Wednesday 14 December 2011

Christmas Comes Early: Fred Goodwin And Other Belly-Laughs

Well, this is a cheery start to a grey December day and no mistake.

Fred Goodwin may face criminal charges after all ! It sounds right, legally and morally: and for every reason under the sun Vince Cable should be pursuing this one with maximum vigour. How we will all cheer!

EDF finds another lame excuse for demanding bigger nuke subsidies. T
his one is a corker - those guys are creative! And so the 'final investment decision', solemnly promised for this very month as recently as April 2011, is put off yet again.

Serious business at the Durban Summit: yes, Chris Huhne has pulled another blinder, and here is the text of the number one decision reached by the great travelling CO2 roadshow.
The Conference ...

"1. decides to extend the Ad Hoc Working Group on Co-operative Action under the Convention for one year in order for it to continue its work ..."

Thus was the world saved. Alleluia.



Budgie said...

What have we got so far? Just five politicians?

Yes, Goodwin should go down, along with around 300 of his fellows and 300 politicians from the last parliament. And especially that fellow bullying, serial incompetent J. Gordon Brown. You might as well add Bliar, Balls and Huhne in there too.

Come on, ND, give it a rest. Wind and wave power really, and already, are costing us the earth, not nuclear. We need nuclear for strategic base load.

Nick Drew said...

then let 'em get on with it, Budgie, I'm all for smoothing the bureaucratic path

but if their technology is so damned good, and if ever-rising hydrocarbon costs are a given, they don't need a sub: this is the famously 'strategically-minded, long-term decision-making, short-term-spurning' French we are talking about!

And if (as they know full well) gas prices may potentially be soft in future years (meaning plentiful as well as cheap), then why should we be the ones to run that risk?

the usual answer, as we all know, is 'lead time'. But that cuts both ways - yes, a bloody long lead time; so in fact nukes can make no useful contribution until well after 2020, and even then only if we see 4 or 5 being started really quite soon

which is too late !

Phil said...

All I want for Christmas is a Fred Godwin chargesheet.

rwendland said...

This seems merely an EDF reaction/spin to the shambolic Finnish EPR build - 4 years late and many €billions over cost estimates. Areva used a lot of cheap(ish) contractors (without nuclear experience) with few quality inspectors. So there was a lot of rework later when the regulators spotted problems.

So the solution they think is: '"create a new social covenant" with its contractors and workforce, offering better training and long-term career opportunities'. Nice words!

We shall see (or maybe not given the Franco-banks situation).

NB recent news: Areva takes €2.4bn writedown, and EDF searches for [non-Areva] reactor suppliers.

Budgie said...

ND said: "gas prices may potentially be soft"

Errm, exactly. We need a mix for strategic reasons, just in case gas prices are not soft, or the long supply chain is disrupted. Nuclear is sensible, reliable, almost self contained power. Wind is subsidised far more than Nuclear, and as for PV ....

rwendland said...

Budgie, there are some solid arguments against nuclear power being reliable:

* The only recent major power outage in England was caused by Sizewell B tripping out - the south-east and London outage a few years back. Sizewell B is the largest single generator failure point that grid backup is designed around.

* A nuclear accident does not just a fail a single plant, but potentially causes widescale preventative shutdowns. eg in Japan around 66% of all nuclear is shut down.

* If there was a terrorist attack on a nuclear plant, it would probably cause many of the world's nuclear plants to be shutdown.

* When there is a mojor engineering problem, shutdowns of over six months are not uncommon (as with UK's AGR stations lately)

* New nuclear in the UK depends on either:
** EPRs, whose supplier's shares just stopped trading: been suspended following "a dramatic collapse in its profits" (Areva)
** AP1000s, which are only being built in China, none are operating, and none have been ordered in the west

Overall, this doesn't seem so reliable.

Nick Drew said...

another point on the practical politics of this, Budgie:

just what price are you willing to pay for your nukes ?

because every time anyone asks EDF what they need in order to go ahead, it turns out it's never enough & the price goes up

if you are seriously suggesting nationalising the whole new-nuke enterprise, then that would at least be a coherent stance

there may however be one or two disadvantages in such a strategy

Sebastian Weetabix said...

The whole Lecky industry (along with railways) brings out my inner statist. These are very long term, massively capital intensive projects, which means the price is going to be very inflated when you ask private companies to do it... and both are necessary for the functioning of modern society. So nationalise them, I say. I'd sooner nationalise the power supplies and railways than the f***ing banks we already own.

And once we nationalise them we get on with building bloody reactors. About 2 dozen of them.

Budgie said...

All power stations have a risk of unplanned shut downs, so Nuclear is no different to any other. For example the Sizewell B shutdown in May 2008 was the first for 3 years.

Anyone who has run a commercial oil or coal fired boiler knows that the residues eat the tubes leading to - unplanned shutdowns.

Both gas and coal have very long supply lines; possibly intermittent for coal but continuous for gas. Nuclear typically runs for 18 months between re-fuelling, which is a decided advantage over coal and gas.

So yes, Nuclear is reliable and sensible in comparison to the actuality of other systems. Its costs are similar to modern coal, and far below Wind and PV, currently inflating all our bills far beyond the level we have paid with existing Nuclear in the mix.

alan said...

The UK regulators have set the safety bar very high, increasing costs. The license has not been approved and is pending until there have been safety (and environmental) design changes.

And I think that is the problem with current nuke designs in general. If you don't want a Fukuskima then the regulatory costs make wind look attractive!

And again the politicians still don't understand the problems. Expensive energy = reduced GDP and the utility of fossil fuels.

If we assume our primary power source in the future is electricity, then there are major infrastructure improvements to be made.

Ignore the CO2 quotas and start upgrading the infrastructure and build cheap gas (or coal if its cheap) power stations. And when there has been a major R&D advance in electrical generation phase out the old power plants.

But even then current battery technology is not viable to use for transportation. So until major advances in battery technology the only transportation solution is a very big move to electrified rail.

Which leads to the real problem, battery & carbon free power generation technologies are not ready for prime time. If 1% of the bank bailouts were spent on energy R&D I think we would have some better options on the table.

rwendland said...

As I've pointed out before, the engineering consultancy Mott MacDonald does not agree with your view that nuclear is cheaper than onshore wind. Their May 2011 levelised cost estimates of low carbon generation costs gives:

Onshore wind: 8.3p/kWh,
Nuclear: 9.6p/kWh,
Offshore wind: 16.9p/kWh,
Tidal stream: 29.3p/kWh,
Solar PV: 34.3p/kWh,
Tidal barrage: 51.8p/kWh.

Both nuclear and wind generation costs are highly dependent on the cost of capital. If SW's statist views were followed *and* the govt was willing to allow a renationalised industry access to a lot of capital at 5% discount rate, as the CEGB was, then both nuclear and wind costs would drop to close to gas generation costs. But with private capital costing in the 11% to 15% range, both need high carbon pricing or similar to be competitive.

Budgie said...

And as I've pointed out before the Wind cost has to be approximately doubled to pay for the always needed backup for the day to day unreliability of the wind. This makes it uneconomic compared with Nuclear. Moreover we were paying for Nuclear already in our electricity bills yet we are now threatened with an extra 25% hike to pay for - Wind (mainly).

We cannot rely on the wind to blow when we need it. We can rely (as much as other major plant) on Nuclear to provide consistent base load month after month. With re-fueling only every 18 months Nuclear does not suffer the short/medium term supply chain risks of coal and gas.

rwendland said...

Summer nighttime electricity consumption is less than 50% of winter peak, so we already have an enormous amount of part-time peaking generation capacity. The wind backup issue is complex, but in the better scenarios the price signals would cause the longer retention of older less efficient plant for backup. It certainly does not double the cost of wind.

One interesting observation is that our current half-hour slot generation contract system means that if a generator can fairly reliably predict one hour ahead what they can generate in a half-hour slot, which wind can do tolerably well, they have no real responsibility to worry about adequacy of total generation capacity. That is someone else's responsibility (National Grid). This shows a certain weakness in the current privatised generation regime.

alan said...


I think you've missed the point. Think December....

We can build as many nuke's as required to supply the whole of the UK's energy demand. Not just electrical usage, but natural gas and transportation.

If we created a solar panel which covered the whole of the UK and then put wind turbines on top it is impossible to get close to generating all the UK energy demands.

Once you build a nuke it makes no sense to turn it off because you get no significant savings in fuel costs.

From a central generation perspective the only solution is nukes.

From a consumer perspective, if solar (or wind etc) is cheaper than nukes, it makes sense to install solar to offset, not replace, the grid.

Note: The economics change if you have a spare desert or two...

Elby the Beserk said...

So there may be a use for Vince after all?