Monday, November 23, 2009

Notes from DECC "Consultation" on Hinkley C

On Saturday I attended a DECC "consultation" on the plan to build a new nuclear power station at Hinkley Point in Somerset.

We had very short notice, and the conference venue was given as "Near J24 on the M5". I could not find it on Multimap, so though it must be a massive well signed centre that I couldn't miss. Wrong. Drove round the vicinity of J24 and finally arrived 10 mins late. Others had the same problem.

As expected, government officials - civil servants - were presenting. My heart sank. Civil servants dwell extensively on the process, and avoid the product if at all possible. Mark Higson was pleasant, polite, unassuming and was skilled, like all government officials, in the art of using an awful lot of well chosen, professional, communicative words to say as little as possible in the available time.

This is from my notes:

UK needs 60 GW electricity by 2025.
35GW will come from renewables, 25 from nukes (NP), from 10 new stations (NPS).

Consultation: top challenges to NP:
  1. Security (terrorist attack)
  2. Nuclear waste
  3. NP funding crowding out renewable funding
  4. Flooding of NPS sites
No substantive attempt to was made to address these issues.

The 10 sites that satisfy the strict criteria are all previous NPS sites. Now there's a surprise.
Building will start in 2012, 5 years to build, on stream in 2017 if there are no overruns.
Spent fuel will stay 160 years on site.

Discussion: Leukaemia in vicinity of Hinkley raised. The local HPA paper studied cases in a 25 km radius from Hinkley. Objector said this blurred out the cases, which were closer in. HPA said they analysed closer rings, found nothing. The objector said 10 studies contradict the UK position.

The German study showing childhood leukaemia in vicinity of NPS is "under review". It came out years ago, and but DECC is a bit slow. In fact, as slow as is necessary to avoid facing up to its meaning.

He said UK would build the NPS, then close them down if there was evidence that they were causing leukaemia. Which would be one very good reason to make sure that any evidence of leukaemia is not found.

I asked about flooding. He said that a lot of people had asked that, and that the sites would be "protected" if that became a risk.
I imagine that means a concrete sea wall around the site. if this is the case, the site should not have a basement, as higher sea levels means higher water table, means flooding in the basement.

He rounded off by saying "We hear you". (Polite civil servant speak for "Get Lost").

He said development will not be allowed if the NII say no.

After questions, Adam Dawson spoke about Hinkley itself. He began with dangers of AGW (good)
dangers of a 6*C warming in 100 years (but did not mention that NP would suppley less than 1% of global energy needs over those 100 years.

He detailed the criteria they had applied. There would be no repeat of the 1607 tsunamis that hit the Severn estuary, and earthquakes had been ruled out. If sea level rise occurred in the next 200 years, the site would be "protected". No further details, I take it he means by a big seawall around the site, paid for by our grandchildren.

Radiation in the Bay is done by EDF, (!) the EA and the FSA. Levels of radiation are elevated, but only a bit.

What if EDF runs out of money? Government will not step in. The half built station will remain, a concrete monument to human folly.

Sustainability is defined in this context as "Are we handing down to future generations more benefit than cost?".

Afterwards, I was able to ask the question that I was unable to put in the plenary session:

"Why is NP allowed limited insurance, yet wind turbines are required to be fully insured?".

He agreed that this was not a level playing field. The present liability of £140 million carried by the NP industry will now be increased to 700 million euros. This represents less than 1% of the cost of a Chernobyl- type accident. He could not see any problem with this, but suggested I should write in on their non-user-friendly form.

At which point I am sorry to say that I got pissed off. Regrettably. This is a bad weakness of mine. It began when he mentioned the subsidies wind was getting. I mentioned the derisory paltry prostatic dribble of £50 million that the Govt squeezing out for domestic solar energy, and the massive subsidies that nuclear power got when that was starting up - and still does.

Overall impression:
  1. Government is going to go for NP, come hell (terrorist attack) or high water (sea level rise).
  2. Consultations are a pretence.

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