Have you ever thought that nuclear energy and new nuclear power stations in particular are a waste of time? By this I mean that they take so long to build, so long in operation and so long to clean up that time and resources are wasted which could be more productively, safely and economically spent on other ways of producing electricity.
There is no time to waste in opposing the building of these gigantic stations, which will create highly radioactive waste posing risks for evermore. Who knows what conditions will be like in the far future when the generations to come will be left with an unimaginable and unmanageable problem?
The six ages of nuclear
We might consider the time-scales of nuclear energy in terms of six different phases each of which is a waste of time……leaving no time to waste if we are to avoid handing on to succeeding generations problems which time may not heal.
Phase 1. Time to consider.
Bradwell was chosen in 2009 as an existing nuclear site where it was thought the local communities were used to nuclear power and would welcome it. In other words, they could continue to be dumped on. All it needed was a company to take it on and that duly came as part of the ‘Golden Relationship’ with China proclaimed by George Osborne when he handed the Bradwell site to the Chinese President on his state visit to Britain in 2015.
Phase 1 – around 10 years. WARNING – Danger. On 11 March, 2011 disaster at Fukushima nuclear power station, Japan, and evacuation of local populations.
Phase 2. Time to decide.
The Bradwell B decision phase kicked off in 2018 with preliminary site investigations by the developer China General Nuclear Power Group (CGN) to test whether the site was capable of development. At the same time the Chinese HPR 1000 reactor – not yet operating anywhere – is undergoing a Generic Design Assessment (GDA) by the UK regulator. The project must later go through the planning process to test whether the site is suitable and acceptable for nuclear reactors and the long-term storage of highly radioactive wastes. Assuming the project gets the go-ahead, it will still be up to the developer to find the finance to commit to the project.
Phase 2 – around 12 years. WARNING – Rising costs. Construction costs of Hinkley Point have soared to £18bn.
Phase 3. Time to Develop.
Construction time is difficult to forecast and varies widely with a global average of 7.5 years but delays and occasional cancellations can stretch the time span to 10 years and beyond.
Phase 3 – around 10 years. WARNING – Delays. Olkiluoto in Finland begun 2005, 8 years late so far with cost overrun of €5.5bn. Flamanville France, 11 years construction and still far from finished.
Phase 4. Time to operate.
If all goes smoothly (a very big ‘IF’’) Bradwell could start operating sometime in the 2030s and continue for around 60 years until the end of this century. For much of this time it is likely to have a fixed price per kwh to consumers. This is likely to be well above the market price as renewable sources of power will be much cheaper.
Phase 4 – around 60 years. WARNING – High costs to consumers as inflexible, high fixed price nuclear capacity displaces cheaper, more flexible, renewables.
Phase 5. Decommissioning and Clean-up.
Eventually the ageing reactors must be shut down and the period of dismantling, waste conditioning and clean-up is a slow, complex, tedious, potentially dangerous process. The highly radioactive spent fuel and other wastes will have to be stored safely on site for around 50 years before they are sent to a deep repository for disposal, if there is one available.
Phase 5 – up to 100 years. WARNING – Climate change predictions of sea-level rise and associated storm surges will threaten low-lying coastal sites like Bradwell to the point where the wastes become unmanageable and contaminate the land and marine environment.
Phase 6. Into the Unknown.
Beyond the end of the next century conditions at nuclear sites are unknowable. We cannot know what society will be like by then, let alone whether people will have the skills, resources and commitment to deal with the nuclear legacy. If a repository is not available, then the remaining wastes may be left indefinitely on a vulnerable site.
Phase 6 – indefinite. WARNING – Dangerous radioactive wastes remain in deteriorating and uncontrolled conditions posing risks to environment and humans for the unforeseeable future.
It takes a long time, a generation at least, to take a new nuclear power station from gestation to production but then an indefinite post-production period producing nothing but leaving behind a dangerous burden for the far future to deal with – if they can.
In every sense new nuclear is a waste of time and there is no time to waste in opposing it. Bradwell should be stopped now before the long-term danger and damage begin.