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US Chamber of Commerce supports Nuclear Regulatory Commission

November 2015:  The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) received news that their petition to change the application of the Linear no-threshold (LNT) model has been endorsed by the US Chamber of Commerce:

LNT_1

Why Is this good news?

In a linear ‘no-threshold’ “LNT” model (B below) has historically been used to determine safe levels of ionizing radiation. The assumption made is that the long term, biological damage caused by ionizing radiation (essentially the cancer risk) is directly proportional to the dose. Refer to line (B) below [1].

LNT_2

 

This model inherently assumes that the only way to eliminate risk is to have absolutely no dose (‘no threshold’).  What is more, cells and organisms have adapted very well to thrive in the presence radiation – since life spread on Earth.

The stringent limits that have arisen as a result of adopting the LNT model for regulatory purposes are nigh on impossible to meet for the nuclear industry, especially given the ubiquitous nature of radiation in the environment, the result is that nuclear facilities feel forced to comply with standards which demand exposure of radiation to be kept to the absolute minimum, taking unnecessarily precautions.

Alternative assumptions for the extrapolation of the cancer risk vs. radiation dose to low-dose levels, given a known risk at a high dose:

(A) supra-linearity, (B) linear
(C) linear-quadratic, (D) hormesis

Note for example, that in the ‘hormesis’ (D) model, the dose-response relationship tolerates low-level radiation (such as background); and that low levels of radiation have no detrimental effect on a biological organism, but the opposite, by being beneficial.

A white paper to guide the Scientific Committee’s future programme of work (UNSCEAR) is detailed here:  Biological mechanisms of radiation actions at low doses

Hinkley Point C timeline

Hinkley Point C is to be the first new nuclear power station to be built in the UK for almost 20 years, set to start operation in 2025.

The main achievements regarding Government policy, market reform, investment and general developments of nuclear new build are set out below:

  • January 2009:         UK Government consultation invited nominations for sites to be assessed for their suitability for the deployment of new nuclear power stations by 2025. Ten of the 11 sites nominated were deemed potentially suitable.
  • Also 2009:                 British Energy became part of EDF Energy
  • July 2011:                 Electricity market reform white paper is issued with the intention of stabilising financial returns from low-carbon generation.
  • Nov 2012 :                 An Energy Bill is formally introduced to parliament by UK energy and climate change secretary Ed Davey. This bill is designed to encourage the development of a low-carbon energy infrastructure.
  • Dec 2012:                   National Nuclear Regulators in UK have formally approved the European Pressurised Reactor (EPR) design a PWR (pressurised water reactor) design developed by Électricité de France and Areva HP in France.
  • March 2013:               Planning permission granted for two reactors to be built at Hinkley Point C.
  • October 2013:           A Strike Price deal is made between the British government and EDF of £92.50 p/MWh agreed for Hinkley Point C for  the year 2023.
  • October 2014:           European Commissioners approve Hinkley Point Project: Brussels gives go ahead to state subsidy scheme, that offers EDF Energy a set price for 35 years.
  • Sept 2015:                  UK’s Treasury announces a £2 billion loan guarantee for Hinkley Point C.
  • Oct 2015:                    China agrees to take a one-third stake in the £18 billion project. France’s EDF share in the project will be 66.5%, and China’s CGN (China General Nuclear) will be 33.5%.
  • Sept 2016:                  The UK government decides to proceed with the first new nuclear power station for a generation. However, ministers will impose a new legal framework for future foreign investment in Britain’s critical infrastructure. In ‘lessons learned’ it is also suggested that this EPR (European Pressurised Water Reactor) will be the last one ever built.
  • Mar 2017:                     The UK’s Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) has granted its first consent for the start of construction at Hinkley Point C – concrete base only.

 

UK: Power reactors planned and proposed

Proponent Site Locality Type Capacity
(MWe gross)
Construction start Start-up
EDF Energyn Hinkley Point C-1 Somerset EPR 1670 2023
Hinkley Point C-2 EPR 1670 2024
EDF Energyn Sizewell C-1 Suffolk EPR 1670? ?
Sizewell C-2 EPR 1670? ?
Horizon Wylfa Newydd 1 Wales ABWR 1380 2025
Horizon Wylfa Newydd 2 Wales ABWR 1380 2025
Horizon Oldbury B-1 Gloucestershire ABWR 1380 late 2020s
Horizon Oldbury B-2 Gloucestershire ABWR 1380 late 2020s
NuGeneration Moorside 1 Cumbria AP1000 1135 2024
NuGeneration Moorside 2 AP1000 1135 ?
NuGeneration Moorside 3 AP1000 1135 ?
China General Nuclear Bradwell B-1 Essex Hualong One 1150
China General Nuclear Bradwell B-2* Hualong One 1150
Total planned & proposed 13 units * 17,900 MWe
GE Hitachi Sellafield Cumbria 2 x PRISM 2 x 311
Candu Energy Sellafield Cumbria 2 x Candu EC6 2 x 740

The WNA Reactor Table has four EPRs as ‘planned’ (6680 MWe) and nine units (11,220 MWe) ‘proposed’.

* two units assumed for Bradwell, not confirmed.
The PRISM and EC6 options for Sellafield are alternatives for Pu disposition.

For more information on new nuclear, policy and costing, see the WNA’s website here.

Fukushima Lessons Learned

Despite the negative press, the human health effects from radiation at Fukushima have been proven to be nil.

So is it justified to label Fukushima a disaster? Perhaps the breach in the radiation levels as based on a dose-response relationship known as the linear non threshold (LNT) model is, for all intents and purposes a model which, with continued use has the potential to continue to create irrational fears about radiation.

The currently used model suggests that no radiation exposure is the only safe level. Experience tells us this is not true –  indeed at low levels,  radiation, such as sunlight, is known to have a positive effect on human health. Perhaps the expense at which compliance is enforced can do with being put into perspective to avoid over-reacting.

Sources:

May 2013 – World Nuclear News
The most extensive international report to date has concluded that the only observable health effects from the Fukushima accident stem from the stresses of evacuation and unwarranted fear of radiation.

“On the whole, the exposure of the Japanese population was low, or very low, leading to correspondingly low risks of health effects in later life” – Wolfgang Weiss (UNSCEAR)

 

March 2013 Time Magazine: Bryan Walsh

Meltdown: Despite the Fear, the health risks from the Fukushima Accident are Minimal

The World Health Organization’s (WHO) report (PDF) on the estimated health effects from the Fukushima nuclear with link to report.

June 2010 – Letter to Chris Huhne

Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change

Dear Mr. Huhne,

The Joan Pye Project congratulates you upon your appointment as Secretary for State for Energy and Climate Change. 

Who we are

The Joan Pye Project Committee is a non-profit making organisation which comprise an independent network of some 12 distant supporters: physicists, chemists and chartered engineers who have spent the major part of their careers in research and in applied areas of the power industry.  As such, we take a keen interest in all matters connected with energy production and distribution and would like to ensure that fundamental facts regarding wind turbines are unambiguously communicated to yourself and your peers.  We are particularly keen to put the case for nuclear generated electricity.

Background to the Energy Minister’s Responsibilities

Your Post must be regarded as of equal importance with that of the Chancellorship of the Exchequer, since there is no facet of our economy which is able to function without a high quality supply of electricity, able to respond to all demands, at all times.

Without such an electricity network, we have no “Economy”.   Your responsibilities are therefore onerous.

Our present national supply dates back to 1925 when the situation was seen as desperate.   Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin sought the advice of Sir John Weir, a leading Glasgow industrialist.   Weir brought in two leading consulting engineers Charles Merz and John Kennedy.   Within a year these two men drafted a detailed plan which was waved through virtually untouched to become the Electricity Supply Act of 1926.

The basic concept of large electricity generators supplying a nationwide high voltage Grid remains the backbone of our present system.

It absolutely central to the understanding of the lasting utility of the system, that it was designed and operated by highly qualified and experienced Electrical Engineers.   It is a highly technical operation, and its operating principles must be understood by any person or authority desirous of introducing significant alterations to its modus operandi.

It is a fact, greatly to be regretted, that in the uppermost echelons of Government, no trace may be found of individuals who have pursued any academic study in the field of the physical sciences, beyond GCSE level.   Those lacking this knowledge will not have the pre-requisite qualifications either to make, or to have a meaningful understanding of, the implications of advice given to them.

It is welcomed, though embryonic at this stage, that the Prime Minister has the ambition that further general scientific awareness of MPs should be implemented via the offices of the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology.   The Joan Pye Project welcomes this initiative.

This is, however, a time of seismic shocks in the electrical generation industry.   We have proposals that our one-time major source of energy, coal, should be discontinued in the middle future, that nuclear generators shall be shut as their scheduled operative life comes to an end, that inevitably gas generation shall expand, and that a variety of renewable generators shall be introduced, but principally wind power.

Energy Technology: Misconceptions vs. Facts

All aspects of our energy scenario are highly technical in their implementation and implication, but regrettably this axiom appears to have been overshadowed by the largely emotional appeal of, somehow, “free” energy.

First and foremost must be action to ensure a

“high quality supply of electricity, able to respond to all demands, at all times”. 

The Joan Pye Project wishes to draw to your attention a number of misconceptions which appear to underlie the desire of all Parliamentary Parties greatly to develop wind power.

  • All renewable energy systems harvest energy from sources which, by comparison with fossil or nuclear systems, are extremely weak; powerful though they seem from a human, lay, perspective.

 

  • Renewable energy of any variety is incapable of fulfilling the headline role of responding to demand at all times.   This is due to its fundamental inability to generate electricity on any but an intermittent basis.

 

  • In the case of wind power, the only system presently able to produce meaningful amounts of electricity, this is demonstrated by the not infrequent occurrence of high pressure (low wind speeds) becoming established, as they did during the winter of 2009-2010, over the whole of the British Isles and the contiguous sea areas, in which it is proposed to build huge wind installations.   Geographical dispersion is thus no solution to the overall lack of suitable wind.

 

  • It is frequently quoted in governmental circles, indeed within the DECC itself, that the British Isles has “the best wind resource in Western Europe”.   This may be so, however, it is still ill-matched to the wind speed requirement of the turbines themselves.   This fact is most starkly illustrated by the histogram enclosed with this letter.

 

  • If the capacity of wind generation is allowed to reach the tens of percent of total generation that its proponents desire, back-up fossil fuel generation, almost certainly open cycle gas turbines, will be needed to the extent of up to 95%.

 

  • The significance of these facts is deliberately obscured by the advocates of wind power who repeatedly quote their electrical production in the form of a total number of Mega.Watt.Hours generated during one year.   Intermittency is thus suppressed.

 


Energy Technology: Cost Facts

Turning to nuclear power, the Liberal Democratic Party has repeatedly stated;

“Nuclear power is very, very, expensive”. 

  • The latest estimate of the comparative costs of power generating systems, made by Parsons Brinkerhoff, now part of Balfour Beatty is:-

 

Tidal generation – between 16 and 38 p/kWh

Offshore wind – between 15 and 21 p/kWh

Onshore wind – between 8 and 11 p/kWh

Combined cycle gas turbine – between 6 and 11 p/kWh

Nuclear – between 6 and 8 p/kWh

This is very much in line with the findings of all similar examinations of power costs for a number of years.   Nuclear power involves no subsidies.   The definitive statement on this subject was made by the Nuclear Industries Association:-

“The UK nuclear industry is very clear that nuclear new build will not be government funded.   The government has stated categorically that there will be no subsidy provided to any new build project, the industry understands this and is more than happy to proceed with a privately funded new build project.  

  

The private sector will pay the full costs of construction, operation and decommissioning of a new build project.   Long-term wastes management costs will; also be funded by the private sector, with strict controls in place to ensure that adequate funds are being put in place for this throughout the lifetime of the plant”[1]. 

The Project hopes that these points will now be better understood.

Radioactive Waste 

Both your Party Leader and Simon Hughes have stated, on air, that

“there is no solution to the ‘problem’ of radioactive waste”.

It must be assumed that they have been referring to the High Level Waste that consists essentially of fuel withdrawn from the reactor.   A number of points must be understood;

  •  
    • Radioactivity decays.   The radio activity dies away with time.   The rate of decay is measured by the ”half-life” of the material, the time taken for the radioactivity count rate to decay to half its value .   Irradiated fuel elements have a half-life of about 35 years.   Thus after ten half-lives, some 350 years, only about one thousandth of the radio-activity remains, reducing to one millionth in 700 years.   Not tens or hundreds of thousands of years.   This figure applies to a tiny part of the material (the actinides) which is very weakly radio-active, were it not, it would not last so long.

 

  •  
    • The quantities of High Level waste are not great, being on the scale of one “lorry load” per year.

 

  •  
    • The process for the vitrification of radioactive waste is well known by the scientific community, and is used by the French at their plant at La Hague.   Waste is embodied in glass which is filled into a sealed metal containment vessel. The disposal of this vessel may be made, with complete safety, in deep granite strata.   Here it is allowed to heat the surrounding rock to a softening point when it becomes incorporated into the granite body.   By placing the vessels in the middle of thick granite beds, of the order of several kilometres, the disposal is absolutely secure and far removed from water movement, which is only of the order of millimetres over thousands of years.   Difficulty is experienced in the political and public acceptance of the process which has been thoroughly researched.

 

  •  
    • The storage and movement of any of this material is subject to security which is second to none.

 

Conclusion

It is essential that the influence of vested interests be avoided when framing policies.   This has, unfortunately, not historically been the case, a circumstance which has come about largely because those with decision making responsibilities have lacked the knowledge essential to discriminate between technical virtues of proposals driven by financial advantage rather than national interest.   This is due to the very different career structures of scientists and engineers, and politicians.

The Project would welcome the opportunity to discuss personally with you these various matters, with, of course no cost to the Treasury.

We have enclosed a copy of the SONE (Supporters of Nuclear Energy) briefing note on Electricity Supply for your information.

We write to you in the form of an open letter which is being posted on the Joan Pye website, and the text is to be passed for information to various persons and offices.

The project looks forward to your response.

Yours Sincerely,

Richard H Phillips, on behalf of the Joan Pye Project


[1] Tris Denton,  Communications Officer,  Nuclear Industry Association”

Joan Pye Memoirs Published

December 2009 sees the publication of Joan Pye’s memoirs “Atoms for the Peace”.  

The book can be ordered from www.thememoirclub.co.uk for the price of £14.95 plus £1.95 P&P.

Review from Mark Askew,  Secretary General,  The Nuclear Institute:  Since its inception in 2004 the Joan Pye Project has been a supporter of the British Nuclear Energy Society, and more recently the newly formed Nuclear Institute. Many of the charitable initiatives undertaken by both bodies would have not been possible without this support for which the bodies, the recipients and industry is suitably grateful.   This book reflects the long a interesting life shows clearly Joan’s commitment to many strongly held ideals which is respected by all who are fortunate enough to come into contact with her.”

Andrew Dilnot, Principal of St. Hugh’s College, Oxford  says: “Joan Pye’s life has been long and rich.  Her recollections and reflections are born out of a range of experience few can hope to match.    There is great energy and delight in life in evidence in this memoir, and a determination to see weighty issues taken seriously, as befits a book written by someone whose clarity of thought and composition was honed by study of the Classics in pre-war Oxford.”

JOAN PYE SPEAKS AT SUSTAINABILITY LIVE, NEC

Joan Pye will be speaking today, 19 May 2009, at Sustainability Live, a conference accompanying an exhibition on Climate Change Solutions – Generating a Low Carbon Future at the NEC.  Other speakers include:

The Rt Hon Ed Miliband – M.P Secretary of State for Energy & Climate Change;
Olwen Dutton, Chief Executive, Regional Partnership, WM Regional Assembly, West Midlands Local Government Association;

Rhian Kelly, Head of Climate Change Group, Confederation of British Industry.

Joan will be putting forwards the case for nuclear energy as a clean, green, cost-effective, proven solution to meet the UK’s energy needs.