Tuesday, December 13, 2005
A SPLIT emerged in the Scottish Liberal Democrats last night after a senior MP said there was a case for building a new generation of nuclear power stations.100% correct.
John Thurso, the party’s Scotland spokesman, said new reactors could be the “the least worst option” for maintaining security of supply and reducing carbon emissions.
He also dismissed “emotional” arguments against the controversial form of power generation and claimed a solution to radioactive waste would be found. But his comments contradict the Scottish LibDems’ stance of opposing new nuclear power stations.
The junior coalition partners in the Executive will use the UK government’s energy review to harden their position on nuclear power and further commit themselves to renewables. They have said no new reactors should be commissioned unless the problem of radioactive waste is resolved – a position also adopted by the coalition.
But Thurso, whose Highlands constituency includes the Dounreay nuclear reprocessing plant, says he cannot sign up to his party’s policy. “I take a different view. We should not rule it out,” he said.
In an interview with the Sunday Herald, Thurso said he would be relaxed about the energy review backing new nuclear power stations in Scotland.
“If, as may be the case, the answer were to be nuclear, in those circumstances it would not give me a problem. It would be responsible to consider nuclear as one of the options,” he said, adding that nuclear could be the “least worst option” in terms of guaranteeing security of supply.
“If nuclear fulfilled the criteria I set out, it would not give me the level of worry it gives other people. I see no reason to rule it out on emotional grounds. We need honest information.”
Asked if renewables, a key plank for Scottish Liberal Democrat energy policy, could fill the gap left behind by the closure of existing nuclear power stations, Thurso said: “No. The point about renewables is they are not constant. You must have a baseload capacity when a particular form of renewable is not producing power.”
Thurso also contradicted his party’s view on nuclear waste – Lib Dems believe the issue is unlikely to be resolved – by saying he was confident of a solution.
“I wouldn’t want to prejudice the review, but I have talked to engineers and scientists who have told me there is no technical problem with nuclear waste. It is simply a question of political will. There are technical solutions that have been around for some time.”
There are quite a number of people in the Scot Lib Dems who support nuclear. I know this because when I spoke in favour of this in 2002 at conference the vote for the leadership amendment absolutely opposing nuclear was only about 60/40. This despite the fact that in his leadership speech Jim Wallace had said that he didn't see how any loyal Lib Dem could support nuclear & then Ross Finnie was brought on to make a very capable speech which made no mention of the virtues, or otherwise, of depending on renewables & concentrated entirely on asking us not to embarrass the leadership. He also guaranteed that the Executive would not permit blackouts.
On a later occasion the local party, not purely at my behest, put forward a pro-nuclear amendment which we were told would not be allowed on the grounds that it would "unbalance the debate" on power policy. I also know other Glaswegianactivists favour such discussion.
In the event of debate being allowed I will certainly seek to speak.
Just like the journalists and their editors, the anti-nuclear-power crowd suffer from the same cultural disease of refusing to face the truth, unwilling to dissociate themselves from emotional arguments instead of accepting facts and refusing to be rational and logical by clinging to obvious falsehoods.
"...the advantage of nuclear power comes from the amount of power that comes from a small amount of uranium. The power from one kilogram of uranium is approximately equivalent to 100,000 kilograms of oil; therefore, as a function of power consumption, very little uranium needs to be removed from the ground; hence, the environmental impact of uranium mines is much less compared with mining and drilling for fossil fuels.
"Unlike oil or gas, nuclear fuel is solid; hence, nuclear fuel is immune to the environment problems posed by spillage during transportation to a power plant.
"Unused nuclear fuel is only slightly more radioactive that naturally occurring underground. Fuel delivery casks are designed with a high margin of safety to ensure that even in the event of a transportation accident, the environment remains free of contamination from the nuclear fuel."
"In contrast to fossil fuel plants (coal, oil and gas), nuclear power plants do not produce any carbon dioxide or sulfur emissions, which are major contributors to the greenhouse effect and acid rain, respectively. According to the Nuclear Energy Institute, U.S. nuclear power plants prevent 5.1 million tons of sulfur dioxide, 2.4 million tons of nitrogen oxide, and 164 million metric tons of carbon from entering the earth's atmosphere each year.
"Nuclear power reactors do contribute a measurable increase in radiation to the environment around a nuclear power plant. However, this increase is relatively small compared to natural background radiation, and is less than the radioactivity released from a typical coal plant. Even with this increase in radiation, most employees of nuclear power plants receive exposures typically of workers in all occupations. In addition, no evidence exists that show that small increases in radiation exposure having negative health effects."
"The most pressing environmental concern facing the nuclear industry is the issue of waste disposal. All processes produce waste. Nuclear waste from a power plant is unique in that it can be highly radioactive. While highly radioactive waste is hazardous to all living beings, nuclear fuel is amenable to containment, treatment, reduction and reprocessing (recycling). Processes have been developed to separate reusable fuel and the highly radioactive elements from used nuclear fuel. The waste products can then be made into a glass or ceramic waste pellet for disposal. The hazard associated with this pellet has a expected duration of about 100 years.
"Considering that chemical hazards maintain their nature indefinitely, this waste form may be preferable. Currently, such a waste treatment process is not being utilized in the United States because of political resistance; however, research continues to find new solutions to this problem."
"The nuclear power plant accidents at Three Mile Island in the United States and Chernobyl in Ukraine are well known; however, despite these incidents, nuclear power has a remarkable record. About 16% of electricity generated around the world comes from nuclear power, and in the last forty years of this production, not one single fatality has occurred as a result of the operation of a civilian nuclear power plant in the United States, Western Europe, Japan, or South Korea. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in the year 2000, the nuclear industry's safety accident rate-which tracks the number of accidents that result in lost work time, restricted work or fatalities-was 0.26 per 200,000 worker-hours. By comparison, the accident rate for U.S. private industry was 3.1 per 200,000 worker-hours in 1998 (the most recent year such data was available)."
Economics and Reliability:
"Nuclear power plants are one of the most economical forms of energy production. Nuclear fuel costs (as a function of power generation potential) represent only a fraction of the cost of fossil fuels. Including capital and non-fuel operating costs, the cost of operating a nuclear power plant is roughly equivalent to fossil fuels.
"Recently, the average electricity production cost for nuclear energy was recognized as the cheapest source of electricity. In 1999, the average cost of power generation by nuclear plants was 1.83 cents per kilowatt-hour, for coal-fired plants 2.07 cents, for oil 3.24 cents, and for gas 3.52 cents. Costs for solar and wind are still well beyond that considered to be competitive to the public.
"The cost of regulation and industry oversight of nuclear power generation is substantially more than that of other power generation sources; however, improvements in reliability and operational and maintenance efficiencies have contributed to reducing those costs. Currently, nuclear power plant capacity factors average over 75%. This is competitive with those of fossil fired plants. Most plants are designed to operate in a base load configuration; that is, they run at full power regardless of the demand on electricity.
"Nuclear power plants are particularly well suited for this purpose since they are designed to produce large quantities of power and can sustain operation for up to two years without refueling."
"The future of civilization will depend upon the indefinite supply of electricity. Clearly, there is a limit to the supply of fossil fuels. The most optimistic estimates have fossil fuel lasting no more than 100 years; however, they may become economically undesirable in much less time. Obviously wind, solar, and renewable energy sources (such as ethanol) can sustain our world with power indefinitely. However, the power generation potential from even a small amount of uranium is so great, even nuclear fuel can be included on this list. In the right configuration, nuclear power can provide electricity for generations. The right configuration is in the "Breeder Reactor."
"The design of the breeder reactor is such that even as fuel is consumed, new fuel is created as a byproduct. Only a few breeder reactor plants have been built. Since plutonium - a material used in nuclear weapons - is created in these plants, governments have been hesitant to allow their construction. Nonetheless, applying the breeder concept can reduce fuel prices so low that even the extraction of uranium from the worlds oceans would not be an overly expensive endeavor. In an article printed in the American Journal of Physics (vol. 51, Jan. 1983, B. Cohen), there is enough uranium in all the worlds oceans and the earths crust under the oceans to last 5 billion years (assuming that 6500 metric tons of uranium is removed annually). For all practical purposes, this is a reliable power source for all time."
(In theory the conference committee are not there to vet the suitability of a policy, that is conference's job, but only the technical propriety of a motion & whether it would make a good debate i.e. if it is confusing, self contradictory, calls for Holyrood to do something outwith its power etc or, at a considerable stretch, if it would "unbalance" a debate. In such cases they are supposed to give reasons & even suggest improvements.