back to article Anglo-French nuke pact blesses 4th-gen reactors

The UK is borrowing heavily on French nuclear energy know-how in a pact signed today. France and the UK will extend co-operation to R&D and training in several areas, but the most interesting is the commitment to develop 4th Generation (Gen IV) nuclear reactors on the French ASTRID prototype. ASTRID Advanced Sodium Technological …

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Hell yeah!

And I bet a certain Mr Page will be impressed.

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Anonymous Coward

Psshaaa... Nukes, who needs em

By 2050 we'll meet our energy needs with solar, and wind... and gumdrops and fairy dust!

/sarcasm

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Re: Psshaaa... Nukes, who needs em

Don't forget the hamsters!

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Happy

@Aaron Em

Ah, Minsc and Boo. Who can forget them!

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Re: Psshaaa... Nukes, who needs em

In all seriousness, by that time I would like to think ITER and DEMO had succeeded and PROTO was operational - so we should all be moving to lovely fusion power!

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Happy

Re: @Aaron Em

GO FOR THE EYES BOO!

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Great news

Action. From the Government. On nuclear power.

I appear to be traveling through another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind; a journey into a wondrous land whose boundaries are that of my imagination. My next stop...the Twilight Coalition Zone.

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Re: Great news

"My next stop...the Coalition Zone."

Why do you expect those reactors to be "all options are on the table"-ed?

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Reactor closure

"four of those are due to be closed in the next four years"

Get rid of the Magnox designs (one of them is 'only' 500MW anyway), but there's no reason why the AGRs shouldn't have their lives extended by a further 5 years. There are plenty of reactors in operation that are older than them (though they're not AGRs - but that's probably a positive factor).

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I'll believe it when I see it

Sounds good, but I'm not holding my breath. WWF and Greenpeace and sundry other greenies will fight this tooth and nail, and I still expect national grid to be scheduling power cuts before one of these ever goes on line.

It will be interesting to see where they decide to place the stations. Given that the SNP is dead against this sort of thing I'm assuming that the sites will all be in England and Wales... This is going to be very interesting.

Finally, what an admission of failure in having to go to the French to ask for help because we're no-longer capable of doing this sort of thing for ourselves.

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Anonymous Coward

@The French

I disagree that it's an admission of failure to have the recognised world leaders in Nuclear power generation to supply your reactors, besides a lot of the supply chain will be British. Why should we re-design the wheel, at great expense, just for a bit of national pride?

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Re: @The French

It's an admission of failure because we used to be the recognised world leaders in this field (fast reactors). Nevertheless, it was perhaps rather silly not to have been collaborating with the French even back then, since it was a shared national interest and (whatever else you might say about the French) we've been on the same side in nearly every armed conflict for over a century so we ought to be friends by now.

Furthermore, it would be even *more* embarrassing to enter the next decade with a permanent nationwide rota of power cuts, which is the alternative.

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Re: @The French

I'm not griping about the fact we're 'collaborating' with the French, just that if we want a nuclear program we have *no choice* but to collaborate. That weak position will mean that we will have to pay top dollar for the expertise and, if the French have anything like their usual guile about these sort of things, they'll also make sure that we continue to be dependant on them for the technology for decades to come.

I was trying to make the point (admittedly in a roundabout way) that this is another example of the inability of the UK to nurture technical excellence.

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Mushroom

Had to happen soon

Tritium detonators have a limited shelf life.

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Coat

Re: Had to happen soon

Boom boom! As it were.

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Sensible stuff

And why shouldn't we get help from the French? I'm as happy to gently mock our oniony neighbours as anyone else but in truth they have some great atom-boffins as well as a bumper crop of number-mekons and there's absolutely nothing wrong with good old collaberation on a worthwhile project.

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Coat

Re: Sensible stuff

The world is not like i used to be, so just wake up. This sort of co-operation is very needed in the EU. Besides the French never stopped building nuclear plants.

Perhaps you could help them building cars and fast trains instead.

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MJI
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Re: Re: Sensible stuff

Cars & Fast Trains

Well they did buy GEC and BTH so they did have it

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Re: Sensible stuff

err. I think you may have replied to the wrong comment.

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FAIL

Re: Re: Sensible stuff

Um... you DID read the comment you just replied to, didn't you?

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Meh

Re: Sensible stuff

"And why shouldn't we get help from the French?"

I suspect that the issue is that with our 'great' education system we shouldn't have to? Where has all our own expertise gone? Isn't this sort of thing where we should be putting our efforts?

I would much prefer if our politicians concentrated on actually teaching the next generation(s) real, useful skills & getting the brightest of the bright into Industry, than waste time, money, and effort in pointless 'equality' drives which mean nothing. We *should* be designing & building our own stuff with pointers from other countries.

After all, we are a *1st world* country, arn't we??

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Go

EDF Energy have been geared up for building of one of two power stations at Hinkley Point for the last 2 years at least - why are the Gov only saying they approve of the site now?

A planning application for the site preparation works was approved by West Somerset Council in July 2011!

http://hinkleypoint.edfenergyconsultation.info/hinkley-info/preliminary-works/

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Pint

It's the old tactic of reannouncing things to try and get a better headline for a particular story (the anglo-French co-operation agreement). The first official announcement of the nuclear sites I think was when the first draft of the nuclear national policy statement was published back end of 2010?

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2020

Seems very optimistic to design, prototype and build a new reactor design by 2020. Especially one with sodium cooling which has never been trouble-free in the past. Good luck to them, but I wouldn't be putting money on seeing the big red switch (there is a big red switch isn't there?) being pressed in eight years' time.

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Re: 2020

"The new reactors currently under consideration are Generation III+ designs."

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Devil

Happy time for the French

Plonk their power stations on that crappy landmass floating out across La Manche, plug it in via underwater cables provided by EDF Energy and syphen off the goodies. Feign ignorance when UK electricity prices increase!

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Re: Happy time for the French

eejit

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Stop

Re: Happy time for the French

You do know that they've got 59 nuclear plants on their own soil and export surplus power to the UK? Nearly 80% of French electricity comes from nuclear.

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WTF?

The UK buys about 1-2% of our electric from France already

And about the same from the Netherlands.

- At the time of posting this, UK demand was 44GW, with 1% being met by France (482MW), and 2% by the Netherlands (892MW).*

Wouldn't it be brilliant if we didn't have to buy all that power from the continent?

*This is instantaneous, but the France > UK interconnect is almost always importing from France.

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Renewable the only long term option

There is very limited capacity for generation of energy that does not harvest it from sun derived sources. Too much of anything else will due to the inescapable laws of thermodynamics heat the earth up. The guesstimate is 5000TWhrs of none sun derived energy generation for the entire earth per year.

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Re: Renewable the only long term option

Sun delivers ~1,316W/m2 to the surface of the Earth, multiplying by the effective cross-sectional area (pi.r2 where r=6,400,000m) gives 170,000TW of solar energy delivered to Earth's surface. Multiplying by 8,750 hrs per year gives a total annual insolation ~1.5 billion TWhrs. 5,000 TWhrs is a rounding error on a rounding error ...

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Re: Renewable the only long term option

Space is pretty good at sucking heat out of the planet.. the only thing keeping it from going all supercold on us is aparently the life-giving greenhouse gasses we have. Without them life as we know it could not exist :)

I've heard rumours that too much of them can also be bad though, aparently if we add too many of them the temperature goes up because the loss of heat to space is made less effective.

However as long as you don't pad the planet in more insulating greenhouse gasses you can add heat with gay abandon and the inescapable laws of thermodynamics will ensure that the extra heat will happily transfer itself into space (2nd law of thermodynamics, the system being the universe, and the earth much hotter than the space/universe around it)

Which means we should probably look to burn less oil and coal, but fissioning away is honky dory :)

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MNB

Re: Renewable the only long term option

ok... admittedly some of this is sourced from wikipedia (so take it with a pinch of "bloke down the pub said"), the earth's inventory of nuclear fuel is supposedly worth 2.5 YJ of energy, that's 2.5 x 10^24 J. Which if I've got my maths right is ~700 million TWh; or at a rate of 5000TWh/year is 138 thousand years worth. I think we can consume it a tad faster than that. ;-)

NB: Thorium is much more abundant than Uranium, and could (again *supposedly*, it's a wiki fact) last hundreds of years (or more). Giving plenty of time to sort out fusion.

Then there's geothermal. That isn't sun derived either. This is already producing 67TWh every year, and that's just the low hanging fruit (like Iceland and the other hot spots).

I'm willing to concede that even geothermal & nuclear are at least partially "sun derived" if you count the supernova that formed all the nuclei heavier than Iron in the first place, and geothermal heat is a mixture radioactive decay heat from early in the earth's history and gravitational potential converted to heat from the earth's formation.

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Anonymous Coward

Given the UK's recent record of armed hostility against a number of sovereign states, how can we be sure this technology will be used for peaceful purposes? Shouldn't the UN impose sanctions, until this rogue state abandons its nuclear programme?

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Anonymous Coward

"... until this rogue state abandons its nuclear programme?"

It's a much more reasonable question than the downvoters might imagine.

Iran is in big trouble because of its 'cvil' nuclear centrifuges.

Well, guess what, the UK has got remarkably similar 'civil' nuclear centrifuges too.

And AWE Aldermaston and AWE Burghfield and such.

But best not tell anyone, one Stuxnet is enough thank you.

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Re: Shouldn't the UN impose sanctions

Since the UN has approved every such instance except for Tony's Iraqi venture, I think you are appealing to the wrong body. Perhaps China will back you. They seem nice.

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Anonymous Coward

Err...

Number of times the leader of our country has said that another sovereign nation should be wiped off the map of the world = 0

Number of times the leader of Iran has said that another sovereign nation should be wiped off the map of the world = Many.

The UK is working to gradually get rid of all our nukes, the US and Russia are working to reduce their nukes and maybe even rid themselfs of them eventually. There are no countries currently proliferating nukes, who already have them. Iran is working to get nukes.

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Anonymous Coward

"Iran is working to get nukes."

You do realise we've heard the "WMD" story before in the UK, and the inevitable consequence of Blair's lies is that it's so much harder for anyone else playing the same game. Even if the WMD stories are true. Allegedly.

Some of us are even old enough to remember Matrix Churchill. Go read about it.

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How to make it all green

How about getting the nuclear power stations, rather than heating up water to produce steam, to drive enormous "fans" sited in front of wind-turbine farms? Then you have all the kudos of green wind-driven energy and the reliability of nuclear generation together in one package.

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Re: How to make it all green

Nurse, we have two sense-of-humour bypasses on the comments page. Get an ECT team over here at once!

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About time

I've long envied France's relative energy independence and Britain aiming for something similar is long overdue.

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Anonymous Coward

Sad...

It's sad that whenever subjects like this come up half of the comments a slagging off the French to one degree or another from a point of total ignorance.

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Meh

Re: Sad...

I suspect it's a form of envy, the french after all never *lost* their expertise in the name of spurious green projects; we have!

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Vive la Republic

Ah, vous l'anglais, nous allons vous aider avec votre enegy, et peut-être baisser le prix pour les pauvres gens français.

Voici les chiffres, en temps réel, pour la consommation française et la génération.

Ah you english, we will help you with your enegy, and perhaps lower the price for the poor french people.

Here are the figures, in real time, for the French consumption and generation.

http://www.rte-france.com/en/sustainable-development/managing-our-use-of-electricity/eco2mix-real-time-demand-production-and-co2-content-of-the-french-electricity

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Vive la Republic

Thank you Aimee, that is very useful, I hadn't seen it before (although a variety of sites offer similar info for the UK).

I note that the graph of total demand is relatively flat yesterday , perhaps because it's le weekend. So I looked at the graph for earlier in the week (randomly chose Feb 16).

Nuclear power often has a reputation for being inflexible - it's either on or it's off, but rarely is it flexible somewhere in between. Contributors here and elsewhere often quote France as a country whose operational experience disproves that reputation, a statement I've never seen backed up with facts.

The figures on your chart show that the 'nuclear'component of generation varies only between ~53GW and ~55GW on the two days I chose. IE to all intents and purposes there is no significant flexibility from the nuclear input.

The biggest contribution to 'flexibility' in France comes, according to my reading of the charts, from hydro electricity, which varies between 0 and 10GW depending on time of day.

The interconnect(s) are probably the 2nd biggest contributor to flexibility, varying between an import of ~1GW and an export of ~1GW on the day I picked. Fossil fuels aren't far behind.

In the UK, the peaks and troughs in our demand graph are further apart.

So what goes on in France that allows demand to match output, in particular what goes on that we don't (yet) do in the UK? 10GW of hydroelectricity is one big difference, especially if some of it is pumped storage. What else?

Again, thanks for the chart.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Re: Vive la Republic

There are significant differences in the way that domestic electricity is marketed in France, which may affect the demand curves. Much home heating is fully or partially electric, as simple radiators rather than off-peak night storage, which I would expect to provide some levelling with industrial use, when people turn off radiators when they go to work.

Also the monthly "standing charge" is based on a sliding scale of allowed peak. You sign up for 3, 6, 9 or 12kW tariffs at increasing fixed monthly costs, and if you exceed that then the main breaker trips. It's fairly common to see small apartments signed up for 3 or 6kW, with high-current items like washing machines connected via a load-sensitive device that switches them off if the main demand gets close to the cut-off point. That again wil level-out demand, on a per-home basis.

Do remember that the period Feb 13th to March 11th is the winter vacation period, so graphs may not be typical. If you want to see interesting numbers, look at Feb 7th, when France broke historical demand records with over 100GW demanded (temperatures were 8-10C below the average for the season across the whole country). There were calls on the TV and radio for people in parts of Brittany to reduce consumption, since that area has little local generation and the grid interconnect into the region was on the edge of overload.

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Joke

Never mind

Perhaps the nuclear power plants will need some really big fans for cooling something or other. We have lots of expertise in really big fans on poles, so that'll put us in a strong position. Perhaps we'll even be able to export the technology around the world in future.

Thank goodness we have strategic thinkers in this country.

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Boffin

«But the UK needs new nuclear capacity much sooner than that,

or the lights will start going out.» Couldn't they just put A O on a bicycle/treadmill - or preferably, have him read his stuff aloud in front of a turbine fan ? That should produce all the leccy any country, including the UK could reasonably need. Might even be able to export to the French....

Henri

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Re: I'll believe it when I see it

Indeed. I think he means 'England and Wales' rather than the UK. Countless polls have shown that those living North of the Border are dead-set against it, and unless there's a tectonic shift in power at Holyrood not one single nuclear power plant will be built in Scotland.

Sloppy reporting, Andrew - for a moment I thought this was the BBC, not El Reg.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Re: I'll believe it when I see it

> not one single nuclear power plant will be built in Scotland.

So, an indepedent Scotland with no nuclear, just as N. Sea oil & gas runs out. Nice one Alex, better get those big woolly kilts ready...

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