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New nuclear power: yes or no?. Dr Stuart Parkinson. Context. Nuclear power currently provides: 4% of UK final energy consumption 2.5% of global final energy consumption i.e. small contribution. Source: IEA (2007). Source: IEA (2001). Issues. Nuclear economics & delivery

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new nuclear power yes or no

New nuclear power: yes or no?

Dr Stuart Parkinson

  • Nuclear power currently provides:
    • 4% of UK final energy consumption
    • 2.5% of global final energy consumption
    • i.e. small contribution
  • Nuclear economics & delivery
  • Nuclear weapons proliferation
  • Security & safety of nuclear facilities
  • Nuclear waste
  • Other concerns
  • Alternatives
nuclear economics
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’
some history
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
current economic conditions
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
recent uk experience
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)
  • 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
case study olkiluoto 3 finland
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
nuclear weapons proliferation general concerns
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
nuclear weapons proliferation
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
the role of the uk
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?
plutonium mox economy
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
security safety of nuclear facilities
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
labour s think tank
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”
nuclear waste
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
nuclear waste strategy
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
other concerns
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
Renewable energy








Energy efficiency

Combined heat & power (CHP)

Building insulation

Efficient lighting

Efficient appliances

Efficient vehicles

  • Carbon capture and storage
    • ‘burial’ of carbon from fossil fuels
  • Controlling demand
    • Behaviour change
energy efficiency
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%

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