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New nuclear power: yes or no? Dr Stuart Parkinson

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Presentation on theme: "New nuclear power: yes or no? Dr Stuart Parkinson"— Presentation transcript:

1 New nuclear power: yes or no? Dr Stuart Parkinson

2 Context Nuclear power currently provides: –4% of UK final energy consumption –2.5% of global final energy consumption –i.e. small contribution

3 Source: IEA (2007)

4 Source: IEA (2001)

5 Issues Nuclear economics & delivery Nuclear weapons proliferation Security & safety of nuclear facilities Nuclear waste Other concerns Alternatives

6 Nuclear economics Cost profile unusual –very large up-front costs –large back-end costs (for decommissioning/waste) –very long timescale →makes economic assessments much more unreliable Potential reactor types not yet built anywhere in world Concerns of government advisors: –‘not enough reliable, independent and up-to-date information’ –concern about ‘appraisal optimism’

7 Some history… UK –last nuclear power station built: Sizewell B –capital costs: more than 35% over-budget United States –Gov assessment of 75 of the country’s reactors –predicted costs: $45 billion –actual costs: $145 billion India –the most recent and current construction experience –completion costs of last 10 reactors have averaged three times the original budget

8 Current economic conditions Historically, financial risks of nuclear power borne by governments Introduction of competitive electricity markets shifted risk to private sector –major decline in power stations built UK ‘subsidies’ –Guaranteed price of carbon –Maximum insurance level for accidents –If companies go under, tax-payer has foot long-term costs

9 Recent UK experience British Energy’s major financial problems –bailed out by government in 2002 Disposal of existing UK nuclear waste –£100,000,000,000+ (civilian + military)

10 Delivery Construction times for nuclear plants –UK average nearly 11y –Global average 66 months in mid-1970s 116 months (nearly 10y) in late 1990s 82 months (nearly 7y) during 2001-05

11 Case study – Olkiluoto-3 (Finland) Only ‘Generation III+’ power station under construction in the world 18 months behind schedule after 16 months construction –problems with concrete and welding Economics –Financed using low interest loan & export credit guarantee –Under investigation by European Commission for possible breaches of rules on state aid –Construction delay: project on course to be more than €700m over-budget

12 Nuclear weapons proliferation - general concerns Many overlaps between civilian and military nuclear technologies/ materials/ skills More civilian nuclear facilities increases potential for diversion to weapons –Determined states which have access to civilian nuclear programme are hard to stop going military –Terrorists interested in stealing fissile material International Atomic Energy Agency (Regulator) –complaints of lack of resources –also has a role promoting nuclear power

13 Nuclear weapons proliferation Examples of the problems –Diversion of civilian nuclear know-how to create Pakistan’s nuclear weapons –Current concerns over Iran’s nuclear power programme

14 The role of the UK UK is very influential country –G8, P5, EU, Commonwealth UK plans to retain its nuclear weapons UK go-ahead for new nuclear power sends strong message on climate, energy and security strategy Also, can the UK keep its own plutonium secure for next 100+ years?

15 Plutonium-MOX economy? Use of MOX fuel (part plutonium) in nuclear reactors to prolong uranium supplies –presence of plutonium leads to increased risk of proliferation Potential for move to ‘Generation IV’ reactors completely fuelled by plutonium –even greater proliferation risk

16 Security & safety of nuclear facilities Risk of major nuclear ‘incident’ is very low, but… –Terrorist groups consider nuclear facilities as potential targets –‘Successful’ attack on high-level waste/ plutonium store could be worse than Chernobyl –Even a ‘failed’ attack could cause major disruption

17 Labour’s think-tank “Not only does more civil nuclear activity mean more nuclear weapons related materials being available to potentially fall into the hands of terrorists or rogue states worldwide, but reactors, waste sites and reprocessing plants themselves are also possible terrorist targets which, if hit, could lead to massive loss of life and economic disruption”

18 Nuclear waste Nuclear power creates radioactive waste which is (very) damaging to life –High-level waste (HLW) –Intermediate-level waste (ILW) –Low-level waste (LLW) –Also ‘spent’ fuel & plutonium/uranium stocks Much needs to be isolated from environment for 100,000+ years

19 Nuclear waste strategy Nuclear waste management strategy still at very early stages –Still need to deal with existing waste –Disposal facility not expected to be ready until mid-century –Controversy over sites, storage media, geological stability New build will likely multiply radioactivity of waste by ~ 3 times

20 Other concerns Inflexible, centralised energy source Carbon emissions –no savings before 2020 –low emissions status may not last Uranium supplies –high-grade ore limited Skills shortages Impacts of uranium ore mining Climate change and sea-level rise Other health and environment concerns

21 Alternatives Renewable energy –Wind –Bioenergy –Solar –Hydro –Wave –Tidal –Geothermal Energy efficiency –Combined heat & power (CHP) –Building insulation –Efficient lighting –Efficient appliances –Efficient vehicles Controlling demand –Behaviour change Carbon capture and storage –‘burial’ of carbon from fossil fuels

22 Energy efficiency 30% of UK’s overall energy supply dumped as waste heat/ hot water from power stations –more than 10 times energy produced by nuclear power Combined heat & power (CHP) –UK: 7% of electricity –Netherlands: 30% –Denmark: 50%


24 Tyndall Centre study (2006) - Non-nuclear path to reduce UK carbon emissions by ~85% by 2050 Tyndall Centre study (2006) - energy consumption down by ~40% by 2050 due to efficiency & behaviour change - Strong support for development of renewables, carbon capture & storage, fuel cells

25 Source: IEA (2006)

26 References

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