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Wednesday, July 04, 2007


Stephen Salter today (letter 18th Jume) wrote that we do not need nuclear & should rely on renewables. May I remind him of the BBC's "Big Debate" on energy between the 2 sides - those who wanted increased renewables & a little nuclear & those who wanted renewables alone. He said that the lives of our current reactors at Hunterston & Torness could be extended for the indefinite future.

It appears he no longer thinks such an extension will be required. This is a fortunate coincidence since it is clear that Hunterston is indeed aging & we cannot rely on extending it.

In saying that nuclear is "not suitable for baseload", a problem he doesn't see in intermittent wind, he seems to be contradicting his fellow speaker in that debate, Nicol Stephen, who said "nuclear is the easy answer". Nicol, who explained his objection as being purely because, if allowed to work, the populace would never be prepared to spend all those billions on subsidising windmills. So which is it - not technologically suitable for the job or so good that it will mean government subsidy cannot be justified?
Though my letter was unsurprisingly not published a very effective one from Steuart Campbell was:

Professor Stephen Salter claims that 10-20GW can be generated from tidal flows in the Pentland Firth (your report, 23 June), but this optimistic power level was not supported by a University of Edinburgh study last year. The Institute for Energy Systems, commissioned by the Scottish Executive, put the total available capacity from tidal plants at only 0.75GW within a total from all renewables in Scotland of about 6GW.

You report Prof Salter as acknowledging that the Firth is too far from London demand. However, it is even too far from the main Scottish demand centres in the Central Belt. Such a scheme is impracticable. Nor, due to its variability, is tidal generation reliable.

STEUART CAMPBELL, Dovecot Loan, Edinburgh

It greives me to say such things of a Professor of Engineering Design, who clearly is a genuine technologist, but it seems that the decades of political lobbying for ever more money for his Slater's Duck wavepower device has permanently addled his motivation. The Duck is a neat piece of engineering but, after 3 decades of trials it must be obvious that it will never be able to work without massive subsidy & probably never able to survive Scottish winters either.

I'm puzzled. Base load is what nuclear has conventionally been good at; load-following is what it is poor at. Windmills are good at neither.
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