Select Committee on Scottish Affairs Written Evidence


Letter to the Committee from the Dounreay Action Group


  A UK programme is urgently needed for future clean, safe, secure, and adequate energy supplies without discharges of noxious materials to the environment. Such a programme should, by now, be fully operational if disruptions to supplies were to be avoided. Unfortunately, our current best shot to counter the threat of an energy crisis, and adverse (asserted but unproven) climate change due to CO2, methane, etc discharges to the atmosphere, is to cover our open countryside aspects with wind turbines.

  Decommissioning of nuclear and coal power stations over the next decade or so, without replacement, will soon bring the crisis to fruition. There is no plan to replace them. Political response has been to trust our energy dependence on unstable foreign sources, and to ameliorate public anxiety by crying "Kyoto", "renewables", "climate change", etc, to raise public enthusiasm for a seriously flawed energy policy. Our decision makers are mostly handicapped by technological illiteracy, and a forward view limited by a myopic zero to five year range. It would have been more helpful if the executive had emerged from the euphoria of its own spin, and listened to their own far better informed advisers, and to the nations scientific and engineering fraternity. These people do, after all, understand the situation.

  A new UK nuclear power programme is now so long overdue, that serious disruption to our power supply is probable at a level approaching certainty.


  An artificial financial climate favouring wind turbines, has been created via such ploys as the ETS scheme, grants, taxes, fines, and restrictions on large generators, and manipulation of directions, controls, regulations, planning, and tax in favour of renewables (almost totally wind turbines). There should be no reason to rehearse this aspect further here, except to note that for what wind turbines are costing the tax and energy bill payers, a far more secure, economic, clean, safe system could have been well on its way. It is very difficult to envisage a logic by which wind turbines could possibly provide security of supply.


  In round figures, a reasonable assessment (there may be others) is that some 50 to 60 GW of fusion energy should be available in 150 years time; the intervening period should be the basis for the programme. Within that period, a similar amount of fission potential will be required, and to supply this energy will require some 100 x 2GW 40 year life span nuclear power plants, the additional demand being met from hydro and marine pump and kinetic systems. Much of this energy will go to transport, either directly (electrification of railways), or via hydrogen production and fuel cells development for other transport needs. Such a programme would necessarily be accompanied by large investment in the production, storage, distribution, and delivery, of hydrogen, and into fuel cell research and development. Financing of this work could mostly be met by the amounts currently frittered away on an unbelievably naive wind turbine culture. Dounreay should be awarded a £100 million/year slice of this programme.

  Technological developments over the years would require the programme to be flexible enough to incorporate innovations. The types of reactor currently envisaged would probably be Pressurised Water Reactors for base load, High Temperature Pebble Bed Reactors for hydrogen produced by hydrolysis of water, and local supply via Closed Circuit Gas Turbines, Fast Reactors for base load, for breeding new fuel, and for transmuting highly active waste to safer levels with a very much reduced decay time. This in no way limits reactor types nor technological innovation. To date, there has been little scope for widespread discussion and distribution of information; even this Consultation has been rushed and lacks publicity.


  Processing of radioactive waste resulting from the programme would be different from the scheme currently being tinkered with. Plant for separation, reduction, transmutation, decontamination, compaction, etc., to treat continuous waste streams would be required, as also would a means of final disposal. It may be that in the future, people will regard this waste as a valuable material, but in the meantime it must be dealt with to the best of technical knowledge.

  Government view is that no new nuclear build can take place until a solution is found for the disposal of radioactive waste. A world wide view is that there are no radioactive waste disposal problems which have not been satisfactorily resolved or can obviously be resolved. There is one problem however, and that is public perception, a problem which is of Government's own making. The House of Lords Select Committee on Science and Technology have recently castigated the Executive for using radioactive waste as an excuse to procrastinate over a decision for a new nuclear build. The Lords Committee have persistently given a solution to disposal of waste stocks for over 20 years, and before that the Royal Commission on Environment Pollution offered similar advice. To avoid decision making, the Executive have convened—concocted—devised a series of Consultations, Technical Committees, Inquiries, new Quangos (eg NII, NIREX, SEPA, EA, LMA, LMU, RWMAC, ISOLUS, CoRWM, NDA, etc) to give the impression to voters that something useful is being done. In reality, there is an obvious political mess, not a technical one—ie the technical problems have been satisfactorily resolved decades ago.

  It is obvious that in the absence of facilities for disposal in subduction areas and international best geological sites, a deep engineered facility is required in the most suitable geological location that is available to us. Nimbyism has been engendered by the Protest Industry, who in turn have been, and still are, favoured by politicians and some of the media; this is a sad condition which will take time to correct, ie, to undo the harm done and then follow the route which other nations have trod.

R E Godfrey

6 January 2005

Dounreay Action Group. Who are we?

  The Dounreay Action Group (DAG) was formed in 1982 in response a threatened downturn in the economic input of UKAEA Dounreay to the local, regional, and wider economies. The Group comprised a large majority of local private and public organisations, groups, associations, businesses, and individuals.

  Since its founding, and in pursuance of it's role of advocacy for the continuation and expansion of employment at Dounreay over an extended period, DAG found it necessary to enter into many debates, Public (and otherwise) Inquiries, conferences, workshops, campaigns, meetings with the nuclear power industry, meetings with Ministers and other politicians, meetings with anti-Dounreay/anti-nuclear power groups. Since 1996 when the fate of Dounreay was becoming ever more gloomy, but still a long way in the future, DAG has been represented at some seventy of the gatherings noted above.

  Because DNE is, and has long been, closely linked to the Northern economy, we have been involved in a relevant assortment of like gatherings, plus media interviews (press and TV), and diverse correspondences with regard to DNE, and necessarily to all aspects of nuclear power. In this last regard, we have also had a presence (sometime related to other organisations) at a number of allied Learned Bodies' conferences such as "Biological effects of Low level Radiation", "Treatment of Radioactive Waste", "Nuclear Power and the Environment", and many more.

  In 2003, and in response to current threat to DNE, our policy was re-asserted, and has continued by attendances at workshops on, and/or responding to, DTI's consultations on the nature of the proposed NDA, DTI's White Paper on UK Future Energy Supplies, DTI's CoRWM and MoD's ISOLUS consultations, and a number of consultations on DNE activities.

  Our current membership comprises nine Community Councils, four political party local branches, five Traders Associations, Thurso and Wick Trades Council, and Trade Unions, who give us their support and wish to be included on our circulation list. We also have some 14 individual members. This membership mostly comprises original members and member groups; we have not as yet embarked on a recruiting drive.

Dounreay Action Group

January 2005

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