Jonathon Porritt attracted 120 good and true citizens to Taunton's Temple Methodist Church last night* to hear about Nuclear Power (NP). The Minister welcomed us to his nifty church (carpets and neat artwork, together with a tempting organ, which could have played a few chords to welcome the great Porritt, but did not),and introduced Crispin Aubrey, who introduced me, (a stand-in chair for Graham Watson MEP who had something important to do in Brussels), who introduced Jonathon, who in fact needed no introduction because he has Been on Telly.
Jonathon reminds me of a very large bear, part cuddly, quizzical soft toy, part Grizzly, which latter face he shows to the forces of unsutstinable foolishness such as the Nuclear lobby. He emanates a patient impatience with the mentality that fails to recognise that sustainability means living in such a way as to avoid trashing the lives of our grand children. He felt hurt by the drift of respected environmentalists - Monbiot, Lynas, Goodall - into a nose-holding acceptance of nuclear power.
Any errors in reporting of Jonathon's views are mine, as indeed are all the italicised lines.
He gave Positive Message. Martin Luther King, was not famous for saying "I have a Nightmare". Sustainable sources of energy are deliverable. Energy efficiency could reduce demand by up to 45%. Renewable energy technology - not just little "windmills", but huge arrays of offshore wind, wave, barrages, and all other modalities that can exploit the fact that the UK has the biggest renewable energy potential in the EU.Clipper offshore wind turbines are now coming in at a massive 10Mw - five times bigger than the beauties we see onshore in Cornwall. Main renewables could produce 38% of present energy needs, more if we bring in the peripherals.
Ironic that AREVA has bought up AUSRA, the biggest CSP company in the world - an indication, he said, that they were hedging their bets, in case nuclear goes tits up. An ely crept into my mind - maybe they have bought it in order to strangle it at birth.
Small scale CHP could supply 10 GW of power - equal to the amount promised by the Nuclear Renaissance.
A rump of fossil fuels will be needed to cover the transition to renewable supply - combined with CCS.
The Jonathon set about his critique of the nuclear option, based on his years at the Sustainability Development Commission. Of the 10 headline objections to Nuclear Power, he went for Economics, Waste, and Terrorism.
His first evidence that Nuclear is Wrong was the obfuscatory nature of nuclear finance. Just Do Not Believe Their Financial Projections is the message. Ever since 1951 they have been cooking the books so comprehensively that the books fall to pieces when touched with a fork. Jonathon's Sustainable Development Commission, who spent 6 months studying the matter, and came to a two word conclusion - Dodgy Accounting.
Decommissioning (including military installations) will cost £76,000,000,000 of tax payers' money. A new nuclear progamme will contribute to that cost. (Still, what is a billion - since the Credit Crunch, a billon is chicken feed. Loadsamoney).
He was not unfair to nuclear. Credit where it's due. Nuclear has a better safety record than coal. (Apart from Chernobyl and Sellafield apart, and Three Mile Island, and Chris Busby's work, and the multitude of leukaemias &c in the vicinity of nuclear sites. Go here, ctrl+f leukaemia).
Nuclear, for all its costs and dangers, provides a trivial amount of CO2 savings. (I calculate that it can provide 0.8% of the world's CO2 reductions over the next 100 years) To replace the present NP "fleet" (image of flag bedecked men o'war setting sail with jolly tars dancing to the sound of hornpipes and shantys) will save only 4% of UK CO2 emmissions at 1990 levels. The replacement could come on stream by 2025 at the earliest, if we, exercising extreme naivite' not to say gullibility, ignore slippage. They will cost £4,500,000,000, if we, exercising aforementioned suckership, neglect cost over-runs, which from memory, amount to around 30-50% on average. Oikiluoto in Finland is 3.5 years and £2,500,000,000 over budget as we speak.
He traced the development of thinking of a NP CEO: First, nuclear would need no state subsidies.
Then they would need subsidies on a par with renewables.
Now all state subsidies should go to nuclear, and none to renewables.
I want to know the net amount of subsidies passed to nuclear power since the very beginning, including the R&D costs of nuclear weapons project.
25% of French nukes are off-line at the moment, and they are importing electricity from Germany's wind turbines. The French are trying to extend the lifetime of existing reactors by up to 15 years,so their present good safety record may become Thatcherised - tache'. The French dominance may mean British taxpayers subsidising French technology. (Nigel Farrage, please take note).
On nuclear waste, well, Sweden and Finland have the best programmes, and they are finding it difficult.
Spent fuel is not included in nuclear waste accounts. It is hoped that it can be re-used (Jam tomorrow), and will need surface storage for a century and a half. That is, if Isambard Kingdom Brunel had been into NP, we would just be beginning to wonder where we could bury his spent fuel.
Basically, nuclear waste is a moral issue. It is a simple ethical question: do we have the moral right to pass on to our children's children a problems caused by our personal need to use electric hair curlers?
The nuclear lobby say yes. We say no.
The third issue is the terrorist threat. Nowhere in the Government's prospectus is there a reference to this problem. The containment vessels are designed to withstand a Jumbo jet impact, which is good. The problem is that the storage ponds are not. Doh.
A worse problem than a 9/11 attack is the potential for terrorists to seize control of control computers. Hope they've got a firewall, and that they are using Macs.
Jonathon voiced a thought that I have been thinking - the UK may well start a new nuclear build, but will they finish it? Or will they stand, half-built, as nuclear follies dotted around the world?
On the other hand, China has been building 2 new NP stations a year, using pebble bed technology, which may (or may not) prove successful and safe. 60 countries are going for nuclear, but only 2 companies make pressure vessels. The words "Neck" and "Bottle" spring to mind.
Uranium Ore comes from Canada, Australia, and that well-known paragon of democracy and stability, Kazakhstan. When high grade ores are used up, we will have to turn to low-grade ores, which are so carbon-hungry, that NPs low carbon credentials will be shot.
Jonathon spoke for thirty minutes, and he held the attention of the audience, despite the fact-dense nature of his material. Questions covered another hour, and we had to stop because it was chucking out time at the church, not because people had had enough. I will not cover questions here, because this blog is quite long enough as all readers will agree, so I will not mention even my own question, which was regarding the fact that Nukes are not insured, unlike wind turbines.
The audience was perhaps average age 50. There were very few if any obvious anarchists, punks or New Age Travellers, but this fact need not deter any journalists who may report the meeting from describing us as such. Many were veterans of past anti-nuclear struggles, and the general feeling was of resignation that the nuclear Kraken was awakening. Given the ecclesiastical surroundings, we could have bannered it with a quote from the Bible -
As a dog returneth his vomit, so a fool returneth his folly.
I had a chat with a few old LibDem friends who were there, including Tessa Munt, the LibDem Wells constituency candidate, who has a chance to beat Tory incumbent Heathcote-Amory, who is up to his ears in manure. We chatted about the iniquity of the FPTP system, and she assured me that the LibDems certainly would prioritise PR in a hung Parliament. I also spoke with a descendant of William Cobbett, which was nice. Didn't know W Cobbett was a Tory.
Sorry this blog too long. And has typos - I have a meeting to go to.
* The Police would have said only 12 present, but we counted them, and the police were not even there, unless, of course, they were hiding.