lords, was the following exchange:

Lord Howie of Troon: Is Professor Salter’s floating duck still alive, is it dead, or what about it?

Malcolm Wicks: I do not know about the floating duck.

Lord Jenkin of Roding: It is an earlier generation, I have to say. It is some years ago.

Lord Flowers: It was the first generation of these things.

Salters Duck is a cautionary tale it would be well to repeat here so Mr Wicks is aware of it.
It was a highly promising wave energy device in the Seventies. A DTI study at the time was done by individuals who for their own reasons did not wish to see the technology pursued and moved a decimal point in the economics calculation, making it seem hopelessly uneconomic. Despite many protests this was not changed for many years. The UK thus missed out on being a leader much earlier in this exciting technology.

Is the DTI about to make a similar mistake twice?

Biomass


Paul McIntyre, heading the team of civil servants from across Whitehall undertaking the Energy Review, said that "the Government is intending to publish a response to all the recommendations of the Biomass Taskforce Report - and I think there were something like 40 recommendations - by around the end of April, so there will be a comprehensive cross-government response to that report at that stage.

"Referring back to the Climate Change Programme Review whose conclusions were announced yesterday, that included a new fund of £10-15 million to be spent over the next two years - this is new funding for biomass heat projects - and renewable heat will also be supported through the Low Carbon Buildings Programme, which received an extra £50 million in the Chancellor’s Budget."

Energy from waste


He was asked about the comprehensiveness of the ER's report in that the consultation paper makes no mention, for example, of energy from waste.

He replied: "It is certainly something that we would want to look at. One is greeted, of course, in energy policy by a range of mechanisms and technologies. Sir Ben Gill’s report on biomass talked about waste as an aspect of biomass, so that review is obviously feeding into our own thinking."

District heating


Lord Patel said "My question relates to heat and the development of district and community heating schemes. What steps the is the Government taking to encourage development of such schemes, particularly in the context of new housing development?"

Malcolm Wicks replied: "I think it is interesting and also slightly disappointing that, despite concepts like district heating and combined heat and power being around now, not just as ideas but as practice, for several decades, we have not seen more development of that.

"There has been a Community Energy Programme that has been looking at community heating. I am advised that the Defra programme was not extended because it produced fewer outputs than anticipated.

"In the Climate Change Review things are said about community heating projects, and the Energy Saving Trust, the Carbon Trust are also interested in this development and we will look at it as part of the review. It seems to me one of those kind of commonsense ideas really in terms of combined heat and power that, as I say, has been rather disappointing in terms of its progress.

Microgeneration


Wicks gave the impression that the way was being paved for owners of small renewable generators, who currently cannot claim their subsidies - Renewable Obligation Certificates, or ROCs - because they are too small to meet the crietria, to be able to in future.

He said "I think the issue of ROCs is because if the householder, the church, the mosque, the temple, the school, the library, the small business is going to have some microgeneration about it and it should be eligible for ROCs."

"Indeed, if it can produce enough energy, as is not impossible - if a school, for example, such as the Ashburton Learning Village, a new school in my borough of Croydon with its photovoltaics - you could imagine them in the summer holidays producing a lot of electricity, the children are not there being taught, and you could sell it back to the grid. It is important that supply companies are encouraged and, indeed, forced to offer a price to the micro-generators."

Forced, eh? Now there's fighting talk.

>> The minutes

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Wind energy doesn't need traditional back-up - official

A new report nails one of the persistent inaccuracies levelled at renewable electricity in Britain - its unreliability.



It confirms that variable generation from wind and other renewable technologies need not compromise electricity system reliability at any level of penetration foreseeable in Britain over the next 20 years.

The UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC)'s report on the costs and impacts of intermittent renewable energy on the UK's electricity network is described as "the most comprehensive assessment of the evidence on intermittency ever undertaken, reviewing over 200 studies on the subject".

The Times reported it by saying: "Wind power is as reliable and cheap as electricity from fossil fuels and nuclear reactors and could easily be used to generate at least 20 per cent of the UK's electricity."

This implies that with the addition of other renewables and energy efficiency, there is no need for more nuclear power stations to replace the ones that are to be decommissioned over the next 15 years.

The report finds that:

  • Renewable energy, such as wind power, leads to a direct reduction in CO2 emissions
  • The output of fossil fuel plant will need to be adjusted more often to cope with fluctuations in wind output, but any losses this causes are small compared to overall savings in emissions
  • 100% ‘back up’ for individual renewable sources is unnecessary; extra capacity will be needed to keep supplies secure, but will be modest and a small part of the total cost of renewables.  It is possible to work out what is needed and plan accordingly
  • None of the 200+ studies UKERC reviewed suggested that the introduction of significant levels of intermittent renewable energy would lead to reduced reliability
  • If wind power were to supply 20% of Britain’s electricity, intermittency costs would be 0.5 - 0.8p per kilowatt an hour (p/kWh) of wind output. This would be added to wind generating costs of 3 - 5p p/kWh. By comparison, costs of gas fired power stations are around 3p p/kWh
  • The impact on electricity consumers would be around 0.1p p/kWh. Domestic electricity tariffs are typically 10 - 16p p/kWh.  Intermittency therefore would account for around 1% of electricity costs
  • Costs of intermittency at current levels is much smaller, but will rise if use of renewables expands
  • Wide geographical dispersion and a diversity of renewable sources will keep costs down.

Energy Minister Malcolm Wicks apparently agrees. He said: "Suggestions that wind power is excessively expensive, or that traditional power stations are needed to back-up the energy produced by all our wind farms, are just two of the myths that have been peddled by their opponents. The UK Energy Research Centre's study demonstrates that these claims have been exaggerated. I welcome the report’s contribution to the debate."

Commenting on it Richard Ford, Head of Grid and Technical Affairs at BWEA, said:

"There is no technical barrier to wind contributing 20% or more of our power, at a cost that is both quantifiable and reasonable. The clarity provided on the terminology should minimise future confusion on what is a complex topic."

The report’s chief author, Robert Gross, head of UKERC’s Technology and Policy Assessment function, commented:

“Reports that suggest it is highly costly, or restricts the role of renewables are out of step with the majority of expert analysis, reflect regional problems that the UK can avoid, or both. However, costs will rise to a degree, and we can quantify the factors responsible.”

It confirms earlier research, conducted by Oxford University's Environmental Change Institute for the DTI, showing that wind power is reliable and sufficient given the right planning and infrastructure support.

Key findings of that were:
  • The UK has the best wind resource in Europe. The recorded capacity factor for onshore wind energy in the UK is 27%, greater even than in Germany (15%) and Denmark (20%) where wind farms are currently most widespread.
  • Availability of wind power in the UK is greater at precisely the times that we need it - during peak daytime periods and during the winter.
  • The UK wind resource is dependable. The likelihood of low wind speeds affecting 90% of the country would only occur for one hour every five years.
  • The chance of wind turbines shutting down due to very high wind speeds is exceedingly rare - high winds affecting 40% or more of the UK would occur in around one hour every 10 years and never affect the whole country.

>> the UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC) report.

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Monday, April 03, 2006

Despair and loathing at Lost Whitehall

Britain's new Climate Change Programme launched last week is one of the sorriest documents ever launched by this environmentally bankrupt administration.


The Programme acknowledges that the UK will miss its own target to slash carbon dioxide emissions by about a fifth, and sets a revised one but offers virtually no new measures and removes existing ones.

Carbon dioxide emissions in the UK increased by 0.5% last year and we have gone into reverse gear with regards our Kyoto commitments, with an overall increase in carbon dioxide emissions of 2.9% since the Labour Government came to power in 1997.

All the green taxes (fuel duty, climate change levy, aggregates levy, landfill tax and so on) raised a peak of 3.6 per cent of national income in 1999 and 2000, and have since been falling to just 3 per cent of national income, which is even lower than the level inherited from the Tories in 1997 (Source: www.statistics.gov.uk)

It is clear that this scenario is deliberately engineered by the Government to create such a desperate seeming situation that will justify the Energy Review opting for nuclear new-build as the only way to meet climate change challenges.

If more proof were needed, there are no new transport initiatives in the document, and on 27th March speaking in Edinburgh Labour MP and Transport Minister Alistair Darling "publicly backed nuclear power, despite being advised against it by his own experts - and also dismissed renewables as being unable to meet Scotland's power needs" - Shiona Baird MSP, Green speaker on energy.

The wind industry xpressed disappointment that the Programme failed to identify the additional support needed to ensure that offshore wind projects, essential to meeting our climate and renewables targets, are delivered on time. BWEA, as part of its submission to the Climate Review, had called on Government to make additional financial support available for offshore wind projects – of which some 2,000 megawatts (MW) could be built by 2010.

Greenpeace observed that on aviation the review doesn’t contain measures to halt airport expansion and increase air passenger duty. Aviation must be included in EU Emissions trading scheme at the earliest possible opportunity, preferably 2008.

The fuel tax escalator must be unfrozen and effective road tax bands introduced that actually influence purchasing behaviour in favour of more efficient vehicles. The government should also legislate for best efficiency standards in each vehicle class to become mandatory.

The review should have ensured the tightening of building regulations to make all new buildings zero emission standard by 2010 and provide tax incentives for the installation of micro-renewables in new and existing buildings.

The review should have considered policy mechanisms that are capable of delivering where the Renewables Obligation has failed – i.e. measures to incentivise all renewable technologies, not just onshore wind and provide certainty to the market beyond 2015. The cost of grid connection for key industries such as offshore wind should also be reviewed and support provided to kick start its development.

The review should have created market certainty by tightening the national allocation of carbon credits (the amount of CO2 British industry is allowed to emit) year on year. Instead Tony Blair is seeking to increase that figure. The National Allocation Plan should be used to bring about real domestic reductions, rather than using it as a mechanism to buy credits from other countries so that UK emissions can keep on spiralling, said Greenpeace.

The Combined Heat and Power Association was among many disparate groups to despair. It railed at the failure "to introduce any new measures to incentivise new CHP schemes even though CHP is recognised as one of the most cost-effective single carbon reduction measures."

CHPA Director Phil Piddington said that "Due to market conditions largely created by the Government and the energy regulator, there are now no new major CHP schemes either planned or under development. With no specific measures for CHP announced today, this situation is unlikely to change".

He also said he couldn't understand why "the sole funding programme for the development of public sector community heating schemes - Defra's Community Energy Programme (CEP) - has been withdrawn."

The Community Energy Programme delivers decentralised energy schemes and heat networks to reduce energy bills, tackle fuel poverty, reduce carbon emissions, and support the growth of Combined Heat and Power (CHP) schemes.

"The CHP and district heating industry cannot understand why the Government would undertake such a u-turn on a programme that is successfully delivering low-carbon heat and power to communities.

"The Energy Saving Trust have identified that projects supported to date by the Programme have helped save more than 25,000 tonnes of carbon every year whilst also assisting nearly 60,000 people on low incomes. Community heating provides a powerful opportunity to help tackle the problems of fuel poverty.

"It is thus highly confusing that at a time when we are experiencing a rapid rise in the number of people falling into fuel poverty, the Government has decided to eliminate support for this Programme."

The Community Energy Programme has already provided, via both capital grants and grants for feasibility studies, low-cost heat and power solutions for nearly 200 public sector schemes, and has built up a portfolio of potential projects worth a total of £200 million.

Perhaps the government expects nuclear powered CHP to power all our homes in future. Maybe this is the solution to the nuclear waste crisis....

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CIWEM and CofE come out against nuclear power

The influential Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management (CIWEM) says that nuclear energy is not the answer to the UK's energy needs. It calls instead for the development of a long term strategy towards a carbon neutral economy.


In their new position statement, CIWEM emphasises that Britain could meet its climate change targets and growing energy demand without building new nuclear power stations.

Nick Reeves, Executive Director of CIWEM, said: "It may well be cheaper and easier to make the necessary savings in carbon dioxide through well targeted efficiency policies before building a new raft of nuclear power stations. Some renewables can now compete on price, and carry with them no stigmas of waste, contamination or an unwelcome legacy for future generations. We need a new approach to energy use that is rooted in environmental sustainability.”

CIWEM believes investment in new nuclear capacity could undermine the drive for greater energy efficiency in homes and businesses by focusing on meeting existing demand rather than trying to reduce it.

Massive investment in new nuclear infrastructure would also lock the UK into a centralised system to distribute electricity for the next 50 years, threatening the growth in microgeneration technologies such as small-scale wind turbines on people's houses.

Because of intergenerational as well as technical issues concerning management of nuclear waste, the wider carbon emissions of uranium extraction and processing, and a lack of clarity regarding the availability of economically extractable uranium reserves, CIWEM does not regard nuclear power as a sustainable solution.

In a statement, Nick Reeves said: “Nuclear is based on a finite resource, cumulatively polluting and perpetuates the current inefficient pattern of electricity generation."

In a separate development Church leaders have backed a new report that describes a low consumption, non-nuclear, energy strategy as a “moral imperative.”

The report, entitled 'Faith and Power', urges an energy strategy informed by Christian principles of wise stewardship, peacemaking, justice, love for neighbours and moderation in consumption.

Launched on March 30 by the leading church-based environmental organisation Christian Ecology Link, and backed publicly by the Arcbishop of Canterbury, the report states that these principles “require much greater attention to promoting energy efficiency and restraining consumer demand, a bold switch from using fossil fuels to renewable sources of energy and the phasing out of nuclear reactors in electricity generation.”

>> CIWEM

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