THE TRUE FACTS ABOUT NUCLEAR POWER
Why it is: Unaffordable - Dangerous - Unnecessary - Bad For The Environment
WHY NUCLEAR POWER IS UNAFFORDABLE
in 2022 Boris Johnson announced that Nuclear Power - something that most people thought had died a quiet death - was going to be an important element in achieving a secure electricity supply, meeting the country's energy needs in the future and acheiving climate change agreement CO2 levels.
While we believe that his stated target of 25% electricty generated by nuclear power was probably disingenous, just a quick and unaccountable way of apparently magicing carbon reduction targets out of thin air (Nuclear is NOT CO2 free by the way - see later), we nevertheless feel it important that the British public are made aware of why such a policy is dangerous and unacheivable and will hold back the development of truly renewable energy sources and storage.
That is one of the reasons why the STAND website has been revived and brought up to date, to make sure the British public are fully aware of the real facts behind nuclear power. Read on to see why none of the economic arguments add up.
You have every right to ask, if - as we and countless other experts say - nuclear power generation is ridiculously expensive and unaffordable, why do governments want to continue with it? Here are their main reasons, and our arguments as to why their reasons are flawed...
PERCEIVED AS CARBON NEUTRAL
Even if nuclear power generation were indeed carbon neutral (but see here why this is a myth), the long timescale for new nuclear plants to come on stream, especially given the huge cost and time overruns that all nuclear projects run by by the French company EDF in this country and elsewhere have experienced, means that It would not help to prevent climate change (see press article here). By the time that new nuclear power stations in this country could realistically come on stream, climate scientists tell us it would be too late to avoid global warming. On the other hand renewable energy sources can be implemented very, very quickly and are much more effectively carbon neutral.
SECURITY OF ENERGY SUPPLY
The government is fond of telling us that nuclear energy is essential to keep the lights on in the near future. It is true our reliance on oil and gas and coal is not sustainable and that something has to be done to secure the UK Energy supply. However a reliance on nuclear energy would not help at all, in fact would hinder, as it takes a long time to come on stream and soaks up subsidies that are better spent on renewables.
It is also extremely expensive. The burden of all this extra expense would be born by the billpayer, putting an unfair burden on poorer and middle income families at a time when fuel bills are already going through the roof and will be getting worse. The £billions that will need to be given away in subsidies to persuade France and China (the only two countries prepared to to build nuclear power stations in the UK), would be much more effectively spent on renewable energy such as wind, solar, tide and wave power and research into energy storage.
It is instructive to note that multinational companies are no longer prepared to build nuclear power stations unless subsidised to a degree unacceptable to governments. For example, Hitachi were at one time due to build nuclear power stations at Oldbury and Wylfa but pulled out because the economics just did not add up. No other non-state company could be found. Now, globally, only countries are prepared to subsidise new nuclear power. In the case of the UK this is mainly France, who have an 84% stake in the energy company EDF and are now having to nationalise the ailing company completely. EDF, who are building the new Hinkley reactors and planning to build the new Sizewell reactors have had their shares suspended while the French government bails them out. The other state actor involved with nuclear power construction in the UK is China, which raises security issues of a different kind. [Update, February 2024: Due to security concerns, The UK Govt has decided that China will no longer have a part to play in UK nuclear power programmes, giving the French Govt a monopoly on providing nuclear power in the UK.]
Elsewhere we have noted that nuclear power stations are essential to the production of nuclear weapons (see here). That is why only state actors with a nuclear weapons programme (or countries that want nuclear weapons like Iran) are now promoting nuclear power as a method of generating electricity.
If you believe that nuclear weapons are a good or essential thing, and are prepared for bill payers to pay the huge extra premium that goes with nuclear power, then you are entitled to that point of view. But please do not believe governments who hypocritically try to pretend that nuclear power is affordable, safe and good for the planet, just to fuel their desire for weapons of mass destruction.
The following article is taken from the BBC website
'Nuclear is back' says business secretary
Mr Kwarteng said he thought investing in nuclear was "part of the solution" to the UK's energy needs. He said "nuclear is back on the table" because it provides more decarbonised power and a sustainable energy source.
But building new nuclear power plants can be vastly more expensive than renewables and can take decades to build.
A new law means new nuclear reactors can be funded by adding a small levy to people's bills during their construction.
Companies have previously pulled out of plans to build new nuclear reactors - including the one at Wylfa on Anglesey. These reactors take a lot of time and money to build, so the concern has often been around the financial risk. The government feel the way around this is to raise funds through levies on people's bills, so that risk is shared with the consumer.
It argues it would only add a few pounds a year to energy bills during the construction phase. But the concern is many nuclear projects - such as Hinkley - have run well over their initial budget and timescale.
Note that this proposed levy is on top of the large taxpayer subsidies that are needed to persuade foreign companies to build proposed new nuclear power stations in the UK
Relative costs of nuclear vs renewables
A 2018 study by the financial investment house Lazard showed the following relative costs of energy production:
|$6,500 to $12,250
|$1,500 to $1,550
|Utility Solar PV
It should be noted however, that since 2018, the cost of wind and solar energy production has fallen, while the cost of nuclear energy has risen, making the gap even wider. It should also be noted that the figures do not include the cost of decommissioning (decommissioning all our own nuclear power stations has been calculated to cost £132bn over 100 year, The Guardian, and House of Commons Public Accounts Committee 2022)
Neither do they show the cost of disposing of nuclear waste, a figure which is virtually unquantifiable but - if a way is ever found of disposing of nuclear waste - will almost certainly be considerable.
Cost and time over runs
As noted previously, all the nuclear projects built or building by EDF have gone considerably over time and budget. This is par for the course in nuclear power plant construction world wide. In the Lazard report cited above, they state that figures for nuclear power station building in China in 2018 was an underestimate, since delays in the construction added to the costs per MWh produced by a factor of 2.3 to 7.4-fold!
Investing in new nuclear will require deep pockets.When construction started on Flamanville-3, it was expected to cost €3.3 billion. The latest estimate is €12.4 billion. The price tag for the two new US reactors has risen from $14 billion to $29 billion
Projections do show that the cost of nuclear-generated electricity is falling: according to the IEA, it is expected to drop by 7 per cent between 2020 and 2050. But the cost of renewables is expected to fall faster: onshore wind by 14 per cent, offshore wind by 66 per cent and solar by 58 per cent. New Scientist, 25th May 2022
In 2015, The Ecologist published this photo of an unfinished and much delayed reactor at Flamanville being constructed by EDF, alongside an article headlined: "FLAMANVILLE NUCLEAR SAFETY FAIL SOUNDS DEATH KNELL FOR HINKLEY C". Alas, the UK government failed to heed this warning, and gave the go ahead to EDF, a company that has never completed any project ever even remotely to budget or on time, to build the same design of nuclear power station in Somerset, against all common sense advice.