More Cumbria fudge


The Lake district perfect spot….for a nuclear waste dump!

Before breaking up for their summer, the government revealed how it planned to complete its search for a suitable site at which to store the UK’s nuclear waste. They could put it anywhere, under the sink, behind the dresser….under the lake district national park (where they’ve always wanted to put it, but long denied this fact), anywhere really! Needless to say including a line in such a report that specifically mentions a particular site doesn’t exactly give confidence its going to be unbiased.

And the thing is we’ve been here many times before. As I discussed in a previous post, the UK government were so confident about the safety of their nuclear technology that they pushed it into a remote part of Cumbria and well away from London and the country estates of the upper class. And they’d rather keep it all there for the same reason. The trouble with this is that the locals, whose main industry is tourism, kind of don’t want to see a nuclear waste dump built under one of the UK’s favourite national parks.

Various studies have been done before and while they’ve reached many different conclusions about where the best place to site such a facility, generally the consensus would be that Cumbria, while a potential site yes, it won’t be the best option. Other alternatives include parts of Scotland, Wales, the home counties and the Midlands.

Of course while these might be acceptable sites from a geological stand point they are unacceptable from a political point of view, as you’d be upsetting so many marginal seats (as well as the devolved assemblies in Cardiff and Edinburgh who will almost certainly say no) as to guarantee the Tories will never get a majority government again. So really this process is about finding somewhere that is politically acceptable first, then trying to find the evidence to justify this decision.

Its all very reminiscent of the Yucca mountain fiasco in America. Back in the late 80’s the Reagan administration decided to dump America’s nuclear waste under a mountain in the Nevada test site. Why? Because it was a desert in the middle of nowhere in a state populated by hick’s, hillbillies, conspiracy theorists and gambling addicts. It was also so safely republican you could end up in a hole in the desert for just voting democrat. 

Well a couple of decades later, when the time came to follow through on this decision Nevada was now a swing state. And it turned out the locals did actually care and were prepared to kick up stink about the whole thing. At one point the state capital cut of water supplies to the Yucca mountain site. After the 2008 election, with Nevada senator Harry Reid in a key position to potentially block legislation, the whole thing was finally put out of its misery, although it has recently been resurrected by Trump (probably more to get back at Nevada for offending his ego and voting against him than a genuine desire concern about nuclear waste).

So its very easy to see how history could repeat itself. The Tories put their sleuths to work who scour every inch of the country asking where or where will we put this nuclear waste. Then conclude, ah feck it! we’ll just chuck it over the fence from Sealfield. Because, by a remarkable coincidence, its the best site for it. Seriously, scouts honour! The locals will kick up stink of course, hiring their own experts to pick apart the government’s position line by line, but of course they’ll be ignored and railroaded over. So they’ll lie down in front of bulldozers, fight the plan through the courts and elect anti-government politicians (likely Green party or single issue candidates), until eventually its no longer politically convenient to continue. And it gets cancelled, while in the mean time nothing gets done and we’ve wasted 20 years.

As always I do want to see a long term solution to the UK’s nuclear waste issues, but that means finding a solution that’s going to work, not something hastily cobbled together to save the blushes of politicians. Not least because if a facility is pushed through in such circumstances for all the wrong reasons, then its equally likely it will be cancelled at some future date, so the next generation of politicians can save face.

And it is this constant helicopter parenting that is what puts me off nuclear energy. In fact they are starting to transcend helicopter parenting for snow plough parenting. Consider how the government recently announced they were cancelling the Swansea bay tidal barrage on grounds of cost….even though it will cost about a tenth of what Hinkley C is going to cost. Or how we have seen some significant progress recently in wave & tidal energy research, on a shoestring budget, with almost no help from Westminster.

The little spoiled brat nuclear encounters the slightest obstacle and the government bends over backwards, signing blank cheque after blank cheque. They’ll literally move mountains for their little darling. But when anyone else asks from a few penny’s, oh sorry there’s no magic money trees.

About daryan12

Engineer, expertise: Energy, Sustainablity, Computer Aided Engineering, Renewables technology
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6 Responses to More Cumbria fudge

  1. Pingback: More Cumbria fudge — daryanenergyblog « nuclear-news

  2. jfon says:

    The ‘locals’ voted in a pro-nuclear, pro-Europe Conservative in a by-election, after the area had voted Labour for eighty years, till their pro-nuclear Labour MP quit because he couldn’t handle Corbyn. The local council was overwhelmingly in favour of the waste repository, too, just the county was against it. No matter, it’s not killing anyone where it is, and it will be easier to mine for energy if it’s not at the bottom of an expensive hole. Those actinides are going to become valuable property a lot sooner than the hundreds of thousands of years opponents talk about.
    The Swansea tidal scheme would be just as unreliable as UK solar, and worse than wind.
    ‘How do the costs of Swansea Bay stack up against Hinkley? We need to begin from the premise that Swansea Bay is not a 320 MW power station, it is a 60 MW power station when derated for capacity factor.
    Hinkley Point C has nameplate of 3200 MW and this too needs to be derated to 85% capacity factor leaving 2720 MW. The projected cost of Hinkley C is £18 billion resulting in a cost £6.6 million per installed derated MW.
    Swansea Bay has a projected cost of £1.3 billion resulting in a cost of £21.7 million per derated MW installed, 3.3 times the cost of Hinkley C. But it’s worse than that since Hinkley will produce a steady 3200 MW most of the time and can for most of the time support the grid unaided. Swansea Bay, like most renewables, will depend on the grid to provide balancing services in order to function.’

    • daryan12 says:

      You are getting two sets of constituencies mixed up, the ones close to the plant who tend to be pro-nuclear (because their jobs depend on it) and their neighbours in the rest of Cumbria who have a somewhat different view.

      You seem to forget that tidal systems can store energy, in fact that’s kind of the point of them. And you are also going on the basis of installed kW when the figure for MWh for solar (£104 MWh) & wind (£55 MWh) is easily available (and guess what, its lower than it is for nuclear). Also Swansea bay is a test facility for an emerging technology, they should be subsidised…while nuclear still needs subsidies 70 years later! In fact at around £120 MWh the Swansea bay scheme is likely to be lower than the expected cost of around £150 MWh for Hinkley C.

      Furthermore, you’re ignored the elephant in the room, nobody wants to live near a nuclear waste dump. And there’s not the political will to force it through in the places with suitable geology. Without a place to safely dispose of nuclear waste its a bit pointless continuing to build nuclear power plants. Else what will just happen is that the waste will keep piling up, there will be an accident and a panicked government will have no choice but to pull the plug on the whole thing, leaving a lot of very expensive white elephants (which is pretty much what’s happened in Japan).

      Now granted, Finland for example started building their repository before they allowed their EPR to go ahead. Which kind of makes sense. But in the absence of such policies its foolish to keep building such facilities.

      • jfon says:

        Ian Scott of Moltex Energy reckons he can use ‘waste’ as fuel.
        ‘Conventional reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel was developed to produce high purity plutonium and is thus a serious nuclear proliferation risk. It is also so expensive that it is never done for commercial reasons. The WATSS fuel conversion technology transforms this picture. It vastly simplifies the process, so a single apparatus the size of a billiard table is predicted to process as much spent nuclear fuel as the THORP plant at Sellafield – which is the size of a soccer pitch (and even more expensive than the players who play on it). Importantly, the SSR fuel output of this process does not approach anything close to the purity needed for weapons use. This level of purification would require a traditional multibillion dollar reprocessing plant.’
        He’s being given an opportunity to prove it, at Point Lepreux in New Brunswick, using spent fuel from Candu reactors. In the meantime, uranium dioxide, in zirconium tubes, in a cask, will just sit there and behave itself. No need to panic.
        Tidal schemes will not store power, without reducing their output considerably. Not only do they go from full power to zero four times a day, they also drop to half power every fortnight, and are vulnerable to offshore winds. They’re also very disruptive to the environment – a tidal power plant in South Korea is threatening a feeding stopover for the amazing bar tiled godwits, which migrate from Alaska to New Zealand. All for about at most a fifth of the power of a reactor, and that only on the inflow, as too much pollution was building up if the tidal outflow was impeded.

      • daryan12 says:

        Okay, then surely if you are so confident your magical reactor from pixie land will work that well we should declare a halt to all nuclear reactor construction worldwide along with the phase out of existing plants. After all why build reactors that are obsolete and why bury the waste?

        Its funny, I put that to nuclear cheerleaders and they seem to go all quiet. No doubt because in the back of their mind, they know it won’t work, its a fantasy. But promoting magical solutions gives you the excuse to fudge the issue and ignore the nuclear waste problem, without having to admit that’s what you are doing.

  3. jfon says:

    Non sequitur. I’m hopeful that current reactors, and new types, will reduce emissions. Some pro nuclear and industry types, like you, are very sceptical of new designs. I’m sceptical of some myself ( not from reading your critiques, I thought your treatment was deeply shallow ).
    I started out even more hopeful about renewable developments – my neck of the woods, after all, gets 100% of its power from renewables, how hard could it be ? In the ten years since I read Mark Lynas’ book ‘Six Degrees’, and watched ‘An Inconvenient Truth’, I’ve lost that enthusiasm. This website demonstrates why. Countries with mainly hydro or nuclear make low carbon power, the rest do not.
    Clearly, clean electricity is only a start, but it’s a very good start. To block it over perceived problems with spent fuel, which has never killed anyone, and whose annual world production would half fill one oil tanker, is just silly. The uranium dioxide, plus a few percent fission products and transuranics, will stay exactly where it’s put. The contents of hundreds of bulk oil and coal carriers is pouring into our atmosphere every day.

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