Thursday, September 25, 2008
The French state utility is paying £12.4-billion ($23.8-billion) to buy British Energy, the owner of Britain's aging nukes, a fleet of eight power stations that generate about a fifth of the nation's electricity. As a sop to national sentiment, a quarter share of the nuclear generator will then be sold on to Centrica, the company that owns British Gas, the country's biggest power and gas retailer.
It is a deal that has been brokered by Downing Street, a recognition not just of the government's 35-per-cent holding in the nuclear generator but of the huge political and economic stakes in the outcome. British Energy's nukes are in their dotage. Reliability is dogged by maintenance problems - in May, the unexpected shutdown of one unit, Sizewell B, caused blackouts in the northwest of England.
Over the next 15 years, most of the nuclear fleet must be shut down and the looming gap in the nation's power supply has been a political hot potato for many years
Part of a rather good article, more in sorrow than anger, which pinpoints exactly how political cowardice & "environmental" Ludditism destroyed the British nuclear industry leaving no option but to ask the French to keep our lights on.
Even then this deal is predicated on the assumption of spending billions to placate the Green pensioner freezers. The real reason EDF is willing to pay £12 billion is not the profits to be made by the current reactors, though they are a factor, but that they are sites which cannot reasonably be accused as not being suitable for nuclear reactors. The infrastructure of electric lines is worth having & the local workforce are valuable but the big value is in the regulators probably being willing to give permission to build there, which they wouldn't do for a new site.
Yet another instance of the actual costs of doing something being dwarfed by the cost of squaring the politics. This is why we don't have electricity to cheap to meter.
Yesterday Radio Scotland reported this in their normal manner. That is to say they got a soundbite from a Green to say how dreadful it was.
I emailed them "reporting" on the French nuclear purchase the BBC decided to broadcast only a soundbite from a "Green" source. Where exactly is the balance in that. Exactly how many progressive organisations did you contact to get a soundbite? "
Next newsbreak they had somebody from a "customer supporting" organisation who said that the French taking over a big British supplier would be dreadful because it would cut down the number of suppliers & thus limit competition. EDF does already do some business in the UK but mainly it is a French company. I emailed them:
"So not only is the BBC quoting anti-nuclearists & but not soundbites from progress supporting lobbyists over the purchase of our nuclear capacity it is bringing in an entirely opposing & spurious soundbite about it cutting the number of companies in our energy market. Since the purchaser of the British nuclear generators is French they were not players in our market in the first place..
The BBC has, for decades, eschewed any attempt at impartiality or objectivity over the nuclear issue & even though the government have belatedly come round to supporting it, you are still doing so.
You could, at any time, get a soundbite from Sir Bernard Ingham of SONE or indeed myself of the 9% Growth Party or many others & have deliberately chosen not to broadcast such.
24,000 pensioners die each year of hypothermia precisely because we do not have the cheap electricity that could be produced. The BBC, by its deliberate programme of censorship, shares in the responsibility for each of those deaths."
Next time round they brought in Professor Ian Fell who did an intelligent & amusing interview explaining that the lights are more likely to go out in Scotland if we don't let nuclear save us. He answered silly questions like "can't we just rely on England to produce our power" (the interconnection with England, even though being upgraded, won't be able to provide that much) & "will EDF want to move their HQ out of Scotland just because we aren't allowing them to do the actual production here (they only located in East Kilbride because the government told them to in the first place).
Did they get this interview on just because their lack of balance was being pointed out. Perhaps.
Then this morning's phone in was on the same subject. Guests were Green MSP Robin Harper & radio presenter Johnny Ball. Harper stated that, for the cost of letting EDF build this we could pay for enough home insulation to save more electricity than EDF will produce. Since we are paying absolutely nothing to subsidise them this seems improbable.
The phoners seemed balanced between sensible & sane which is a step in the right direction though there was one particularly silly woman who said that her husband wasn't as fit as he had been years ago & that she ought thus to get compensation from owners of the nearby Hunterson. I called & said that the French were producing electricity at 1.3p a unit & disputed Garry's remarks about it being unsafe, pointing out that we have had 2 deaths worldwide from nuclear over 20 years compared to 150,000 annually from coal. Basically everybody was going through the old arguments with the old lack of any evidence being as unimportant as ever.