Friday, April 17, 2009

The British Serve Up the Sites

1103431 The British Department of Energy and Climate Change (and boy, does that sound up-to-date) has released its list of 11 sites for new nuclear plant deployment. You can guess why they’re doing this:

U.K. utilities are vying to build reactors, backed by Prime Minister Gordon Brown as a way to combat climate change and replace older stations. Atomic plants may generate power more cheaply than coal-fed units, in part because they aren’t required to buy emission permits for carbon dioxide.

We’d say definitely, at least within the projected time for these plants to start up. If clean coal technology catches up, fine, but that probably won’t happen by 2020, so expect some sour times for coal in Britain. (And as we’ll see, coal’s not the problem in this story.)

Most of the plants sites are in England, with one over in Wales; moreover, most are on sites that are hosting or have hosted reactors – that should keep various environmental and other reviews fairly contained.

We won’t list all the sites for you. Go here for a map showing them and another story.

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Britain may have dithered around this issue a little too long:

Dr. [Craig] Lowrey, [head of energy markets at EIC, an independent consultancy], said that the Government’s failure to take firm early action meant that it was now inevitable that the gap would be filled by new, easy-to-build gas-fired power stations.

However, the depletion of North Sea gas means that Britain will be forced to import more and more raw fuel from countries such as Russia, Algeria and Qatar, while consumers will be left increasingly exposed to fluctuations in the wholesale price of gas.

That may sound an overly Cassandra-like note. If Britain really gets these nuclear plants rolling, then keeping older coal-fired and gas plants around as placeholders seems feasible enough. But the warning is well-taken – the country leans on gas quite a lot.

Official figures show that the share of Britain’s electricity produced by burning gas has risen from 2 per cent in 1992 to 35 per cent today. It is expected to rise further, with gas-fired plants under construction at Pembroke in Wales, the Isle of Grain in Kent and Langage, near Plymouth.

So that’s where dithering brings you.

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And in the uncanny spirit of the the unknown purple, here comes FOE, not in Britain (that we can find), but Ireland:

Friends of the Earth Director Oisín Coghlan said nuclear power is not the solution and “offers too little, too late, at too high a price and too high a risk.”

And a little more:

Irish CND [Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament] chairman, Dr David Hutchinson Edgar also criticised the plan and said the new sites increase the risk of a terrorist attack on a nuclear installation.

He said: “In the event of either an accident at a nuclear site, or a deliberate terrorist attack, Ireland, and our coastal waters, could not escape the impact of the fallout.

We couldn’t find these kinds of comments in British coverage of the story. Perhaps a difference in the way the Brits and Irish cover things.

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We looked around for an Irish editorial about this news to see if FOE is tapping a national feeling, but no love: it might still be a little early. In our hunt, we came across this:

Putting developers’ heads on spikes is no business of the asset management agency, writes John Waters.

Uh, we agree?

The plant at Sellafield. This is one of the sites proposed for a new unit.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Wasn't Gazprom turning off the valves for some countries last winter? Doesn't seem a very wise strategy to me to put yourself in a position of being beholden for your winter heating and electricity supply to a country that can cut you off on a moment's notice.