Wednesday, December 05, 2012
Hunterston B extension exposes Holyrood desperation on nuclear
Holyrood has decided that Hunterston Nuclear Power Station should not, after all, be closed in 2016 as previously intended.
ONE of the UK ’s oldest nuclear power stations has been allowed to operate in Scotland for another seven years.
Hunterston B nuclear power station in Ayrshire, which was due to be decommissioned in 2016, has had its operational licence extended until 2023.
The decision by the UK Government, which will safeguard hundreds of jobs at Hunterston, was criticised by opposition politicans who called on the SNP to “stand up to” Westminster and energy giant EDF.
In 2008 SNP, Liberal Democrat and Green MSPs all voted to oppose new-build nuclear stations.
However the Scottish Government said today that it had also made clear that it was not against extending the operating life of Scotland’s existing nuclear stations “to help maintain security of supply” during the transition to renewables.
What is interestingly missing from the reporting is that it was not originally intended to be "decommissioned in 2016" but in 2011. But Holyrood, including the Greens, voted in 2007 to extend its life by another 5 years. Now 5 years later they intend to extend it another 7.
Using only the revised date makes this look less like desperation and is exactly what one might have expected of Orwell's Ministry of Truth (& yes the BBC did misreport it this way too). Also as I started writing this the BBC broadcast another of their interminable, supportive interviews with the Scottish Green party (1-2% in polls) leader on how dreadful nuclear is. The BBC being legally bound to provide "balance" obviously did not interview, supportively or otherwise, anybody supporting nuclear, such as UKIP (4-8% in polls).
Which reminds me of the 2nd speech I made at a LibDem conference, back when I still thought that party had at least the potential to be liberal and long before I joined UKIP.
It was about nuclear power being an option that the LibDems should not absolutely reject any opening to, and in particular that keeping the lights on would be difficult if Hunterston was closed down in 2011 as promised. I and Steuart Campbell were the only speakers for nuclear and the party leadership pulled out all the stops to get the motion passed but we still got 1/3rd of delgates to vote for at least not totally excluding sanity. I still think the speech reads well though some time later I was expelled from the party on charges of being a liberal and supporting nuclear power. Steuart was also driven out.
Clearly despite the official commitment to insanity of all the Holyrood parties, in practice, because it is the only way to maintain "security of supply" our masters are not quite as insane as they pretend to be.
Nonetheless Hunterston is ageing. It is running at way under its design capacity. It is expected to limp on for 12 years beyond its design life.
If anybody trusted the politicians actually believed any of the scare stories they tell about nuclear being dangerous or there being a risk of radioactive release they would find it impossible to explain why it is being allowed to continue so far beyond its design life.
In fact new reactors are cheaper to run, more secure and have far more failsafes. It would be cheaper, more reliable and far more satisfactory to build (or rather for the politicians to allow somebody else to build) new nuclear plants for the same reasons that most people chosse to drive relatively new cars rather than keeping the one they had in the 1960s going.
Some bits from my 2001 speech:
"the amendment simply states as a matter of doctrine that nuclear energy must be disposed of. Since this means the loss of 40% of Scotland's electricity within 10 or, with a certain amount of juggling, 15 years I think we are owed a solid justification. Since the main motion hopes for an increase from 11 to 21% of our wind, water & solar capacity this still leaves an overall reduction of 30% on our current capacity. Assuming that over the next 10 years the economy will grow at 2.5% we will have a shortfall of nearly 60% of current capacity...For the Scottish Liberal Democrats to vote for such a policy would be, & would be seen to be, grossly irresponsible. The example of California should be a warning. There the richest part of the richest society in the world is suffering regular power blackouts because for the last 20 years political considerations have prevented the building of generating capacity.
....uranium particles recovered from seawater could keep our present nuclear power industry going for 5 billion years, whereas the sun is expected to explode in five & a half. It must therefore be considered as pretty sustainable...
[Chernobyl] 10/20,000 deaths were predicted. Despite the most minute tracking of variations in cancer rates the total currently stands at 45. By comparison in another Soviet accident, in 1989, 570 people on a train died in a gas pipeline explosion. The total of deaths in the following 15 years is 2, in Japan. Bearing in mind that we are talking about creating nearly 20% of all humanity's energy for that period this is a safety record not even approached by any other industry in human history...
to mine coal we tolerate the deaths of hundreds of thousands annually worldwide from black lung & an unquantified but large number from emphysema when we burn it....
10 years reactor waste radioactivity is reduced a thousandfold. After 500 it is less radioactive than the ore originally mined. This is also why decommissioning reactors is normally unnecessary. Just lock the door & leave it. Recent research on radiation has shown it is not the threat we thought. Classically estimates of the danger of low level radiation have been based on the theory that there was a linear progression from say 5000milliSieverts (a level which will kill 50% of people within a month) to zero with no safe limit in between. Purely because it was a very conservative assumption it was proper to use it when we had no better model. We do now. Following the failure of Chernobyl to satisfy the theoretical predictions statistical examinations have been made of victims of the Hiroshima & Nagasaki bombs, people who worked with radium & most importantly hundreds of thousands of tests of radon in homes. The results have consistently shown that at low levels, below 150 milliSvs radiation has no bad effect....
The human race has an unlimited future if we will only reach out for it."
All of that was true 11 years ago - and known by any politician interested in facts. It is true today, though since technology has progressed we could probably produce better, cheaper, more failsafe reactors now built faste, than then.
At 27,000 pensioner deaths from fuel poverty annually nearly 300,000 people have been unnecessarily killed since then - every last one of them the deliberately by our political class.
11 years have been quite deliberately wasted, at least in western countries - the rest of the world economy has doubled since then, China's has nearly quadrupled.
But we still have that unlimited future any time we get rid of the parasites riding our shoulders.