The following message was printed as a flyer and handed out to attendees of the forum as they arrived as well as to passersby on the morning of June 23, 2015:
Nuclear Industry Forum 2015
We are here this morning to again advise you of the error of your ways. Civilian nuclear power was only ever a fig leaf for nuclear bomb making, and civilian nuclear power is no longer either cheap, needed or acceptable.
Don’t just take our word for it. The world’s major investment banks no longer back nuclear. This week, UBS released a report saying that within a decade, solar power will provide 10% of the world’s electricity supply, and that its growth rate will only continue to accelerate, beating coal and nuclear as the world’s default energy technology. “We believe the financial community and most industry experts largely underestimate the global solar capacity growth, as falling costs, supportive regulation and the opening up of new solar markets seem to go largely unnoticed.”
Or as Goldman Sachs put it last year, declining prices of solar plus storage mean that by 2033 homeowners will no longer need to be connected to the grid at all. “Power companies planning large reactors or continued operation of expensive old reactors will be in trouble in this new marketplace.” Boosting the prices charged for nuclear-generated electricity to protect these ageing monsters will only speed up defection from the grid.
Deutsche Bank went even further, predicting that within two years roof-top solar will reach grid parity in all 50 states in the US. US rooftop solar installation will, they say, rise from 8 GW this year to 16 GW in 2016. And this growth will only accelerate.
The real problem for your industry is that the costs of renewables are dropping rapidly, while the cost of nuclear is constantly rising. The crossover point, grid parity, was reached for the sunniest states in the US last year, and is even projected to reach the English Midlands within a year or two. Storage of the energy produced by renewables is the one remaining issue, but in principle it’s not difficult. Pump the water up the hill when energy is produced; let it run back down the hill through generators when you need it. And the announcement by Tesla of Powerwall batteries of 7 kWh capacity for $3500 is another nail in your industry’s coffin. You always played up the difficulties of storing electricity overnight, while downplaying the difficulties of storing your deadly waste for 100,000 years. Well, looks like that one is over for you..
Meanwhile, the ‘new’ French reactor, the EPR, is running into more problems every month. The flagship EPR reactor that Areva is building in Finland is 9 years late and has risen from €3.2 billion to €8.5 billion, which has led to the cancellation of a planned 2nd EPR on the site, (Olkiluoto 4), and a €10 billion court case between Areva and the Finnish power company. The reactor pressure vessel for the equally late and over-budget EPR in France has now been found to be made of steel with too much carbon in it, reducing its toughness, meaning any cracks that start will spread rapidly. And you’ve already welded on all the connections, so replacing the RPV will be horrendously expensive and time consuming. I doubt if the Chinese, who you also have delivered two similarly manufactured EPR RPVs to, are very impressed. Which, since you can’t build your desired EPR in Hinkley Point, near Bristol, without them, is quite serious. Even the massive dollop of English taxpayers cash offered the project, (twice the current price of electricity, index linked for 35 years) is on its own not enough for this cash-hungry dream project. One nuclear engineer (Tony Roulstone, Cambridge University) has described the EPR as too complex to actually build, “unconstructable”. Areva posted a loss of €4.83 billion in 2014, while its market capitalisation is around €3.29 billion. So the French Government has got EDF to take it over to spread the losses around. Ultimately, it’s the French taxpayer on the hook. But then you have never, anywhere, built a nuclear reactor without massive chunks of government money, have you? Adding to your woes, Le Monde reported a study showing that powering France from 100% renewables by 2050 would cost about the same as a mix including 50% nuclear, 40% renewables. (11.9 cents kWh versus 11.7 cents kWh).
5 of your ageing nuclear power stations got closed down on economic grounds in the USA last year. You have 388 operating reactors world-wide, 50 fewer than 2002. You produced 10.8% of the world’s electricity in 2013, down from 17.6% in 1996. An industry in decline. And still no solution in sight for your achilles heel, where to hide the waste. Waste that solar, wind and tidal power don’t produce. Japan added 10 GW of solar power during 2014, and Fukushima has moved the Japanese population from 30% opposing nuclear to 70% opposing nuclear. It is hard for you lot to compete with an alternative that is cleaner, safer and now cheaper. Bad luck.
And Fukushima continues to leak 400 tons of radioactive water into the Pacific every day, as it has for over 4 years now. And your industry has no idea how to stop it; it just knows how to contain the political fallout, not the real fallout that results from your deathtraps having a bad day. Windscale, Three Mile Island, Tschernobyl, Fukushima; each of your little ‘whoops’ events is worse that the last. Not just shot yourselves in the foot; you’ve blown your feet off.
Produced by Kick Nuclear, London.