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back to article UK.gov New Year resolution: must build nuke powerplants

British ministers will approve plans for a new generation of UK nuclear power plants in the new year, according to a report in the Independent newspaper. The broadsheet quotes a "senior source" in the new UK gov Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (DBERR*) as saying that Gordon Brown's first cabinet meeting …

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The Independant...

... stopped being a Broadsheet years ago when it went for the Tabloid size, at the time The Times went Tabloid. The only Broadsheet's left in the UK are the Financial Times & The Daily Torygraph (sorry Telegraph.)

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What a waste!

Well done motherfuckers.

Science still has no idea how to deal with the horribly poisonous output of Nuclear power stations, but you're going to charge ahead regardless. Despite the fact that the engineering sector is still coming up with new and innovative solutions to 'green' energy production, you're going to invest a pittance in them and the rest of taxpayers money with your mates in the nuclear fuels industry. Fucking well done.

Oh if I could employ the lart tool on politicians ... I think gratuitous use of '-Bgp' is in order.

[http://www.bofh.net/man/lart.1m.html for the unitiated.]

By the way - is it just me who is alarmed that the foreseable end of fossil oil sources will not just affect FUEL, but also anything which relies on LUBRICANTS or PLASTIC??

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Either more nuclear plants or agree with whatever Mr Putin says.

Gazprom shares have been climbing like mad since the Summer but maybe they will keep on going...

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fyi

France makes 3 BILLION euros a year from exporting excesss energy. Nuclear energy expensive? Really?. Anyway if we don't build some nuclear power plants pretty quickly we will be just buying energy from some one, probably the French, not the "unfriendly" Russians.

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Anonymous Coward

Realism, not Idealism

The country needs electricity - commendable though it is to promote renewables, it's totally unrealistic to expect sources such as wind and solar power to fulfill those needs. A balanced mix of energy sources is required, and that includes nuclear; as the current fleet of nuclear power stations shuts down over the coming years, fossil fuels will be the ones mainly filling the gap that's left, leaving the UK reliant on some unstable countries and increasing CO2 emissions.

We are fortunate to live in a democratic country where free speech is allowed, and so constant legal challenges from Greenpeace to try and prevent replacement of the current nuclear power stations are permitted - but these challenges are blocking the progress of something important to the country's future, and a democratically elected Government surely has more right to determine the long term approach to securing energy for the decades to come than an unelected international organisation has to block it.

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Nuke Power

Its fun to see an article point out the thing that France has got right once in a while. Its hard to see where Greenpeace gets any of its 'fact' type information, but nuclear power is not expensive or teribly dangerous. Per kilowatt hour, its cheaper than coal power, which is pretty damned cheap already. Sure there is a $4bn up front cost, but a coal power plant costs about $3bn, and after its built, fuel for the nuke plant is nearly free, whereas the coal plant would blow through 700-800 tons of coal per day. And a good portion of that comes right back out as CO2.

And how many nuclear accidents have there been? Obviously Cherynobyl was the worst, but that accident isn't at all representative of any modern or well-managed nuke plant for a good number of reasons. It was one of the earliest Soviet designs, it used a graphite (highly flammable and nearly impossible to put out) moderator, and the operators decided that it'd be fun to disable most of the safety controls then have an unscheduled test.

The other accident? 50 pounds of radioactive gas escaped into the atmosphere at 3 Mile Island. And nothing else happened.

Problem is that loads of people figure that there is a giant nuclear bomb sitting in the center of the power plant with an electrical cord plugged into it, so that any time it gets a little bit too warm it might just decide to detonate and take a big chunk out of the countryside.

I think the solution here is to send all the Greenpeace people to China, where they're building a new 1GW-sized coal power plant with no scrubbers or filters or carbon traps every 12 days. I imagine that they'd get enraged, complain to the government, and get imprisoned for the rest of time.

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Nuclear power? Yes please

We need Greenpeace because they constantly ask difficult questions that need answers, but that does not mean we have to do what they say. The fact is that at the moment nuclear power is the only way forward, particularly if climate change really is fueled by fossil power.

Even if it isn't, fossil fuels are not environmentally friendly and diminishing oil supplies will still be needed for the plastics and chemical industries.

The biggest concern for nukes is usually all that terrible waste but if nuclear power becomes bigger and bigger eventually people will begin to research to see if what is currently waste could become a resource. If there is enough of anything, sooner or later it will have a use found for it, even if it is only for blowing the crap out of your enemies.

Two headed babies and fish with three eyes may be a worry but in reality there is no other option than nuclear so long as the regulatory authorities make sure that the Montgomery Burnses of the world are not running our power plants and Homer Simpson is not the chief safety officer.

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Don't like nuclear power plants?

There are two options:

1. Propose another proven, non-fossil-fueled power source that is equally economical and sustainable. You have 5 minutes.

2. Freeze in the dark.

I humbly suggest that the Greenpeacers opposed to nuke plants go live in Chad, without any electricity whatsoever. Coincidentally, they won't have telephones, radios, nor televisions, thus preventing them from bothering humans who wish to live above the line which separates us from savages and wild animals.

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Not to worry!

At the current rate, Gordie & Co will be out come the next election, it's only a matter of how long it can be delayed. Then a Labour backbench revolt won't matter, and the Tories can go back to thumbing their nose at Greenpeace. By the time the next election comes round all the designs will be ready (OK, what I mean is the tried and tested foreign designs will be selected), and we can get on with sorting out our "alternative" energy proposals secure in the knowledge we've got nuclear to cover the gap. In the meantime, we need to persuade the Frogs to schedule a new program of nuke weapon tests in the Pacific so all the Greenpeckers can sod off to the other side of the World and leave us in peace!

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Happy

French company still giving discounts?

Sure I heard about some french company that offered to build nuke plants for free if they could run them and make the money.

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Coat

Nice conundrum

Nice conundrum since yellowcake is a small finite resource and then we have the 250,000 year pollution problem from the decommissioned reactors in say 50 years time as they run out of replacement fuel !

What price a choice ?

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learn from the neighbours...

They can follow he example of the Germans, who are currently closing down nasty nuclear power plants, while building new coal-fired ones (and we are talking about a country which invested massively in green energy, with wind-mills like trees in the forest and solar roofs and all). Not to mention a widespread nuclear paranoia, every kid knows nuclear is dirty and who didn't hear about Chernobyl?

As a side-comment, it seems the radioactive elements from the coal ash of a coal-fired power plant would get us more energy than the coal itself, if put to use in a nuclear plant.

Nuclear energy has its drawbacks, but this subject would need an honest discussion, not tabloid hysteria.

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Tim
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Problems of Nuclear

Just a few points but they are BIG ones:

Length of time the waste is a hazard.

50 years supply of fuel.

Cost of decommissioning reactors not taken into account when costing.

While there have not been many accidents that we KNOW about, but it only takes one to mess up a huge area

I don’t claim to have the answer to our energy needs but I am sure Nuclear is not one of them.

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Nice idea

...shame about the waste. Dangerous for a quarter of a million years? Such arrogance to force this little lot onto all those future generations, just to save a little political face for now.

There *has* to be a better way.

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France and reprocessing

Whilst I'm generally pro-nuclear, the French example isn't all positive. The French PWR programme was built with public money, making the then state-owned EDF one of the most endebited organisations in the World. Most of this debt was written off when EDF was privatised.

It's still not clear whether private money can build and safely run a nuclear programme.

Finally, we do have to consider the scarcity of uranium if we're going to rush for nuclear fuel. There is plenty of it - for now, but if the World is going to embrace the atom we have to start seriously thinking about the unpalatable question of reprocessing and breeding fuel - both environmental and economic catastrophes to date. At the same time we'll have to ask the hardest question of all - can we possibly morally stop countries we don't like seeking access to plutonium?

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Go

ow please, we know how to do this already

@Anonymous Coward

Science already knows how to deal with nuclear waste and knows how to reduce it to a minimum. We already know how to operate nuclear powerplants that kill a lot less people for the same amount of energy generated than ordinary coal or oil powerplants.

It's just not politically correct anymore to say that we have the solution to that.

@Tim

We have more than enough fuel to last the human race till somewhere close to the end of time if we use breeder reactors.

@BitTwister

It all depends on what type of nuclear powerplants you have and what you do with the waste. If you just stick it in the ground, then yeah, that's stupid. If you instead reprocess and reuse it, then no, it's not going to be that dangerous. In any event, it's going to kill less people than a normal coal plant, even if viewed over a million years.

Read: http://www.phyast.pitt.edu/~blc/book/BOOK.html

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Nuclear

There is a better way. In the form of nuclear fusion.

Unfortunately, it's not ready yet. If we are to get through the 50 or so years until it does go into full commercial use (hopefully), we'll need something else to fill the gap. Like nuclear fission.

As for the waste materials, once we get nuclear fusion as a reliable powersource, it's a piece of cake to produce enough hydrogen and lox to shoot all that nasty radioactive stuff into space and out to somewhere where it won't be bothering us again. Like Venus.

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Supply and Waste

I have heard this "50 year supply" theory a number of times. However, everything I read is basing this off of current known reserves, which are of the highest grade (most concentrated) ore. This is like basing your figures for world oil reserves off of only the "sweetest" oil, which has low sulfer and other impurities. What people tend to forget is that there are other reserves (Oil and Uranium, as well as many other elements and resources we use) that currently require more money to recover than it can be sold for on the market. But when oil prices are $100/barrel, instead of $50, suddenly the vast fields of oil shale in the US are profitable. Same goes for Uranium. The beauty of Uranium is that it is present in almost anything. Its even in seawater, though in such a small concentration that it would require Uranium prices to get to levels that are at least a 10 times higher than now.

The waste is an issue... though I believe that it had been solved for the most part, if not in a way that makes everyone jump for joy. I thought that burying it in a mountain deep in the earth in shielded containers, which are inside shielded compartments, in shielded rooms was accepted as a storage medium. There is also research regarding the processing of that waste into other usable materials, or making "breeder" reactors, which create more uranium to be used. Recycling, of a sort.

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Coat

.....and, of course....

...if the landscape glowed in the dark, we wouldn't need street lighting. That'd save a lot of 'leccy. Even if it all goes horribly wrong, we still win.

Enviro suit please.

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This is a tough call

There are no easy answers to our energy problems. The UK and the world is facing an acute energy crisis in the next two decades. The global oil supply has peaked. Global gas supply will peak in about 10 years, and supply will fail to meet demand before then. Coal is still growing, but even that is finite, and the easy stuff has already been mined. Nuclear only makes up a few percent of the global energy supply and there is no way that it can replace the shortfall in other sources. There may be uranium in sea water, but if it takes more energy to extract than it provides, then it will stay in the water. Energy return on energy invested is falling for all sources of energy except renewables, where it is rising. I am not saying that wind and wave are ideal power sources, but they will be all that is available in 50 years time, and we need to adapt our demand to meet the available supply starting now. When these new nuclear plants come up for decommissioning in 50 years time, we will not have enough energy left over to do it safely, so for that reason, I am anti-nuclear.

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Good for you

Now if the Swedish goverment would stop being stupid and do the same...

Or we can do like the norwegian and put up windmills that kills migrating birds every sping and fall...

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Atomic power is not carbon free!

Nuclear Power is hopelessly inflexible, and cannot respond to changes in demand, the French get around this by buying and selling electricity to all their neighbors, all we are surrounded by is lots of windy coast lines, so the answer is obvious. Build the turbines, power the grid and make hydrogen, and let all the current power stations that will have to support the grid until all the new nukes come on line, throttle back when the wind is blowing, saving us a bundle of carbon emissions in the process. Atomic power needs spinning reserves to deal with load changes, so we might as well use those same spinning reserves as part of our use of cheap and plentiful wind power. It is a myth that atomic power is carbon free, it isn't.

Clive, Power Station Engineer,

Didcot Power Station.

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Not just UK

The decisions that we make here affect not just the UK. If we are going to go ahead with building nuclear power plants, how can we tell others not to (Iran). We can all pat ourselves on the back about our safety record which is not nearly as good as it could be but what about poorer, less stable countries? The richer countries need to be investing in the research and development of locally produced, community owned renewable energy to fit the needs of all.

@Niclas Jacobsson

No-one has ever worried about migrating birds (or any birds come to that) when erecting massive buildings which they splat into or planes which are designed to completely mince them.

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Revenge of the NIMBYs!

RE: Clive - yeah, great, but at the moment it takes years of planning to put a single windmill up anywhere, even if it's private land only used for sheepgrazing, 'cos the NIMBYs squeal so loudly. Then there are the envirofreaks allied to the Greenpeckers that start ranting on about migratory birds (there was one posting earlier) as if ANYTHING man does doesn't effect some other species some how!

RE: Niclas Jacobsson - lets see, I can have power for a hospital surgery or I can save a few birds which soon learn to avoid windmills (and they do). I think the birds lose there! The number of birds killed annually by windmills is a tiny fraction of the masses eradicated over France, Spain and Portugal every year by hunters, but then I bet you squeal about that too.Are you gonna whine about the fish if we build tidal farms? Or earthworms if we start digging holes for geothermal? You can go back to nature if you like, I actually value living in a technically advanced civilisation.

RE: Perpetual Cyclist - actually you just made the perfect argument for nukes, we do need something to fill the 50 year gap (actually it's likely to be 80+ years) until other options arrive, and until then the only really viable option is nuclear (even hot-air-powered generators running off the Houses of Parliament can't do it). Changing consumer patterns is like playing yoyo with a brick on a piece of elastic - you start making it nasty for them to live the way they do, they resist, you make it harder, they resist more, and so on, then the effect kicks in and everyone is in a world of pain. In effect, the you keep pulling on the elastic until the brick suddenly flies up and hits you in the face. The nicest economic example of this was the meddling in interest rates to fight inflation here in the UK. A current example is the ramping up of petrol prices, which will simply end up driving up inflation (people need to drive to work, therefore if you make working more expensive people need more pay to work, therefore inflation goes up or economy goes down or both).

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Hopelessly infelxible: no, not that either

The Trawsfynd site demonstrates one simple way to get instant release of stored energy from a nuclear generator. (It pumps water up a hill, and when the load rises, it runs it back through a turbine)

Current reactors are made to provide full power, because that makes sense. Storing power against fluctuations if we ever find we don't have any fossil fuel plants at all, nor wind, nor tide that we can release faster is simple engineering. Large engineering, but simple.

Something on the lines of a Lofstrom Loop, used for its intended purpose or just as a storage and transmission line is complicated engineering, but offers one of several ways to store large amounts of energy for immediate load changes.

Do people who keep repeating these demonstrably false assertions also lie all teh time to their co-workers? How does anyone get anything done around them.

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Alien

Just a thought

A number of the commenter's here (and elsewhere) mention the cost and difficulty of cleaning up and decommisioning nuclear power plants.

The current alternative is to have to clean up the Earth. This might have to be done by another species as I'm not sure that Humans would be around in 100 years time IF the global warming warnings are correct.

Cleaning up the mess from nuclear plants will be difficult and dangerous, BUT the problem is fairly limited in scope and achievable.

Perhaps fusion reactors will be in use before the 50 / 80 years mentioned, perhaps not. We (the UK) were reported to have 300 years worth of coal (this was in the 1960s / 70s I'm not too sure how many centuries worth we have now.) But we cannot burn it due to the carbon discharge. Telling us all to use wind power is purely ridiculous. Even the UK has windless days. Are you going to tell a surgeon that he cannot operate because the weather forecast is clam and cloudy? So far nuclear power with stored hydroelectric power is almost the best option that we have.

As for the 'danger' from radioactive waste, it lasts 250,000 years you know', well there is more arsenic in the world than nuclear material. It is easier to get hold of and it lasts FOREVER!

Use the alien 'cos there is precious little intelligence down here so ET has GOT to come and save us.

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@Dave

Thanks for the link - very interesting!

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March or die.

Ever since Fred Hoyle wrote 'Energy or Extinction' there has not been very much in the way of change. Sure, renewable sources of energy can be exploited more efficiently, but they are not a constant source of supply.

So, if we choose not to use nuclear energy we choose to be cold and quite possibly to die. From a scientific perspective, no amount of hopping, skipping, spinning or other politically correct tra-la-la will change the data. Those who say we can do without must by definition produce clear evidence/data to support their contentions, data that are publicly verifiable, replicable and beyond dispute.

I doubt this will happen, and expect to hear blaring noisy arguments, but these will not change the evidence. Not even my plans to as far as possible go off grid will change the facts, which include the massive demands humans make for energy, aside from their domestic use, through social services, emergency services, medical services, government departments, commerce, travel and so on. The 'carbon footprint' of a football match is an example of the contribution from entertainment.

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Use Less Juice

As an alternative to new power stations, we could of course all use less juice...

Such an initiative would need to be lead by the government. Legislation could *ban* the sale of energy inefficient kit. For instance why is it still possible to buy old style lamps, why is it possible to buy non 'A' rated appliances? Why do street lamps run all night. Why is the excess energy generated at night not sold to us (All) cheap to heat our homes/water ready for the morning, or used to drive water uphill in more storage hydro systems?

Why does the UK not have a high speed, cheap rail network of the sort that would make it rediculious to use a car for longer journeys? All those so-called green taxes should be used to subsidise rail transport. How come anyone can buy a 4wd rather than only those who actually need one?

blah blah!

Nigel

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Anonymous Coward

@ Nigel

There is no excess energy generated overnight, the national grid supply equals demand (more or less) otherwise it overloads and burns stuff out or you get blackouts. There's a nice big team of people in the control center 24 hours a day dedicated to this balancing act.

IMO nuclear + renewables such as wind/solar are the future of power in this country at this time. Things like pumped storage are only good for peak demands not continuous generation as a pumped storage power station is actually a net consumer of electricity given the demand of pumping the water back up the hill to the top lake.

A gas power station employee.

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Pumped Hydro Electricity Storage

In the many decades we have had nuclear fission electricty generation we have not come close to solving the political problem of dealing with the waste it produces or the financial problem of decommissioning old plants. To quote someone who's name I forget, "Nuclear fusion is 40 years away, and always will be." Pumped Water electircity storage is about 80% efficient over a store and regen cycle. If you are using a free resource to generate this electricity (i.e. wind, tidal, solar, biomass. etc) then the storage losses are not relevant. We can go to 100% renewable electricity in this country and though it will be difficult, expensive and inconvienient, it is the right thing to do.

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