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The week ahead: why nuclear energy could be the answer

Briefing starts with good news this morning and another sign the economic recovery is picking up pace. Temperatures may be plummeting but optimism among small and medium-sized manufacturers is rising at a record pace, according to the CBI business organisation.

The latest SME Trends Survey found domestic orders rose in the three months to at their fastest rate since January 1995 while export orders were back to early 2011 levels, and optimism around export prospects for the next 12 months increased strongly. As a result, manufacturers expect production, employment and investment all to increase over the coming months.

Sadly the employees of BAE Systems’ shipyards in Portsmouth and Glasgow are facing a less positive situation. The GMB union is starting a two-day meeting today in an attempt to save as many jobs as possible and preserve manufacturing skills, following the announcement of 1,775 redundancies brought about by the upcoming end to the aircraft carrier construction contract. The company is expected to announce further details of the redundancies on Wednesday.

For young people with grim employment prospects, more vocational qualifications (VQs) are the answer, according to nearly three-quarters of 1000 employers surveyed by The Edge Foundation and City & Guilds.

The new research, commissioned for this week’s Skills Show in Birmingham, found 72 per cent of employers see vocational qualifications as essential for improving young people’s skills and over half of these firms (35 per cent) thought (VQs) were more valuable than academic ones.

In Bristol, meanwhile, an event on Thursday will bring together inventors of impressive innovations, including a part 3D-printed robotic hand and something described as a “spacecraft vending machine”, with investors and business support providers.

The free, not-for-profit Venturefest will feature 40 companies from across south-west England operating in industries including biotech, robotics, agriculture, manufacturing, electronics, energy, software and gaming, all of whom are looking for finding or collaborators to help take their ideas forward.

And finally, as Fukushima in Japan begins its transformation from a nuclear disaster site into a renewable energy hub with the launch of an experimental floating offshore windfarm, the UK is preparing for the release of a controversial pro-nuclear documentary.

A growing number of environmentalists are turning to nuclear as a way to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, and Pandora’s Promise by director Robert Stone puts forward those arguments while trying to address the myths surrounding atomic energy.

The film will be released on Friday and will also form part of a mini festival in London’s Brixton on Saturday, showing alongside five other documentaries exploring the pros and cons of nuclear generation and a panel discussion featuring Stone and several of his fellow filmmakers.

Readers' comments (11)

  • No question of 'could it be the answer .... it IS the answer!' Yes there is a legacy but is it any worse than coal? The tree huggers should give up or be compelled to go without electricity every time one of their windmills fails to rotate. That's usually in very cold weather when high pressure dictates no wind. End of argument.

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  • Japan and Germany may have given up on nuclear power due to irrational fears of environmental ruin, but the shear weight of evidence in the UK on the long term cost of nuclear electricity would suggest it can't be the answer.

    Am I right, that the £1bn (in today's value) Dinorwig pumped storage facility was built because of the inflexible nature of nuclear generation?

    Now, we have a very urgent need for a great deal more energy storage, to optimise the efficient running of renewables, but the EMR/energy bill fails to even address the issue. There are no market incentives to drive innovation or investment in orthodox technologies.

    Conventional HAWTs are a ridiculous choice for floating platforms, not least because of their high C of G, but the development of VAWTs is currently a minority pursuit (in France). Worse still, nobody - Japan, Germany, USA nor the UK - has thought to incorporate before-generator energy storage into their designs.

    That's the mother of all market failures, in both engineering and strategic planning. We used to say - 'necessity is the mother of invention' - but there'll be no progress to 100% sustainable green electricity until some bright spark decides what is necessary - i.e. dispatchable renewables.

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  • What about using the whole Irish sea as a tidal power plant? Say 10^11 m^2 area, with say 1m potential drop 4 times a day. Potential around 46GW average energy. That would be an engineering challenge. Flexible dams? Shipping can be tightly controlled.

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  • There is NO reason why HAWT's shouldn't be employed on Floating Platforms it WOULD work! The problem is getting the Power ashore. VAWT's also work and some notable examples exist in this country and in the USA.
    Nuclear is expensive but it's Proven Technology. Wind and Wave/Tidal also have their place. There is NO SINGLE solution it will HAVE to be a MIX.

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  • Absolutely right - dispatchable renewables -with nuclear base load generation.

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  • Uranium peak output 20 years
    Solar and wind fuel life will outlast humanity
    High Pressure weather system means lower wind but never zero( sea breazes) but max sun ,
    It says it all

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  • Nuclear is not low carbon - a good way to reduce UK carbon dioxide emissions is to shut down all the AGR nuclear reactors because they are cooled by carbon dioxide: AGR stands for Advanced Gas Cooled Reactors - the gas is carbon dioxide. And there's all the carbon cost of importing the uranium, dealing with the waste and the spend fuel for millennia beyond operational lifetimes.

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  • The carbon dioxide from AGR cooling is circulated, not emitted. And no CO2 emissions result from keeping waste while its activity declines.

  • I'd guess that this story was prompted by somebody in the nuclear industry jumping on the environmental bandwagon. Nuclear now has 300,000 tonnes of radioactive waste with half lives of a few hundred thousand years. Environmentally sound idea - My Ass.
    Instead of governments throwing $50 BILLION in subsidies to nuclear industry - give it Renewables - I bet they achieve a lot more in 50 years than what Nuclear has done with the handouts.

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  • I am not sure if the figures for waste are proper; much waste is medical and it must depend, also, upon what is included and level.
    I seem to remeber that some groups were interested in re-cycling!! - to reduce radioactivity in high level waste and efficiency of usage.
    The idea of subsidies is interesting; they seem to have been used not to develop many "renewables" but subsidise their use or exclude alternatives (solar thermal or VAWT or Salter's Ducks)

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  • Cleverer people than I have added comments here, but to me the main reason behind any production and installation of any type of 'Base Load' generating capacity to cope with the inevitable intermittence of Wave or tidal production (I exclude wind as being an expensive folly) is the urgent need for the UK to have a wholly independant electricity suppy. We otherwise risk being held to ransom by others. To say we live in a United europe is farcical.

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  • Surely the concern about nuclear waste disposal in the ground is nonsense...where did the radioactive fuel come from in the first place...the ground? so even if we do not mine it the raw material is in the ground and still has a half life of millenia.What was the rw material 2 million years or more ago before it decayed to present oxides?

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