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Britain Aims for Nuclear, But Greens Query Funding

Jeremy Lovell, Planet Ark
Britain is in a nuclear bind, environmentalists say, with the government keen to promote atomic energy but hard pressed to find funding after it said it will not use public money.

Prime Minister Tony Blair has said a major review of UK energy policy, expected next week, will have to embrace a new generation of nuclear power plants. Blair says that will keep the lights burning and also help to cut global warming carbon emissions.

But ministers have also said they will not use government money to entice private enterprise to replace the ageing nuclear power plants which supply 20 percent of the UK’s electricity — all but one of which will shut within a decade.

That is a crucial point when taken in the context of the 70 billion pounds now estimated as the cost to clean up the waste from Britain’s existing nuclear plants, environmentalists say.

“The government has backed itself into a corner on nuclear power and has some fancy footwork to do to get out of it,” Roger Higman, nuclear specialist at Friends of the Earth told Reuters.
(5 July 2006)


Public funding of nuclear questioned in Australia

Wendy Frew, Sydney Morning Herald
GOVERNMENT subsidies are not among the economic issues that will be examined by a Federal Government taskforce on nuclear energy, despite the role they have played in the industry here and overseas.

A paper released by the taskforce on Tuesday cited more than 100 issues associated with the nuclear fuel cycle, almost half of them related to the money that could be made from uranium exports, uranium enrichment and the management of nuclear waste.

The economics of nuclear power will be examined but, of the 14 areas raised in the paper, none referred to government subsidies. Also, economic issues heavily outweighed references to environmental and health concerns, which green groups and opposition parties said showed the Government was not serious about pursuing nuclear power as an answer to climate change.
(5 July 2006)
Original headline ‘Profits are driving Howard’s nuclear taskforce, say environmentalists’.

The report also questions ‘whether there is a “business case” for managing radioactive byproducts generated outside Australia.’

The Prime Minister has responded, we won’t become world’s nuclear dump to which Australian Conservation Foundation spokeswoman Leanne Minshull said, “if the prime minister is fair dinkum about not making Australia the world’s nuclear waste dump, then he should instruct his inquiry panel not to examine the economic viability of importing high-level radioactive waste from overseas.” -AF

Documents reveal hidden fears over Britain’s nuclear plants

John Vidal and Ian Sample, The Guardian
Government nuclear inspectors have raised serious questions over the safety of Britain’s ageing atomic power stations, some of which have developed major cracks in their reactor cores, documents reveal today.

The safety assessments, obtained under Freedom of Information legislation, show the Nuclear Safety Directorate (NSD) has issued warnings over the deterioration of reactor cores at Hinkley Point B in Somerset and other British nuclear plants. The directorate also criticises British Energy, which operates 13 advanced gas-cooled nuclear reactors including Hinkley.

According to the papers, the company does not know the extent of the damage to the reactor cores, cannot monitor their deterioration and does not fully understand why cracking has occurred. They reveal that in June last year, the NSD said it was faced with “significant regulatory issues … for all operating AGR reactors”.
(5 July 2006)

Australian Minister visits damaged British reactor

Denis Peters, The Australian
IF he was looking for something to support the push for a nuclear industry in Australia, then the visit to an ageing reactor in Scotland was not quite the ticket for Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane.

As the Minister was visiting the Torness reactor, south of Edinburgh, reports broke in the British media today that the reactor has cracks in the graphite bricks in its core, and no one knows why.

Experts are calling for Torness to be shut down, along with several other ageing British reactors with similar problems.

It’s an embarrassment for the Federal Government, particularly as debate raged today over an issues paper prepared by the prime ministerial taskforce on nuclear energy.
(5 July 2006)
Related: Industry, government downplay nuclear safety worries