World Nuclear Association Symposium – September 10th 2015

We are gathered here this morning outside your annual nuclear industry jamboree to warn you to turn back. You are going the wrong way. They may feed you a good lunch here, no expense spared, but they will feed you a tissue of lies as well, and plant cancers deep in your, your children’s and others tissues..
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First off, your nuclear power plants are no longer needed. Surplus to requirements, not fit for purpose, prohibitively expensive and full of unnecessary risk, your last-century technology is being rapidly overtaken by cheaper, cleaner solar, wind and tidal power sources. Renewables are winning out in the market place due to their lower costs, quicker construction times, and lack of dangerous by-products and waste. Energy efficiency programs are working and causing electricity demand to remain stable and even fall in some regions, and despite decades of effort nuclear waste remains an intractable problem. And Fukushima fallout, both political and physical, is casting a pall over your industry.
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In the few places where nuclear power stations are being built, out there in the unreliable third world dictatorships like Vietnam, China and Dubai that you’ve managed to bring on board, the plants are over budget and behind schedule. Even plants whose capital costs have already been paid off, in the USA, are having to close due to being undercut by renewables and gas. So the feature meant to be the justification for nuclear, that it was so cheap, too cheap to meter, is turning out to be its achilles heel. Low operating and maintenance costs are turning out to be unmanageably high.
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So we endlessly hear repetition of your only remaining argument; that nuclear provides reliable base-line power. Which a report last week from the International Energy Agency actually undermined. The report, titled Projected Costs of Generating Electricity, talks of nuclear as “an attractive low-carbon technology in the absence of cost overruns and with low financing costs”. Maybe, but cost overruns and high financing costs are what we actually have. Not to mention costs of clean-up after severe accidents, an insecure cost idea of waste management, and a preferential liability capping scheme with government back-up. If not insured by the State, your plants would need something like £200 MWh to pay for themselves, as against on-shore wind costs of £80 MWh.
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Actually, the National Grid said recently that nuclear makes grid reliability more difficult to achieve, as they have to keep huge capacity in reserve to deal with a nuclear plant suddenly and without warning going off line, due to jellyfish, fire or some other incident. At least with wind you can predict when the wind is not going to blow. With nuclear you are on a knife edge all the time. Anyway, wind is getting to 50% capacity factor, while nuclear is about 82%. Catching up… Tides are pretty predictable, reliable and baseloadish..
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Maybe this explains why in 2014, China spent about $9 billion on nuclear, and $83 billion on wind and solar. Its non-hydro renewable energy fleet produced more electricity than nuclear that year, as did Germany, Japan, Brazil, India, Holland, Mexico and Spain. EDF is demanding yet another tariff increase to stay afloat, and just had to buy Areva to stop it going broke. Sweden is shutting down four nuclear stations, the USA shut five last year and is thinking of shutting 5 more. No single Generation 3 reactor has come into operation in the last 20 years, and all being built are over-budget and late. The average age of the world’s nuclear fleet is 28.8 years, with a third of US reactors over 40 years old.
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As for the promised new reactor for the UK, at Hinkley Point, things look equally bleak. Areva used the wrong metal for the RPV cap and base for the French example, and has destroyed the one already built for Hinkley to test the metals composition. Too much carbon, resulting in too brittle a metal, which would not resist cracks spreading when they start. Which they will; 11,000 cracks were recently found in two of Belgium’s old reactors. Other problems have been found in the safety valves for the EPR, an appeal against the dodgy subsidy for Hinkley will take years to resolve, and no investment has been found from Gulf States for the project, so the only investors would be the French and Chinese states. Costs are now triple the original guesstimate. Even HSBC ‘sees ample reason for the government to either delay or cancel the project’, they said last week. The bank, which previously acted as advisor on the project, warned that the deal between EDF and the UK government ‘was becoming harder to justify’.
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As for the promised jobs to be created by nuclear, Germany lost 30,000 by exiting nuclear, but created 350,000 more in the renewable industry. Jobs free of the stink of being an off-shoot of the drive to build nuclear bombs and incinerate your fellow humans.
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