Minister contemplates a “dramatic reversal of decades-long government policy not to commit public funds to the construction of new reactors”

Horizon Nuclear Power (a subsidiary of Hitachi) has been granted permission to clear a square mile on which they hope to build the new Wylfa Newydd B nuclear reactor on the north coast of Anglesey, near Cemaes – reported cost being £12-16bn – double the amount quoted in 2014. Horizon have promised the planning committee in Llangefni that they will restore the site to its current condition if plans for a nuclear plant fall through. BBC Wales reports that a Development Consent Order (DCO) for the nuclear plant has not been granted and it could take at least 18 months for the planning inspectorate to reach a decision.

The former Magnox Wylfa Power Station, now being decommissioned 

A Financial Times article reports that Greg Clark, the business secretary, said the government will be considering a direct investment of £6.5bn alongside contributions from Hitachi and Japanese government agencies” – though at the estimated £77.50 per MWh, the price will still be far higher than the £57.50 per MWh price agreed for offshore wind projects in the government’s subsidy auction last year.

Greenpeace notes that there are “serious concerns about the viability and financing of the project” and has taken legal action arguing work should not start until Horizon has been given permission to build Wylfa B. People Against Wylfa B protest group and The North Anglesey Partnership, consisting of a number of local community councils, also raised concerns about “many unanswered questions”. 

In a letter to the Financial Times, David Blackburn, Vice-chairman of the UK & Ireland Nuclear Free Local Authorities Steering Committee, NFLA Secretariat, Manchester City Council, UK responded to this news.

He described the billions being offered as ‘a huge kick in the teeth’ for the nascent tidal energy sector, indicating the preference of the government for nuclear power over a much more dynamic, efficient and effective renewable energy sector.

After pointing out that Hitachi’s great rival Toshiba has been brought crashing down by its own new nuclear power programme, he asks: “Should the UK government’s energy policy really be used to prop up foreign multinationals rather than deliver a domestic industrial strategy that supporting schemes like the Swansea tidal lagoon could provide? . . . How can the government justify £6.5bn of public money at a time when our public services remain under severe pressure and the cost of renewable energy technologies continues to fall?”

As renewable energy, battery storage and “smart” energy efficiency programmes have rapidly expanded, while inflexible new nuclear power has floundered, Blackburn believes that this proposed deal needs extensive parliamentary scrutiny and a complete review of the direction of UK energy policy.  

 

 

 

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As EDF proposes that customers pay in advance for nuclear investment, their Hunterston plant crumbles

The Financial Times reports that the French state-backed power utility EDF is proposing to finance nuclear investment in Britain by charging customers upfront for new infrastructure – a technique commonly used in utilities such as water, airports and power distribution. But the nuclear industry has a poor record for delivering on time and to cost; consumers who paid up front for five to ten years would run the risk that if the reactor were delayed, over-budget or ultimately not commissioned, the power savings would not materialise and they might suffer a total loss.

Twelve years ago, British Energy found cracks in one of the two reactors at Hunterston B, with almost a fifth of the 500 boiler tubes experiencing defects. A year later Power Technology reported a sharp decline in output, with wear and tear due to high operating temperatures.

Reuters reported in May this year that the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) was informed in March 2018 about keyway root cracks found during planned inspections of graphite bricks in the core of Reactor 3 at Hunterston. EDF Energy said in a statement, “Inspections confirmed the expected presence of new keyway root cracks in the reactor core and also identified these happening at a slightly higher rate than modelled”. The ageing reactor was due to come back online in May, but EDF Energy extended the outage until later this year.

On 22nd November the Times reported that the government’s Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) announced that it had carried out the most recent checks. an ONR spokesman said “A conservative assessment of the inspection results shows that the number of cracks in reactor three exceeded the operational limit of 350 cracks in the existing safety case,” which pushed the total over government safety limits according to a BBC report. An EDF Energy spokeswoman said that the number of cracks exceeded the operational limit but added that the situation was “mitigated by the cracks being much narrower than modelled in the safety case”.

The BBC report added that Rita Holmes, chairwoman of the Hunterston Site Stakeholder Group, challenged the energy supplier, saying she did not believe reactor three should be brought back into operation and told an investigative journalist “If safety were indeed EDF’s number one priority, then reactor three would remain shut down. As it is EDF is seeking permission to restart an aged reactor, which despite huge efforts and high cost, failed to back up its current safety case”.

Other campaigners have called for the plant’s closure, objecting to the country spending more millions on ‘outdated’ power stations and adding to the growing nuclear waste pile.

 

 

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The world’s nuclear weapons & security without nuclear deterrence

Lest we forget

This post is primarily aimed at our random visitors – the overwhelming majority coming from the United States and HongKong SAR China.

Most of those on this site’s mailing list will have long known about the updated edition of ‘Security without Nuclear Deterrence’ by Commander Robert Green, Royal Navy (Ret’d),who gave the first TEDx talk on nuclear deterrence last year. Some attended its July launch in Portcullis House by Caroline Lucas MP and Vice Admiral Sir Jeremy Blackham. Dr Rebecca Johnson addressed former service people and peace movement campaigners, including Commander Rob Forsyth RN (Ret’d), a former Polaris submarine commander, who gave an excellent explanation of why he now opposes Trident.

Spokesman Books is the publishing imprint of the Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation. Bookshop  

From the new Foreword by Vice Admiral Sir Jeremy Blackham KCB MA

The nuclear-armed states and their allies cite deterrence as the primary justification for maintaining nuclear weapons. Its fallacies must therefore be exposed and alternatives offered if they are to be eliminated. As a former operator of British nuclear weapons, Commander Green chronicles the history, practical difficulties and dangerous contradictions of nuclear deterrence. He offers, instead, more credible, effective and responsible alternative strategies to deter aggression and achieve real security.

‘This is a most important contribution to the debate on a subject which is crucial to the survival of the human race, and it needs to be read with a degree of humility and with an open mind – qualities not always apparent amongst our decision makers and their advisers. So vital an issue deserves nothing less.’

Reviews from the First Edition:

‘It is hard-won wisdom that today’s nuclear-armed states and those who would follow in their footsteps would do well to heed.’
Dr Zia Mian, Princeton University

‘I commend this book to all who wish to gain a deeper understanding of nuclear deterrence, surely one of the most controversial ideas of our time.’
H.E. Sergio Duarte, former UN High Representative for Disarmament Affairs

‘One of the best informed and most searching critiques of the central strategic doctrine of the nuclear age – nuclear deterrence – that I know of.’
Jonathan Schell, author of The Fate of the Earth, Yale University

Price: £14.99, 266 pages | ISBN: 9780 85124 87, paperback
 

 

 

 

 

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Goal: a mutually and effectively verifiable Middle East Zone free of weapons of mass destruction

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A serious omission in a Financial Times article

*Dr David Lowry (right) referred to a recent article about Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s presentation on Iran’s alleged covert nuclear weapons programme.

He pointed out that Mr Netanyahu made no mention of Israel’s (undeclared) status as a nuclear-armed state (“‘Last Secret’ of 1967 War: Israel’s Doomsday Plan for Nuclear Display” New York Times, 2017).

(Ed: the Federation of American Scientists gave details of its 200 operational nuclear weapons and American U-2 planes’ 1958 confirmed the existence of Israel’s Dimona nuclear complex, located in the Negev desert. The U.S. inspected Israeli nuclear sites in the 1960s but their searches were highly restricted.)

The US issued a working paper in April this year to the preparatory committee for the review conference of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT) in Geneva

The seven-page paper asserts: “Over the course of recent decades, a number of regional states, including Iraq, Iran (Islamic Republic of), Libya and the Syrian Arab Republic, have all pursued undeclared weapons of mass destruction-related programs and activities, in violation of arms control obligation.”

The paper does not mention Israel, the only nation in the region possessing nuclear weapons and which refuses to join the NPT.

The Trump administration has argued that a regional WMD-free zone would be better achieved outside the auspices of the NPT.

Such an initiative was floated nearly 10 years ago in a Paris Summit of the Union of Mediterranean countries under the co-presidency of France and Egypt and in the presence of Israel, represented by then PM Ehud Olmert, a signatory.

The parties shall pursue a mutually and effectively verifiable Middle East Zone free of weapons of mass destruction, nuclear, chemical and biological, and their delivery systems

It concluded by supporting “regional security by acting in favor of nuclear, chemical and biological non-proliferation through adherence to and compliance with a combination of international and regional non-proliferation regimes and arms control and disarmament agreements . . . ” and added: “The parties shall pursue a mutually and effectively verifiable Middle East Zone free of weapons of mass destruction, nuclear, chemical and biological, and their delivery systems.” (www.consilium.europa.eu, 2008)

Dr Lowry ends by endorsing this agreement as one on which all parties, Iran included, could build constructively.

* Dr David Lowry acted as policy adviser and researcher for former UK environment minister Michael Meacher MP when he was shadow Secretary of State for Environmental Protection. He is now Senior Research Fellow, Institute for Resource and Security Studies, Cambridge, MA, US. Note his information-packed blog: http://drdavidlowry.blogspot.com/

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A Moseley reader comments:
Sadly, no mention of whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu and his appalling treatment at the hands of the Israeli government, without whom there would be no record of Israel’s nuclear weapons.
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So I have added from Wiki:
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In violation of his non-disclosure agreement, Vanunu revealed to the Sunday Times his knowledge of the Israeli nuclear programme, including the photographs he had secretly taken at the Dimona site. The Sunday Times was wary of being duped, especially in light of the recent Hitler Diaries hoax. As a result, the newspaper insisted on verifying Vanunu’s story with leading nuclear weapon experts, including former U.S. nuclear weapons designer Theodore Taylor and former British AWE engineer Frank Barnaby,[39] who agreed that Vanunu’s story was factual and correct. In addition, a reporter, Max Prangnell, was sent to Israel to find people who knew Vanunu and verify his story.[40] Prangnell verified Vanunu’s backstory, meeting a few people at Ben-Gurion University who identified Vanunu from a photograph, as well as meeting neighbors and others who confirmed he had worked at the Dimona nuclear plant.[41] Vanunu gave detailed descriptions of lithium-6 separation required for the production of tritium, an essential ingredient of fusion-boosted fission bombs. While both experts concluded that Israel might be making such single-stage boosted bombs, Vanunu, whose work experience was limited to material (not component) production, gave no specific evidence that Israel was making two-stage thermonuclear bombs, such as neutron bombs. Vanunu described the plutonium processing used, giving a production rate of about 30 kg per year, and stated that Israel used about 4 kg per weapon.[42][43] From this information it was possible to estimate that Israel had sufficient plutonium for about 150 nuclear weapons.[39]

BP: Somehow way back I and others in WMCND corresponded with Vanunu after a request he made whilst he was in prison. He wanted books and I asked him for a title. So all signed a copy of The Complete Shakespeare, but I later found it never reached him. The last correspondence I remember was about the entry into the Common Market – he was ardently supportive and I was against.

 

 

 

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General Synod backs the UN Treaty to Prohibit Nuclear Weapons, July 8th 2018

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General Synod Debate on the UN Treaty to Prohibit Nuclear Weapons

https://www.churchtimes.co.uk/articles/2018/13-july/news/uk/general-synod-nuclear-disarmament

This is the first time since 2007 that nuclear weapons have been debated and the focus of the debate is the UN Treaty to Prohibit Nuclear Weapons. Bishop Stephen Cottrell proposed the following motion. 

The motion read: 

That this Synod, mindful that a faithful commemoration of the centenary of the 1918 Armistice must commit the Church afresh to peace building; and conscious that nuclear weapons, through their indiscriminate and destructive potential, present a distinct category of weaponry that requires Christians to work tirelessly for their elimination across the world:

(a) welcome the 2017 UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and the clear signal it sends by a majority of UN Member States that nuclear weapons are both dangerous and unnecessary;

(b) call on Her Majesty’s Government to respond positively to the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons by reiterating publicly its obligations under Article VI of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and its strategy for meeting them; and

(c) commit the Church of England to work with its Anglican Communion and ecumenical partners in addressing the regional and international security concerns which drive nations to possess and seek nuclear weapons and to work towards achieving a genuine peace through their elimination.

The Bishop of Chelmsford’s motion was passed 260 for, 26 against, 21 abstentions. 

See General Synod 2095 briefing: https://www.churchofengland.org/sites/default/files/2018-06/GS%202095%20-%20The%20Ethics%20of%20Nuclear%20Weapons.pdf

 

 

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Ireland: scientific and political concern about the environmental impact of the Hinkley Point nuclear power station.

 

Since the 1950’s Sellafield (above) has pumped a quarter of a tonne of plutonium and a cocktail of other radioactive isotopes out of twin sea discharge pipes into the Irish Sea. Because the radioactive pollution is detectable the pollution can be traced as it flows into the seas around Britain. In April 1997 the Bedford Institute of Oceanography, Nova Scotia found Sellafield radiation had reached the Arctic. Lead researcher Dr John Smith from the Bedford Institute told the BBC last year that radioactive iodine from nuclear reprocessing plants in the UK and France has been detected deep in the waters near Bermuda. The Institute’s latest study is part of an international project called GEOTRACES that uses geochemical markers to follow ocean currents. Its findings were presented at the Goldschmidt2017 conference in Paris. As the radioactivity levels are extremely low it is believed that they present no danger.

Concern is now being voiced about the Hinkley Point project – one of five new nuclear plants planned for locations on the west coast of the UK facing Ireland.

The Times has reported that Ireland’s leading climatologist John Sweeney, emeritus professor of geography at Maynooth University, a climate change expert, told the Oireachtas committee on planning – during the recent UK government consultation – that estimates used by the UK to assess its impact were not credible. The Journal reports that the Oireachtas committee will write a submission expressing its concerns to UK authorities about plans to build the new power plant on the west coast of England.

The £20 billion Hinkley Point C facility, the first British nuclear power station to be built in 30 years, is less than 250km from Rosslare, Co Wexford. Professor Sweeney  described the scientific models used by the UK authorities to assess the risk posed by the planned nuclear power station at Hinkley Point, branding them “inadequate”:

  • Combinations of rare events occur, as demonstrated by Fukushima in 2011, where total atmospheric releases are now estimated to be between 5.6 and 8.1 times that of Chernobyl.
  • Meteorological data used was “inadequate”, relying on wind figures for three years when 30 years was the standard period required. “It’s rather dangerous to draw conclusions from a very short period. Three years of data, even ten years of data, is insufficient to characterise the wind climate at an individual location, and any modelling based on this is highly suspect.”
  • the UK government failed to take account of climate change in estimating extreme high and low water levels when the difference between the annual high water mark and a once in a 10,000-years high water level at the site of the plant was just 1.3 metres.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has predicted sea levels would continue to rise for centuries, with increases of up to three metres possible, which meant the UK’s estimates were not credible, he said.

Professor Sweeney said claimed the failure to acknowledge that there was a known flood risk meant there were “serious implications for the safety of spent fuel which is intended to be stored on site for up to a century”. The UK had failed to make any reference to the potential impact of a nuclear accident on Ireland and given its proximity this was “a serious omission”, adding that this was unlikely but should be considered.

In 2016, the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) said that the UK had failed to meet its obligations to discuss the possible impact of an incident at Hinkley on neighbouring countries and a year later added that  the UK should consider refraining from further works on the site of the new reactors.

 

 

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Just Defence Charter signatory: Air Commodore Alistair Mackie, 1922-2018, with respect

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JUST DEFENCE CHARTER

JUST DEFENCE LOGO

.As those who seek to contribute to our national security in Parliament or other positions in public and professional life, the signatories of this Charter agree: 

1. The defence of our country and of our way of life must be strong and effective. This is the right of the British people and nothing less will enjoy their support. 

2. Defence policy must be for defence only, and clearly seen as non-provocative to others. Modern technology, which has changed so much of our industrial and social life, has also transformed the nature of warfare. Conventional defence can now become doubly powerful to deny success to an aggressor through the intelligent use of new and cost-effective technology. 

3. A non-provocative doctrine of ‘defence only’, will reduce international tension and substitute policies of political detente for those of political confrontation. 

4. Those who are clearly non-provocative in their policies will be best placed to stabilise any crisis and prevent it escalating into major conflict either through fear or misunderstanding. 

5. Since weapons of mass destruction are, by their nature, threatening and provocative, British defence policy should not depend on the use of nuclear weapons. To this end Britain should phase out the storage or operation of such weapons. 

6. The early reduction to a strict minimum of strategic nuclear weapons confined to the two superpowers would be a major and welcome step towards creating the conditions of detente and mutual security which will allow for the ultimate elimination of all such weapons. 

7. World security depends on the progressive reduction of all offensive weaponry, whether nuclear or non-nuclear. A ‘Just Defence’ policy for Britain would be a significant contribution to that end; and we should seek to persuade other countries with whom we are allied or associated to adopt a similar policy. 

8.  ‘Just Defence’ must accord with the principles of international justice, as defined in the Charter of the United Nations and the judgments of the International Court of Justice. 

9. Non-provocative defence and progressive disarmament could release very large resources for the support of social, educational, and health services, and the relief of poverty and hunger in the Third World. 

We, the signatories, look forward to the emergence of a new consensus on Defence Policy in Britain whereby – whatever the differences in their detailed proposals – all political parties will construct their policies within the framework of the principles of ‘Just Defence,.

Published by ‘Just Defence’: 7 Pound Place, Eltham, London SE9 5DN.  (Address no longer in use)

A CHARTER FOR ‘JUST DEFENCE’


JUST DEFENCE LOGO

Initial signatories, in their personal capacity, include:

 Lord Beaumont

Rt Rev John Bickersteth  (Bishop of Bath & Wells)

 Professor J.W. Boag (London University)

 Rt Rev Stanley Booth-Clibborn (Bishop of Manchester)

 Sir Hugh Casson KCVO PRA

 Rev Dr Don Cupitt (Cambridge)

 Dr Bernard Dixon

 Rt Rev Tony Dumper (Bishop of Dudley)

 Colonel Sir John Figgess KBE , CMG

Professor Duncan Forrester (Edinburgh)

Cardinal Gordon J. Gray

 Rev Dr Kenneth Greet

Rt Rev Victor Guazelli (Titular Bishop of Lindisfarne  in East London)

Brigadier Michael Harbottle OBE

 Rt Rev Michael Hare-Duke (Bishop of St Andrews)

 Malcolm Harper

Professor Dorothy Hodgkin OM FRS (Oxford)

Sir Raymond Hoffenberg MD PRCP (Oxford)

Rt Rev Monsignor Patrick Kelly (Bishop of Salford)

Dr Anthony Kenny (Oxford)

Air Commodore Alastair Mackie CBE DFC

Rt Rev Hugh Montefiore (Bishop of Birmingham)

John Mortimer CBE QC

Professor John Nye FRS (Bristol)

Most Rev Keith 0’Brien (Archbishop of Edinburgh)

Jonathon Porritt

Professor Harry Ree  CBE DSO Croix de Guerre

Professor Joseph Rotblat  CBE (London)

Rt Rev David Sheppard (Bishop of Liverpool)

Rev Dr Kenneth Slack  MBE

Professor Hugh Tinker (Lancaster)

Rev Canon Kenyon Wright (Scottish Churches Council)

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Undated but preamble included a reference to the 1987 election

 

 

 


 

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