One can only hope that Teresa May, Britain's latest female leader, conforms to type.
To date, she has shown promise by, among other things, telling the Scotch Nats. to forget about another referendum, confirming that having nuclear weapons means being willing to use them, and threatening to nuke the nuke power deal agreed by her predecessors, the schoolboy prime minister, David Cameron, and his playboy finance minister, George Osborne.
|Proposed Hinkley Point C nuclear generator set amist bucolic Somerset |
The time to completion? Unknown but certainly many years.
The cost? Highly flexible, but almost certain to exceed ten thousand pounds per kilowatt of installed capacity, or twice the cost of a combined cycle natural-gas-fired generator.
Why go nuclear, then? Oh, to save the planet from carbon dioxide death, of course.
Except there are a dozen other ways to limit carbon dioxide pollution.
Of the alternatives, I don't propose an exhaustive analysis. Suffice it to say that the best option is energy conservation with the greatest present opportunity being to switch from gasoline/petrol-drive cars to electric cars.
An electric car driven 16,000 kilometers a year using power from a combined cycle gas turbine generator will account for approximately 660 kg of carbon dioxide emissions annually. A gasoline/petrol-powered car driven the same distance produces four times as much carbon dioxide, or about two tons. The proposed Hinkley Point C reactor will avoid approximately eight million tons of carbon dioxide emissions compared with emissions of combined cycle gas turbine plants of comparable capacity (That's ignoring the unknown carbon emissions involved in building the plant, mining and processing the nuclear fuel used by the plant, and decommissioning the plant at the end of its useful life). Therefore, the replacement of just one-fifth of Britain's thirty million gasoline powered cars with an equal number of electric cars would lower Britain's carbon emissions by the same amount, eight million tons, as would result from the construction of the proposed Hinkley Point C nuclear plant.
And urban air quality would be much improved, while urban noise would be significantly reduced.
(a) Gas turbines are not dangerous and thus need not be located in the countryside at a safe (um, well slightly safer) distance from major population centers in the event of a catastrophic radiation leak due to a terrorist attack, a tsunami, a meteorite strike, a disastrous operator error, or a technical failure.
(b) Safe, compact and clean gas turbine generators of appropriate size can be located in urban areas where the power is used, thus reducing line losses and where waste heat from the turbines (about 40% of the total energy consumed) can be diverted to district heating, industrial uses of low grade heat, or to commercial greenhouses.
(c) Not only are gas turbine generators cheap compared with nukes, threaten no national-scale disaster, incur no potentially gigantic decommissioning costs, and can be built much more quickly than nukes, but they can be fired up or shut down in minutes, which means that the power they produce is much more compatible with that from wind and solar. The adaptability of natural-gas-generated power hugely affects plant economics. Nuclear plants take days to power up or down, which means they run continuously supplying base-load power only. Base-load power sells at rock bottom prices, whereas peak power from versatile gas turbines can sell for ten times base-load power.
So the plan for Hinckley Point C that Ms. May has put on hold pending further review, was either totally inane, or thoroughly corrupt, so whether she puts the kibosch on this project will be an excellent test of Ms. May's metal.
We now know that Ms. May flunked the test.
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