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Topic Title: Why is Lord Hutton so besotted with a flawed technology, 3rd Gen. Nuclear?
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Created On: 14 April 2013 11:06 AM
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 14 April 2013 11:06 AM
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jarathoon

Posts: 1042
Joined: 05 September 2004

Lord Hutton, chairman of the Nuclear Industry Association has written an article that addresses none of the concerns that engineers have over 3rd Generation Nuclear.

He has written an article in the Telegraph entitled

"Why Britain must make nuclear work"

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/fin...ake-nuclear-work.html

However he is not talking about nuclear in general he is talking in particular about the nuclear technologies incorporated into 3rd Generation reactors, in particular EdF/Areva's EPR.

His first sentence I agree with:

"Without power, businesses cannot thrive and grow, nor can individuals go about their daily lives. Securing our energy supplies is vital to our national security."

But then he goes on as if third generation nuclear was our only option going forward.

And leads to another sentence which when the word 3rd Generation is inserted makes more sense.

"Failure to reach agreement on the price of [3rd Generation] nuclear electricity threatens not only the first new [3rd Generation] nuclear power station for a generation, but potentially all those [3rd Generation nuclear power stations] that will [would?] come in its wake."

Yes. Yes. Yes. Great, the failure of this programme is just what I want. I want us to abandon our 3rd generation nuclear aspirations, so that we engineers have the freedom and opportunity to work seriously hard to develop better, cheaper and safer technologies instead.

He goes on to say...

"Once agreed, the contract for difference can serve the twin aims of providing a fair return for investors and a fair price for consumers, both for the cost of electricity generated, as well as the upfront investment required."

How do we know? All the negotiations are being conducted in secret with one selected player, EdF. We don't know the strike price and we don't know what add-ons to the strike price are being negotiated, in terms of loan guarantees (since EdF can only sell bonds with little above junk bond status, given their current level of indebtedness and future prospects), and publicly funded bailouts if the project runs over its projected budget.

Having tried to get rid of our state owned energy monopolies, is the solution now to install other countries state owned monopoly providers in their place!

From the next quote it becomes clear that Lord Hutton is not a free market enthusiast, and would indeed like to return us to the days of state owned monopolies...

"Left to its own devices, the market would not choose to invest in capital-intensive low-carbon infrastructure. This would lead us to a precarious, high-carbon future increasingly dependent on imported gas."

More nonsense comes in the following sentence

"Nuclear can, and will, provide a long-term, consistent guarantee that will protect consumers and ensure that energy bills will be less than would be the case if we do nothing."

But no one is proposing we do nothing. If gas prices shoot up the market will find ways of generating energy more cheaply, without copious state subsidies. That is the way the market works! All the government need to do is provide some seed money to help with the initial research and early development of new plausible replacement technologies. The market can then choose which of these might work well and then begin to roll them out using private equity funding.

Lord Hutton is worried about EdF

"EDF Energy has spent £1bn already and the project is at present costing the company £1m a day."

I think EdF are making a lot more money out of supplying the UK public with energy, than they are losing at Hinkley Point C. For EdF this is just pin money put in place to help leverage them a better deal. In any case they are perfectly free to withdraw from the process anytime they want. A lot of people would be celebrating if they did.

Lord Hutton finishes with "There is no Plan B for our energy security."

"Failure exposes Britain to many risks, while success will help settle our energy future and send a strong signal to potential investors that Britain means [subsidised monopolistic] business."

Yes I agree there is no Plan B that will involve Lord Hutton, and thus there is no reason for him to know about it.

James Arathoon

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James Arathoon
 14 April 2013 01:01 PM
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westonpa

Posts: 1771
Joined: 10 October 2007

Maybe because he is a 3rd generation politician?

Regards.
 14 April 2013 01:05 PM
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jarathoon

Posts: 1042
Joined: 05 September 2004

See also

http://www.power-eng.com/news/...-fail-deadlock-o.html

As you might have guessed this debate is not just about EdF's investment at Hinkley point C. It really about the revival of a socialist top down system of state planning and control vs. the government encouraging and trusting its own people (most of them not having gone to Oxbridge) to deliver the necessary technological solutions to allow this country to thrive in the midst of this new revolution in energy generation technologies.

I say to EdF that what you may be trying to agree with the Government in secret may end up having no legal legitimacy in the eyes of the electorate.

Indeed because of the manner of the negotiation, I will consider myself perfectly free to vote in a future new government specifically mandated to strike down any over generous deal without compensation! Therefore the words the civil servants write on the agreement are in my view false promises. And these promises will get more and more worthless as each new general election arrives.

Post-Fukushima the rational case for continuing with third generation nuclear is not possible. The argument against third generation nuclear has been won several times over now. It is only people like Lord Hutton who have refused to back down on the irrational pro-nuclear rhetoric.

If EdF, the corporate entity (including the engineers), are now pressing ahead because they have unwittingly fallen for Lord Hutton's hype and rhetoric or are pressing ahead because they believe the civil servants when they secretly promise 35 or 40 years of over generous subsidies, then they should back out of the deal right now.

This is all just a mixture of false promises, misinformation and wishful thinking thought up by people mainly associated with the previous Labour administration.

Using British taxpayers and bill payers cash to subsidise an otherwise uneconomic and uncompetitive third generation nuclear power stations won't wash for very long.

James Arathoon


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James Arathoon
 14 April 2013 02:57 PM
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westonpa

Posts: 1771
Joined: 10 October 2007

Originally posted by: jarathoon
I say to EdF that what you may be trying to agree with the Government in secret may end up having no legal legitimacy in the eyes of the electorate.

The electorate is mostly ignorant about such things James, you need to be realistic.
Therefore the words the civil servants write on the agreement are in my view false promises. And these promises will get more and more worthless as each new general election arrives.

There is little difference between the political parties and civil servants have little fear of failure because look what happened to the head of the UKBA, as I understand she was promoted to another government department.
It is only people like Lord Hutton who have refused to back down on the irrational pro-nuclear rhetoric.

But debate is healthy, so not all bad.
This is all just a mixture of false promises, misinformation and wishful thinking thought up by people mainly associated with the previous Labour administration.

Which was really a Tory administration in disguise.
Using British taxpayers and bill payers cash to subsidise an otherwise uneconomic and uncompetitive third generation nuclear power stations won't wash for very long.

Oh I am not so sure about that, how much of our cash has propped up uneconomic and uncompetitive financial institutions over the last few years and also paid for wars in Iraq and Afganistan etc?

Regards.
 14 April 2013 03:05 PM
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jarathoon

Posts: 1042
Joined: 05 September 2004

"Ex-Regulator Says Reactors Are Flawed"

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04...are-flawed.html?_r=3&

"
"I was just thinking about the issues more, and watching as the industry and the regulators and the whole nuclear safety community continues to try to figure out how to address these very, very difficult problems," which were made more evident by the 2011 Fukushima nuclear accident in Japan, he said. "Continuing to put Band-Aid on Band-Aid is not going to fix the problem."
"

The simple truth is that if the USA do not address their failing system of nuclear regulation quickly then the likelyhood of a major nuclear accident happening there in the next 20 years, will continue to rise.

Natural events (earthquakes, floods, and hurricanes etc) with magnitudes that power stations were never expected to face within their operational lifetimes seem to be occuring, year in, year out, at one Nuclear site or another in the US.

Third Generation Nuclear just refers to the system of band aids, and associated statistical tricks, used to keep old and flawed nuclear designs going well beyond their sell by date.

James Arathoon

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James Arathoon
 15 April 2013 10:58 AM
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jarathoon

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Joined: 05 September 2004

The telegraph have run another version of the same story...

"Hitachi reluctant about UK nuclear reactor plan"

"The Japanese group Hitachi is increasingly reluctant to build Britain's next wave of nuclear reactors and may pull out of its deal with the Government unless terms are improved, with devastating effects on UK energy policy."

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/fin...ear-reactor-plan.html

Good another company on the verge of realising the game is up for third generation nuclear in Europe; the quicker we dump our current energy policy in regards to subsidising 3rd Gen. Nuclear the better.



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James Arathoon
 15 April 2013 01:47 PM
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MAWilson

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Joined: 22 February 2006

James,

I'm interested in what you would think is the alternative to 3rd Generation Nuclear Reactors. I'm with you on the need to improve design to the 4th Generation where waste/fuel is burnt more efficiently to reduce the half-life of long reactive isotopes but I believe there is a fundamental skills gap which is going to happen if the 3rd Generation Reactors aren't built.

The size and scale of design/build of a power station has not been done in 20 years with most of those involved <10 yrs away from retirement. Thorium based reactor design is proven as a concept but the engineering is far from to a point where I'd be comfortable building a commercial one. You require operational, engineering, maintenance and nuclear physicist skills at the plant level to operate such a station and where would you get this if the Nuclear industrial will essentially be de-skilling in line with current lifetimes?

Would love to hear your thoughts.

M Wilson
 15 April 2013 02:51 PM
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jarathoon

Posts: 1042
Joined: 05 September 2004

M Wilson,

It is precisely because there is a skills gap that we should be working energetically on new technologies right now. The people who originally worked on molten salt reactors are now in their 70's and 80's.

You are not going to attract the best people into the nuclear industry simply to build replicas of previous nuclear accident sites, with a little extra redundancy protection thrown in.

I think most of the really skilled british people with experience of building nuclear power stations are already in retirement or in consultancy or now outside the industry now doing something else more productive.

The few that remain are doing valuble work to safely keep the old fleet of nuclear power stations running for a few more years.

So do we to train up a whole new generation of people motivated to build a better future, or do we just want to repeat the mistakes of the past; in particular the unsolved problem of nuclear waste and how to use it as a fuel (to remove the problem of long lived plutonium and other actinide waste).

I don't personally think we should use the valuble skills of the people in or near retirement, in order to find new ways to repeat their mistakes!

Yes nuclear research is expensive it would require £100 million over four years to just to get a Thorium Molten Salt Reactor program started in the UK.

However if we start building an EPR we will enter a period of 20 to 40 years where we don't bother designing anything better.

There is are small and medium companies in the uk right now capable of building valves and pumps for molten salt reactors. They may not exist in a generations time.

James Arathoon

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James Arathoon
 15 April 2013 08:53 PM
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ADJONES

Posts: 31
Joined: 15 November 2002

The fundamental problem with nuclear has always been the economics and its inability to compete with conventional fossil fuel fired plant, most of that is due to the high construction cost, construction delays or poor availability due to plant operating problems. Technological innovation is useful only to the extent that it makes nuclear generation more economically competitive. In some respects it does; larger reactors for greater output reducing £/kW capital costs, higher temperatures improving thermal efficiency, improving fuel burn, simplified designs, less waste etc. In many ways though innovation actively works against nuclear by driving up project costs; continual evolution of designs so no two projects are the same increasing the risks of cost overruns and delays, reduced scope for optimisation of designs, mass production and standardisation. New technologies inevitably have high development costs and lots of teething problems which is a major issue when your nuclear power station is costing you hundreds of millions of pounds a year in depreciation and interest costs whether it generates or not. If you look at the history of the UK's nuclear programme it's a powerful antidote to the idea that technological innovation is the solution to the nuclear industry's problems. Look at the history of the early or even later, Magnox stations, Dungeness B the first of the AGRs - it took nearly 20 years to complete. Then there's all the other technologies which never got beyond trial plant level, at huge expense; the steam generating heavy water reactor (SGHWR), the Dounrey Fast Breeder. I think there may be something to be said for tried and tested technology.

Edited: 15 April 2013 at 09:04 PM by ADJONES
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