World Nuclear Association Symposium September 14th 2017

The following letter was handed to delegates and passersby at the WNA (World Nuclear Association) Symposium in London, on September 14th 2017:


We are here in front of your symposium to try and point out the recent changes in the world of energy, and help you avoid wasting time and our money on yesterday’s technology.

The UK energy auction held last Monday resulted in a price of £57.50/MWh for offshore wind, about half the price of two years ago. This puts the £92.50/MWh (index linked, so now over £100) awarded to Hinkley Point C nuclear power station to shame. These low costs of £57.50/MWh are bound to fall further in the near future, making Hinkley look more and more like a disastrous white elephant.

These price reductions in off-shore wind have been achieved by designing bigger turbines, specialised ships and infrastructure for installation of the wind farms, and cheaper finance costs due to increased confidence and interest. Meanwhile, the costs of nuclear only continue to climb.

The 60 year old nuclear industry has only ever known rising costs and growing delays. Increasingly expensive safety measures have flowed from the major meltdowns or accidents that have occurred every 10 years, and the costs and dangers have led to the public not wanting any more nuclear power to be built. Windscale 1957, Three Mile Island 1979, Chernobyl 1986 and now 3 times Fukushima 2011 have exhausted our patience with ‘Health and Safety by trial and error’, with your industry left bleating that now it is safer because it has learnt from the most recent catastrophe. The worst that wind and solar can do is produce too much energy on a sunny day, whereas nuclear can destroy a third of your country if it encounters a mishap. Not to mention saddling dozens of generations with the costs of guarding our waste. Not good.

You are losing the support of the media. The Economist Intelligence Unit said “the trajectory of cheaper renewable technologies is irreversible”. The formerly pro-Hinkley Lib Dems said the breakthrough should prompt a rethink of the government’s energy plans (Vince Cable). Even The Times; “It is also a clear signal that nuclear energy on the scale of Hinkley Point is fast being left behind”.

Even China is turning away from nuclear. Last year it installed 34.5 GW of solar, and a further 24GW of capacity in the first 6 months of this year, as well as 19.3 GW/h of wind. Both the EPR reactors from France and the AP 1000 reactors from Westinghouse are 3 or 4 years behind schedule, and China has not approved further reactors for several years. The recent bankruptcy of Westinghouse has led to the probable cancellation of any further plans for Chinese AP 1000s, and has brought down Westinghouse’s parent company Toshiba, which is now scrambling to sell off its sole money-making possession, its chip business, to stave off its own bankruptcy. Toshiba has announced that it will not attempt any more nuclear construction. The sums just do not add up, and you lot should take notice of Toshiba’s experience.

The flagship french nuclear construction company Areva has also recently gone bankrupt and undergone a forced marriage with the likewise French state-owned EDF. Which itself would be closed tomorrow if not propped up by the state. It seems only state-owned companies can build nuclear power stations anywhere in the world these days. Again, the sums just do not add up, and only a states’ desire for nuclear weapons allows these dinosaurs to lumber forward.

Never mind. GE announced last month that it had just installed 5 GW of wind energy in Brazil. That is 3 of your EPRs. Energy auctions in Germany earlier this year resulted in offshore wind farms being proposed at a strike price of zero euros per MWh. Only one percent of the North Seas’ potential for wind power has so far been used, so we suggest you start looking at how to participate in what promises to be a massive growth area in the future, and ditch your participation in last century’s failed promise of ‘energy too cheap to meter’. Didn’t turn out, but your engineering skills can still usefully serve the human race.

Pamphlet produced by Kick Nuclear, London.

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