Category Archives: Energy

My lengthy battle to abandon fossil fuels

We can all agree to go carbon-neutral, but how easy is it? A Network editor describes his battle to abandon fossil fuels.

LONDON, 1 September, 2021− After decades of reporting on climate change and the inaction of governments in averting the coming tragedy of an overheated planet, for me the issue has gradually become more personal. Just how hard is it for anyone in the United Kingdom to become carbon-neutral? The answer: for me it took a long battle to abandon fossil fuels.

My journey to cutting my own carbon emissions began ten years ago with moving house. Our 1930s bungalow needed a new roof and updating − an opportunity to put into practice some of the carbon-saving schemes that had filled so many column inches and helped earn my living down the years.

The refurbishment was an opportunity to pack large amounts of insulation into the roof, walls and under the floor. More light entered the building through triple-glazed skylights installed in a green roof. Then came solar panels and a wood-burning stove.

The building works were essential anyway, so the extra cost of a bungalow that was warmer, lighter and cheaper to run was fairly small. Adding a second conservatory for a cactus collection was a luxury, but later proved a valuable passive heating source, especially in spring and autumn.

Selling the surplus electricity from the solar panels to the grid made me feel better too, as well as netting £1,000 (US$1,375) a year from the UK’s then generous government feed-in tariff. When the sun was not shining and we needed to buy electricity, it came from a company relying on its own wind and solar sources.

“If the meter was removed and the gas pipe remained we could easily steal the gas. Charming!”

The bungalow still used a gas-condensing boiler for heating water − a long way from carbon neutrality. The next step, when the old petrol car died, was to buy the smallest hybrid on the market, promising 80 miles per gallon and achieving an average of 60.

For a short while this was enough, but an unexpected financial windfall was an opportunity to pay for the installation of an array of solar panels on the roof of the local community centre. This became my personal carbon offset scheme and still cheers me up whenever I walk past it. The panels also provide income for the community.

So far, so good. But despite its wood-burning stove, the bungalow still needed plenty of gas for both hot water and central heating, creating a sizeable carbon footprint. Earlier this year I received an offer to install an air-source heat pump.

It wasn’t cheap – £13,000 (US$17,890), including fitting new radiators and a new larger super-insulated water tank – but it came with a promise of a  government subsidy of £8,500 (US$11,700 ) – payable in quarterly instalments over seven years.

There were a few hoops to jump through before installation – like proving my home had been improved as much as it could be in terms of energy efficiency. Fortunately it passed an expensive survey with flying colours.

Wrong answers

The installation took three days. The heat pump was anchored on the green roof for maximum efficiency and the gas boiler was removed.

Up to then every step I’d taken towards carbon neutrality had been relatively easy in terms of gaining feed-in tariffs and complying with paperwork. The heat pump subsidy and getting rid of the gas supply, however, proved harder.

The UK government’s heat pump subsidy scheme is operated by the consumer watchdog Ofgem, Britain’s energy regulator. Filling in its forms online was difficult because many questions were technical and inevitably, despite my best efforts, it decided some answers were wrong.

Bizarrely, this led to my being accused of attempted fraud and possible money laundering in my attempt to get a subsidy for installing the heat pump.

I had to send copies of my bank statements and driving licence to a web address my computer told me was not secure. It took a full four months of email exchanges and telephone calls to the “help” line to solve these problems. Just when I thought I would have to get my Member of Parliament involved on my behalf, Ofgem unexpectedly relented and awarded me the grant.

Free at last

Meanwhile a second battle was under way. The gas company continued to charge its 30 pence (US41 cents) daily standard rate for a gas supply that I no longer used or wanted. This would amount to £100 a year. To stop this charge continuing indefinitely we were told we had to have the gas meter removed.

Despite repeated attempts this proved almost impossible to organise – removing a gas meter was apparently an unheard-of service, and a meter could not be removed unless the householder paid another £800 to have the gas supply removed entirely from the property, back to the main supply pipe beneath the road.

This was necessary, we were told, because if the meter was removed and the gas pipe remained we could easily steal the gas. Charming!

Eventually, after much emailing, a few telephone calls and unkept appointments, a very competent gas fitter turned up and removed the meter. The gas supply pipe remains, but is sealed shut.

Time, and the coming winter, will tell whether the heat pump works as well as the gas, but just at the moment it is good to feel free of fossil fuels. While it will never be possible to atone for all those journalistic flights and carefree foreign holidays, I am, at least, at last no longer making things worse. − Climate News Network

We can all agree to go carbon-neutral, but how easy is it? A Network editor describes his battle to abandon fossil fuels.

LONDON, 1 September, 2021− After decades of reporting on climate change and the inaction of governments in averting the coming tragedy of an overheated planet, for me the issue has gradually become more personal. Just how hard is it for anyone in the United Kingdom to become carbon-neutral? The answer: for me it took a long battle to abandon fossil fuels.

My journey to cutting my own carbon emissions began ten years ago with moving house. Our 1930s bungalow needed a new roof and updating − an opportunity to put into practice some of the carbon-saving schemes that had filled so many column inches and helped earn my living down the years.

The refurbishment was an opportunity to pack large amounts of insulation into the roof, walls and under the floor. More light entered the building through triple-glazed skylights installed in a green roof. Then came solar panels and a wood-burning stove.

The building works were essential anyway, so the extra cost of a bungalow that was warmer, lighter and cheaper to run was fairly small. Adding a second conservatory for a cactus collection was a luxury, but later proved a valuable passive heating source, especially in spring and autumn.

Selling the surplus electricity from the solar panels to the grid made me feel better too, as well as netting £1,000 (US$1,375) a year from the UK’s then generous government feed-in tariff. When the sun was not shining and we needed to buy electricity, it came from a company relying on its own wind and solar sources.

“If the meter was removed and the gas pipe remained we could easily steal the gas. Charming!”

The bungalow still used a gas-condensing boiler for heating water − a long way from carbon neutrality. The next step, when the old petrol car died, was to buy the smallest hybrid on the market, promising 80 miles per gallon and achieving an average of 60.

For a short while this was enough, but an unexpected financial windfall was an opportunity to pay for the installation of an array of solar panels on the roof of the local community centre. This became my personal carbon offset scheme and still cheers me up whenever I walk past it. The panels also provide income for the community.

So far, so good. But despite its wood-burning stove, the bungalow still needed plenty of gas for both hot water and central heating, creating a sizeable carbon footprint. Earlier this year I received an offer to install an air-source heat pump.

It wasn’t cheap – £13,000 (US$17,890), including fitting new radiators and a new larger super-insulated water tank – but it came with a promise of a  government subsidy of £8,500 (US$11,700 ) – payable in quarterly instalments over seven years.

There were a few hoops to jump through before installation – like proving my home had been improved as much as it could be in terms of energy efficiency. Fortunately it passed an expensive survey with flying colours.

Wrong answers

The installation took three days. The heat pump was anchored on the green roof for maximum efficiency and the gas boiler was removed.

Up to then every step I’d taken towards carbon neutrality had been relatively easy in terms of gaining feed-in tariffs and complying with paperwork. The heat pump subsidy and getting rid of the gas supply, however, proved harder.

The UK government’s heat pump subsidy scheme is operated by the consumer watchdog Ofgem, Britain’s energy regulator. Filling in its forms online was difficult because many questions were technical and inevitably, despite my best efforts, it decided some answers were wrong.

Bizarrely, this led to my being accused of attempted fraud and possible money laundering in my attempt to get a subsidy for installing the heat pump.

I had to send copies of my bank statements and driving licence to a web address my computer told me was not secure. It took a full four months of email exchanges and telephone calls to the “help” line to solve these problems. Just when I thought I would have to get my Member of Parliament involved on my behalf, Ofgem unexpectedly relented and awarded me the grant.

Free at last

Meanwhile a second battle was under way. The gas company continued to charge its 30 pence (US41 cents) daily standard rate for a gas supply that I no longer used or wanted. This would amount to £100 a year. To stop this charge continuing indefinitely we were told we had to have the gas meter removed.

Despite repeated attempts this proved almost impossible to organise – removing a gas meter was apparently an unheard-of service, and a meter could not be removed unless the householder paid another £800 to have the gas supply removed entirely from the property, back to the main supply pipe beneath the road.

This was necessary, we were told, because if the meter was removed and the gas pipe remained we could easily steal the gas. Charming!

Eventually, after much emailing, a few telephone calls and unkept appointments, a very competent gas fitter turned up and removed the meter. The gas supply pipe remains, but is sealed shut.

Time, and the coming winter, will tell whether the heat pump works as well as the gas, but just at the moment it is good to feel free of fossil fuels. While it will never be possible to atone for all those journalistic flights and carefree foreign holidays, I am, at least, at last no longer making things worse. − Climate News Network

China’s cash for UK nuclear plants is in doubt

Cooler Sino-British relations mean China’s cash for UK nuclear plants is at risk − and success at the COP26 climate talks.

LONDON, 16 August, 2021 − A serious stumbling block now threatens the prospect of China’s cash for UK nuclear plants materialising − and also the likelihood of a successful outcome to COP26, the global climate conference which the British government is due to host later this year.

In order to finance the construction of nuclear stations that are supposed to generate up to 20% of the UK’s electricity, the British government needs Chinese money. Without it, the already prohibitively expensive projects may become completely unaffordable.

Neither the deeply indebted French government-owned company EDF, which is building two stations, each with twin reactors, nor the UK  government is prepared to underwrite the entire cost of the projects. This is because of the huge sums required − around £45 billion (US$62bn).

However, the UK government faces severe political pressure to end Chinese involvement, because of the perceived threat of ceding control over vital services such as the electricity supply.

Problematic deal

The problem for Boris Johnson, the UK prime minister, is particularly acute as Britain is hosting COP26, this year’s UN climate conference, in Glasgow in November. Relations between the UK and China are already poor, in part because of disputes over democratic freedoms for the people of Hong Kong.

But with China the world’s largest carbon emitter, Johnson needs it onside if he is to have a chance of making COP26 the success it must be to avert catastrophic climate change.

The problem over funding the nuclear programme arises because of a deal struck in 2015 between the then British prime minister, David Cameron, and China’s president Xi Jinping.

That agreed that China would stump up one third of the £23bn ($32bn) cost of the Hinkley C nuclear power station in the West of England, and also pay 20% of the cost of another planned station, Sizewell C, on the east coast. In return the Chinese could then build a nuclear plant of their own design at Bradwell B in Essex, closer to London, and use it as a platform to export their Hualong HPR1000 reactor technology to the rest of the world.

“With China the world’s largest carbon emitter, Johnson needs it onside if he is to have a chance of making COP26 the success it must be”

To President Xi the cost of helping to fund the French company to build nuclear stations in Britain was outweighed by the advantage of getting Chinese technology validated in the UK as a bridge to future exports.

Six years later, however, with the Hinkley Point project well under way and Sizewell C supposedly close to launch, the British government is now nervous about allowing the Chinese such a strong involvement in the UK’s nuclear secrets and the nation’s power supply.

Its dilemma, though, is that if the UK reneges on its 2015 agreement, then China could abandon both projects, leaving a financial black hole of many billions of pounds. Trades unions are horrified at the potential loss of jobs the possible cancellation of the projects would cause.

One alternative to Chinese funding is a UK nuclear tax which would be paid in advance by electricity users to fund the construction of the power stations. With power bills already due to rise by more than 10% in Britain before the end of 2021, this is unlikely to be an electorally popular solution.

Renewable competition

What will happen is anyone’s guess. Given Johnson’s well-known habit of postponing difficult decisions, and the looming COP26, it is likely that nothing will be announced until the crucial Glasgow talks are over. The French, in anticipation, have already announced that they are postponing the “final investment decision” on Sizewell C until next year.

Meanwhile the renewable energy industry, particularly offshore wind, is powering ahead with a massive construction programme. Its projects will all produce electricity far more cheaply than any of the UK’s proposed new nuclear stations.

Last ditch attempts by the nuclear industry to put a green gloss on its proposals by persuading ministers that its spare electricity capacity can be used to make green hydrogen seem unlikely to succeed.

Perhaps in time it will become obvious to Johnson that if banning Chinese involvement in British nuclear plants means they end up not being built that will be a bonus, because cheaper renewable energy will soon be available to fill any perceived gap in supply. − Climate News Network

Cooler Sino-British relations mean China’s cash for UK nuclear plants is at risk − and success at the COP26 climate talks.

LONDON, 16 August, 2021 − A serious stumbling block now threatens the prospect of China’s cash for UK nuclear plants materialising − and also the likelihood of a successful outcome to COP26, the global climate conference which the British government is due to host later this year.

In order to finance the construction of nuclear stations that are supposed to generate up to 20% of the UK’s electricity, the British government needs Chinese money. Without it, the already prohibitively expensive projects may become completely unaffordable.

Neither the deeply indebted French government-owned company EDF, which is building two stations, each with twin reactors, nor the UK  government is prepared to underwrite the entire cost of the projects. This is because of the huge sums required − around £45 billion (US$62bn).

However, the UK government faces severe political pressure to end Chinese involvement, because of the perceived threat of ceding control over vital services such as the electricity supply.

Problematic deal

The problem for Boris Johnson, the UK prime minister, is particularly acute as Britain is hosting COP26, this year’s UN climate conference, in Glasgow in November. Relations between the UK and China are already poor, in part because of disputes over democratic freedoms for the people of Hong Kong.

But with China the world’s largest carbon emitter, Johnson needs it onside if he is to have a chance of making COP26 the success it must be to avert catastrophic climate change.

The problem over funding the nuclear programme arises because of a deal struck in 2015 between the then British prime minister, David Cameron, and China’s president Xi Jinping.

That agreed that China would stump up one third of the £23bn ($32bn) cost of the Hinkley C nuclear power station in the West of England, and also pay 20% of the cost of another planned station, Sizewell C, on the east coast. In return the Chinese could then build a nuclear plant of their own design at Bradwell B in Essex, closer to London, and use it as a platform to export their Hualong HPR1000 reactor technology to the rest of the world.

“With China the world’s largest carbon emitter, Johnson needs it onside if he is to have a chance of making COP26 the success it must be”

To President Xi the cost of helping to fund the French company to build nuclear stations in Britain was outweighed by the advantage of getting Chinese technology validated in the UK as a bridge to future exports.

Six years later, however, with the Hinkley Point project well under way and Sizewell C supposedly close to launch, the British government is now nervous about allowing the Chinese such a strong involvement in the UK’s nuclear secrets and the nation’s power supply.

Its dilemma, though, is that if the UK reneges on its 2015 agreement, then China could abandon both projects, leaving a financial black hole of many billions of pounds. Trades unions are horrified at the potential loss of jobs the possible cancellation of the projects would cause.

One alternative to Chinese funding is a UK nuclear tax which would be paid in advance by electricity users to fund the construction of the power stations. With power bills already due to rise by more than 10% in Britain before the end of 2021, this is unlikely to be an electorally popular solution.

Renewable competition

What will happen is anyone’s guess. Given Johnson’s well-known habit of postponing difficult decisions, and the looming COP26, it is likely that nothing will be announced until the crucial Glasgow talks are over. The French, in anticipation, have already announced that they are postponing the “final investment decision” on Sizewell C until next year.

Meanwhile the renewable energy industry, particularly offshore wind, is powering ahead with a massive construction programme. Its projects will all produce electricity far more cheaply than any of the UK’s proposed new nuclear stations.

Last ditch attempts by the nuclear industry to put a green gloss on its proposals by persuading ministers that its spare electricity capacity can be used to make green hydrogen seem unlikely to succeed.

Perhaps in time it will become obvious to Johnson that if banning Chinese involvement in British nuclear plants means they end up not being built that will be a bonus, because cheaper renewable energy will soon be available to fill any perceived gap in supply. − Climate News Network

Wind power bids to save the North Sea oil industry

Can the world’s largest floating offshore wind farms help the North Sea oil industry to cut carbon emissions? Should they?

LONDON, 12 July, 2021 – In one sense it is a renewable energy scheme that ticks all the wrong boxes. The idea is to help the North Sea oil industry survive longer by saving oil rigs money.

In another way the development is a great leap forward. Altogether 200 turbines are planned in two offshore wind farms that, without any public subsidy, will produce as much power as three large nuclear power stations.

The floating farms will be able to provide the forest of oil platforms in the North Sea with all the electricity they need, and also to produce surplus energy to supply large amounts of green hydrogen for sale.

The developer, Cerulean Winds, believes the key to the scheme’s success lies in the oil industry’s current need to use expensive gas piped to its platforms to generate the electricity needed to light and power its operations and pump the oil ashore. By selling the industry cheaper wind energy, it judges that it can make a profit without government subsidy, thereby avoiding months of negotiation and red tape.

Hearts and minds

Electricity generated direct from floating turbines near the oil fields would both undercut the current cost of generation and substantially reduce the carbon footprint of the offshore oil industry – something the industry has pledged to do and is desperate to achieve, to avoid not only further public opposition, but also carbon taxes.

The platform operators are committed to reducing their carbon emissions by 10% by 2025 and 25% by 2027, so buying carbon-free electricity would be a significant help.

The project will cost £10 billion (US$13.8bn), and the developers hope to be installing the turbines by 2024-2026, an ambitious timetable for such a huge project compared with the 10-20 years needed to plan and build a nuclear power station.

One farm will be sited in the Central Graben area of the North Sea, almost halfway to Norway, and the second west of Shetland.

“The UK oil and gas industry’s emissions have to be cut significantly to make production greener”

The development will far exceed the UK’s current target of 1GW of floating wind power by 2030. If it is successful it will cut installation costs substantially, paving the way for even bigger projects. Cerulean says it wants to install 14 to 15MW turbines – far larger than anything currently deployed.

One key aspect of the project is its ability to produce more power than the oil platforms will need, with the surplus going to produce green hydrogen (using electrolysis to split water into hydrogen and oxygen) for which there is a growing market.

Green hydrogen’s problem has been that it is more expensive than hydrogen produced from fossil fuels, so-called grey hydrogen, which is carbon-intensive and needs unproven carbon capture and storage technology to make its production acceptable to the environment movement.

The future of what is called the hydrogen economy is still uncertain, but Cerulean predicts it will be able to produce enough green hydrogen to yield export potential worth £1bn.

Race against time

It says speed is essential for the project because its success depends on selling its electricity to the oil industry in time to for that to reach its carbon reduction targets. So it has already submitted proposals to the Scottish Government for seabed leases.

The dubious carrot it is offering the UK and Scottish governments is the prospect that it can help to keep the North Sea oil and gas industry producing fossil fuels for longer. Cerulean believes that if the industry can avoid carbon taxes and penalties for its emissions, it will be able to continue production.

Dan Jackson and Mark Dixon, the founders of the company, are industry veterans. Jackson says the UK has world-leading targets for the energy transition but needs a sense of urgency and “joined-up thinking.”

If oil platforms do not cut their pollution by the mid-2020s, he believes, increased emission penalties through carbon taxes will see many North Sea fields becoming uneconomic and facing shut-down.

Greener production?

“That would seriously compromise the UK oil and gas industry’s role in home-grown energy security,” he says. “It must remain a vital element in the transition journey for decades to come, but emissions have to be cut significantly to make the production greener.”

Cerulean says many of the current 160,000 jobs would be protected by its plan, with potentially 200,000 new roles in the wind and hydrogen industry within five years.

It is, many energy analysts would say, a brave company, perhaps even a foolhardy one. Not only are most climate scientists adamantly opposed to the continued use of fossil fuels. So too, increasingly, is the market. From that perspective, Cerulean’s joined-up thinking may very soon need to stretch a whole lot further. – Climate News Network

Can the world’s largest floating offshore wind farms help the North Sea oil industry to cut carbon emissions? Should they?

LONDON, 12 July, 2021 – In one sense it is a renewable energy scheme that ticks all the wrong boxes. The idea is to help the North Sea oil industry survive longer by saving oil rigs money.

In another way the development is a great leap forward. Altogether 200 turbines are planned in two offshore wind farms that, without any public subsidy, will produce as much power as three large nuclear power stations.

The floating farms will be able to provide the forest of oil platforms in the North Sea with all the electricity they need, and also to produce surplus energy to supply large amounts of green hydrogen for sale.

The developer, Cerulean Winds, believes the key to the scheme’s success lies in the oil industry’s current need to use expensive gas piped to its platforms to generate the electricity needed to light and power its operations and pump the oil ashore. By selling the industry cheaper wind energy, it judges that it can make a profit without government subsidy, thereby avoiding months of negotiation and red tape.

Hearts and minds

Electricity generated direct from floating turbines near the oil fields would both undercut the current cost of generation and substantially reduce the carbon footprint of the offshore oil industry – something the industry has pledged to do and is desperate to achieve, to avoid not only further public opposition, but also carbon taxes.

The platform operators are committed to reducing their carbon emissions by 10% by 2025 and 25% by 2027, so buying carbon-free electricity would be a significant help.

The project will cost £10 billion (US$13.8bn), and the developers hope to be installing the turbines by 2024-2026, an ambitious timetable for such a huge project compared with the 10-20 years needed to plan and build a nuclear power station.

One farm will be sited in the Central Graben area of the North Sea, almost halfway to Norway, and the second west of Shetland.

“The UK oil and gas industry’s emissions have to be cut significantly to make production greener”

The development will far exceed the UK’s current target of 1GW of floating wind power by 2030. If it is successful it will cut installation costs substantially, paving the way for even bigger projects. Cerulean says it wants to install 14 to 15MW turbines – far larger than anything currently deployed.

One key aspect of the project is its ability to produce more power than the oil platforms will need, with the surplus going to produce green hydrogen (using electrolysis to split water into hydrogen and oxygen) for which there is a growing market.

Green hydrogen’s problem has been that it is more expensive than hydrogen produced from fossil fuels, so-called grey hydrogen, which is carbon-intensive and needs unproven carbon capture and storage technology to make its production acceptable to the environment movement.

The future of what is called the hydrogen economy is still uncertain, but Cerulean predicts it will be able to produce enough green hydrogen to yield export potential worth £1bn.

Race against time

It says speed is essential for the project because its success depends on selling its electricity to the oil industry in time to for that to reach its carbon reduction targets. So it has already submitted proposals to the Scottish Government for seabed leases.

The dubious carrot it is offering the UK and Scottish governments is the prospect that it can help to keep the North Sea oil and gas industry producing fossil fuels for longer. Cerulean believes that if the industry can avoid carbon taxes and penalties for its emissions, it will be able to continue production.

Dan Jackson and Mark Dixon, the founders of the company, are industry veterans. Jackson says the UK has world-leading targets for the energy transition but needs a sense of urgency and “joined-up thinking.”

If oil platforms do not cut their pollution by the mid-2020s, he believes, increased emission penalties through carbon taxes will see many North Sea fields becoming uneconomic and facing shut-down.

Greener production?

“That would seriously compromise the UK oil and gas industry’s role in home-grown energy security,” he says. “It must remain a vital element in the transition journey for decades to come, but emissions have to be cut significantly to make the production greener.”

Cerulean says many of the current 160,000 jobs would be protected by its plan, with potentially 200,000 new roles in the wind and hydrogen industry within five years.

It is, many energy analysts would say, a brave company, perhaps even a foolhardy one. Not only are most climate scientists adamantly opposed to the continued use of fossil fuels. So too, increasingly, is the market. From that perspective, Cerulean’s joined-up thinking may very soon need to stretch a whole lot further. – Climate News Network

Orkney’s renewable energy to fuel foreign needs

The tough climate of the North Atlantic is an ideal proving ground for Orkney’s renewable energy boom.

LONDON, 2 July, 2021 − A surplus of electricity from renewable sources is a luxury that many communities in a world threatened by climate change might wish for. This is the happy situation of Orkney, a wind-swept archipelago 10 miles (16 kms) north of the Scottish mainland on the edge of the Atlantic. Orkney’s renewable energy, a success at home, may soon be supplying consumers further afield.

Using a combination of wind, sun, tides and waves, the islands have been producing more than 100% of the electricity the residents need since 2013, and have now reached 130%.

The islanders are exploiting their renewable riches by developing a variety of pioneering schemes. Many are being installed by Scottish engineering companies that hope they will be scaled up and will benefit the rest of Europe, and of the entire world.

Orkney is home to the European Marine Energy Centre, which is successfully testing wave and tidal machines. But the islands are also pioneering other technologies and putting the surplus electricity to good use.

Spare power is already used to make hydrogen and oxygen. The Orcadians plan to use hydrogen to power the fleet of small boats they need to connect the populations of nine of the largest inhabited islands, and the fleet of larger ferries linking them to mainland Scotland.

“Where you have a coastline and some waves, there is an opportunity”

The 22,000 people of the islands have enthusiastically embraced renewable energy, with more than 1,000 households generating their own power, covering over 10% of the population. There is also a high take-up of electric vehicles – 267 at the last count.

The Orkney Islands Council is pushing for an interconnector linking Orkney and the mainland to export its surplus energy, which a recent report suggests could be worth up to £807 million (€938m) annually to the local economy.

This would mean building more wind turbines in the outlying islands, and also connecting tidal and wave energy installations to the grid.

The Orkney Renewable Energy Forum promotes all forms of renewables on the islands and details more than a dozen pioneering projects that have come to Orkney for testing.

Costs to dive

Because of the frequently stormy weather and exposure to the Atlantic rollers, Orkney has been attractive for companies needing especially to test novel wave power machines and undersea turbine installations. The sheer number of experiments allows Orkney to claim to be a world leader in the field.

Underwater turbines, known also as tidal stream turbines, were first tried in the islands. They exploit strong undersea currents and are now a proven technology. MeyGen began by successfully installing four 1.5 megawatt turbines between Orkney and the mainland. They performed better than expected, and a much larger development is now under way.

Although the United Kingdom has now left the European Union, the tidal technology developed in Orkney and Shetland – the island group to the north – is destined for wider European use. The EU has ambitious targets for generating tidal energy and companies are racing to exploit the many undersea tidal resources along the Atlantic and North Sea coastlines.

They believe that costs will fall as the technology develops, and predictable tidal currents will produce the regular output highly desirable for keeping electricity grids stable.

Wave machines, however, have not been so successful. Although some have clearly worked and produced power, the last push to full commercial deployment has proved difficult, and some companies have gone bankrupt.

South Seas beckon

Engineers have not given up, however, and the latest wave machine, 20 metres long and weighing 38 tonnes, has been towed to the islands and is currently being installed before tests start.

There are ambitious plans to connect it to the grid to prove that the technology lives up the maker’s claims that hundreds of such machines could power millions of homes.

Cameron McNatt of Mocean Energy, which is developing the machine, has high hopes for Orkney’s renewable energy. He said: “Scotland and the North Sea are really good proving grounds for this technology, and where you have a coastline and some waves, there is an opportunity.

“We anticipate our technology being used all over the world. Outside of Europe, the United States is a big target market for us, as is Australia and the Oceania region.” − Climate News Network

The tough climate of the North Atlantic is an ideal proving ground for Orkney’s renewable energy boom.

LONDON, 2 July, 2021 − A surplus of electricity from renewable sources is a luxury that many communities in a world threatened by climate change might wish for. This is the happy situation of Orkney, a wind-swept archipelago 10 miles (16 kms) north of the Scottish mainland on the edge of the Atlantic. Orkney’s renewable energy, a success at home, may soon be supplying consumers further afield.

Using a combination of wind, sun, tides and waves, the islands have been producing more than 100% of the electricity the residents need since 2013, and have now reached 130%.

The islanders are exploiting their renewable riches by developing a variety of pioneering schemes. Many are being installed by Scottish engineering companies that hope they will be scaled up and will benefit the rest of Europe, and of the entire world.

Orkney is home to the European Marine Energy Centre, which is successfully testing wave and tidal machines. But the islands are also pioneering other technologies and putting the surplus electricity to good use.

Spare power is already used to make hydrogen and oxygen. The Orcadians plan to use hydrogen to power the fleet of small boats they need to connect the populations of nine of the largest inhabited islands, and the fleet of larger ferries linking them to mainland Scotland.

“Where you have a coastline and some waves, there is an opportunity”

The 22,000 people of the islands have enthusiastically embraced renewable energy, with more than 1,000 households generating their own power, covering over 10% of the population. There is also a high take-up of electric vehicles – 267 at the last count.

The Orkney Islands Council is pushing for an interconnector linking Orkney and the mainland to export its surplus energy, which a recent report suggests could be worth up to £807 million (€938m) annually to the local economy.

This would mean building more wind turbines in the outlying islands, and also connecting tidal and wave energy installations to the grid.

The Orkney Renewable Energy Forum promotes all forms of renewables on the islands and details more than a dozen pioneering projects that have come to Orkney for testing.

Costs to dive

Because of the frequently stormy weather and exposure to the Atlantic rollers, Orkney has been attractive for companies needing especially to test novel wave power machines and undersea turbine installations. The sheer number of experiments allows Orkney to claim to be a world leader in the field.

Underwater turbines, known also as tidal stream turbines, were first tried in the islands. They exploit strong undersea currents and are now a proven technology. MeyGen began by successfully installing four 1.5 megawatt turbines between Orkney and the mainland. They performed better than expected, and a much larger development is now under way.

Although the United Kingdom has now left the European Union, the tidal technology developed in Orkney and Shetland – the island group to the north – is destined for wider European use. The EU has ambitious targets for generating tidal energy and companies are racing to exploit the many undersea tidal resources along the Atlantic and North Sea coastlines.

They believe that costs will fall as the technology develops, and predictable tidal currents will produce the regular output highly desirable for keeping electricity grids stable.

Wave machines, however, have not been so successful. Although some have clearly worked and produced power, the last push to full commercial deployment has proved difficult, and some companies have gone bankrupt.

South Seas beckon

Engineers have not given up, however, and the latest wave machine, 20 metres long and weighing 38 tonnes, has been towed to the islands and is currently being installed before tests start.

There are ambitious plans to connect it to the grid to prove that the technology lives up the maker’s claims that hundreds of such machines could power millions of homes.

Cameron McNatt of Mocean Energy, which is developing the machine, has high hopes for Orkney’s renewable energy. He said: “Scotland and the North Sea are really good proving grounds for this technology, and where you have a coastline and some waves, there is an opportunity.

“We anticipate our technology being used all over the world. Outside of Europe, the United States is a big target market for us, as is Australia and the Oceania region.” − Climate News Network

Ireland presses UN to agree a global fracking ban

Campaign groups urging the United Nations to adopt a global fracking ban say they have won the backing of Ireland.

This report slightly updates one published on 17 May by The Energy Mix, and republished here by courtesy of them.

OTTAWA, 30 June, 2021 − A grassroots group from Ireland which has been seeking to persuade the Irish government to call for a global fracking ban at the UN General Assembly in mid-September, just six weeks before this year’s UN climate conference, COP-26, convenes in Glasgow, is making progress.

“Ireland has not yet agreed to such an initiative, so it is vitally important that the Irish government can witness that this move would have broad societal support,” wrote Johnny McElligott of Safety Before LNG, in an appeal early last month obtained by The Energy Mix.

But on 18 May the Irish government published the world’s first policy statement against fracked gas imports, a move which Safety Before LNG says requires the government to agree to propose a resolution at the UN calling for a global fracking ban. Organisations can sign the Global Ban on Fracking petition in English, French or Spanish.

The national government had earlier expressed “Ireland’s willingness to tackle powerful fracked gas vested interests head on, and express solidarity and empathy with communities in Pennsylvania, Texas, Northern Ireland, Namibia, Botswana, Argentina, and worldwide affected by, or threatened with, the scientifically-proven harmful process of fracking,” McElligott had said.

“But we want Ireland to go even further by calling for a Global Ban on Fracking at the UN,” so that grassroot groups will no longer have to “reinvent the wheel each time the fracking companies come into new territories.”

Rapid action possible

It may be a very long shot, trying to push a notoriously process-driven, global institution to exert pressure on a global climate conference known for moving at a glacial pace − when it moves at all.

But the first step is to get a UN member state to propose a resolution, and “Ireland is uniquely well-positioned to lead the effort against fracked gas,” wrote Friends of the Earth Ireland, with a “strong legislative ban on fracking” already in place, the import ban coming up, and legislation recently introduced to pull the state investment fund out of fossil fuels.

Building on that history, “Ireland can move very quickly on this because it is possible to bring forward a UN General Assembly resolution at any time,” McElligott told The Mix. Groups lodged the request with Green-affiliated Climate Action Minister Éamon Ryan on Earth Day, 22 April, and “as Ireland has already banned fracking, then it would only be calling for the same in a UN resolution,” he added.

“If a large number of groups from all over the world sign this petition of support for a UN resolution on banning fracking, it will be a clear message to the Irish government to answer the call that it cannot ignore.”

Once a resolution reached the General Assembly, “a resolution coming from a global-south and a  global-north member state would send a clear message, and we believe that a strong global campaign will deliver at least the 50%-plus majority that we need,” he added.

“The fracking companies will try to come back if they get half a chance. We are not safe until everybody is safe”

“If groups campaigning for human rights, climate mitigation, environmental protection, and public health engage with this campaign, we have a very realistic hope of success.”

A successful General Assembly resolution ahead of COP-26 “would bring the elephant in the room − which is methane leakage from fracking − front and centre,” McElligott added.

The push for the Irish government to back the resolution “follows on from an open letter to the UN Secretary-General in 2019, signed by over 450 grassroots groups, organisations, celebrities, and scientists from around the world, which demanded that the UN champion efforts to stop fracking,” Friends of the Earth says.

“Since then, a core group of these international campaigners has been doing a lot of the background work in finding a Member State that would propose this resolution at the UN,” McElligott explained, while a group of specialists in human rights law prepared a draft resolution that could be presented at the UN in support of a global fracking ban.

Despite the focus on international institutions, Safety Before LNG’s motivations are decidedly local as well as global. “The communities that live in the Lough Allen gas basin in Ireland believe they are not safe until there is a global ban,” McElligott wrote.

Pressure on COP-26

“The company that initially tried to frack in Ireland has now applied for a fracking licence in Northern Ireland, where legislation to ban fracking has still not gotten across the line.”

Despite the national ban in 2017, “our experience fighting the fracking companies over the years has taught us that they will try to come back if they get half a chance, so we all feel under threat. We are not safe until everybody is safe.”

In Canada, Environnement Vert Plus spokesperson Pascal Bergeron said a UN resolution “could be a major game changer, and affect gas pipeline and LNG projects, among others, all across North America.” But not by prompting Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to take a strong stand against fracking at the General Assembly.

“I expect him to say how they can make fracking better and climate-friendly, which will always remain false” when fossil gas “can only contribute to the increase of GHG levels in the atmosphere,” he said.

But “a UN resolution against fracking will put pressure on all heads of state who wish to appear to be making climate their priority. If the UN rules against fracking, Trudeau and President Joe Biden will have to tie their climate commitments to policies of rapid fossil fuel exploitation decline at COP-26.” − Climate News Network (by courtesy of  The Energy Mix)

Campaign groups urging the United Nations to adopt a global fracking ban say they have won the backing of Ireland.

This report slightly updates one published on 17 May by The Energy Mix, and republished here by courtesy of them.

OTTAWA, 30 June, 2021 − A grassroots group from Ireland which has been seeking to persuade the Irish government to call for a global fracking ban at the UN General Assembly in mid-September, just six weeks before this year’s UN climate conference, COP-26, convenes in Glasgow, is making progress.

“Ireland has not yet agreed to such an initiative, so it is vitally important that the Irish government can witness that this move would have broad societal support,” wrote Johnny McElligott of Safety Before LNG, in an appeal early last month obtained by The Energy Mix.

But on 18 May the Irish government published the world’s first policy statement against fracked gas imports, a move which Safety Before LNG says requires the government to agree to propose a resolution at the UN calling for a global fracking ban. Organisations can sign the Global Ban on Fracking petition in English, French or Spanish.

The national government had earlier expressed “Ireland’s willingness to tackle powerful fracked gas vested interests head on, and express solidarity and empathy with communities in Pennsylvania, Texas, Northern Ireland, Namibia, Botswana, Argentina, and worldwide affected by, or threatened with, the scientifically-proven harmful process of fracking,” McElligott had said.

“But we want Ireland to go even further by calling for a Global Ban on Fracking at the UN,” so that grassroot groups will no longer have to “reinvent the wheel each time the fracking companies come into new territories.”

Rapid action possible

It may be a very long shot, trying to push a notoriously process-driven, global institution to exert pressure on a global climate conference known for moving at a glacial pace − when it moves at all.

But the first step is to get a UN member state to propose a resolution, and “Ireland is uniquely well-positioned to lead the effort against fracked gas,” wrote Friends of the Earth Ireland, with a “strong legislative ban on fracking” already in place, the import ban coming up, and legislation recently introduced to pull the state investment fund out of fossil fuels.

Building on that history, “Ireland can move very quickly on this because it is possible to bring forward a UN General Assembly resolution at any time,” McElligott told The Mix. Groups lodged the request with Green-affiliated Climate Action Minister Éamon Ryan on Earth Day, 22 April, and “as Ireland has already banned fracking, then it would only be calling for the same in a UN resolution,” he added.

“If a large number of groups from all over the world sign this petition of support for a UN resolution on banning fracking, it will be a clear message to the Irish government to answer the call that it cannot ignore.”

Once a resolution reached the General Assembly, “a resolution coming from a global-south and a  global-north member state would send a clear message, and we believe that a strong global campaign will deliver at least the 50%-plus majority that we need,” he added.

“The fracking companies will try to come back if they get half a chance. We are not safe until everybody is safe”

“If groups campaigning for human rights, climate mitigation, environmental protection, and public health engage with this campaign, we have a very realistic hope of success.”

A successful General Assembly resolution ahead of COP-26 “would bring the elephant in the room − which is methane leakage from fracking − front and centre,” McElligott added.

The push for the Irish government to back the resolution “follows on from an open letter to the UN Secretary-General in 2019, signed by over 450 grassroots groups, organisations, celebrities, and scientists from around the world, which demanded that the UN champion efforts to stop fracking,” Friends of the Earth says.

“Since then, a core group of these international campaigners has been doing a lot of the background work in finding a Member State that would propose this resolution at the UN,” McElligott explained, while a group of specialists in human rights law prepared a draft resolution that could be presented at the UN in support of a global fracking ban.

Despite the focus on international institutions, Safety Before LNG’s motivations are decidedly local as well as global. “The communities that live in the Lough Allen gas basin in Ireland believe they are not safe until there is a global ban,” McElligott wrote.

Pressure on COP-26

“The company that initially tried to frack in Ireland has now applied for a fracking licence in Northern Ireland, where legislation to ban fracking has still not gotten across the line.”

Despite the national ban in 2017, “our experience fighting the fracking companies over the years has taught us that they will try to come back if they get half a chance, so we all feel under threat. We are not safe until everybody is safe.”

In Canada, Environnement Vert Plus spokesperson Pascal Bergeron said a UN resolution “could be a major game changer, and affect gas pipeline and LNG projects, among others, all across North America.” But not by prompting Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to take a strong stand against fracking at the General Assembly.

“I expect him to say how they can make fracking better and climate-friendly, which will always remain false” when fossil gas “can only contribute to the increase of GHG levels in the atmosphere,” he said.

But “a UN resolution against fracking will put pressure on all heads of state who wish to appear to be making climate their priority. If the UN rules against fracking, Trudeau and President Joe Biden will have to tie their climate commitments to policies of rapid fossil fuel exploitation decline at COP-26.” − Climate News Network (by courtesy of  The Energy Mix)

Nuclear legacy is a costly headache for the future

How do you safely store spent nuclear waste? No-one knows. It’ll be a costly headache for our descendants.

LONDON, 28 June, 2021 − Many states are leaving future generations an unsolved and costly headache: how to deal with highly dangerous nuclear waste.

The decision to start closing down the United Kingdom’s second generation of nuclear power stations earlier than originally planned has highlighted the failure of governments to resolve the increasingly expensive problem of the waste they leave behind them.

Heat-producing radioactive spent fuel needs constant cooling for decades to avoid catastrophic accidents, so future generations in countries that have embraced nuclear power will all be paying billions of dollars a year, every year, for at least the next century or two to deal with this highly dangerous legacy.

A report by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and its Nuclear Energy Agency looks at 12 member countries facing the problem: Belgium, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Japan, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the UK and the US.

The report shows that none of the 12 has yet got to grips with the legacy bequeathed by producing nuclear waste. None has any means yet of disposing of it. It says every country must quickly realise that the money the industry has put aside to deal with the problem is inadequate, leaving successive future generations with the bill for keeping themselves safe.

Failure to progress

Finland is closest to dealing with the internationally preferred route for making spent nuclear fuel safe: building an underground repository in rocks deep underground to store and ultimately seal up the waste in this final burial place.

The Finns have actually started building such a facility and regard it as the complete solution to the problem, even though it is still decades away from completion.

Finland’s progress is a shining example to the rest of the nuclear world. International rules require countries that create nuclear waste to deal with it within their own borders − yet most governments have failed to make progress on doing so. Some have spent decades looking for a suitable site and have failed to find one.

This has often been because local opposition has forced governments to abandon a chosen location, or because scientists judge the site too dangerous to store wastes for the required 100,000 years or so, because of poor geology. They may suspect a risk that the radioactivity could leak into water supplies, or rise to the surface and kill unwary future generations.

The funding shortfall has become much more problematic because of low inflation and the current Covid pandemic. Governments previously put money aside on the assumption that economies would constantly grow and positive interest rates would create massive long-term investments.

The UK, one of the pioneer nuclear states because of its race to develop a nuclear bomb, is a classic example of leaving the grandchildren to pay for nuclear wastes.

But the current low or negative return on government bonds means investments made in the past and designed to pay huge future bills will no longer be enough to deal with the cost of spent fuel and other high-level wastes.

The report says governments’ assumptions have proved optimistic. It is not directly critical of governments, but points out that “the polluter pays” principle is not being applied. New funding needs to be found, it says, if future generations are not to be saddled with this generation’s expensive and life-threatening legacy.

The UK, one of the pioneer nuclear states because of its race to develop a nuclear bomb, is a classic example of leaving the grandchildren to pay for past and present nuclear wastes.

As early as 1976, in the Flowers Report on nuclear power and the environment, the UK was warned that it should not build any more nuclear power stations until it had found a way of getting rid of the waste. The government agreed.

Since then, for more than 40 years, successive governments have been looking for a repository to make good on their promise. But none has yet been found, and none is expected until the current target date of 2045.

True cost unknown

Yet the OECD says the original nuclear weapons programme, plus the first generation of nuclear stations, now all closed, are costing today’s taxpayers US$4.58 billion a year (£3.3bn) just to manage the waste and keep the population safe. The cost is around $185bn (£133bn) for 17 sites over 120 years. There could be liabilities of another $200bn (£144bn) to restore the installations to greenfield sites.

The second generation of nuclear stations can call on the Nuclear Liabilities Fund, set up by the UK government when the French company EDF took over the newer British advanced gas cooled reactors (AGRs) in 2009 so that money from electricity sales could be invested to pay for de-fuelling and decommissioning at the end of their lives. The first of these, Dungeness B, on the English Channel coast, started de-fuelling this month.

The cost of dismantling this generation of reactors is estimated at $28.57bn (£20.59bn) by EDF  $10bn more than the Nuclear Liabilities Fund provides for. This shortfall is almost certainly a large under-estimate because the actual cost of closing the stations and storing the waste is unknown, let alone that of restoring the sites to greenfield conditions.

Partly this is because AGRs have never yet been taken out of service before there is a disposal route for the waste. If none is found, taxpayers will have to pay to keep it safe in closely managed stores for many decades.

Despite this, the current UK government is now building a new nuclear station at Hinkley Point in the West of England, and wants to build many more. Meanwhile the mounting financial liabilities for future generations who will need to keep the waste safe in a time of climate change are left unresolved. And so the costly headache remains for countless generations to come. − Climate News Network

How do you safely store spent nuclear waste? No-one knows. It’ll be a costly headache for our descendants.

LONDON, 28 June, 2021 − Many states are leaving future generations an unsolved and costly headache: how to deal with highly dangerous nuclear waste.

The decision to start closing down the United Kingdom’s second generation of nuclear power stations earlier than originally planned has highlighted the failure of governments to resolve the increasingly expensive problem of the waste they leave behind them.

Heat-producing radioactive spent fuel needs constant cooling for decades to avoid catastrophic accidents, so future generations in countries that have embraced nuclear power will all be paying billions of dollars a year, every year, for at least the next century or two to deal with this highly dangerous legacy.

A report by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and its Nuclear Energy Agency looks at 12 member countries facing the problem: Belgium, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Japan, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the UK and the US.

The report shows that none of the 12 has yet got to grips with the legacy bequeathed by producing nuclear waste. None has any means yet of disposing of it. It says every country must quickly realise that the money the industry has put aside to deal with the problem is inadequate, leaving successive future generations with the bill for keeping themselves safe.

Failure to progress

Finland is closest to dealing with the internationally preferred route for making spent nuclear fuel safe: building an underground repository in rocks deep underground to store and ultimately seal up the waste in this final burial place.

The Finns have actually started building such a facility and regard it as the complete solution to the problem, even though it is still decades away from completion.

Finland’s progress is a shining example to the rest of the nuclear world. International rules require countries that create nuclear waste to deal with it within their own borders − yet most governments have failed to make progress on doing so. Some have spent decades looking for a suitable site and have failed to find one.

This has often been because local opposition has forced governments to abandon a chosen location, or because scientists judge the site too dangerous to store wastes for the required 100,000 years or so, because of poor geology. They may suspect a risk that the radioactivity could leak into water supplies, or rise to the surface and kill unwary future generations.

The funding shortfall has become much more problematic because of low inflation and the current Covid pandemic. Governments previously put money aside on the assumption that economies would constantly grow and positive interest rates would create massive long-term investments.

The UK, one of the pioneer nuclear states because of its race to develop a nuclear bomb, is a classic example of leaving the grandchildren to pay for nuclear wastes.

But the current low or negative return on government bonds means investments made in the past and designed to pay huge future bills will no longer be enough to deal with the cost of spent fuel and other high-level wastes.

The report says governments’ assumptions have proved optimistic. It is not directly critical of governments, but points out that “the polluter pays” principle is not being applied. New funding needs to be found, it says, if future generations are not to be saddled with this generation’s expensive and life-threatening legacy.

The UK, one of the pioneer nuclear states because of its race to develop a nuclear bomb, is a classic example of leaving the grandchildren to pay for past and present nuclear wastes.

As early as 1976, in the Flowers Report on nuclear power and the environment, the UK was warned that it should not build any more nuclear power stations until it had found a way of getting rid of the waste. The government agreed.

Since then, for more than 40 years, successive governments have been looking for a repository to make good on their promise. But none has yet been found, and none is expected until the current target date of 2045.

True cost unknown

Yet the OECD says the original nuclear weapons programme, plus the first generation of nuclear stations, now all closed, are costing today’s taxpayers US$4.58 billion a year (£3.3bn) just to manage the waste and keep the population safe. The cost is around $185bn (£133bn) for 17 sites over 120 years. There could be liabilities of another $200bn (£144bn) to restore the installations to greenfield sites.

The second generation of nuclear stations can call on the Nuclear Liabilities Fund, set up by the UK government when the French company EDF took over the newer British advanced gas cooled reactors (AGRs) in 2009 so that money from electricity sales could be invested to pay for de-fuelling and decommissioning at the end of their lives. The first of these, Dungeness B, on the English Channel coast, started de-fuelling this month.

The cost of dismantling this generation of reactors is estimated at $28.57bn (£20.59bn) by EDF  $10bn more than the Nuclear Liabilities Fund provides for. This shortfall is almost certainly a large under-estimate because the actual cost of closing the stations and storing the waste is unknown, let alone that of restoring the sites to greenfield conditions.

Partly this is because AGRs have never yet been taken out of service before there is a disposal route for the waste. If none is found, taxpayers will have to pay to keep it safe in closely managed stores for many decades.

Despite this, the current UK government is now building a new nuclear station at Hinkley Point in the West of England, and wants to build many more. Meanwhile the mounting financial liabilities for future generations who will need to keep the waste safe in a time of climate change are left unresolved. And so the costly headache remains for countless generations to come. − Climate News Network

Nuclear industry’s propaganda war rages on

With renewable energy expanding fast, the nuclear industry’s propaganda war still claims it helps to combat climate change.

LONDON, 3 June, 2021 − To maintain the assertion that it is still a key part of the struggle to limit the climate crisis, the global nuclear industry’s propaganda war is unremitting in its attempt to avoid oblivion in the world’s democracies.

At stake are thousands of well-paid power station jobs, but also a potential rise in electricity prices if funds are diverted away from cheaper options for generating power. Central to the debate is how governments can best cut fossil fuel use in time to save the world from catastrophic climate change.

There is not much middle ground. On one side are trade unions with many members in the nuclear industry, large companies with political clout and a vested interest in building the infrastructure needed, and numerous politicians, many of them in nuclear weapons states.

On the other are most climate scientists, environmental campaigners, economists, and cutting edge industries that see wind, solar and tidal power, batteries and other emerging technologies as the path to far more jobs, a cleaner future, and a possible route out of potential disaster. There are also those who fear the proliferation of nuclear weapons.

Lack of balance

Very little of this debate takes place where it should, in national parliaments. In some countries, like the UK and the US, nearly all politicians support the nuclear industry, so there is little discussion of its merits.

Many of the “news” clips and pro-nuclear articles that appear in the media are carefully crafted and come from “think tank” sources close to − and often indirectly funded by − the nuclear industry. They are designed to show nuclear science in a good light.

This lack of balance is not surprising. Journalists find it difficult to penetrate an opaque and highly technical industry that has a wildly optimistic view of its own potential. Its costs, construction timetables, and beliefs in its probable sales have hardly ever actually been met in the industry’s 70-year history. Yet it goes on making its rosy predictions.

There has been a series of announcements in the West in the last five years about SMRs, advanced and IV generation reactors. Lost already? That is the idea: bamboozle politicians and the public with jargon and false hopes of a technical miracle, and you are halfway to getting your hands on taxpayers’ money to fund further research and create a new generation of reactors, to be built some time soon – although that time never seems to arrive.

“Journalists find it difficult to penetrate an opaque and highly technical industry that has a wildly optimistic view of its own potential”

Just to demonstrate what often seems deliberate obscurity: an SMR can be a small modular reactor, or a small to medium reactor. It could also be an advanced reactor. All this is explained on a helpful World Nuclear Association website which takes you through the potential sizes of reactors and explains the 70 or so designs.

Take one example. Rolls-Royce offers SMRs on its UK website. They turn out not to be small, having grown to 470 megawatts, much larger than the 300 megawatt maximum official definition of a small reactor. The company would now describe them as advanced reactors, although they are based on a generic design as old as the industry.

Modular also has two meanings in this context. It could mean the reactor is made in sections in a factory and assembled on site, thus (it is claimed) dramatically reducing costs. But it can also mean that each reactor becomes a module in a much larger nuclear station.

Rolls-Royce reckons it needs an order book of 16 reactors to justify building a factory that could turn reactors out, like its cars, on a production line. It is both trying to persuade the UK government to place a large number of orders and is combing the world for other governments willing to do so.

Military link

Nuclear detractors point out that creating a factory able to provide production line economies of scale for nuclear reactors is a tall order. Also, neither the UK government nor Rolls-Royce has come up with sites where any reactors could be placed. Perhaps the most telling point is that there is no need for that much expensive electricity when renewables plus energy storage could provide it more cheaply and quickly.

Most nuclear weapons states acknowledge the link between their civil and weapons industries. Canada is one of the few non-nuclear weapons states that has bought into the nuclear industry’s hype and is still actively promoting SMRs.

There is a backlash from academics who fear nuclear proliferation, as well as from those who question the economics and viability of the “new” designs.

In one sense the nuclear enthusiasts are winning the propaganda war because many governments are actively encouraging work on the design of SMRs – and still shelling out billions of dollars in taxpayers’ money to support research and development.

On the other hand everything is still in the prototype stage and has been for years. As yet no foundation stones for nuclear reactor factories have been laid. And while we wait for the long-promised nuclear breakthrough, cheaper wind and solar farms are being built rapidly across the planet. As each comes on stream it helps to erode the already flimsy case for nuclear power. − Climate News Network

With renewable energy expanding fast, the nuclear industry’s propaganda war still claims it helps to combat climate change.

LONDON, 3 June, 2021 − To maintain the assertion that it is still a key part of the struggle to limit the climate crisis, the global nuclear industry’s propaganda war is unremitting in its attempt to avoid oblivion in the world’s democracies.

At stake are thousands of well-paid power station jobs, but also a potential rise in electricity prices if funds are diverted away from cheaper options for generating power. Central to the debate is how governments can best cut fossil fuel use in time to save the world from catastrophic climate change.

There is not much middle ground. On one side are trade unions with many members in the nuclear industry, large companies with political clout and a vested interest in building the infrastructure needed, and numerous politicians, many of them in nuclear weapons states.

On the other are most climate scientists, environmental campaigners, economists, and cutting edge industries that see wind, solar and tidal power, batteries and other emerging technologies as the path to far more jobs, a cleaner future, and a possible route out of potential disaster. There are also those who fear the proliferation of nuclear weapons.

Lack of balance

Very little of this debate takes place where it should, in national parliaments. In some countries, like the UK and the US, nearly all politicians support the nuclear industry, so there is little discussion of its merits.

Many of the “news” clips and pro-nuclear articles that appear in the media are carefully crafted and come from “think tank” sources close to − and often indirectly funded by − the nuclear industry. They are designed to show nuclear science in a good light.

This lack of balance is not surprising. Journalists find it difficult to penetrate an opaque and highly technical industry that has a wildly optimistic view of its own potential. Its costs, construction timetables, and beliefs in its probable sales have hardly ever actually been met in the industry’s 70-year history. Yet it goes on making its rosy predictions.

There has been a series of announcements in the West in the last five years about SMRs, advanced and IV generation reactors. Lost already? That is the idea: bamboozle politicians and the public with jargon and false hopes of a technical miracle, and you are halfway to getting your hands on taxpayers’ money to fund further research and create a new generation of reactors, to be built some time soon – although that time never seems to arrive.

“Journalists find it difficult to penetrate an opaque and highly technical industry that has a wildly optimistic view of its own potential”

Just to demonstrate what often seems deliberate obscurity: an SMR can be a small modular reactor, or a small to medium reactor. It could also be an advanced reactor. All this is explained on a helpful World Nuclear Association website which takes you through the potential sizes of reactors and explains the 70 or so designs.

Take one example. Rolls-Royce offers SMRs on its UK website. They turn out not to be small, having grown to 470 megawatts, much larger than the 300 megawatt maximum official definition of a small reactor. The company would now describe them as advanced reactors, although they are based on a generic design as old as the industry.

Modular also has two meanings in this context. It could mean the reactor is made in sections in a factory and assembled on site, thus (it is claimed) dramatically reducing costs. But it can also mean that each reactor becomes a module in a much larger nuclear station.

Rolls-Royce reckons it needs an order book of 16 reactors to justify building a factory that could turn reactors out, like its cars, on a production line. It is both trying to persuade the UK government to place a large number of orders and is combing the world for other governments willing to do so.

Military link

Nuclear detractors point out that creating a factory able to provide production line economies of scale for nuclear reactors is a tall order. Also, neither the UK government nor Rolls-Royce has come up with sites where any reactors could be placed. Perhaps the most telling point is that there is no need for that much expensive electricity when renewables plus energy storage could provide it more cheaply and quickly.

Most nuclear weapons states acknowledge the link between their civil and weapons industries. Canada is one of the few non-nuclear weapons states that has bought into the nuclear industry’s hype and is still actively promoting SMRs.

There is a backlash from academics who fear nuclear proliferation, as well as from those who question the economics and viability of the “new” designs.

In one sense the nuclear enthusiasts are winning the propaganda war because many governments are actively encouraging work on the design of SMRs – and still shelling out billions of dollars in taxpayers’ money to support research and development.

On the other hand everything is still in the prototype stage and has been for years. As yet no foundation stones for nuclear reactor factories have been laid. And while we wait for the long-promised nuclear breakthrough, cheaper wind and solar farms are being built rapidly across the planet. As each comes on stream it helps to erode the already flimsy case for nuclear power. − Climate News Network

Old King Coal is forced at last to pull out of Asia

Solar is much better than fossil fuel for bringing electricity to the poor, so Old King Coal is quitting Asia.

LONDON, 14 May, 2021 − The Asian Development Bank (ADB), which serves more than half the world’s population, has decided it will no longer finance coal for electric generation and heating plants and instead will aid poor countries in the rapid phase-out of existing coal plants. So for Old King Coal, it’s good-bye to Asia.

The bank’s new policy document says coal has no future if developing countries are to avoid the worst effects of climate change. It aims to phase out all coal plants in Asia by the middle of the century.

Despite the shift in policy, the plan remains to equip the entire population of the region the bank serves with access to electricity by 2030. It will also commit US$80 billion between now and 2030 to support climate change mitigation and adaption in the most vulnerable communities.

The bank’s decision is important because the Asia-Pacific region is home to the largest proportion of the world’s population and to many of its poorest people. It includes both China and India and also many island states in the Pacific.

ADB says the region’s progress in poverty reduction and economic growth has been remarkable, but that reliance on coal has not solved the problem of access to electricity. Fossil fuels are harming the region’s environment and accelerating climate change.

Vulnerable region

Because of this reliance on coal the bank’s developing member countries contribute 45% of the world’s emissions of carbon dioxide from the energy sector. “With continued economic growth, emissions from these countries will further increase if energy systems continue to rely on the expanded use of fossil fuels,” the policy document says.

In addition to the challenges of climate change mitigation, many member countries “are highly exposed and vulnerable to natural hazards and impacts of climate change, such as the growing frequency and intensity of extreme weather events, sea level rise, changes in rainfall patterns, and increasing temperatures.

“Disaster-related losses are already growing due to insufficient regard for climate and disaster risk in either the design or location of new infrastructure. Climate change impacts and disruption of ecosystem services can lead to severe effects on livelihoods and food security, which in turn would affect human health.

“Indeed, the region is known to be the most vulnerable in the world to natural disasters, from typhoons and flooding to earthquakes and tsunamis.

“To become truly sustainable, economic growth must be decoupled from environmental degradation.”

“Investors have already caught on to the fact that coal can no longer be the least-cost option”

Instead of investing in coal, the bank will give priority to energy efficiency and renewable energy. Even without coal, it believes it can secure a grid supply by 2030 for the 200 million people in the Asia-Pacific region who still lack access to electricity. This, it says, can be done best with renewables, especially solar power.

The bank says some countries have made notable strides with electrification since 2010. One of the greatest success stories is Cambodia, where electrification has increased from 31% in 2010 to 93% in 2018.

South Asia, as a whole, has extended electricity services to a “remarkable 286 million people” in the same time period. All countries in the region now have more than 50% of their population with grid electricity, although a number still fall below 80%.

These countries include Pakistan, Myanmar, Papua-New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu. The people still without a supply are largely in outlying islands or in hard-to-reach mountainous regions. Solar energy is particularly suitable for these areas.

Expanding access to clean cooking facilities, vital for promoting indoor and outdoor air quality, has been less successful. Central and South Asia had less than 50% access in 2018, and other regions only about two-thirds.

Gas still an option

Ensuring 100% of the population rely primarily on clean fuels and technologies for cooking by 2030 “is clearly more challenging than electrification,” the bank says.

Partly for this reason, it has not entirely ruled out the use of gas, particularly for cooking, but says it would need to be convinced that there was not a better alternative. It will review its energy policy in 2025.

Chuck Baclagon, Asia Finance Campaigner for 350.org, said: “We welcome this step because it brings to fruition the years of painstaking resistance from communities and organisations against energy projects that come at the expense of health, ecosystems, and the climate.

“The exclusion of coal in the new investment policy further affirms that coal is not only bad for the environment and our climate, it is also a bad investment because of the growing risk of coal infrastructure becoming stranded assets.

“Investors have already caught on to the fact that coal can no longer be the least-cost option for demand, even before factors such as public health impacts and environmental damage are priced in.” − Climate News Network

Solar is much better than fossil fuel for bringing electricity to the poor, so Old King Coal is quitting Asia.

LONDON, 14 May, 2021 − The Asian Development Bank (ADB), which serves more than half the world’s population, has decided it will no longer finance coal for electric generation and heating plants and instead will aid poor countries in the rapid phase-out of existing coal plants. So for Old King Coal, it’s good-bye to Asia.

The bank’s new policy document says coal has no future if developing countries are to avoid the worst effects of climate change. It aims to phase out all coal plants in Asia by the middle of the century.

Despite the shift in policy, the plan remains to equip the entire population of the region the bank serves with access to electricity by 2030. It will also commit US$80 billion between now and 2030 to support climate change mitigation and adaption in the most vulnerable communities.

The bank’s decision is important because the Asia-Pacific region is home to the largest proportion of the world’s population and to many of its poorest people. It includes both China and India and also many island states in the Pacific.

ADB says the region’s progress in poverty reduction and economic growth has been remarkable, but that reliance on coal has not solved the problem of access to electricity. Fossil fuels are harming the region’s environment and accelerating climate change.

Vulnerable region

Because of this reliance on coal the bank’s developing member countries contribute 45% of the world’s emissions of carbon dioxide from the energy sector. “With continued economic growth, emissions from these countries will further increase if energy systems continue to rely on the expanded use of fossil fuels,” the policy document says.

In addition to the challenges of climate change mitigation, many member countries “are highly exposed and vulnerable to natural hazards and impacts of climate change, such as the growing frequency and intensity of extreme weather events, sea level rise, changes in rainfall patterns, and increasing temperatures.

“Disaster-related losses are already growing due to insufficient regard for climate and disaster risk in either the design or location of new infrastructure. Climate change impacts and disruption of ecosystem services can lead to severe effects on livelihoods and food security, which in turn would affect human health.

“Indeed, the region is known to be the most vulnerable in the world to natural disasters, from typhoons and flooding to earthquakes and tsunamis.

“To become truly sustainable, economic growth must be decoupled from environmental degradation.”

“Investors have already caught on to the fact that coal can no longer be the least-cost option”

Instead of investing in coal, the bank will give priority to energy efficiency and renewable energy. Even without coal, it believes it can secure a grid supply by 2030 for the 200 million people in the Asia-Pacific region who still lack access to electricity. This, it says, can be done best with renewables, especially solar power.

The bank says some countries have made notable strides with electrification since 2010. One of the greatest success stories is Cambodia, where electrification has increased from 31% in 2010 to 93% in 2018.

South Asia, as a whole, has extended electricity services to a “remarkable 286 million people” in the same time period. All countries in the region now have more than 50% of their population with grid electricity, although a number still fall below 80%.

These countries include Pakistan, Myanmar, Papua-New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu. The people still without a supply are largely in outlying islands or in hard-to-reach mountainous regions. Solar energy is particularly suitable for these areas.

Expanding access to clean cooking facilities, vital for promoting indoor and outdoor air quality, has been less successful. Central and South Asia had less than 50% access in 2018, and other regions only about two-thirds.

Gas still an option

Ensuring 100% of the population rely primarily on clean fuels and technologies for cooking by 2030 “is clearly more challenging than electrification,” the bank says.

Partly for this reason, it has not entirely ruled out the use of gas, particularly for cooking, but says it would need to be convinced that there was not a better alternative. It will review its energy policy in 2025.

Chuck Baclagon, Asia Finance Campaigner for 350.org, said: “We welcome this step because it brings to fruition the years of painstaking resistance from communities and organisations against energy projects that come at the expense of health, ecosystems, and the climate.

“The exclusion of coal in the new investment policy further affirms that coal is not only bad for the environment and our climate, it is also a bad investment because of the growing risk of coal infrastructure becoming stranded assets.

“Investors have already caught on to the fact that coal can no longer be the least-cost option for demand, even before factors such as public health impacts and environmental damage are priced in.” − Climate News Network

Advert ban tries to wean the Dutch off fossil fuels

How do you wean the Dutch off fossil fuels? Well, you could always start by banning advertisements that promote them.

LONDON, 6 May, 2021 − Three days ago Amsterdam, capital of the Netherlands, “Venice of the North” (and destination of many travellers who appreciate a little something extra with their coffee), took a serious step into the future. It sought to wean the Dutch off fossil fuels by banning many advertisements for the pollutants.

The ban isn’t total − yet. But this prohibition of what are described as “fossil fuel products”, including air travel as well as fossil-fuelled cars, means the adverts will no longer be seen in Amsterdam’s subway stations.

The city says it’s the first in the world determined to keep fossil fuel advertising off its streets. Never before has a city decided to ban advertising solely on the basis of climate change, it insists.

The agreement about advertisements in its metro stations is the municipality’s first step towards making advertising everywhere in Amsterdam fossil-free. The Dutch capital is still investigating a wider ban on advertising, and on marketing festivals by fossil fuel companies such as ExxonMobil and Shell (or, to give it its original name, Royal Dutch Shell).

“We don’t have any time to waste. Adverts that portray fossil fuels as normal worsen climate disruption”

Ban Fossil Advertising (Reclame Fossielvrij) is a Dutch citizens’ group working for a nationwide ban on advertising by the fossil fuel industry and on adverts for polluting transport. Its co-ordinator, Femke Sleegers, said: “The decision to ban fossil fuel advertising from subway stations comes at a crucial moment in the fight against climate change.

“We don’t have any time to waste in working towards the Paris climate goals. Adverts that portray fossil fuels as normal worsen climate disruption and have no place in a city − or a country − that has complied with Paris.”

The decision by Amsterdam’s city council to start banning fossil fuel adverts followed pressure by Ban Fossil Advertising and 51 other local groups. The city’s public transport company, GVB, had already decided to sharpen up its advertising policy in order to keep greenwashing advertisements (when polluters falsely present themselves as environmentally responsible) out of its vehicles, after a call by Extinction Rebellion Amsterdam.

Ban Fossil Advertising is working for a nationwide law to cover the fossil fuel industry, modelled on the Dutch advertising ban on the tobacco industry, which is regarded by campaigners as an indispensable step in the fight against smoking. It is seen not only as a step which changed social norms, but as one that removed temptation. Today’s campaigners say an identical approach is needed towards fossil fuels.

Global pressure

Three more cities in the Netherlands − The Hague, Utrecht and Nijmegen − say they are open to a ban on fossil fuel ads. Similar moves are under way in a number of other countries in Europe, North America and Australia, some at national level and some in individual cities, with media backing in several cases.

A Canadian group, for example, the Citizens’ Initiative for a fossil fuel advertisement-free Canada,  urges Parliament “to demand accountability from the fossil industry and legislate a ‘tobacco law’ for oil, gas and petrochemical companies; a ‘fossil law’”.

This would ban adverts for Big Oil, air travel and cars with fossil fuel engines, with fossil fuel money used for marketing redirected into “an unbranded fund that helps the transition.” A similar initiative is under way in France.

In the US, the city of New York is suing three major oil companies and the top industry trade group, arguing that the companies are misrepresenting themselves by selling fuels as “cleaner” and advertising themselves as leaders in fighting climate change.

In the UK the Badvertising campaign is seeking to stop adverts from fuelling the climate emergency, and the environmental lawyers ClientEarth are urging policymakers to ban all fossil fuel company ads unless they come with tobacco-style health warnings about the risks of global heating to people and the planet. − Climate News Network

How do you wean the Dutch off fossil fuels? Well, you could always start by banning advertisements that promote them.

LONDON, 6 May, 2021 − Three days ago Amsterdam, capital of the Netherlands, “Venice of the North” (and destination of many travellers who appreciate a little something extra with their coffee), took a serious step into the future. It sought to wean the Dutch off fossil fuels by banning many advertisements for the pollutants.

The ban isn’t total − yet. But this prohibition of what are described as “fossil fuel products”, including air travel as well as fossil-fuelled cars, means the adverts will no longer be seen in Amsterdam’s subway stations.

The city says it’s the first in the world determined to keep fossil fuel advertising off its streets. Never before has a city decided to ban advertising solely on the basis of climate change, it insists.

The agreement about advertisements in its metro stations is the municipality’s first step towards making advertising everywhere in Amsterdam fossil-free. The Dutch capital is still investigating a wider ban on advertising, and on marketing festivals by fossil fuel companies such as ExxonMobil and Shell (or, to give it its original name, Royal Dutch Shell).

“We don’t have any time to waste. Adverts that portray fossil fuels as normal worsen climate disruption”

Ban Fossil Advertising (Reclame Fossielvrij) is a Dutch citizens’ group working for a nationwide ban on advertising by the fossil fuel industry and on adverts for polluting transport. Its co-ordinator, Femke Sleegers, said: “The decision to ban fossil fuel advertising from subway stations comes at a crucial moment in the fight against climate change.

“We don’t have any time to waste in working towards the Paris climate goals. Adverts that portray fossil fuels as normal worsen climate disruption and have no place in a city − or a country − that has complied with Paris.”

The decision by Amsterdam’s city council to start banning fossil fuel adverts followed pressure by Ban Fossil Advertising and 51 other local groups. The city’s public transport company, GVB, had already decided to sharpen up its advertising policy in order to keep greenwashing advertisements (when polluters falsely present themselves as environmentally responsible) out of its vehicles, after a call by Extinction Rebellion Amsterdam.

Ban Fossil Advertising is working for a nationwide law to cover the fossil fuel industry, modelled on the Dutch advertising ban on the tobacco industry, which is regarded by campaigners as an indispensable step in the fight against smoking. It is seen not only as a step which changed social norms, but as one that removed temptation. Today’s campaigners say an identical approach is needed towards fossil fuels.

Global pressure

Three more cities in the Netherlands − The Hague, Utrecht and Nijmegen − say they are open to a ban on fossil fuel ads. Similar moves are under way in a number of other countries in Europe, North America and Australia, some at national level and some in individual cities, with media backing in several cases.

A Canadian group, for example, the Citizens’ Initiative for a fossil fuel advertisement-free Canada,  urges Parliament “to demand accountability from the fossil industry and legislate a ‘tobacco law’ for oil, gas and petrochemical companies; a ‘fossil law’”.

This would ban adverts for Big Oil, air travel and cars with fossil fuel engines, with fossil fuel money used for marketing redirected into “an unbranded fund that helps the transition.” A similar initiative is under way in France.

In the US, the city of New York is suing three major oil companies and the top industry trade group, arguing that the companies are misrepresenting themselves by selling fuels as “cleaner” and advertising themselves as leaders in fighting climate change.

In the UK the Badvertising campaign is seeking to stop adverts from fuelling the climate emergency, and the environmental lawyers ClientEarth are urging policymakers to ban all fossil fuel company ads unless they come with tobacco-style health warnings about the risks of global heating to people and the planet. − Climate News Network

UK nuclear plants will exact heavy fish toll

Environmental groups are alarmed at the heavy fish toll which two new British nuclear plants will inflict on stocks.

LONDON, 4 May, 2021 − The high fatality rate which the cooling systems of two British nuclear power stations may impose on marine life is worrying environmentalists, who describe the heavy fish toll they expect as “staggering”.

The two stations, Hinkley Point C, under construction on England’s west coast, and Sizewell C, planned for the eastern side of the country, will, they say, kill more than 200 million fish a year and destroy millions more sea creatures. But the stations’ builders say their critics are exaggerating drastically.

Objectors to the fish kill had hoped that the UK government agency tasked with conserving fish stocks in the seas around Britain, the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas), would be on their side.

They have been disappointed to learn that Cefas is a paid adviser to the French nuclear company EDF, which is building the stations, and would raise no objections to the company’s method of cooling them with seawater.

“Continued official silence on these issues will be a dereliction of duty and a national disgrace”

In a detailed rebuttal of the objectors’ arguments, Cefas denies any conflict of interest between advising EDF about the damage the stations would do to the marine environment and its own duty to protect fish stocks – and it claims that the loss of millions of fish would not affect stocks overall.

The Hinkley Point C twin nuclear reactors being built in Somerset, in the West of England, which are due for completion by 2026, will kill about 182m fish a year by some estimates, although EDF says it is doing its best to reduce the problem with modified cooling water intakes and an acoustic method of deterring fish from approaching the intakes. The green groups fear the proposed Sizewell C plant in Suffolk on the east coast will kill another 28.5m fish annually.

Using figures taken directly from EDF’s own planning documents, the opponents of the Suffolk plant calculate that 560m fish will be slaughtered in a 20-year period through being sucked into its cooling systems. They say the fish will be unable to avoid the pipes, which take in 131 cubic metres of seawater every second.

Peter Wilkinson, chairman of Together Against Sizewell C, said: “Even this staggering figure hides a grim truth. It represents only a percentage of the overall impact on the marine environment inflicted by nuclear power.

Corporate impunity

“Unknown millions of eggs, marine crustaceans, larvae and post-larval stages of fish fry, along with other marine biota, are entrained [dragged] through the nuclear plant cooling systems every year, adding to the toll of those impinged [caught] on the mesh of the cooling intakes and the decimation of fish stocks.”

Among the scores of species that will be killed are several protected fish, including bass, Blackwater herring, eels and river lampreys, as well as fish under special conservation measures to allow depleted stocks to recover.

The existing nuclear power station on the Suffolk coast, Sizewell B, already kills 800,000 bass a year. The planned station is expected to kill 2m more. Someone fishing from the beach at Sizewell could be prosecuted for catching a single bass: EDF will be allowed to kill millions with impunity. A heavy fish toll appears to be inevitable.

Wilkinson added: “This carnage is wholesale, inhumane and unacceptable and flies in the face of the government’s so-called ‘green agenda’. We expect Cefas to condemn this level of impact.

Not many fatalities

“This marine life will be sacrificed for the purposes of cooling a plant which is not needed to keep the lights on, which will do nothing to reduce global carbon emissions, which will be paid for from the pockets of all UK taxpayers and bill-paying customers, leaving future generations with a lasting legacy of an impoverished environment. Continued official silence on these issues will be a dereliction of duty and a national disgrace.”

In a statement to the Climate News Network, Cefas denied any conflict of interest, saying it was paid by EDF to give objective and rigorous scientific advice to ensure that both new stations were environmentally sustainable. It advised where possible how to reduce the fish kill.

“Where impacts do occur, such as the mortality of fish on power station intake screens, we assess these against other sources of mortality … and the ability of the population to withstand such losses.  Compared to the natural population size, relatively few fish will be impacted . . . ”, the statement said.

Cefas would not say how much it was paid by EDF, saying its fees were less than 10% of its annual income and so it was not obliged to do so. It added: “There is no scientific evidence that the proposed new nuclear developments will cause large-scale destruction of marine life or impact protected species.” − Climate News Network

Environmental groups are alarmed at the heavy fish toll which two new British nuclear plants will inflict on stocks.

LONDON, 4 May, 2021 − The high fatality rate which the cooling systems of two British nuclear power stations may impose on marine life is worrying environmentalists, who describe the heavy fish toll they expect as “staggering”.

The two stations, Hinkley Point C, under construction on England’s west coast, and Sizewell C, planned for the eastern side of the country, will, they say, kill more than 200 million fish a year and destroy millions more sea creatures. But the stations’ builders say their critics are exaggerating drastically.

Objectors to the fish kill had hoped that the UK government agency tasked with conserving fish stocks in the seas around Britain, the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas), would be on their side.

They have been disappointed to learn that Cefas is a paid adviser to the French nuclear company EDF, which is building the stations, and would raise no objections to the company’s method of cooling them with seawater.

“Continued official silence on these issues will be a dereliction of duty and a national disgrace”

In a detailed rebuttal of the objectors’ arguments, Cefas denies any conflict of interest between advising EDF about the damage the stations would do to the marine environment and its own duty to protect fish stocks – and it claims that the loss of millions of fish would not affect stocks overall.

The Hinkley Point C twin nuclear reactors being built in Somerset, in the West of England, which are due for completion by 2026, will kill about 182m fish a year by some estimates, although EDF says it is doing its best to reduce the problem with modified cooling water intakes and an acoustic method of deterring fish from approaching the intakes. The green groups fear the proposed Sizewell C plant in Suffolk on the east coast will kill another 28.5m fish annually.

Using figures taken directly from EDF’s own planning documents, the opponents of the Suffolk plant calculate that 560m fish will be slaughtered in a 20-year period through being sucked into its cooling systems. They say the fish will be unable to avoid the pipes, which take in 131 cubic metres of seawater every second.

Peter Wilkinson, chairman of Together Against Sizewell C, said: “Even this staggering figure hides a grim truth. It represents only a percentage of the overall impact on the marine environment inflicted by nuclear power.

Corporate impunity

“Unknown millions of eggs, marine crustaceans, larvae and post-larval stages of fish fry, along with other marine biota, are entrained [dragged] through the nuclear plant cooling systems every year, adding to the toll of those impinged [caught] on the mesh of the cooling intakes and the decimation of fish stocks.”

Among the scores of species that will be killed are several protected fish, including bass, Blackwater herring, eels and river lampreys, as well as fish under special conservation measures to allow depleted stocks to recover.

The existing nuclear power station on the Suffolk coast, Sizewell B, already kills 800,000 bass a year. The planned station is expected to kill 2m more. Someone fishing from the beach at Sizewell could be prosecuted for catching a single bass: EDF will be allowed to kill millions with impunity. A heavy fish toll appears to be inevitable.

Wilkinson added: “This carnage is wholesale, inhumane and unacceptable and flies in the face of the government’s so-called ‘green agenda’. We expect Cefas to condemn this level of impact.

Not many fatalities

“This marine life will be sacrificed for the purposes of cooling a plant which is not needed to keep the lights on, which will do nothing to reduce global carbon emissions, which will be paid for from the pockets of all UK taxpayers and bill-paying customers, leaving future generations with a lasting legacy of an impoverished environment. Continued official silence on these issues will be a dereliction of duty and a national disgrace.”

In a statement to the Climate News Network, Cefas denied any conflict of interest, saying it was paid by EDF to give objective and rigorous scientific advice to ensure that both new stations were environmentally sustainable. It advised where possible how to reduce the fish kill.

“Where impacts do occur, such as the mortality of fish on power station intake screens, we assess these against other sources of mortality … and the ability of the population to withstand such losses.  Compared to the natural population size, relatively few fish will be impacted . . . ”, the statement said.

Cefas would not say how much it was paid by EDF, saying its fees were less than 10% of its annual income and so it was not obliged to do so. It added: “There is no scientific evidence that the proposed new nuclear developments will cause large-scale destruction of marine life or impact protected species.” − Climate News Network