The revised draft National Policy Statements on energy - Energy and Climate Change Contents

Further memorandum submitted by the Stop Hinkley Campaign

Stop Hinkley is the main local group campaigning against the continuing operation of nuclear power stations at Hinkley Point in Somerset, and the proposals for two new reactors. We have been active since the 1980s, when the last proposal for a Hinkley "C" power station was made, and were influential in the closure of the old Magnox Hinkley "A" plant, which stopped generation in 2000.


1.  Need for new nuclear

The revised NPS (p.8) mentions the recently published "2050 Pathways" analysis commissioned by DECC. It does not point out, however, that one of the scenarios in this analysis envisages a situation where no new nuclear power stations are built and the UK is instead supplied by, among other things, an increased proportion of renewable energy.

The NPS also fails to refer to any other analyses which show how it is possible for the UK to keep the lights on—and progress towards its low carbon targets—without nuclear. An example of this is the research published by the "No Need for Nuclear" campaign[3]. Based on government demand figures, this analysis shows that the country could meet its expected demand for electricity in the period up to 2050 with a mixture of rising efficiency savings coupled with renewables, both small and large scale, and fossil fuels either used as CHP or fitted with carbon capture and storage.

The report "Zero Carbon Britain 2030"[4] produced by the Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT) also shows how Britain can meet the vast majority of its electricity and heat demand by 2030 with a range of renewable sources. CAT has specifically responded to the DECC 2050 Pathways analysis, pointing out, for example, that on offshore wind power it falls short of even the expectation of the Department-supported Offshore Valuation Group[5].

2.  Intermittency

The revised NPS describes nuclear power as producing "continuous low carbon generation" and renewables as "intermittent" and therefore less reliable. However, nuclear does not have the flexibility of other centralised generation options, such as gas, which would enable it to work effectively alongside renewables, nor is it reliably continuous. Britain's most modern nuclear power station, at Sizewell, was out of action with an unexpected fault for six months this year (March-September) and its breakdown also contributed to blackouts across the country in May 2008[6]. By the same token, increasing proportions of variable renewable generation, including wind power, are being successfully integrated into grid networks comparable in size to the UK, for example in Spain and Germany. In Spain, wind power alone has recently achieved a record by meeting more than 50% of the country's electricity demand[7].


Radioactive waste disposal

The revised NPS asserts that radioactive waste, including high activity spent fuel, can be successfully handled based on international experience (Vol. 2, p.18). However, other countries facing a similar issue have still not reached the stage of constructing an operational geological disposal repository. Sweden, for instance, which has been cited by DECC and the nuclear industry as its role model, has not even got to the stage of receiving regulatory approval for its plans. Britain is even further behind, having yet to find either a clear volunteer community or an acceptable geological formation. There is therefore no certainty that a disposal route will be operational at any given point in the future, either for existing legacy wastes or for the "new build" intake.

Long term storage at the proposed nuclear new build sites raises major issues of climate change, societal changes and sea level rise, as well as the continuing integrity of the waste itself, over periods potentially as long as 160 years. It is essential that the Infrastructure Planning Commission is enabled to consider these issues, including the eventual disposal of the waste, when it comes to examine individual applications for power stations.


1.  Intermittency

The AoS of the revised Nuclear NPS states (p.39) that "generation capacity would need to triple because more capacity would be needed to account for the intermittency of renewables". This assertion fails to take into account either the experience of other countries where large proportions of variable renewable capacity are already installed (see above) or the conclusions of studies such as that by David Milborrow for Greenpeace—"Wind Power: Managing Variability", July 2009[8]—which shows how a "range of technological developments could allow for a steadily increasing use of wind power and the phasing out of conventional carbonised fuels as backup technology".

2.  Carbon saving

The AoS asserts (p.41) and elsewhere that, even taking into account construction and uranium fuel supply emissions, nuclear power emits carbon dioxide in the range of 7-22 grams CO2/kilowatt hour of electricity generation. This is contested. An assessment of 103 lifecycle studies of the nuclear fuel cycle by Benjamin Sovakool from the National University of Singapore[9] has shown that, even when only the most methodologically rigorous of these studies were selected, the average lifecycle emissions from nuclear plants amounted to 66 grams CO2equivalent/kWh of electricity generation. Although this is less than the estimate of 112-166g CO2e/kWh reported by Storm van Leeuwen and Smith[10], it is three times the nuclear industry's upper estimate, and far worse in terms of carbon emissions than all the renewable alternatives, including solar PV.


Stop Hinkley is particularly concerned that the poor level of public engagement experienced when the first energy NPS's were issued—over the winter of 2009-10—is likely to be repeated this time round.

Despite the fact that eight specific locations for proposed nuclear power stations are listed in EN-6, there has been no publicly advertised meeting in the vicinity of Hinkley Point at which local people can raise their concerns about the revised documents. This was one of the issues which Jim Duffy, Stop Hinkley Coordinator, raised in the evidence he gave to the ECC in early 2010 during its previous hearings on the original NPS's (see It is clear that nuclear power is the subject of the greatest concern to the public among all the issues raised in the suite of NPS's and full public engagement is therefore essential.

December 2010

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9   Energy Policy 36 (2008) pp 2940-2953 Back

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