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Dear Sir/Madam,

Could escalating costs and renewables mean ‘game over’ for nuclear power and Sizewell C? EADT 4th January

What a lot of nonsense EdF uses in its increasingly desperate attempt to justify the building of their second white elephant in the UK (Could escalating costs and renewables mean ‘game over’ for nuclear power and Sizewell C? EADT 4th January). Dr Dorfman’s arguments that escalating costs and the competitiveness of renewables will see off nuclear power are entirely sound and should – in a rational world - see EdF pack its bags and leave us in peace. But we live in an Orwellian time where common sense is swept aside by half-truths and distortions and where a loose relationship with reality from those in positions of power and influence has become acceptable, such as the recent ludicrous claim by MP Therese Coffey – a former Environment minister no less – that nuclear power is carbon free or the claim made by regulators who should and in fact do know better that exposure to routine levels of radiation are harmless.

The raw fuel which drives renewables arrives at the turbine blade in the form of wind or the solar panel in the form of sunlight or the barrage in the form of tidal rise and fall free of charge. Nuclear power depends on uranium as its fuel. This has to be mined, processed, enriched and fabricated into fuel rods. It is a finite resource which will be exhausted sometime in the future, sooner than we may think. A huge reactor building has to be built. Environments have to be trashed, roads built, thousands of transitory workers accommodated. Rural areas turned into blighted urban environments. Houses knocked down or compulsorily purchased. Lives wrecked. These are the only things that remain constant between Hinkley and Sizewell and from which we should learn.

Once irradiated in a reactor, uranium is transformed into 200 daughter by-products, some of which are not only lethal to living organisms but which remain so for tens of thousands of years. Despite EdF’s repeated trotting out of another half-truth – that the waste problem ‘has been solved’ – there remains a huge legacy of waste from existing reactors and nuclear reprocessing estimated to be around 500,000 cubic metres in volume. New wastes such as that from Hinkley or a notional Sizewell C will be of ‘higher burn up’, left in the reactor for longer, leaving the fuel much hotter and more radioactive than even the lethal PWR spent fuel now stored at Sizewell from the ‘B’ plant and leaving this community to involuntarily bear the burden of a de facto high level waste store for decades, centuries or indefinitely.

The availability of high grade, relatively cheap uranium was one of the conditions which lead Tony Blair to claim, in 2005, that new nuclear should come back on the agenda ‘with a vengeance’. He argued that nuclear generated electricity would increase security of supply. How wrong he was. Uranium does not exist in the UK in mineable concentrations. About half of world production comes from just ten mines in six countries, in Canada, Australia, Niger, Kazakhstan, Russia and Namibia so high grade supplies into the future are far from guaranteed. But the huge unknown is disposal costs. Despite 15 years of effort and the spending of billions of tax payers’ money, we are no nearer a universally agreed means of managing spent nuclear fuel and other nuclear wastes than we were in 2005 – and no nearer understanding how much it will cost and who will pay.

EdF’s claim that by following the Hinkley model, Sizewell costs will be reduced is fatuous. What lessons have been learned from the Flammanville experience to make the construction of Hinkley cheaper? If each subsequent new build of the same design reduce costs so much, why is Hinkley over budget and overdue? It is axiomatic that Sizewell would be – if ever built, which is looking less likely by the day – likewise over budget and overdue. If the company can reduce costs so easily, why do they argue that Sizewell C cannot be built without transferring the costs to the public purse through the Regulated Asset Base process which is euphemism for robbing the public through their electricity bills? What happened to a subsidy-free industry? The two sites are not comparable and the chances of building a replica are remote within the constraints of the Sizewell site. Components fail, regardless of prior experience, policies are reviewed, supply chains change, the availability of resources fluctuate and as our knowledge about the health impacts of ingesting or inhaling uranium particulates increases, the true cost of nuclear will be revealed. We must embrace a renewables future based on energy efficiency, decentralisation and conservation, scrap the fixation with ‘baseload’ for the outdated target it is and massively invest UK tax revenues in a reinvigorated domestic renewables industry rather than lining the pockets of foreign companies.

Sincerely

Pete Wilkinson

Chair, Together Against Sizewell C

Category: Local Letters