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back to article Gov axes £35bn Severn Barrage tide-energy scheme

Controversial plans by the former government to build a massive tidal-power barrage across the Severn estuary have been scrapped. Energy Secretary Chris Huhne, announcing the decision this morning, said the scheme's costs were "excessive". In theory the door remains open for private business to build a tidal-power scheme of some …

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Costs?

While the construction costs of a nuclear plant may well be a lot less than building a barrage would have been, what are the total lifetime costs? Nuclear plant does incur very substantial decommissioning costs.

Besides which, we do not want to be reliant on a single form of electricity generation, and it's about time we got back to being good at building large-scale infrastructure projects, of which the Severn barrage is surely about as big as they get.

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Don't be a fule

Did you read the article? 4.8% of current demand for £35bn! While I can't stand the whole wind farm debacle this plan seems just as foolish (with the exception that tidal barriers are always on unlike turbines).

Nuclear is the only cost-effective way forward in the short term to both meed demand AND meet emissions targets, I'm not saying nukes forever but at least until we can actually develop useful renewables. I'd prefer geothermal but the pork's in windmills :(

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Anonymous Coward

good idea

"and it's about time we got back to being good at building large-scale infrastructure projects, of which the Severn barrage is surely about as big as they get."

No problem, if you'd just like to tell people to pay about £1500 extra in tax / increased fuel bills I have no problem.

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Not forgetting

The few £100 a year we all pay to subsidise wind farms as it is.

I still laugh when I remember one of the guys building the Thames estuary wind farm saying it needed more subsidy to be viable.

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Anonymous Coward

So does hydroelectric

My summer house is next to one of the biggest accumulating hydroelectrics in Europe. There is ongoing maintenance 24x7x365 as well as maintenance of access infrastructure. The idea that you build them and after that they somehow print money till the end of time is not very well grounded in reality.

It may not be as bad nuclear, but it is there none the less.

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Anonymous Coward

Forget the Environment

Brean beach is far too nice to cut in half with a massive block of concrete!

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Anonymous Coward

No

Brean beach is part of the environment. Now it won't be ruined by a half-assed project

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Good quality?

"created hundreds of good quality green jobs for Welsh people"

Is there such a thing as a good quality green job? Pretty much all green jobs either need subsidy from the tax-payer or increased utility bills (I believe the Government's wind-power plans could add an extra £880 per year onto mine!).

The idiots running our energy policy (ok, I mean the previous idiots, the jury is still out on the current idiots) seem to be living in cloud cuckoo land - a Green disease. £35,000,000,000 against £5,000,000,000. If Hain can't work out the difference it's no surprise his Government left this country close to bankruptcy.

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Anonymous Coward

created hundreds of good quality green jobs

billions/hundreds = cheaper to pay them to do nothing, at least that would not ruin a landscape.

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WTF?

£35bn

how? is it made of solid gold encrusted with diamonds?

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Re: £35bn

"how? is it made of solid gold encrusted with diamonds?"

No. It's made of government swill for the corporate porkers.

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No, it is built on top of a swamp

Building in swamp without pumping it out first (Netherlands/East Anglia style) ain't cheap.

However, I would not be so sure about the cost/benefit here. That is potentially a 3rd severn bridge so toll on it should be able to shave off a couple of billions over the course of 20 years. Add to that reduction in flood protection expenses on the lower part of the Severn - a few more billions. And so on.

It will never be 5 billion though and it will still need an up-front subsidy.

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Boffin

Government subsidy product = engineering nightmare

a private firm says "here's the plan"

1. Planning Budget

2. Engineered design

3. Acquisition

4. Build the fucker.

Done.

Government subsidised projects have a tendency to go

1. planning budget plus surplus to go on buying and refitting whatever Grade II listed wreck is local and restoring it into the local project building including some sort of never-visisted visitors center.

2. engineering draft 1 to be approved by a bunch of ex-lawyer wanks that all say things like "looks good, but Ive got a concerned email here from NIMBY of wales who wants the concrete to be not as tall, cant you make a bit wider and a bit lower?

3. Repeat Step 2 for as many ministers and backbencers as want to get involved so they can say they had a hand in the creation of the green project.

4. pay all these wanks.

5. Aquisition of resources to be put up for bids

6. construction overrun costs due to problems with lowest-bidder-wins-and-then-rapes-you system

7. construction halted due to one ministers insistence that there must be a college grad to staand in the mud and look for newts

8. construction halted due to house of lord inquiry into the misallotment of funds and porkbarrelling.

9. pay these wanks

10. Media gets a hold of it and stirs up a big fuss about the newts.

11. ministers abandon support, claiming its a horrid idea and god look at the money thats been spend already and we still dont have it made.

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Inflated costs

Given the number of huge barriers and bridges build around the world, its not like this is new tech, so why is it so damn expensive? It is after all just a long pile of rocks with some turbines in the middle (and some locks, but you get the drift). We see more expensive roads crossing lengthy waterways on CSI@Miami every week.

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Joke

damn expensive?

because it's dam expensive!

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Pun intended?

"why is it so damn expensive?"

I have to agree, though. £35bn seems a lot.

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Boffin

Have you looked across from Weston to Cardiff recently?

That's a loooong stretch of water, up and down which shipping still passes, with (oh gosh, did we forget to mention?) the second-largest tidal range in the world. We aren't talking a few paving slabs with piddly turbines set in them, we're talking vast amounts of concrete, piles to be driven into the silty sediments and the bedrock beneath, $deity knows what. I bet £35bn wouldn't cover it.

And on the matter of that concrete. That's made with cement. Cement comes from burning lime. CaCO3 -> CaO + CO2. What's that, Sooty? For every five tons of cement we make we get four tons of CO2 to be emitted? Who knew!! And that's not counting the CO2 that's produced by the fuel you use to heat up the lime in the first place.

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Pint

A shame isn't it..........

When someone has to point out the blindingly obvious.

Can I also add that the environmental damage to habitat was not trivial either if this giant white elephant had gone ahead, never mind the cost of constantly dredging out the silt from the Severn which would no longer be cleared by natural water flow.

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Never mind the length... feel the width.

More expensive than £35billion ($55 Billion)? As the title says - its not just the length. The Severn has tidal range of about 46 feet (second largest tidal range in the world - without counting storm surges), and if you've seen the catchment area and experienced the Severn flooding at first hand you'll know just how much water it carries. The barrage would have been about 1000 metres (3280 feet) wide and 16KM (10 miles long) So maybe its not new tech but its old tech on a new scale - just like the Three Gorges dam

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M7S
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Financing the Barrage

Simple. All the greenies who object to nukes etc can put themselves on a contract that allows them only to get their power from this or other similar green initiatives such as wind farms.

If they're right, they'll be the only people with the lights and TV on in a few years time and they can sell any excess to the rest of us deniers at a premium.

I think the power companies should be allowed to tag the smart meters so that anyone objecting to a particular source of generation can only get 'leccy when there's enough from the sources they will accept as ethical.

That sorts out all the funding issues and removes the need for public subsidy as well.

Personally I'd love lots of efficient solar PV on the roof, with a nuke baseload providing to industry and high density residential during the day and everyone at night, and a bit of tidal for variety, as I understand that's predictable and if spread around the coast, reasonably reliable.

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Anonymous Coward

Already been done

"All the greenies who object to nukes etc can put themselves on a contract that allows them only to get their power from this or other similar green initiatives such as wind farms."

Yorkshire Electricity had a green tariff that was slightly more expensive than the standard rate and promised to match your consumption with the equivalent from renewable sources. Npower's Juice tariff offered the same, but at the same price as their standard rate.

All the magenties* that favour nuclear power could have a similar contract, with the stipulation that they live in houses like this - http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/kent/8282368.stm

"Personally I'd love lots of efficient solar PV on the roof, with a nuke baseload providing to industry and high density residential during the day and everyone at night, and a bit of tidal for variety, as I understand that's predictable and if spread around the coast, reasonably reliable."

I agree with you to a large extent. The more diverse our generating capacity, the better. Over-reliance on one or two solutions is a recipe for disaster. But would Solar thermal be more efficient than Solar PV?

AC as I'm a former employee, and still a green customer.

* Magenties - well magenta is the inverse of green

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Anonymous Coward

Only £35bn?

That's only the same as three Olympic games.

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Unhappy

True.

But that's a waste of money too. We could have had two or three nuclear power stations half-built by now.

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Thank Goodness for that...

Apart from the extraordinarily high ecological vandalism of the whole project a natural wonder like the Severn Bore should be preserved, not destroyed...

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Joke

@JimC

There was I thinking that the Severn Bore was the interminable and tedious ongoing discussions on the merits, problems and costs of a tidal barrage on the Severn that's kept various departments, potential contractors and talking heads of every stripe in business for many years. Not to mention filling a few pages in the Sunday Supplements every now and again.

Turns out it's a sort of tidal wave thingy. Who knew?

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£35 BN --> '00s of jobs

I thought ratios like that only occurred in relation to the arms industry?

facepalm icon please!

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Anonymous Coward

Jackpot!

Let's say there were 999 jobs created - that's the max for "hundreds". That's comes to 35.035 million quid per job. It would have been far cheaper just to fiddle the national lottery and give the lucky non-workers a 5 million jackpot each.

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WTF?

Load of codswallop

That's all the wildlife you've find in the Severn estuary, because its a marine desert. There is too much silt in the water, therefore very little plant life or algae, supporting very little animal life or fish, supporting very few birds.

We must end this enviro-nimbyism now, before we can no longer do anything of value.

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that'll be news

to slimbridge wildfowl and wetland trust, located on the severn up river from Gloucester, it has the world’s largest collection of swans, ducks, flamingos and geese. If you're right, what could have inspired them to locate it where it is?

Or you're wrong

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FAIL

This would have flooded Oldbury nuclear power station

Whilst it's all very nice to talk about how abandoning the barrier plans has "saved" the wildlife sanctuaries along the estuary (notably, Slimbridge Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust), let's be realistic here.

The barrage plan would have flooded Oldbury nuclear power station, currently being decommissioned.

I really don't think the plan was a goer from day one. Nobody in their right mind wants to put a 1960s decommissioned nuclear power station underwater.

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WTF?

Flooding Oldbury?

Whatever gave you that idea? Let me explain a tidal barrage. Clue: it's not like a dam across a river.

The sun pulls the ocean towards it. As the Earth rotates, the Severn estuary comes under the deep bit and the water level in the estuary goes up. Due to the coastal configuration, it goes up a lot, but it's been doing it twice a day *forever*, and Oldbury power station isn't flooded on any high tide.

Now the trick is you trap all that lovely high water behind the barrage, and when the Severn estuary has rotated out of the high tide you let it fall back into the Atlantic through turbines, from which you generate the electricity. At no time is the tide higher behind the barrage than it will be at the very next spring tides this month.

What you DO do, however, is interrupt that twice-daily rhythm of tides which the estuary has enjoyed at least since the ice retreated. If there aren't mudflats that are alternately exposed and inundated on a 12 hour cycle, for example, this will have a considerable impact on the wildlife.

It will be cheaper to build lagoons that can fill at high tide and generate more modest quantities of electricity, and it won't have the same enormous environmental impact.

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Two minds

It probably would have cost way too much, mostly due to our governments spectacular inability to organise any project.

I'm sad to see the move towards fission power, as it's already a guaranteed fail. Not on any greenwashing "no radioactive bunnies in my back yard" measure, but economically. Rising costs of fuel with no realistic hope of new sources. The lie that nuclear is cheaper than renewables (it is, until you add in the cost of cleaning - that's gone from an estimated 20 billion to over 75 billion in the last 3 years. And security has significant costs too). There's rising demand for fuel, and less than 100 years of economically viable stuff left, which puts an upwards pressure on the cost too.

Basically, building non-breeder fission reactors at this point is a monumentally stupid idea as it's just going to make the most expensive electricity in the world. The barrier would, in light of reality, been a lot cheaper...

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Sums wrong

The cleaning costs are amortised over the lifetime of the plant. Modern plants - such as the ones we should build but are too scared to - are smaller and last longer.

You're quoting Greenie numbers that are exaggerated and out of date. The Severn Barrage would have a massive net negative cost.

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Alternative green sources better value for money

This article leaves out a crucial conclusion of the report - that alternative low-carbon energy sources would be better value for money.

Seriously, it's in the report summary, has anyone here bothered to read it?

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Boffin

subsidy to carbon burners

There was a snippet on Radio 4 this morning saying how 1/6th of UK homes are flood vulnerable, and that an agreement to keep insurance costs down by sharing costs around the industry is not being renewed, so the cost of home insurance of these houses at risk is set to increase 4 fold or cover will be refused. Of course the insurance industry are trying to use this threat to get the taxpayer to spend more on flood defences.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b00vcn9j/You_and_Yours_18_10_2010/

However the subsidy is paid for, privately by those unfortunate enough not to be able to afford this insurance who take flood losses upon themselves, and by those fortunate enough to be able to afford it, and by the public purse through increased flood defence requirements, subsidies to carbon burning are being paid one way or another.

So perhaps the genuine believing GW deniers should setup a competitive home insurance business, pledging all their assets like Lloyds names do to underwrite this business, and if their scientific claim is correct, they would make a profit by offering lower premiums because flooding, damages and claims will go back to what these were 20 - 30 years ago. The fact that they won't tells me that what the GW deniers really believe is they want to have current carbon burning subsidies continue but they are not honest enough to admit it.

Very happy to get rid of subsidies to renewables when these are on a level playing field. But if they were we'd see the prices of untaxed carbon fuel (e.g. for electricity, heating, agricultural and aircraft fuel) a great deal more expensive than we've ever known them.

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Grenade

@copsewood

Of course that's entirely attributable to GW and nothing at all to do with profiteering builders chucking up vast housing developments on flood plains, justifying same with: "well it hasn't flooded in the last 30-odd years so it probably won't".

Here's a clue. If it's flat and near to a watercourse*, it's probably flooded in the past sometime and probably will again one day. Tarmaccing and concreting over vast swathes of it, increasing surface water runoff into the watercourse, will only serve to bring that day closer.

You don't have to be a climatologist to work out the main causes here, although having studied geography to 'O' level may help.

* Or "prime building land in a picturesque setting" as it's more usually referred to these days.

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um - its called building on FLOOD PLAINS

nothing to do with the CAGW mantra and everything to do with POLITICIANS over riding engineers.

Engineer :

Don't build THERE - it floods every 30 years on average -

Politico/ guy on the take :

well it hasn't flooded for the past 5 years so it mus be ok

Eng :

well if you must then build some flood defences

Politico/ guy on the take :

well it hasn't flooded for the past 5 years so we don't need to

Eng

Will at least build some new drains and run offs so the water has somewhere to go

Politico/ guy on the take :

well it hasn't flooded for the past 5 years so we don't need to

see - no AGW cause; just plain stupid over riding Engineers - something seen every day in the IT world too.

No if you want to invest in some nice low lying beach property - like a certain ex US Vice President; just to show how convinced you must be about the risks from your own pronounced sea level rises...

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Nuclear

While it's good to see this White elephant being buried, does anyone seriously believe the figures of the cost of new nuclear being promoted by the reactor vendors? The French books are opaque beyond description so no one really knows what their plants cost. The best comparison is in Finland where their new PWR is both late and way over budget. I'll be astonished if the British government doesn't kick in taxpayer-funded loan guarantees and agree to cover the decommissioning costs. If we're really lucky it'll not be •quite• as bad as Dungeness B.

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and they are so hard to dismantle

because the then environmental movement insisted that a nuclear power station had to be built to be indestructible.

Of course they cost a bloody fortune to dismantle; they HAD to be built that way because the pressure groups insisted.

And they are being shut down early - the original plans was to reuse the containment vessels with the more advanced, smaller and more efficient plant that was expected to be developed; in say 2050 or there about. So a 50 - 100 year life span for the containment vessel - that makes the lifetime cost of decommissioning relatively low - as originally foreseen

Modern Nucs are designed with decommissioning in mind; not something dreamt up 10 - 20 years after they are built.

And any idea yet on how much it will cost to decommission a wind farm - to the same green field standards ? it ain't cheap getting 60 metres of re-enforced concrete out of the ground. After only 25 years - by which time it would appear the actual turbine inside the cowl will have been replaced 2 to 3 times. Windmills consume more energy in their manufacture; building and maintenance than they produce - & that's before we we know the hidden cost of decommissioning. UK windfarm average production : 26% of rated capacity; actually production against demand (ie the power from the windmill is available when it is needed ) is in the 10% of rated capacity. That makes windfarms at a minimum 4 times more expensive than claimed (26% of rated capacity) but more like TEN times (10% of DEMANDED supplied).

http://www.ref.org.uk/roc-generators/

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Alien

£35bn why you ask

Most of it will, (would have) gone into back-handers and firm slaps on the backs of the construction firms exec's .....?

And then the costs will go up as the project unfolds due to the above i expect , so the last nail has been put in the coffin.

Commonsense really when an element 115 anti-nuclear reactor has cost alot less (i.e CERN)

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Stupid.

"So perhaps the genuine believing GW deniers should setup a competitive home insurance busines"

Yes, because as we know, flooding is caused by man-made Global Warming and is absolutely nothing to do with concreting over entirely natural river flood plains!

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yet more elreg inaccuracies

"about 4.8 per cent of present-day UK electricity demand, or approximately half a per cent of the UK's total energy requirements."

it's not a 10:1 ratio of electricity:energy use in the uk, as a lot of the primary energy use goes to create - you've guessed it - electricity.

Also, according to Lesters figures, it cost £5 billion to build enough nuclear to match (where does he get this figure?). Our current level of energy use is somewhere around 50GW, so Lester is building 2.5GW of nuclear @ £2,000 per kW.before running costs, that means that nuclear is more expensive than wind. Thanks Lester!

Regardless, the scheme was too big, too expensive, and has rightly been shelved for the moment.

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Pirate

Government(s) spin?

The previous government costed the project at a bargain £15bn because they wanted it to happen. The current government costs the project at an unaffordable £35bn because they want it scrapped.

Independent assessment last year put the cost at £23bn, to take into account a 60% contingency in accordance with treasury rules - http://www.nce.co.uk/severn-barrage-cost-hits-23bn/1340287.article

Who are you going to believe?

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how much!?

For 10 mile strip, why is that so difficult to build?

On my last trip to the US, I noticed a number of roads across water (275 near Tampa/St. Petersburg) a good example. And that is 2 3-lane motorways that go further than 10 miles.

http://maps.google.co.uk/maps?f=q&source=s_q&hl=en&geocode=&q=St.+Petersburg,+FL,+United+States&sll=53.800651,-4.064941&sspn=12.791842,27.553711&ie=UTF8&hq=&hnear=St+Petersburg,+Pinellas,+Florida,+United+States&ll=27.611755,-82.643623&spn=0.149677,0.215263&z=12

There are numerous roads there like that.

Was this 10 mile barrage across the Severn include a road crossing also ?

Just fail to see why it would be so difficult.

Glad new government are watching the pennies on that one.

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This is great news!

£35Bn is a ridiculous amount for a project like this. I'm glad that they've cancelled it. £35Bn is an amount that would actually make a dent to our debt- it's about 1/5th of the extra debt we rack up each year.

Hopefully this will make the greenies realise that while green energy is still a pork barrel, we're getting nearer the bottom of it.

As I said when I first heard about the barrage (paraphrased from my post on another forum):

Give me the £35Bn and I will create more and higher paying jobs for longer.

I say that, but I mean "I'll dish out 500k each to the first 2000 people employed and £50k to the next 20,000. Not sure what they'll do, but they'll certainly get the money.

Then I'll build two nuclear plants and have a really, really deep lead-lined pit dug with the aim of disposing of the nuclear waste produced over their lifetimes. You know what, I'll throw in a dedicated train line between them and the disposal facility and lob a billion quid from my budget to both Fusion and less-waste-producing fission research.

And then I'll pocket about £10Bn as a contractor fee. That still leaves a few billion for unexpected overheads- perhaps set aside for giving people who want to move away a grant or building another bridge over the Severn (which would make building the barrage in the future cheaper- actually I might even do that just to really push the "your budget was too high" point home). Or getting Fibre-To-The-Home for the entire UK.

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Green people shouldn't live here,

they'd be happier some place else*. Lets invest the money on getting fusion to work properly instead, it really seems like the ultimate solution to me. Plus; fusion powered tanks that can vaporize city blocks, yes please!

*props if you get the reference

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Joke

Speak your branes

If you love the environment so much, why don't you go live there?

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IT Angle

Other schemes might still be workable

Welsh Lib Dems have already rejected the concept of the monolithic Severn Barrage as being ecologically unsound, expensive and a result of old fashiend white-elephant 60's/70's thinking.

Much better is a modular approach by using more efficient, lower impact, modular and cheaper to build tidal lagoons, with a Shotts barrage further upstream as part of the west/wales electrification of rail project.

(David Morgan, Councillor, Grangetown, CARDIFF)

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What are we really talking about here

Lifetime cost of Nuclear plant exceeds most alternative options on a KWH generation basis.

Nuclear fuel & Nuclear technology is imported. We can develop turbines and the like we don't have. There is 'low carbon' concrete available these days...

As terrorist targets Nuclear stations are much more attractive targets.

An equivalent barrage would not cost the price of 3 nuclear station in capital or operation. Who is doing the costing here? The same people who applied nuclear fabrication costings to the original "duck"?

We know how to make locks and move shipping around. The UK industrial revolution was aided by canals.

There are ponded barrage options that could provide wetland protection and phased power over an extended period.

Electricity not used directly could be used to store gas or water in other 'energy reservoirs'.

If we don't start on barrages and effective tidal & wave power solutions soon we will never be independent of imported energy in the form of Gas, coal or nuclear and will be perpetually dependent upon the goodwill of foreign governments and companies.

Maybe that is what our civil service, political and business leaders want?

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