France Wakes Up to the Fragile Case For Nuclear Power

This is a guest post by Andrew McKillop. Andrew has held posts in national, international and European Commission energy, and energy policy divisions and agencies. An extended bio is given at the end of the post.

First the Politics

March 18, newswires starting strangely with Kuwait’s KUNA, reported that protesters from French environmental action groups, headed by Greenpeace and supported by activists of the green EELV political party which is aligned with French president Hollande’s PS parliamentary majority, broke into France’s oldest nuclear power plant (NPP) at Fessenheim located on the Franco-German border in Alsace, and occupied several parts of the operating section and its roof. Their claims were given considerable coverage by French media, if only to keep minds off Putin’s victory in Crimea, fustigated as an “illegal act” by Hollande and his Foreign minister. One immediate result of this is the halt to construction in French shipyards of two Mistral-class helicopter assault ships for the Russian navy, one of the ships named ‘Sebastopol’, in a contract worth about 1.5 billion euros.

The political claims of the Fessenheim NPP occupiers, who were arrested in a mass helicopter-aided operation by French anti-riot troops, as well as State militia gendarmes, and armed civil police, featured their claim that Fessenheim, at 37 years of age is well past its original design lifespan of 30 years. It has experienced a string of nuclear and mechanical accidents, is located on a known geological fault line, and is the focus of repeated German criticism. This has gone into high gear as reported by ‘Suddeutsche   Zeitung’, March 10, with the publication by Federal authorities of previously undisclosed earthquake hazards potentially affecting German NPPs, and a risk response plan including accelerated dismantling of German reactors, already scheduled for complete removal from service by January 2022.

For French greens, Fessenheim is above all a “sitting duck target” for terrorists or hostile military strike action by helicopter assault or missile attack, by any enemy country – Russia for example.

This theme, quite surprisingly, was aired and developed on French 24/24 CNN-clone “news and views shows”, BFM TV and iTele, which are basically geared to selling advertising space for producers of anything that can be sold to couched potatoes. Why the couched potato masses should be interested in nuclear power – when they can slaver over Club Med holidays, Nespresso Gold capsules or really neat iPhone apps, while they munch a McDo and choose their next “low carbon” German saloon car – was not explained by the newzak TV channels. Instead, they were shown long interviews with EELV spokespersons including former presidential candidate Eva Joly (a Franco-Norwegian), advancing the thesis of a possible missile or RPG or air-launched drone attack against any French nuclear power plant, including Fessenheim. Pointing out that occupying nuclear power plants is rather easy, they went on to suggest that pushing a button on a missile launcher a few kilometres away, or hundreds of kilometres away will also be “no problem”. The talkshow hosts were aghast!

Your turn, Mister Hollande!  The media shifted back to normal government-friendly mode, and aired long black and white newsreel clips from the heroic days of French nuclear power, with the obligatory views of French atom bomb testing in Algeria and the south Pacific.  How that protects French NPPs was not explained, but newzak TV obviously thought “the bomb stuff” was great material for reassuring the couched potatoes.

Next the Problems

The official tally of functional and operating major civil power reactors in France is given as 58, at present, but the count is affected several factors and the real total is closer to 62 or 63. These tallies also ignore the minimum of 4 “non-civil or military reactors” operating in France, which are only operating for the simple reason it is too expensive to turn them off. As long as they are called “operating” it is not necessary to dismantle them.

Attempts at the sale of 1960s and 1970s-era semi-military reactor were given press coverage during “les annees Sarko” (2007-2012) of former president Nicolas Sarkozy. This politician is now heavily implicated in a vast network of kickbacks, fake invoices and donations to his UMP party and his failed re-election campaign, from sources including “his friend” Muammar Gaddafi (while still living). In Dec 2007, Sarkozy made an open and public attempt to sell 2 ex-military French nuclear reactors to Gaddafi’s Libya. The possible kickbacks from the aborted deal are now included in French justice investigations into Sarkozy’s UMP financing during that period.

To be sure the problem is not solved by selling outdated and dangerous military reactors to MENA dictators, in return for oil, but at least dismantling such reactor for sale abroad kicks the problem down the road like a can. These old and dangerous reactors are basically “plutonium brewers”, similar to the UK’s 4 Magnox-type reactors now in their eighth year of slow decommissioning, but the continued existence of “plutonium brewers” sets the question of why a country like France would need or want to produce an additional 7 or 8 tons of plutonium each year for its present semi-official stock of 750 nuclear warheads. Unofficial tallies of French plutonium stocks published by anti-nuclear associations like Reseau Sortir du Nucleaire run well above 200 tons, and are enough to build at least 25 000 smaller sized “tactical and compact” nuclear devices. France could take on the world with that – or irradiate its national territory and cause tens of thousands of cancer deaths, per year, with it. For the moment, French deciders prefer the second choice, but public awareness is rising.

One major problem is simple – nuclear weapons cost money whether used or not, and the Fessenheim occupation shows that NPPs are a fabulous alternative – as long as they are located in Enemy Territory! In theory at least, offensive or ‘classic’ nuclear weapons are no longer needed, and this is a game changer, when or if our couched potato political “leaders” care to wake up to it.

Baseload Power

Another key French nuclear problem is shown by Figure 1 in the following breezy OIES comment on the nation’s nuclear power programme ( The report has tinges of English jealousy due to the UK being too de-industrialized to build anything as complex, mechanical, or Industrial Revolution style as an NPP in England these days, and has to call for high-priced help from France’s EDF-Areva. This OIES report shows how France’s peak load power demand, and baseload demand have grown ever further apart, the power gap growing by 33% in 10 years. This report takes a pro-French reading of what it says national deciders should do about this in France – basically nothing – because any rapid retirement of the existing 58 or 60 NPPs would create a fantastic spending need for replacing them, far above 300 billion euros. The French response is classic: kicking the can down the road by raising NPP “safe operating lifetimes” from 30 to 40 years, and then possibly to 50 years or more.

As the report also says, prolonging their lifespans – which ironically only in the Fessenheim case is accepted by Hollande’s government as not an option and this single NPP will be retired – is also expensive, as well as risky. Reactor fleet retirement and-or operating lifetime extension cost estimates published by the French General Accounting Office (Cour des Comptes) in January 2012 give an outline cost tally – for decommissioning the present fleet in the period starting no later than 2025 – of around 265 billion euros.

Too Expensive to Stop – Too Expensive to Replace

Nuclear France, due to a large number of convergent factors has higher and higher peak power demands at times of winter-time cold and high industrial and commercial power demand, but only slow-growing baseline or baseload power demand easily covered by France’s “legacy nuclear” power plants. The economic rationale, in France for keeping the NPPs is bolstered by this growing peak-base gap, but the solution to covering the growing peaks will not be nuclear.

The OIES report does not explain this peak-trough problem can easily get worse as national baseload demand ceases to grow at all. Current energy and power-saving programs and laws, including obligatory shutting down of shop and office lighting at night, can even result in a decrease of baseload demand. The French nuclear lobby, like its allies in other countries is therefore beating the drum for rapidly developing electric car fleets.

The reasons why baseload demand is likely to decline – not stagnate – also include the impact of decades of underpriced nuclear electricity, subsidized in France as elsewhere by “non-electric subsidies” to the nuclear-industrial complex stretching from nuclear weapons to reactor building and uranium mining, including fuel fabrication and reprocessing, as well as nuclear waste disposal. For as long as these subsidies, estimated by the Cour des Comptes as an accumulated total near 240 billion euros since France’s nuclear system, in 1956 was declared “majority civil”, continued to be paid out by central government, the nuclear party could continue.

Underpriced electricity and therefore fast-growing power demand was an essential prop for the French national “all nuclear” policy rationale or strategy. From 2013 under the Hollande administration, however, electricity prices in France are set by government to grow at 10% a year for at least the next 3 years. The same government caps public sector pay growth to 1% a year.

The impact of this on power demand can only be downward, the only question is how much. Having had a record-mild winter in 2013-1014 “obviously due to global warming”, power demand peaks in winter were low, preventing the logical result of large-area blackouts and brownouts. The problem is therefore kicked down the road – but the green NGOs and political parties have kicked a major dent in the couched potato article of nuclear faith, especially well brainwashed into French minds, that NPPs are clean, cheap and safe and therefore “the only solution”.

We can leave the last word to Ihor Prokopchuk, Ukraine’s ambassador to the UN IAEA who was quoted, 6 March, saying this to the NTI (Nuclear Threat Initiative):  “Potential consequences of a military invasion would be a threat of radiation contamination on the territory of Ukraine and the territory of neighboring states”.  He added: “In addition, a significant amount of spent nuclear fuel, which is stored on the territory of the nuclear power plants, would pose potential very high risks.” The scarcely veiled threat of the all-new Kiev Flash Mob government striking back against Putin’s Russia with a dirty bomb is therefore on the table. Problems, problems!

Extended Bio

Andrew McKillop has held posts in national, international and Euro Commission energy, and energy policy divisions and agencies.

These missions have for example included role of National energy coordinator, Govt of Papua NG, Director of Information at the AREC technology transfer subsidiary of OAPEC, Kuwait, Senior energy research associate at the UN ILO and UNDP, Senior advisor to President, Hydro & Power Authority of British Columbia, Canada (BC Hydro), Seminar leader at the Administrative Staff College of India, Hyderabad, study, Senior energy associate at the Canadian Science Council, and elsewhere.

Andrew McKillop is a regular contributor to many specialist oil and energy Web sites. He was first energy editor of the journal ‘The Ecologist’ and has published works with other analysts, e.g. ‘Oil Crisis and Economic Adjustment’, Pinter Publishing, with Dr Salah al-Shaikhly, currently the Interim Iraqi government’s Ambassador to London.

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27 Responses to France Wakes Up to the Fragile Case For Nuclear Power

  1. Euan Mearns says:

    Regular readers of Energy Matters will be aware that I am “pro-nuclear” and may wonder why I should publish this article. Firstly, Andrew has just started sending me these articles and secondly most of the article rings true. I don’t recall seeing this mentioned on the C4 news last night.

    My “pro-nuclear” stance is born from a belief that energy commentators should be obliged to put forward rational and feasible plans for “our energy future”. I see major problems with future oil and gas supplies to the UK, if nothing else affording to pay for them and do not regard renewables as a scalable, affordable, environmentally sustainable, stand alone option. The options therefore run thin and many of the geologists and engineers I know regard nuclear as the only viable and proven option.

    Greenpeace we know are anti fossil fuels and anti nuclear, pro renewables I guess with their heads in a fantastic cloud imagining that industrial society can be powered thus. I’m hopeful that Andrew may call by to share his views on where a viable energy future lies.

    The key passages in this post:

    because any rapid retirement of the existing 58 or 60 NPPs would create a fantastic spending need for replacing them, far above 300 billion euros.


    for decommissioning the present fleet in the period starting no later than 2025 – of around 265 billion euros.

    I have long wondered how France will deal with this enormous undertaking when it arrives – and so no surprise to learn that plan A is to kick the can down the road. The sums seem huge, but set against a GDP of $2.3 trillion it is perhaps a small price to pay for the next 50 years of reliable electricity. Without converting currencies, its roughly 3 months GDP for 600 months electricity.

    Extending the operational life should of course come down to engineering. If the reactors have been over-engineered and are still good as new after 30 years then there should be no issue extending operations.

    Of course there is no such thing as a free lunch anywhere in the energy world and most Europeans live with the risk of nuclear accident or terrorist attack. I won’t buy into the terrorist risk until it happens. But I do hope that the Greenpeace terrorists have been arrested and thrown into a French jail.

    For Europe, if not nuclear, what?

    • Syndroma says:

      Enviromental protesters have forced to close Superfenix – the only full-scale fast breeder reactor outside Russia. And you need fast breeder reactors for any sustainable future nuclear program. Currently only 1% of mined Uranium is used as fuel. Fast breeder reactors can convert the rest 99% to fuel too.

      Right now it’s not a problem, of course. The nuclear fuel market is oversupplied due to the shutdowns of reactors in Germany and Japan. But sooner or later Uranium-235 scarcity will become a problem.

      Meanwhile, the brand new Russian fast breeder reactor BN-800 is being loaded with the fuel as we speak.

      • Euan Mearns says:énix

        In Scotland we had an experimental fast breeder at a site called Dounreay that produced 250 MW for several years before being forced to close by pressure from environmental groups, so I’m told.

        Without cheap and reliable electricity we have no healthcare, well fare, education and so on. A return to the rural idyll probably means this:

        We either accept the risks associated with power generation or face the certain risks associated with spreading poverty.

        • burnsider says:

          I retired from Dounreay 5 years ago after working there for 33 years, starting when it was a big project on the up-and-up and leaving when the place was being decommissioned.

          The Fast reactor Project kicked off in the 1950’s, when oil supplies seemed much more finite than they turned out to be (and there was no North Sea oil) and uranium looked to be in short supply as well. The ‘glittering prize’ fast reactors offered was utilisation of most of the energy content of the uranium (0.7% U-235 + 99.3% U-238) rather than just that of the 0.7% U-235 (plus some of the Pu which is formed) which is consumed in thermal reactors like PWR’s. By the time the project was cancelled (1988), the world seemed awash with oil and U prices were at a historical low as well, removing the economic/energy security arguments. The decision to cancel the project was mainly economic in the end, although there were unresolved technical issues as well.

          The fuel cycle required processing and purification of Pu (albeit not Pu which was much use for bomb-making due to its isotopic composition) on an industrial scale and conversion to a 20% Pu/80% U-238 oxide fuel to put back in the reactors. The nuclear reactions in a fast reactor both burn U-238 directly by fast fission and also convert some of it into Pu, which is the fissile content for the next batch of U/Pu oxide. The perceived proliferation risks of large scale Pu processing, the production of long-lived alpha-emitting transuranics, which eventually became part of the high level wast and a growing antipathy to anything nuclear never quite enthused the green lobby!

          I remember, when the project was cancelled, commenting that 30 years later, we would probably be buying reactors with ‘Hitachi’ or the like on the side. Not yet, but interestingly a fast reactor concept is currently being developed by GE Hitachi, called PRISM:-

          developed from the Integral fast Reactor concept:-

          Fast reactors live on as concepts under the umbrella description ‘Generation IV Reactors’:-

          but I doubt I will see one built in my lifetime.

          Coal, oil and gas are great for generating heat, raising steam and producing electricity, but they come with downsides in the form of pollution, GHG emissions and resource limitations. Likewise, uranium and plutonium are good for fissioning to generate heat, raise steam and produce electricity and they come with a different downsides. In both cases, the downsides can be managed to keep the risks low, although the public perception is that nuclear is the higher-risk option compared to fossil.

          Slightly tangential, but I couldn’t help noticing the graphs in your recent posts, showing the growth over the last 50 years or so in electricity consumption in the UK and Egypt. The UK graph started in 1966, when I was in my teens. At the time it certainly wasn’t the dark ages by any means and there were plenty of electrical appliances, street lights, etc. It doesn’t feel as if my own electricity use is several times larger than it was then but I suppose there are more street lights, etc now. It certainly demonstrates the very clear link between electricity consumption, economic activity and standard of living.

          • Euan Mearns says:

            I just walked around my house to see what was switched on: computer, refrigerator, washing machine and tumble drier. Back in the 1960s we didn’t have computers or tumble driers. When we are in the country we use my patented solar clothes drier but in town we use electric tumble drier. My Mum used to do washing once a week in a pretty weird old washing machine. I guess my wife does washing 3 times a week. Why not me? I guess, left to my own devices I would do a washing about once a month 😉

            We should of course not have washing machine and tumble drier on during the day. The cost of electricity during the day should be so high that we are incentivised to shift use to night time.

            I’m hopeful that the pattern of electricity use globally may reveal something interesting about society and its development.

            I’m away to switch something else on now – a power washer. I’ve just cleaned all the paving around my house. My neighbour – an 80 something old lady has watched with envy as all the moss and stains disappeared, and so I offered to do her’s as well – gives me a break from making charts for Libya.

  2. Ralph W says:

    My firm belief is that fossil fuels (oil in particular) are becoming much more expensive to extract (in resource and educated labour investment terms as much as price per barrel), and that the price of extraction is rising towards the upper limit of would industrial society and afford to pay. In other words we are facing peak net fossil energy.

    That leaves renewables or nuclear to fill the energy gap. Fusion is not even on the horizon. (I once had a job interview to work on JET. Shortest interview ever). I do not see either as being able to sustain industrial society on its current trajectory of ever expanding resource consumption. So there is only one conclusion. Industrial society as we know it will not to be sustained.

    Which is no reason to give up, but to chose the least worst option, as we are facing power down. Sticking with fossil fuel is going to cause dire climate change and ever increasing direct pollution as we go down the ore quality pyramid. Renewables need high upfront investment and may not provide enough dispatchable energy, and electricity cannot provide all uses that fossil feedstocks have, at least not remotely efficiently. Nuclear has high upfront costs, very low running costs, but unknown decommissioning costs on a timescale of up to a century after the decision to build a plant. The potential downside for a nuclear plant can be very unpleasant. (Please don’t mention that we don’t get massive earthquakes in the UK, or massive flooding. There are a lot of unknowns unknowns out in this world. The one constant seems to be man’s hubris).

    Given that I cannot see industrial society lasting another century, I cannot morally justify building new nuclear plants that will require at least a century of stable, high energy society to safely decommission, when the potential downside is massive radiation contamination on a wide scale.

    Put what money we have left in renewables and make the best of a bad job.

    • Roger Andrews says:

      You don’t got no wind, you don’t got no ‘lectric. Don’t make no never mind how many windmills you got.

      You don’t got no sun, you don’t got no ‘lectric. Don’t make no never mind how many solar panels you got.

      You don’t got no big storage batteries, ain’t nothing you can do.

      You put your money in renewables and you done got yourself a job so bad you ain’t never going to make the best of it.

    • Euan Mearns says:

      Ralph, you are of course entitled to, and to express your opinion. I think I have had this conversation with you before.

      Peak fossil fuel I believe we will see more price hikes and the consequence will be more FF, more people but declining living standards as society spends more on forever more expensive energy. But all the while technology and human ingenuity will be fighting back. And an energy transition is in progress where other energy sources are gradually introduced.

      The Green Trap The argument that society will disintegrate therefore we must not expand nuclear becomes a self fulfilling prophecy. Without nuclear, society will disintegrate.

      Renewables I believe there is a place for renewables in the energy mix. Mix being the operative word.

      Climate Change I think commentators need to be judged against their ability to absorb new data and to adapt their view of the world accordingly.

      Compound interest is the eighth wonder of the world. He who understands it, earns it … he who doesn’t … pays it.


      Apply that to an annual % rate of adaptation of Mankind to an evolving energy and population landscape.

      • burnsider says:

        The matter is well examined and summarised in Prof David Mackay’s book “Sustainable Energy – Without The Hot Air” which can be downloaded from

        Prof Mackay is a very good speaker and the gist of his thinking can be seen in his recent TED Talk at Warwick University.

        Watch out for the bit about growing oilseed or similar to fuel road traffic ‘renewably’ with biodiesel…..

        • Roger Andrews says:


          Your comment encouraged me to take a closer look at Prof. Mackay’s book. His thesis is of course based on two questionable assumptions – that we’re running out of fossil fuels and that burning them is having “a measurable and very-probably dangerous effect on the climate”, but I’m not going to get into that again. What I was chiefly interested in was whether he recognized the big problem, which is how to store wind power for re-use during periods when the wind doesn’t blow. And to give him credit, indeed he does. He devotes an entire Chapter (26) to it.

          But how does he propose to solve it?

          By storing the wind power in the batteries of a fleet of 30 million electric cars that can be plugged into smart chargers which “(guzzle) electricity when the wind blows and (switch) off when the wind drops”, thereby keeping supply and demand in balance.

          Saints preserve us.

          • burnsider says:

            Couldn’t agree more, although I’m not an engineer either. The electric car storage idea gets floated every now and again, so I suspect that David Mackay picked up the idea from somewhere else. I’m sure that, if the numbers are crunched, that car storage works on paper if not in the real world. In the same manner, the notion of growing oilseed rape on the verges of roads (unused land) to produce biodiesel to fuel the traffic works on paper but falls flat in the real world (like so many arm-waving ideas) when the numbers reveal that the verges would have to be 8km wide! (from Prof Mackay’s TED Talk)

            In a way both car storage and biodiesel are examples of the ‘We’ll just….’ approach to solving problems. I realised many years ago that the word ‘just’ in contexts other than ‘just settlement of a dispute’ or ‘we only just caught the plane’ should ring alarm bells. It is often a sign that someone doesn’t know much in depth about a subject and is, metaphorically, shooting from the hip with something they haven’t thought through. We’ve all heard pundits stating that ‘We’ll just switch to a hydrogen economy…’ or ‘We’ll just put colonies at the Lagrange points…. ‘ or ‘We’ll just fire nuclear waste into the sun…’

            Why don’t we ‘just’ turn all those waste tyres into rubber bands and wind them up to store excess wind power….? (Joking apart, the storage issue has been identified, but no easy solution is apparent)

          • Euan Mearns says:

            V2G – vehicle to grid – when I first learned about this about 8 years ago it sounded like a great idea. Implementing something like this of course is hugely expensive, incredibly difficult / impossible to introduce into a market driven system.

            Tesla has been enormously successful with its high end Scaletrix luxury cars. Apart from that, most folks I know who buy hybrids do so out of a sense environmental care. In 20 years time when the reality of no climate change sinks in they will believe they saved the planet 😉

            On problem with electric cars in a temperate climate is keeping warm in winter.

          • Roger Andrews says:

            If you’re determined to decarbonize your economy regardless of cost and disruption to society then using wind electricity to power 30 million electric cars is a good idea because you’re replacing oil with wind.

            But the 30 million batteries aren’t STORING the electricity, they’re BURNING it. Once it’s in the batteries you can’t get it get it back again, so you can’t use it to balance load during peak demand periods. You need real storage capacity, like pumped hydro, to do that. And if you don’t have it the lights go out as soon as the wind drops and shortly after that you have 30 million electric cars with dead batteries.

          • Ed says:

            Organic mega flow bateries. Could be the breakthrough we need. Google it.

  3. Kit P says:

    Some facts from the US. The cost of decommissioning is not significant of LWR compared to power produced. LWR last a very long time. At least 60 years and we (the company I work for) are studying what it will take to make them last 80 years. Uranium is not scarce.
    Since I do not live France, I am not an expert in what they are doing. EDF has ordered replacement team generators so it would seem that the French are planning on their PWRs lasting 60 years.

    • burnsider says:

      Assuming no problems are found in the parts of the reactor which cannot be repaired or replaced, there is absolutely no reason why French PWR’s can’t keep on running for many years yet. The same argument would apply to a car or a washing machine or the like. Having worked in the nuclear industry, I know for a fact that safety is taken very seriously and no decision to continue operation will be taken without the development of a robust Safety Case.

      If I lived next to a nuclear power station anywhere in the West, I would personally worry more about slipping while getting out of the shower or choking on a fishbone as life-shortening hazards long before anything nuclear. Fukushima is used again and again in arguments about nuclear safety, but it is worth remembering that the reactors and their containment buildings withstood an earthquake more than 10 times stronger than they were designed to resist. The problem was the need for grid power to keep emergency cooling pumps running if the backup generators were not available, so when the latter, thoughtfully located below ground level In a tsunami zone??? Doh!!) were swamped, it was game over. If the emergency generators had been where they should have been, on the first floor of a suitably strong building, we would never have heard of Fukushima.

      The original post noted that Fessenheim was on a ‘known geological fault’ which hints at the possibility of an earthquake causing damage. That will likely be a fault like the Highland Boundary Fault ( in north-central Scotland. There is a large petrochemical complex (Grangemeouth) located a few miles from the fault itself and millions of people live nearby as well. However, no-one with an ounce of common sense would be worrying about earthquakes or strengthening their homes or factories to resist one. (ie the probability of an event is vanishingly small). Notwithstanding and because the nuclear industry bar is set very high, the building I worked in at Dounreay for a number of years was expensively strengthened to make sure that the probability of an activity release was reduced even further below the already vanishing level.

      Final comment – the words ‘nuclear accident’ were used in the original post and are widely used whenever any radioactive incident is reported at a nuclear facility. This conjures up pictures of blue glowing corpses and mushroom clouds while the reality is usually along the lines that a worker detected contamination where it should not have been and it was cordoned off, cleaned up and an investigation launched to find out how it got there and how to stop it happening again. No harm caused to anyone on or off the site. It is bit like spilling a bit of bleach (‘Harmful fumes. Causes severe skin irritation. Poisonous when ingested. Toxic to aquatic life’) on your kitchen floor. Prompt action with a mop and bucket prevents any harm to occupants of the house and investigation shows that you should keep the cap on tightly when the dog is running around and there is a bottle on the floor.

      • Kit P says:

        No one was hurt as a result of damaged fuel on site either. By design. I have over 40 years safety experience with both BWR and PWR. Reactors designed to US standards will protect people from harm even if there is an accident or the expected happens. Hurting someone with fission produces is just not credible. If you can think of a credible way to hurt someone with fission products please let me know. I brought home my laptop from work and I will formally document it.
        Reactors are designed for a specific set of credible accidents and external hazards such that fuel damage is prevented. We also design for the unexpected which could lead to core damage or what we call a severe accident. There is time to take precautionary measures such as evacuation.

      • Euan Mearns says:

        Grangemouth is in fact about 50 miles away from The Highland Boundary fault situated in the middle of The Midland Valley mid way between the ancient fault zones of the Highland Boundary and Southern Uplands. I don’t think there has been significant movement on these faults since the Carboniferous. The tsunami risk in the UK is probably greater than the earthquake risk:

        But the greatest natural hazard we face are large volcanic eruptions on Iceland.

        The comments about health and safety are spot on. The oil industry and nuclear industries are held under a health and safety microscope. In the oil industry every accident no matter how small and every spillage no matter how small has to be reported and are regularly pounced on by Green media and blown up out of context. The population needs to make this choice between having energy and tolerating limited health, safety and environmental risk.

        • Kit P says:

          You are missing the point big time. We in the US power industry do not expose children to I-131. The engineering to do that is very easy. There is no increase in cancer risk form from TMI or Fukushima. The evil empire, USSR, had a complete disregard for human life. Their power reactors did not have a containment. No precautions were taken to limit exposure to I-131. As a result, we have more data confirming what we already knew. Do not expose children to I-131.

          • burnsider says:

            I didn’t mean to suggest that the US power industry exposes kids to I-131 – we don’t do it in the UK either 🙂 .

            I-131 is a fission product of note when containment is lost, however, as at Chernobyl and Fukushima (I don’t think there was much I-131, if any released at Three Mile Island). It is, as you said, very likely that any cancers actually caused by activity releases from TMI, and possibly Fukushima, will be undetectable against the background of cancers occurring from every other cause.

            To nitpick a bit, Chernobyl DID have containment, but the operators managed to break it open rather comprehensively! I think that some of the Russian reactors producing plutonium for bombs were a bit iffy in terms of containment, but then neither the UK (Windscale 1957) nor the US (Hanford site generally) exactly have a spotless record in that connection

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  5. James Philip says:

    To summarise the article,

    – Security cannot be guaranteed.

    – The cost of retiring the old and building replacements is 0.565 Trillion dollars.

    – Nuclear is only good for baseload.

    – Govt cannot manage costs

    In response to points raised in comments;

    ‘Without cheap and reliable electricity we have no healthcare, well fare, education’
    Sorry but that’s rubbish, we had all that stuff (maybe not to the same level) before the national grid, it can all exist in the absence of electricity.

    ‘it is worth remembering that the reactors and their containment buildings withstood an earthquake more than 10 times stronger than they were designed to resist.’
    10 times stronger on what scale. Wiki says unit 1 was designed to handle 0.18g units 2 & 3 0.45g the earthquake measured 0.56g. From what I remember from 3 years ago there was serious doubt that unit 1 had survived the earthquake. Things had gone arwy before that wave took out the electrics.

    ‘Hurting someone with fission produces is just not credible.’

    As for the PFR at dounraey for every day it worked as advertised it spent 3 days not working that’s what killed it.

    The comments here are sounding like a pro-nuke echo chamber, there are serious grounds for persuing nuclear, the above don’t stand up to much analysis.

    As for tumble driers and high pressure hoses pure jetsam even if we weren’t facing an energy crunch.

    • Kit P says:

      “What??! ”
      What is your plan to hurt school children James? Put them in a school bus and take them on a tour of the containment during a severe accident? Not what I would call credible.
      “Things had gone arwy before that wave took out the electrics. ”
      Not true. At this point such conjecture is unfounded. In the history of LWRs, none have had a safety related failure related to earthquakes. Obviously, there was not time to between the seismic event and when the tsunami hit to inspect inside the containment. However, the safety systems functioned as designed and continue to function for longer that designed after the extended loss of power. I am an expert on this. Like I said I have been doing for 40 years. I am not some looney college professor who comments on things they read about on line.

  6. Kit P says:

    Since you live in the UK I will excuse your lack of reading skills. I said exposure. Release and exposure are different. It is a matter of time and space. It takes time to damage a core because of loss of decay heat removal. It takes time for the particulate cesium iodide to transform to I2. It takes time to overheat and pressurize the containment. Children were not exposed to I-131 because they had time to be evacuated.. It is easy enough to measure.
    We raised two children in North Richland which is as close to Hanford as people can live. Distance prevents exposure of children. The folks at the Manhattan at the foresight to consider the the unexpected. And no Chernobyl DID NOT have containment building it had a cheap ass industrial building that might ‘contain’ under normal operation.
    Time, distance, and shielding. One of my duties in the navy was radiation safety office. We were a little short on distance but we still had a plan for the expected.

  7. Time To Think About It says:

    If you support nuclear power then, you support having a weapon of mass destruction sitting in your neighborhood.
    A nuclear power plant is a weapon of such destruction that it can quietly destroy all living beings, all animals, and all vegetation without ever going bang.
    All it has to do is meltdown.

    So to all those trusting souls that believe the brainwashing that has been performed on the Public’s collective intelligence for decades, it’s time to realize that you are living in the path of the one of the hundreds of the World’s most lethal weapons parked in a nice safe looking building… that can take out entire cities if the cooling systems begin to collapse and fail. One more fact: If a nuclear plant should fail downwind from your property, your life’s investment just became a worthless pile of radioactive sticks & dirt!

    • Kit P says:

      To make a atomic weapon using fission requires either highly enriched U-235 or weapons grade P-239. Commercial LWR have neither. It is a fact of physics that they can not blow up. It requires tens of billions to develop facilities to produce nuclear weapon and LWR are not used at any of these faclities. Second we do not put nuclear reactors in neighborhoods. They are in carefully controlled industrial areas. At this time four LWR have fission products released from the zirconium tubes. No measurable harm has occurred to any living thing let alone the absurd ‘destroy all living beings’.
      The irony is that US nuclear reactors have destroyed 20,000 soviet WMD that were targeting our homes. As far as brainwashing is concerned, every US nuke plant has several public meeting a year. Each nuke plant has many public documents in including the Final Safety Analysis report. Open public discussions are the opposite of brainwashing.

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