Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The New Nuclear.

The UK Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, and his French counterpart, Nicolas Sarcozy have agreed joint strategies regarding nuclear power and illegal immigration. The two nations will undertake the construction of a new generation of nuclear power plants with the aim of curbing CO2, and will export the technology around the world. Almost 80% of France's electricity is made from nuclear energy which is a mature industry, while 20% of the UK's power is made from nuclear, but from reactors that are due for decommissioning within 10 - 15 years, once they reach their working lifetime.

The proposal will doubtless prove unpopular with many who regard nuclear as dangerous, not only per se, but in terms of the radioactive waste that it produces. There are strategies to deal with the latter which essentially involve sealing it into metal (copper) canisters and burying them underground in concrete bunkers, although time will prove the effectiveness of this which will be known only to future generations. It is hoped to create a new nuclear work-force which will be necessary to take nuclear-power into this next and challenging phase, since there is a shortage of nuclear engineers in the U.K., at least so colleagues in that industry tell me.

We can't have it both ways - i.e. maintain current energy use purely using renewables, at least not in short order. Hence, despite the "dirty" image of nuclear power in some quarters, there is an increasing view within the energy industry that "nuclear" could provide a lucrative energy market, certainly if the technology is indeed sold around the world. The nuclear agreement is one of a number of Anglo-French collaborations being discussed.

Another potential cooperation is a new initiative against illegal immigration. Britain is the last link in the European chain of movement and indeed trafficking of people, and many Britons feel that border-controls should be tightened and that this nation and France should act jointly to remove "failed" asylum seekers, who end-up in the U.K. via France. It is all a contentious issue, but the following actions have been identified:

Joint flights are proposed from Britain, stopping in France and then taking migrants back to various countries including Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan, alongside more checks being made on lorries at both UK and French ports. There is also an increase planned in the number of French officers working undercover to intercept gangs smuggling people into Britain.

My feeling is that the price of oil and hence the availability of lorries and other forms of transport will impact on the movement of people in general, illegal or legitimate, and populations will become increasingly more restricted as the cost of fuel continues to soar.


Related Reading.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2008/mar/22/nuclearpower.energy1

3 comments:

Radu said...

"The proposal will doubtless prove unpopular with many who regard nuclear as dangerous, not only per se, but in terms of the radioactive waste that it produces. There are strategies to deal with the latter which essentially involve sealing it into metal (copper) canisters and burying them underground in concrete bunkers, although time will prove the effectiveness of this which will be known only to future generations."

Actually the French have a even better strategy for spent nuclear fuel. It involves burning it in reactors which can burn low enriched uranium. What cannot be used is encased in glass and deposited for long term.

Radu said...

here is a good article about the French program:
http://www.spectrum.ieee.org/feb07/4891

energybalance said...

Hi Radu,

thanks very much. The procedure I allude to is the U.K. strategy but it seems the French are ahead of us.

This is important not only from the point of view of "disposing" of radioactive waste but ion that is does not "waste" a potentially very useful source of nuclear fuel.

There is the big issue of how long nuclear power can be kept going given the available reserves/resources of uranium, which some use to promote building new fast-breeder reactors, and that might be the thing to do. However, this might be the more immediate way to go.

After all, all that "depleted" uranium will still be around to breed (Pu) fuel from should that course of action be taken one day.

I see there is a potential UK-French link to build the new generation of nuclear reactors and maybe there will be cooperation between these two nations over using the waste too?

Regards,

Chris.