back to article Trident, nuke energy looking poorly under LibCons

Details on the new Conservative/Liberal coalition government are now emerging, as are those of the policy deal struck between the allied parties. On first look, it would appear that the replacement of the UK's Trident nuclear weapons system like-for-like and the planned new generation of nuclear power stations have been thrown …

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Uhhhh...

So, you want to get our energy from importing oil and gas, or directly from foreign countries grids? Or will the deficit (which their will be) be made up by burning pixies and ginger bread men?

I'm sorry, Nick, but we need nuclear energy. This was a giant issue with your manifesto; One which I think had a significant impact on whether to cast a vote for the Lib Dem party. I applaud the ideal of clean energy, but let's be realistic; We're not there yet, and getting there can't be done with chalk boards and slide rules.

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Foreign materials bad?

Ah, so you want us to make use of all those uranium mines we have in Blighty so we can be self sufficient?

Hang on, someones poking me....ah, apparantly we don't have any uranium mines. So, rethink?...

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FAIL

whoops, nuclear fail

Do you know what a "fast breeder reactor" does? You know we've got those, right?

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IT Angle

a nuke-free energy policy

> I'm sorry, Nick, but we need nuclear energy.

No we fucking don't. There are plenty of other indigenous energy sources and lots of scope for conservation and better energy efficiency (district heating systems for example). You might remember the nation sits on top of shit-loads of coal. It's still there even though the mines have gone. And nuclear plants require masses of subsidy to compete. Then there's the hidden subsidy as the state picks up the tab for decommissioning, storage of toxic waste, etc, etc.

It would be foolish to assume uranium will be a reliable energy source. Today it's available from mostly stable, pro-western states like Canada and Australia. But what if they close the mines on health or environmental grounds?

It's time for an energy policy based on self-sufficiency. Or at least the minimum dependency on overseas suppliers. Oh and there appears to be quite a lot of oil *west* of Shetland. Best keep quiet about that or else the uppity jocks will bang on about independence.

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FAIL

another massive fail

No. The UK had one fast breeder reactor at Douneray. It's now closed and being decommissioned. It didn't generate much electricity or new fuel. Don't believe the hype about fast breeders: it's about as credible as the "too cheap to meter" claims when Calder Hall started. And that "power station" was built to make bomb-grade plutonium: the electricity was a side-effect.

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WTF?

Fast Breeders

"Do you know what a "fast breeder reactor" does?"

I don't know? Makes fuel out of pixie dust?

"You know we've got those, right?"

Who is "we" in this context? If you mean the UK then the answer is no, you don't have fast breders. Dounreay was shut down in 1994.

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Happy

@dogged

"Do you know what a "fast breeder reactor" does? You know we've got those, right?"

In *principle* provided you have the re-processing worked out

BTW Euratom's long term average price is c$40/lb. Can you justify building a completely *different* set of reactors *just* to breed at that price?

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Had* those, right?

They were shut down in 1994. Good point, though, and something to look into more.

Are you listening, Cameron?

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No we don't

Nobody does. They didn't work. Bill Gates is supporting a new one though. That may work in 20 years times. Probably won't.

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Anonymous Coward

Common Sense?

Shome mishtake, shirley?

The problem (well one of the problems) that I had with Brown's government was that they were on the one hand threatening massive cuts in public spending while on the other hand committing us to projects which would involve massive public spending. When central government create a massive budget defecit it is unfair to expect local public sector organisations to bail them out to the tune of billions of pounds, but that's what Brown expected all the while continuing to commit the tax payer to projects that would consume massive amounts of public money.

Of course I'm not saying that local government, NHS trusts, police forces, fire services and other localised public sector organisations should not make cuts, but any government who expects that these cuts are made should lead by example. Amusingly not only is the rest of the public sector expected to make "effciency savings"* to help out central government, central goverment then comit these organisations to more spending in order to implement central government projects that should have been funded centrally. That's right we're going to cut your budget by 2.5% but commit 1% of what's left to a project you hadn't even heard about when you were drawing up your budget.

Surely in putting some of these major projects at least on the back burner they are showing that central government is as committed to cutting spending as they expect everybody else to be?

* They are only efficiency savings if they are targetted to improve efficiency. Simply imposing a percentage cut in spending across the board is not an efficiency saving. Imagine a body that has exactly the number of staff it needs to do the job (hard I know). They will be expected to make the same staffing cuts as a body which is massively overstaffed. All in the name of efficiency.

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Anonymous Coward

never fear

Never fear the French will be more then happy to sell us their left over power and incredibly inflated prices forcing people into energy poverty.

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Can we stop calling them LibCons...

...and refer to the alliance as the ConDem Nation

(PS - thanks to the national newspaper I stole that from)

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Happy

National newspaper? That reminds me.

As some commentard pointed out at the Toadygraph earlier, the Grauniad declared for the Lib Dems and so has, effectively, ended up supporting a Tory government.

Now *their* comment forums are worth their pixels in entertainment value today.......

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Grenade

Actually the accepted term is Tory-Whig

We now have, for the first (and only) time ever, a Tory-Whig coalition. Who would have thought it.

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Paris Hilton

Not Tory-Whig

Since both the Tories and Liberals are offshoots of the Whigs this should really be Whig-Whig or Whig-squared or Mirkin.

Paris - cos she's very liberal with her... oh, I just don't care.

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Anonymous Coward

Well...

When the lights go out, we'll know who to blame, then.

Personally, I think this is going to be the beginning of the end of Clegg's career and the Lib Dems are going to come of out of this looking very battered and irrelevant to governance. The Conservatices seem to be performing some deliberate maneuovering and I give this wonderfully coined "ConDem" coalition six months.

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Who to blame?

Not the Tories who cancelled nuclear power in the first place and not Labour who sat on the issue for 13 years? Yeah let's blame the guy who points out the reality that they were cancelled in the first place because they were ruinously expensive and take far too long to build, and we still don't have a clue what to do with the waste. Well ok you might burn them in Candus but i only see these crappy pwr's on the planning horizon.

Coal to gas, Candu reactors (China just built 2 in record time for 3 billion dollarsthe pair) or looking for new gas fields are our realistic options.

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Alert

Cruise vs. ICBMs.

Any air defence held by a theoretical target is easily mitigated by having more of the cheaper Cruise option.

Remember, you only need one to get through to produce the desired effect. Remember also that if the number of successful bang noises becomes a significant factor, then who actually "won" the exchange is moot.

Not to mention that successfully blowing up a load of incoming missiles containing enriched nuclear material over your own airspace has "Pyhrric victory" written all over it.....

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Anonymous Coward

hmm

I'd much prefer to have to go hunting for weapons grade material then have cities struck by modern nuclear weapons.

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Anonymous Coward

Cruise fit for purpose?

Not that I'd ever advocate or support the use of nucular bombs, but I'd have to question whether you could consider a cruise missile delivery system to be a fit replacement for ICBMs. ICBMs have, I presume, a range not less than half the planet. A sub in the Atlantic could lob a warhead to make a glass crater in Afghanistan (or at least in Iraq), I expect.

I can't imagine a cruise having the same range, or even if it does have the range I cant imagine it surviving the trip. A cruise launched from the Atlantic might have to travel over the Iberian peninsula, across the Med, then over Turkey or maybe Israel and Jordan. Someone would surely object in a manner terminal to the missile.

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Coat

Cruise fit for purpose?

True, cruise missiles don't have the same range as an ICBM. And it's a well-known fact that submarines don't work off the coast of Iran or North Korea. The water's too salty.

Oh and the missus thinks Tom Cruise is fit.

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FAIL

Nuke Who ?!

I love it that you see Afghanistan and Iraq as potential targets. You know the two countries your country is fighting and dying to liberate from themselves.

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trident alternatives

"The only major bill to be paid would be that for a new British warhead to go on them. "

Are we able to develop a new warhead to fit on a tomahawk missile?

Do we have the capability to do that still, and are we allowed to develop new nuclear warheads under non-proliferation treaties?

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Maybe

But we probably don't have the skills to build a warhead.

Ever since MacMillan had his Bermuda holiday with Kennedy, Britain has been more or less dependent on American technology for everything from the warhead design to the missile and guidance systems right down to the tritium that makes a satisfyingly large apocalypse. In return I think we've provided them with some plutonium when they ran short.

Our current city killers are clones of the American W76s with a Union Jack sticker on them.

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Pint

Number of warheads?

So if we cancel Trident and move the warheads to smaller, MUCH slower and shorter-range, yet-to-be-developed cruise missiles that are more likely to have countermeasures work successfully against them than an ICBM with multiple warheads, do we then anticipate that we need far more of them in order for some to get through? Precision weapons that can find a particular window x,xxxKm away and fly through said window will still leave a lot of nasty stuff lying around if they have their wings clipped by something before they get to the target.

This begs the main question - Are we prepared to have the right number of launch platforms in place at the right time. In other words, we'll need more long-range submarines on semi-permanent patrol close in to shore-lines, or fleets of aircraft 'somewhere' in the world ready to fly (and presumably run the risk of crashing or getting shot down), and the backup facilities of those nasty things called runways and hangers/engineers/fuel dumps. We could take it with us as an 'Aircraft Carrier', but how many countries would let it dock?

I believe the NPT also has very strict rules about developing new warheads as well as controlling numbers, so we can't just pinch them off Trident and super-glue them to the sharp end of a cruise, or can we?

I think Trident and it's predecessors work, although I'm horrified that the world is such a place that we need it. I don't want to spend the money replacing it but it won't last forever and we know we really need four of them for it to work properly and not stress the crews or equipment too far.

Some clever people are going to have to come up with something much more credible rather than LibDem wet dreams.

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Unhappy

We've been decieved about the motivation for new nuclear power stations...

Over the election campaign, nobody mentioned the link between Labour and the Torie's policy on nuclear power and that of the Trident replacement...

Without the former, the latter would be considerably more expensive as we would have to shop abroad for fissionable nuclear matterials and overcome considerable international restrictions, so just as our first nuclear programe was rushed ahead under Churchill so that we could join the US as a nuclear military power, so the new proposed programe has widespread support by parties who want to replace trident.

Most of the other reasons given about carbon targets / renewables etc. are actually secondary for Labour and the Tories, they just want their bombs.

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Dead Vulture

Its not the f#$@ing Liberals.

That were the biggest party in the election.

CONS first Please.

or we'll resort to refering to the Jurntards at el reg.

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This AGAIN? Change the tune, would you

Yes, you need to apple the Lewis Reality Inversion Filter.

A couple of years playing Hide The Torpedo in minesweepers - the janitorial arm of the Senior Service - does not qualify you as an expect in all defence matters.

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Upto to date then

Libdems think having 4 nuke subs at sea is an expensive outdated relic of the cold war - useless in todays asymetric wars on terror.

The army agree and want to replace it with a fleet of tanks to fight the soviets in Germany.

The air force agree and want to replace it with an air superiority fighter to fight the soviet airforce

The navy want to replace it with a carrier fleet to fight the Japanese at Pearl Harbour or possibly the French at Trafalgar.

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Just one point...

The Navy's choice of carriers does actually make sense in our current age. We have always need to have air support for whatever is happening on the ground, but we don't always have the luxury of airfields being available to us near the action. This is why carriers are good sense at the moment. For more reading on this I direct you to two books, Phoenix Squadron and Vulcan 607, both by Rowland White. Both of these cover (British) air operations where a presence was needed to demonstrate that we could strike a non Russian target during the cold war. Vulcan 607 covers the famous Vulcan raids on the Falkland Islands during the Falklands war, Phoenix Squadron deals with a lesser known mission to put a pair of RN Buccaneers over British Honduras during the seventies to deter Guatamalan aggression against the former colony. This latter mission was carried out from the previous HMS Ark Royal after an epic crossing of the Atlantic and graphically demonstrates the capability of carrier air power to influence events, where the Falklands raids were quite desperate affairs brought about by the lack of large carriers*.

Andrew Newstead

*(This is not to take it away from the people who made it work - Blackbuck was an incredable achievement)

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Genius!

The best summary of defence policy ever.

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S-300

The Iranians are "supposed" to have acquired S-300's from a number of sources. If they have indeed got their hands on them, then they would have quite a decent anti-cruise missile capability,

And unless you have air dominance, they can attempt to pitch in with their old F14's and twin tail fin F5's.

Cruise missiles could work, however the ICBM is 'The" big stick of nukes.

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Happy

Pedantry

The F5 is a single-tail-fin design. I'm not sure why you even mentioned how many tail fins it has.

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iran

has developed a twin tail variant:

http://www.airliners.net/aviation-forums/military/read.main/53623/

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because

the Iranians for reasons known only to themselves have reverse engineered their F-5s and built new ones with two tails. Maybe they thought they lacked directional stability or something. They're the ones he's talking about.

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But we must have Trident

Trident is the Roles Royce of Nuclear Missiles, it's the Missile Harrords' would sell

- Sir Humphrey Appleby, Yes Priminister

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Stop

Sir Humphrey

I believe that at the time that episode was first shown the big public debate was the replacement of crappy old Polaris nukes with shiny new Trident ones. Thanks a fucking bunch for making me feel my age!

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NO TO CRUISE

He hasn't made a decent fim in ages.

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Lewis, how's your neck?

I mean you must be suffering from whiplash after such a sudden and dramatic U turn on the Lib Dems Trident policy.

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2010/05/05/dont_vote_lib_dem/

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Not an Option

Britain has coal under the ground. So what? Using that to produce electricity produces carbon emissions. Nuclear power does not.

Yes, all a breeder reactor does is make sure all the uranium is put to good use, the U-238 in addition to the U-235. It doesn't produce an endless supply of fuel from nothing. However, you can import uranium from friendly stable Canada, or, for that matter, given the effect of EU membership on the Sterling exchange group and Commonwealth preferences, from the friendly stable Czech Republic.

Conservation and wind power have huge costs, so if that's all you have to depend on, the result will be to make energy dear and labour cheap. Nuclear power, on the other hand, supports the economic growth desperately needed so that the common man can live a decent life.

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Worth remembering

It was the Conservatives who killed the nuclear industry in this country when they came to the belated realisation that the business of splitting atoms was a bottomless sink for public money.

Nothing in the last 20 years suggests that the financial argument for nuclear power has become any more compelling.

As for the fans of FBRs here; there were many reasons they never took off (metaphorically); fixing the plumbing so that molten sodium didn't keep coming into contact with boiling water was one, but they died a painful death when the economics of reprocessing spent fuel became clear. Regular nuclear power is expensive, reprocessing makes it look like a bargain.

And do we really want to be in a situation arguing why its perfectly acceptable for us to be producing tonne quantities of plutonium, but not energy hungry, fossil-fuel poor countries like Pakistan?

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Re: Worth remembering

"Nothing in the last 20 years suggests that the financial argument for nuclear power has become any more compelling."

That's because after 20 years we *still* don't ask fossil fired power stations to pay for the environmental damage they cause, we *still* ask nuclear stations to pay a CO2 levy (WTF?), and we make it perfectly clear that the rulebook *may* be re-written according to prevailing political fashion every few years or so, preventing any long-term planning by energy companies, but then *never do actually re-write it", resulting in the impending "lights out" crisis in the middle of this decade.

UK energy policy couldn't be more wrong, and couldn't have been more wrong for the last few decades.

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Pirate

I *hate* to point this out

But roughly 20% of the UK electricity supply is nuclear. That's *very* roughly 14Gw of power.

They are all getting on a bit (IIRC Sizewell B is about the youngest and that dates from the late 80s?). Something has to be done about that hole *now*. Ideally something which does not increase the national carbon footprint.

Windmills still need a backup supply. Coal (UK reserves about 200 years) but carbon emissions. The UK could do a *lot* more with Methane production and the Scottish tests of 2Gw of Tidal and wave power systems should *finally* see some clear winners worth investing in. The UK has a *huge*, nearly *unique* (in Europe) asset of its coastline. one of the UK Islands (Channel, Isle of Wight) has the largest tidal range in the *world*. Predictable, massive power pulses which will run till the Moon's orbit decays to Roche's limit (that will take a while).

As for Trident. The ICBM in a sub gives the absolute *best* in stealth (70% of the Earth's surface to hide in) and penetration. Nearly 6 decades and probably a teradollar (1x10^12) by the US have *failed* to find an effective way to shoot down an incoming warhead. Putting cruises on big nuke boats retains the stealth but (depending on the opponent) may fail to penetrate their airspace (the UK baseline target was always Moscow. It was felt given its size if it couldn't nuke the Kremin it wasn't worth having).

Their are *very* few ICBM suppliers in the world. The UK has *always* bought American.

It's not clear what the UK can still do on its own. Some out of the box thinking might pay dividends. Shift the Tridents to fixed (sea based or land based) sites. Strip the warheads (I think they are UK mfg) slap them on some kind of EM launcher. The UK has a pretty solid track record in high power pulse systems. A true nuclear cannon.

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Appaently .....

The LibDems actually prefer the flavour of JuicyFruit to Trident.

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Grenade

nuclear power?

no thanks!

Anyone for a nuclear waste dump in their back yard?

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@ hohoho

"Anyone for a nuclear waste dump in their back yard?"

Yes. One of my chums reminded me, not so long ago, that he still hadn't found any insuperable problem with a notion I had first mooted in the 1970s. This was to have a shielded container of medium-level waste buried in my back garden which would provide background heating.

The latest ideas for Gen IV and thorium-based reactors have the potential to 'burn' around 95% of radioactive waste and to increase the utilisation of uranium by a factor of about 50 times. Although the development costs are high, even for an international consortium, it would seem to be a mistake not to plan for a significant proportion of the UK's baseline energy to be produced in this way.

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