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UK New Nuclear-Build - Struggling to Stay Afloat

First published on the Cleantech Investor website, June 2012

by Nigel Hawkins

For better or for worse, addressing the carbon issue is central to the UK’s environmental policy, with new nuclear-build being a key element in delivering the next generation investment that will cut carbon emissions.

But, after a torrid few months, the UK’s new nuclear-build plans are in deep trouble. Whilst the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) focuses on the widely criticised Electricity Market Reforms (EMR) arrangements, the grim reality for potential investors is becoming very apparent. 

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Nuclear Fusion

First published with A Safer Nuclear Path? in Cleantech magazine 2011 Issue 3. Copyright Cleantech Investor Ltd.

The nuclear process at the heart of stars and the H-bomb, fusion, still appears to be several decades away from commercial power generation. Unlike fission, in which energy is released when large atomic nuclei split, fusion reactions release tremendous amounts of energy when two light atomic nuclei fuse to form a heavier nucleus. The light nuclei used are isotopes of hydrogen – deuterium and tritium – and are abundantly available in seawater or derived from lithium. Nuclear fusion promises cheap, safe and plentiful energy without greenhouse gas emissions, pollution, or radioactive waste.

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A safer nuclear path?

First published in Cleantech magazine 2011 Issue 3. Copyright Cleantech Investor Ltd

Denis Gross reviews a more ‘holistic approach’ to nuclear energy

In late March, after the Fukushima disaster, Sir David Anthony King, FRS, the former chief scientific adviser to the UK Government, defended nuclear power in a report recommending Britain should recycle uranium and plutonium stockpiles, and calling for a "holistic approach" to nuclear policy. He argues that nuclear power is the safest form of electricity generation. With the exception of renewables, his is borne out statistically. However, Fukushima has joined the list of nuclear crises;  Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and, arguably, the Stuxnet computer virus, which highlighted the potential of cyberwarfare to attack nuclear power facilities (in this case an attack on Iran’s uranium enrichment site).

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The EPR – a solution to climate change?

First published in Cleantech magazine, January 2009. Copyright Cleantech Investor Ltd. 2009

By Jon Mainwaring

The issue of climate change has helped to push a number of low-carbon, renewable energy technologies to the fore over the past couple of decades, but recent years have seen the re-emergence of a controversial source of electricity – nuclear energy – as a potential solution to reducing greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide. Playing a key role in the revival of the nuclear industry’s fortunes is the European Pressurised Reactor (also known as the Evolutionary Power Reactor or EPR).

The EPR is a pressurised water reactor that has been in development since the beginning of the 1990s by French energy utility EDF and Areva-ANP – a specialist developer of nuclear power plants jointly owned by French energy engineering company Areva and Germany’s Siemens. There are currently two EPR power plants under construction: one at Flamanville in Normandy, France; the other at Olkiluoto in Finland.

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Nuclear Fusion – ’Bringing a Star to Earth’

First published in InFocus: Nuclear, a supplement to Cleantech magazine January/February 2008. Copyright Cleantech Investor 2008

by Denis Gross

 

In February 2008 the US National Academy of Engineering (NAE) revealed what its committee of experts believes are the grand challenges for engineering in the 21st century. One of them is providing energy from fusion.  Fusion energy is the process that powers the sun, in the interior of which immense heat and gravitational pressure compress nuclei of certain elements into heavier nuclei, releasing binding energy.  While reactors on earth are incapable of recreating the enormously high pressures of the sun’s interior, this can be compensated to a large extent by the ability to achieve far higher temperatures. For the past five decades fusion has been seen as one of the most promising inexhaustible clean energy sources for the future, with the fuel abundantly available and no carbon dioxide or long-lived radioactive decay products being produced. However, mainstream research has yet to identify a route to a commercial fusion power plant.

Since research on fusion got under way in the early 1950s, the problems with which international researchers have grappled are containing the fusion reaction and getting more energy out than is put in. The Burning Plasma Assessment Committee, formed by the US National Research Council, backed one approach that has consumed a significant proportion of fusion research money through the years. This approach – magnetic confinement – was outlined in its 2004 report ’Burning Plasma: Bringing a Star to Earth’. A burning plasma is a plasma (an ionised gas) in which at least 50% of the energy to drive the fusion reaction is generated internally. As a result, Washington was persuaded to commit the US to becoming a significant partner in a project that is expected to provide a breakthrough step in fusion energy, ITER.

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50 gone - 500,000 to go

First published in InFocus: Nuclear, a supplement to Cleantech magazine January/February 2008. Copyright Cleantech Investor 2008
Friends of the Earth Nuclear campaigner, Neil Crumpton, responds to the UK Government’s decision to embrace nuclear energy.
After 50 years of costs and cover-ups, nuclear power has been put back on the agenda by New Labour. Ministers repeatedly implied that the lights would go out if new nuclear stations were not built, Tony Blair said in the Commons that a new 'replacement' nuclear programme would generate only 10% of the waste of the existing programme, and just a couple of months ago Gordon Brown was saying to the media that nuclear generates 7.6% of the UK's energy.
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UK Quoted: nuclear exposure

Andrew Hore discusses the UK Quoted companies which offer engineering, consultancy and services to the nuclear industry

First published in InFocus: Nuclear, a supplement to Cleantech magazine January/February 2008. Copyright Cleantech Investor 2008

 

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