THE WORLD’S NUCLEAR NEWS AGENCY
8 Oct 2009 / Insider N° 03
Industry Must Be More Frank With The Public, Says ‘Convert’ To Nuclear
8 Oct (NucNet): Environmentalist Stephen Tindale, former head of Greenpeace UK and co-founder of
the website Climate Answers, talks to NucNet about his switch from being anti-nuclear to supporting
nuclear energy as a way of helping to tackle climate change.
NucNet - How do you view the British government’s progress on new build in the UK? What needs to be done?
Tindale: Opposition to nuclear energy is less widespread than it was. For example, I expected many
environmentalists to be very rude to me, and some have been, but not very many. Both Labour and
Conservative (two of the UK’s main political parties) are in favour of nuclear now. The planning system holds
up everything in the UK. The Labour government is setting up the Infrastructure and Planning Commission,
which is basically trying to take the politics out of planning decisions. The problem is that the Conservatives
are opposed to the Commission and have said that they will change it if they come into power. That may be
one thing that holds up new nuclear development.
NucNet – What kind of energy mix should the UK should be aiming for?
Tindale: I think the UK’s target to get 15 percent of energy generation from renewables by 2020 is essential
and must be met, but it’s unlikely that we could get any more than that by 2020. We need to stop arguing
about which is the best of the low-carbon options and accept that we need to pursue all of them, including
nuclear, and pay for all of them, and that it won’t be cheap. It’s important to be up front and honest about the
fact that this will mean more expensive electricity generation.
NucNet - The Scottish government has set a target of 20 percent of electricity to be generated by renewables by 2020. Is this attainable?
Tindale: It is attainable but they need to upgrade the Beauly-Denny power line, on which the government
has not been taking too many decisions in the past few years. (Beauly-Denny is a proposed 400,000 volts
overhead electricity transmission line which will replace the existing 132,000 volts transmission line between
Beauly, west of Inverness, and Denny, west of Falkirk).
NucNet - Your switch from an anti-nuclear stance, to arguing for nuclear power as a means to help tackle
climate change is well-publicised. How did you reach this decision?
Tindale: Melting permafrost in Siberia was yet more confirmation that climate change was more serious
than had been thought. That was one major factor that made me switch, but I think the other important point
was that the use of electric vehicles is beginning to take off, and should be pursued and promoted. But once
we have electric vehicles, then it is even more important to have low carbon electricity, as there will be an
increase in demand for electricity in Europe, and worldwide.
NucNet - What are your views about the way radioactive waste should be dealt with? Do you support the idea of a deep geological repository in the UK?
Tindale: First of all, I am still concerned about it, but fossil fuels also produce waste. Put crudely, it’s better
to keep the waste down here than it is to put it up into the atmosphere. Waste should be kept in a way which
is safe from terrorist attack and theft, but also in a way which means it is monitorable and retrievable.
NucNet - There is much discussion about the need for the nuclear industry to ‘engage with the public’. What does the nuclear industry need to do to get its message across?
Tindale: It needs to be more frank about the costs, particularly if you take decommissioning and waste
management costs into the equation, which you should and must, and the fact that I think this is more
expensive than unabated coal. But it won’t destroy the climate, so it is a price worth paying. I believe most of
the public will accept that, but it’s important for the industry to be more up front about that than it has been at
times in the past, such as when nuclear was cited as ‘too cheap to meter’.
NucNet - Do you still hold reservations about nuclear?
Tindale: My view has always been that the main danger or drawback of nuclear energy is weapons
proliferation. It’s difficult to say we should have more nuclear power in the UK or Europe, but not in other
countries. So the Kissinger-Nunn proposal for an international nuclear fuel cycle – or internationallycontrolled
nuclear fuel cycle, which President Obama has now picked up and is supporting – is a sensible
* Stephen Tindale is co-founder of Climate Answers and a climate and energy consultant. His past roles include executive director of Greenpeace UK, and advisor to former UK environment minister Michael
Meacher. Mr Tindale says too much of the discussion on climate change is still about “what we should not
be doing or what we should be against”. He says there is not enough discussion or information on solutions– what countries can and should do to minimise dangerous climate change.
More information on the Web:
Climate Answers: www.climateanswers.info
UK Department of Energy and Climate Change: www.decc.gov.uk
Nuclear White Paper 2008 – Meeting the Energy Challenge:
UK Health & Safety Executive New Nuclear Power Stations: www.hse.gov.uk
Decades Of Nuclear Energy Research Going Online
30 Oct (NucNet): Decades of nuclear research supported by the US Department of Energy (DOE) and its predecessor agencies is being made available via the internet in cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
The IAEA said on 27 October 2009 that the collaborative effort aims to give researchers, academics, and the general public access to “vast volumes of valuable research” on the safe and peaceful uses of nuclear energy.
The IAEA said that its International Nuclear Information System (INIS) preserves nuclear knowledge by digitising historic nuclear energy research documents dating from 1970 through to the early 1990s so that they can be processed by computers.
The DOE project is one of the larger programmes in the INIS project, and includes more than 180,000 documents from the DOE’s Office of Scientific and Technical Information – which is the US representative to INIS and has had its own digitisation programme in recent years.
The INIS database inisdb.iaea.org), which contains 3.1 million bibliographic records and 225,000 full-text documents, was opened to the public for free, unrestricted, online access in April 2009.
Finnish Study Compares Impact Of Radioactive And Thermal Discharges
22 Oct (NucNet): A new study in Finland indicates that, compared to the effects of thermal discharges, radioactive discharges from nuclear power plants have minor environmental effects.
The study* on environmental effects of thermal and radioactive discharges from nuclear plants in the boreal brackish-water conditions of the northern Baltic Sea was published last month as a report from the Finnish Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority (STUK).
STUK said the results are based on hydro-biological and radio-ecological analyses from monitoring programmes and environmental studies carried out over more than 40 years in the sea areas surrounding the country’s Loviisa and Olkiluoto nuclear power plants.
Loviisa is on the coast of the Gulf of Finland and Olkiluoto is on the coast of the Bothnian Sea. The areas of sea surrounding the two plants differ from each other in many ways, the study says.
“For example, the exchange of water, the nutrient concentrations and the salinity of the water are different. In addition to local divergences, the amounts of discharges and the way the plants discharge their cooling waters also deviate from each other.”
However, it is common for both plants that thermal discharges have increased the eutrophication process in the water.
Radioactive discharges into the sea from Finnish nuclear plants have been clearly under the statutory discharge limits, the study says. “During the whole operational history of the power plants the effective dose commitments of the critical groups have been at their highest less than 4 percent, and during recent years clearly below 1percent of the set limit that is 0.1 millisieverts per year.”
The study says those belonging to the ‘critical groups’ of the highest dose spend a lot of time by the sea and eat an abundance of local fish. “Similarly, the impact of the radioactive discharges to the environment was negligible, far below the international screening level set for organisms.”
*Principal adviser Erkki Ilus presented his doctoral thesis on 25 September 2009 at Helsinki University. The report is available in English in the publications section of STUK’s website (www.stuk.fi).
– by John Shepherd
>>Related reports in the NucNet database (available to subscribers)
Finland Needs More Nuclear Capacity In Long-Term, Says Energy Strategy Report (News No. 88, 7 November 2008)