Mar 21, 2013

Will Nuclear End Our Energy Crisis?

3 min
Written by Lima Curtis Key Points:  Fuel poverty for third of households by 2030 unless nucl...

Written by Lima Curtis

Key Points: 

  • Fuel poverty for third of households by 2030 unless nuclear power plants built

  • David King: If we want to keep the lights on, then nuclear is a good idea

  • Oliver Tickell: We would need 10,000 nuclear plants to provide the majority of global energy need.

  • The cost to the tax payer for one single reactor would be $100 billion so building 10,000 would cost $1 quadrillion.

  • Andrew Pendleton: nuclear is ‘increasingly expensive, risky power’ 

AFTER much deliberation, planning permission has been granted for a brand new nuclear plant in Hinkley, the first in the UK in a generation.

Not a day goes by without scare stories of energy black outs, energy price rises and global climate change. Meanwhile, it is estimated that a new Germany is added to the world’s grid every year in terms of energy use. And as long as developing countries continue to gobble up huge amounts of energy to access healthcare, education and growing economies, the trend will continue.

But is nuclear energy really the solution to this crisis?

Professor Sir David King, former governmental chief scientific advisor, seems to think so. Speaking at a sustainable building conference in London last week he said that the government could solve our energy and economy by investing directly in nuclear.

“If we want to keep the lights on, then nuclear is a good idea,” he said. “If we want to stimulate economy, it might be a better idea to create direct stimulation by investing in the energy sector… and while nuclear is expensive to build, we know the government can borrow very cheaply at 0.5%.”

He warned if the UK continued to import its fuel, the economy would never recover, attributing Italy’s collapsed economy to expensive oil imports. Energy analysts from the UK Centre for Policy Studies, however, claim one in three households will be in fuel poverty by 2030 unless nuclear power plants are built.

Currently nuclear power generates around one sixth of the United Kingdom's electricity, and planning permission has been granted for two new reactors in Hinkley in the south of England. Sizewell B, on the UK’s East coast, was the last nuclear plant to be built almost 18 years ago. 

However author, journalist and campaigner Oliver Tickell was less optimistic presenting the huge cost of construction, insurance, research grants and decommissioning.

“We would need 10,000 nuclear plants to provide the majority of global energy need,” Tickell said. “The cost to the tax payer for one single reactor would be $100 billion, so building 10,000 would cost $1 quadrillion. Nuclear industry is in state of desperation.”

He instead suggested that the government give greater support to the renewables (solar, wind and tidal) industry which he said was booming. And he’s not alone. In a letter to the Guardian, the head of campaigns at Friends of the Earth Andrew Pendleton described nuclear as ‘increasingly expensive, risky power’.

“Even if the nuclear industry delivers on time, new reactors won't be ready until the 2020's, and could end up costing consumers tens of billions of pounds,” Pendleton said.

Although the UK government has decided to invest in research with 12 other EU member states, the greatest worry to both sides is not whether more nuclear plants will be created in the UK or not, but the lack of clear and decisive leadership from the government on the issue.

“I don’t think there is a coherent policy,” Professor King added. “...we need clear transparent policy from the government, from the Prime Minister. We need to know what the cabinet is going to do to deliver energy and meet demands.”


Lima Curtis writes about energy and the environment for many different sites including The Independent, The Energy Saving Trust and The EcoExperts




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Jul 29, 2021

Carbon dioxide removal revenues worth £2bn a year by 2030

Dominic Ellis
4 min
Engineered greenhouse gas removals will become "a major new infrastructure sector" in the coming decades says the UK's National Infrastructure Commission

Carbon dioxide removal revenues could reach £2bn a year by 2030 in the UK with costs per megatonne totalling up to £400 million, according to the National Infrastructure Commission

Engineered greenhouse gas removals will become "a major new infrastructure sector" in the coming decades - although costs are uncertain given removal technologies are in their infancy - and revenues could match that of the UK’s water sector by 2050. The Commission’s analysis suggests engineered removals technologies need to have capacity to remove five to ten megatonnes of carbon dioxide no later than 2030, and between 40 and 100 megatonnes by 2050.

The Commission states technologies fit into two categories: extracting carbon dioxide directly out of the air; and bioenergy with carbon capture technology – processing biomass to recapture carbon dioxide absorbed as the fuel grew. In both cases, the captured CO2 is then stored permanently out of the atmosphere, typically under the seabed.

The report sets out how the engineered removal and storage of carbon dioxide offers the most realistic way to mitigate the final slice of emissions expected to remain by the 2040s from sources that don’t currently have a decarbonisation solution, like aviation and agriculture. 

It stresses that the potential of these technologies is “not an excuse to delay necessary action elsewhere” and cannot replace efforts to reduce emissions from sectors like road transport or power, where removals would be a more expensive alternative.  

The critical role these technologies will play in meeting climate targets means government must rapidly kick start the sector so that it becomes viable by the 2030s, according to the report, which was commissioned by government in November 2020. 

Early movement by the UK to develop the expertise and capacity in greenhouse gas removal technologies could create a comparative advantage, with the prospect of other countries needing to procure the knowledge and skills the UK develops.

The Commission recommends that government should support the development of this new sector in the short term with policies that drive delivery of these technologies and create demand through obligations on polluting industries, which will over time enable a competitive market to develop. Robust independent regulation must also be put in place from the start to help build public and investor confidence.

While the burden of these costs could be shared by different parts of industries required to pay for removals or in part shared with government, the report acknowledges that, over the longer term, the aim should be to have polluting sectors pay for removals they need to reach carbon targets.

Polluting industries are likely to pass a proportion of the costs onto consumers. While those with bigger household expenditures will pay more than those on lower incomes, the report underlines that government will need to identify ways of protecting vulnerable consumers and to decide where in relevant industry supply chains the costs should fall.

Chair of the National Infrastructure Commission, Sir John Armitt, said taking steps to clean our air is something we’re going to have to get used to, just as we already manage our wastewater and household refuse. 

"While engineered removals will not be everyone’s favourite device in the toolkit, they are there for the hardest jobs. And in the overall project of mitigating our impact on the planet for the sake of generations to come, we need every tool we can find," he said.

“But to get close to having the sector operating where and when we need it to, the government needs to get ahead of the game now. The adaptive approach to market building we recommend will create the best environment for emerging technologies to develop quickly and show their worth, avoiding the need for government to pick winners. We know from the dramatic fall in the cost of renewables that this approach works and we must apply the lessons learned to this novel, but necessary, technology.” 

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and International Energy Agency estimate a global capacity for engineered removals of 2,000 to 16,000 megatonnes of carbon dioxide each year by 2050 will be needed in order to meet global reduction targets. 

Yesterday Summit Carbon Solutions received "a strategic investment" from John Deere to advance a major CCUS project (click here). The project will accelerate decarbonisation efforts across the agriculture industry by enabling the production of low carbon ethanol, resulting in the production of more sustainable food, feed, and fuel. Summit Carbon Solutions has partnered with 31 biorefineries across the Midwest United States to capture and permanently sequester their CO2 emissions.  

Cory Reed, President, Agriculture & Turf Division of John Deere, said: "Carbon neutral ethanol would have a positive impact on the environment and bolster the long-term sustainability of the agriculture industry. The work Summit Carbon Solutions is doing will be critical in delivering on these goals."

McKinsey highlights a number of CCUS methods which can drive CO2 to net zero:

  • Today’s leader: Enhanced oil recovery Among CO2 uses by industry, enhanced oil recovery leads the field. It accounts for around 90 percent of all CO2 usage today
  • Cementing in CO2 for the ages New processes could lock up CO2 permanently in concrete, “storing” CO2 in buildings, sidewalks, or anywhere else concrete is used
  • Carbon neutral fuel for jets Technically, CO2 could be used to create virtually any type of fuel. Through a chemical reaction, CO2 captured from industry can be combined with hydrogen to create synthetic gasoline, jet fuel, and diesel
  • Capturing CO2 from ambient air - anywhere Direct air capture (DAC) could push CO2 emissions into negative territory in a big way
  • The biomass-energy cycle: CO2 neutral or even negative Bioenergy with carbon capture and storage relies on nature to remove CO2 from the atmosphere for use elsewhere

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