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Nuclear brouhaha

It looks as though there's a bit of a kerfuffle developing over Friends of the Earth and their stance on nuclear power. It seems that the Today programme (via Roger Harrabin, I think) has reported that FoE is in the process of reversing its stance of complete opposition. FoE staff are furiously tweeting that it is not true.

I haven't heard the Today segment, so I can't comment either way. I'll update if I hear anything.

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Reader Comments (52)

I heard the Roger Harrabin (for it was he) as well. My understanding was that FoE were saying that we needed nuclear to enable us to meet our climate targets.
He also said that FoE considered there was no value in building new nuclear because it would take too long and would be too expensive.

Chutzpah, anyone?

Sep 10, 2014 at 9:09 AM | Unregistered CommenterAlan Bates

The only ways to provide a stable electricity supply without any CO2 are nuclear and hydro. Only a few countries are lucky enough to use the latter, so if you think that CO2 is causing rising temperatures then you are a fool but a logical one.

Those who think wind turbines are the answer are fools (polite term) and deaf, blind and devoid of the faculty of reasoning.

Sep 10, 2014 at 9:09 AM | Unregistered CommenterGraeme No.3

It would be a massive reversal of FoE's long-standing opposition to nuclear. I cannot see it happening, their ordinary members would be up in arms. Cognitive dissonance on a grand scale. Over the years (and I have been observing the anti-nuclear brigade for over 40 years) they have come up with a succession of anti-nuclear arguments. How can they knock all the arguments down without appearing like complete idiots? No answer needed.

It opposes new-build mainly on cost.

So logically it therefore opposes the more expensive renewables like wind, solar, biomass, tidal, wave etc. What does it not oppose?

Sep 10, 2014 at 9:16 AM | Registered CommenterPhillip Bratby

Amazing that we have to take note of anything emanating from the likes of FoE aka Enemy of Mankind.

Talk about asymmetric warfare.

Sep 10, 2014 at 9:17 AM | Unregistered CommenterH2O: the miracle molecule

H2O: Only the BBC takes note of anything they say, probably because a lot of the BBC staff are members.

Sep 10, 2014 at 9:21 AM | Registered CommenterPhillip Bratby

My take on listening was that they just decided that coal was worse than nuclear because of comparing safety records but still against it but for cost and time issues.

If they were next to take winter deaths into account then of course following the same logic coal would be back on the table but I doubt they will go there.

Sep 10, 2014 at 9:24 AM | Unregistered CommenterBreath of Fresh Air

I heard the item and interpreted it that the FOE guy was closing down any discussion of Nuclear by using the cost argument (plenty of scope with whole lifecycle costs), then he suggested new power production should be based on very fast (ie high) investment in local production (which I took to mean solar panels) to avoid the cheapest option gas. I don't think it was a change of policy statement.

Sep 10, 2014 at 9:30 AM | Unregistered Commenterson of mulder

Not only have they backed themselves into a corner on nuclear, but now they've managed to fall between two stools, too. (are such eco-gymnastics possible?)

By softening their stance on nuclear they've tacitly admitted we cannot power the nation by renewables alone. (If that wasn't the case they would still be opposed to nuclear come what may and would be advocating exclusively new-build renewables. They aren't, because the penny has dropped.)

But by justifying their pro-existing but anti new-build stance 'mainly on cost' they've also inadvertently acknowledged nuclear is essentially safe. (If it wasn't then their opposition wouldn't be on such spurious grounds as cost.)

So 30+ years of FoE opposition to nuclear can now be summarily dismissed with a single word. Checkmate.

Sep 10, 2014 at 9:36 AM | Unregistered CommenterCheshirered

If taxpayers weren't forced to give involuntary contributions to fake-charity FoE Trust so FoE Ltd could mount political campaigns against the hand that feeds it's sister, then there'd be more funds avaable for new nuclear.

Sep 10, 2014 at 9:42 AM | Unregistered CommenterJoe Public

I too heard the program. Apart from the disingenuous nature of the claim from FoE that they were now 'pro' nuclear, they were able to get off the hypocritical hook by claiming that a: this was because it was the best way to reduce 'carbon emissions'; but b: As it takes so long to build a nuke; and as it produces so much dangerous waste, there was no point in building them.

In all of this discussion there was no mention of the amount of base-load power that would be derived from nuclear, just the reduction in 'carbon'. All the FoE could say was that instead of ploughing billions into centralised nuclear power generation we should be ploughing billions into local, decentralised, renewable generation (windmills, anyone?).

However, further on in the program, after a rather good piece of OB at the Dungeness nuclear power station a rather proud General Manager/CEO (?) was allowed to heap praise on the success of his station's history and accomplishments. The reporter was obviously not prepared for the view of the used fuel store: having it explained to him that the very small amount of used fuel he could see was the result of over 20 years of faultless operation.

Unfortunately, this piece was followed by an execrable piece with the chief of the National Grid - who could not foresee any problems with supply this Winter, nor would he be drawn as to whether he had plans for rolling blackouts. The man was deep in denial. It is plainly obvious that the NG have sets of disaster recovery plans for black-outs, but this chap would just not admit that they existed. He should be sacked.

Sep 10, 2014 at 9:54 AM | Registered CommenterHarry Passfield

I heard the item and Harrabin was unambiguous about the change,of heart by FoE. However, the metaphorical sound of the direct debits being cancelled must have led to the denial.

Sep 10, 2014 at 10:04 AM | Unregistered Commentertrefjon

These pseudo charities would all have a lot less members if the churn in quangoes international institutes and charities were a bit HIGHER

This is a tight knitting network of parasites delivering little for a lot of money. In the mean time they secure their future with further subverting society.

And the hmrc focuses on small fry single employed who might have forgotten to log a billion their marginally taxed income..all the while millions on end for decades on end, of tax money goes to tese parasites for basically a non services

Sep 10, 2014 at 10:07 AM | Unregistered Commenterdrpauljosephnurssels

A lot of "cost" of nuclear power plants is self-inflicted regulatory costs ... there probably is a way to reduce cost without an increase in risk (cost and operational). There is also a lot that is yet to be accomplished in R&D for nuclear power plants, e.g. using fuels other than uranium. If the UK wants to be a "leader" lead in this.

Sep 10, 2014 at 10:08 AM | Unregistered CommenterRob Schneider

For the past month the bird mashers have averaged less than 2% of demand, a situation that could be repeated again any time in the future. So even if the economic suicide was extended to the madness of building five times as many of the worthless junk heaps similar weather wouldn't even see them meeting 10% of demand for a whole month whilst overpowering the grid most of the rest of the time. Do the cretinous DECC parasites really think they could save the grid from catastrophe with diesel generators for a month if required? Liquid fluoride thorium reactors have been the way to go (medium/long term) for fifty years now and we still aren't even building a research reactor.

Sep 10, 2014 at 10:14 AM | Unregistered CommenterMartin Reed

To say that the FoE are hypocrites would be a kindness. It was FoE (and CND) that pressed for and are responsible for about half of the costs of a new nuclear power plant. They wanted, and got, excessive regulations concerning the buildings (a control room does not need to be atomic bomb proof) and the number of impact studies required.

All their stand now shows is that they are still anti people and always will be.

Sep 10, 2014 at 10:23 AM | Unregistered Commenterivan

Talking about the cost of something is classic displacement syndrome, you get it all the time from the people living near the HS2 line. One of the main hidden reasons for opposing large power stations is that they are owned by those awful corporations, i.e. it is simply anti-capitalism.

Sep 10, 2014 at 10:34 AM | Unregistered CommenterMikky

I hate to say anything in defence of FOE, but I think they are one of the few green organisations that refuses to take money from governments or the EU.

Sep 10, 2014 at 10:34 AM | Unregistered CommenterNickM

It's a common green position to oppose nuclear "on cost" once it has been made more costly by interminable planning delays and scaremongering. Yet some of the same people often seem to oppose any activity that actually makes a profit. They would have us run the country on home-made candles sold at WOMAD festivals.

Sep 10, 2014 at 10:37 AM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart

Sep 10, 2014 at 9:54 AM | Registered Commenter Harry Passfield

I did not hear the interview, but am surprised that the National Grid manager was denial about the existence of rolling blackout plans - they are online and have been for years:

Electricity Supply Emergency Code:
key document:

UPDATE: the link to the key document is now a 404, but it looks like the relevant section is now at page 11-16 of:

Sep 10, 2014 at 10:42 AM | Registered Commenterlapogus

The best thing about Greens, like all progressives, is their passionate consistency:

"Listen to us! We are always right! Even when we later change our position to yours! Remember, we were right then, and you – even though you were right – were wrong! As you still are now!"

Sep 10, 2014 at 10:59 AM | Unregistered CommenterStuck-Record

I heard the National Grid chap, Steve Holliday, too. He was incredibly unimpressive. I missed whether the interviewer was a green correspondent, or business, but I suspect the latter. The interviewer pressed him on how we could possibly have got to this position and he very nearly fell off-message when he mentioned coal stations 'being retired... because... errr... they're being retired' - but in the end he managed to get through the interview without mentioning climate change or emissions targets at all. He didn't even mention the effect of Miliband's mental price freeze plan. I guess he just wanted to keep his head down, not blame anybody and make everything sound rosy.

One can only speculate as to why the BBC interviewer didn't mention climate change, emissions targets or Labour's price freeze either...

You can hear it here: starting at 1:18:30 into the recording.

Sep 10, 2014 at 11:03 AM | Unregistered CommenterChris Long


I did not hear the interview, but am surprised that the National Grid manager was denial about the existence of rolling blackout plans - they are online and have been for years

That's why I figured he should be sacked. His attitude seemed to be that as there will not be any blackouts this Winter he did not need to explain they had plans to handle them. All in all, a very bad interview.

Sep 10, 2014 at 11:06 AM | Registered CommenterHarry Passfield

is FOEs fantasy of how to provide mainly carbon-free electricity to the UK.

It suffers from a few minor problems. It only runs up to 2030, but the UK is committed to an 80% reduction in fossil fuel use by 2050. This plan doesn't deal with how to generate all the extra electricity that will be needed after 2030 to power our electric cars or more significantly the electricity needed to replace our gas central heating systems.

It also requires the norwegians to build hydro electric capacity equivalent to a dozen Niagara Falls and supply us with their output when the wind isn't blowing.

Sep 10, 2014 at 11:10 AM | Unregistered CommenterNickM

Holliday was amazingly guarded, I thought. The interview shed no light on anything, except perhaps his determination that there was no problem. He didn't even mention, let alone blame, the EU for the closure of coal fired plant. Was he in a studio in the Seychelles..?

Sep 10, 2014 at 11:12 AM | Registered Commenterjamesp

NickM -

It also requires the norwegians to build hydro electric capacity equivalent to a dozen Niagara Falls and supply us with their output when the wind isn't blowing.

And also all through a sub-sea cable (which will cost billions) and which will only have a capacity of 600MW !

Sep 10, 2014 at 11:22 AM | Registered Commenterlapogus

Further to the comments about the FoE interview, I'm still trying to get my head around the main thrust of their argument that they still use for their opposition to nuclear; it is this: It's no good going for nuclear because it takes so long to build and deliver.

Are they saying that something else might crop up in the meantime? It's the constant whine of the futurologist: "Don't release that 'gizmo' just yet as there's a new widget we can fit to it coming out in a couple of years time that'll make it even better". And so the development process gets pushed further into the future and nothing ever gets done. I guess we should be grateful to the Apples (spits) and Dysons of this world who just get on with it.

Sep 10, 2014 at 11:31 AM | Registered CommenterHarry Passfield

ChesireRed has it. Who listens to environmental groups for the astute cost-benefit analysis, product cycle costs and estimates on other such practical realities? Environmental groups are there to provide (much-needed) non-practical, emotional considerations into a debate.

Sep 10, 2014 at 11:43 AM | Registered Commentershub

A decent new plant (the AP1000) can be built in 4 years if there's a will and no deliberate regulatory hurdles.

Sep 10, 2014 at 11:50 AM | Registered CommenterPhillip Bratby

Yes, Phillip Bratby,
Before retirement I spent 25 years helping to keep idiots from closing our rather large uranium mine at Ranger One.
I have watched the synthesis and application of delay and imaginary new cost imposts, designed to allow opponents to claim the cost of nuclear power is too great and the lead time too long.
Also, I went to China many times. There is abundant useful data there on real costs and times.
However, this interesting data requires a mind open enough to read learn and digest.:

Anti nuclear propaganda has been a problem. We said from our beginning in the 60s 'Ban uranium. Let the bastards freeze in the dark.' Sadly, this will cease to be a bumper sticker joke and it will become harsh reality for some in GB this coming winter.

A take home lesson? Propaganda does not work on physics and maths.

For large scale electricity, nuclear is superior on most counts because of the physics and maths flowing from the reality of high energy density.

Oh, did you notice the present 'hiatus' in the time series of deaths attributed to failure of nuclear waste storage? And the zero intercept on the y axis???

Sep 10, 2014 at 12:32 PM | Unregistered CommenterGeoff Sherrington

It opposes new-build mainly on cost.

Construction costs for Hinkley C are £16 billion. If we built 4 identical nuclear plants simultaneously then the total cost would be about £45 billion, due to savings in economies of scale. This would provide 12 GW of continuous power for the next 60 years. We learned from Matt Hancock last week that the UK government have already spent over £42 billion in subsidies for wind farms. The record power ever produced by wind farms was 7GW for a few hours last winter. The lowest record was <0.1GW, while the average is about 1.5GW. Wind averages just 6% of annual power demand, whereas 4 Hinkleys would meet reliably 30% of demand with zero risk of blackouts.

Investing in nuclear really is a no brainer.

Sep 10, 2014 at 12:45 PM | Unregistered CommenterCive Best

I've yet to see any discussion on the pros and cons of 'local' nuclear power stations.

Apparently the reactor in a nuclear submarine is about the size of a dustbin - and the Navy must have procedures in place for ensuring the absolute safety of the crew, maintenance, and disposal of waste (from a not-very-convenient location)...

I bet you could have a (say) 100MW, properly secured, power station on a site about the size of a football pitch...

Sep 10, 2014 at 1:02 PM | Unregistered Commentersherlock1

Well it's all academic now. With 15 of 16 nuclear stations retiring by 2023 all new builds will certainly be too late regardless of cost. Notwithstanding that the EDF reactors built thus far are over schedule by several years so even if the EU approves Hinckley C (which requires a lengthy and dubious subsidy-exemption plea from the UK) then we can still wonder if EDF decides to go ahead with it or is even still solvent by then. And the proposed Boiling Water Reactors are not even at the starting gate. Beyond that we have small modular reactors being very faintly proposed by some disparate groups but they are unlikely to be approved if it is proving so difficult to get even shale gas wells approved. Then we have Mark Lynas's preferred Prism Reactor which is still unproven and may be as prone to sodium fires as the abandoned PFR and SuperPhenix. In the meantime investors have no incentive whatsoever to build anything at all. If energy becomes scarce they will happily just increase prices regardless of what Milliband says. So what exactly does this leave us by 2023? Perhaps just solar panels on the roof and solid oxide fuel cells or MicroCHP in the kitchen or the community-funded localised gas plants that Greenpeace is so fond of. Of course we still need to secure the gas by whatever scenario.

Sep 10, 2014 at 1:20 PM | Unregistered CommenterJamesG

Given that Hinkley C is almost three times the cost of the same plant in Taishan and has been granted a sweetheart inflation indexed price into the distant future I'm against it too. But the Taishan comparison tells you straight away that it should be perfectly possible to build nuclear capacity at a price that knocks wind out completely, and might even be competitive with some fossil fuels. China is paying just 7 US cents/kWh to nuclear stations.

Sep 10, 2014 at 1:34 PM | Unregistered CommenterIt doesn't add up...

Sherlock1 - from the graphic the Westinghouse SMR looks like it could fit on a football pitch. Notes below say total site area required is 15 acres - presumably for car parking etc. but that is still very little for 225MW.

The SMR is a smaller scale version of their AP1000. Why can't we have some of these in the UK? I'd much rather have a dozen AP1000s than the USA's Trident nuclear missiles which can never be used and if they are it is already too late...

Sep 10, 2014 at 1:35 PM | Registered Commenterlapogus

We got plenty of nuclear power station supplying Britain.Most of them in France.

Sep 10, 2014 at 3:23 PM | Unregistered CommenterJamspid

Some guy from FoE just had a hard time (but lots of free publicity) from Richard Bacon on radio 5 live. The cost and safety of nuclear are red herrings, they are fanatics for renewables, and the real reason for that emerged towards the end - renewables are done (supposedly) by local communities and on roof tops:

i.e. not by large corporations, so this is just anti-capitalism in a cuddly green disguise.

Sep 10, 2014 at 3:39 PM | Unregistered CommenterMikky

Given that most of the increases on Nuclear power strike prices have come about as a direct result of the EU regulatory ratchet, they've got a nerve.
The usual Greens, lie, distort, apportion the blame elsewhere.

"In less than ten years, therefore, we have had a four-fold increase in cost, bringing nuclear to a level comparable with onshore wind, losing most if not all of the comparative cost advantage, and making it vastly more expensive than coal-fired generation."

"Furthermore, since Hinkley Point is expected to provide as much as five percent of national consumption, the high price of its power will have a significant effect on the overall price of domestic electricity."

"What is very far from clear, though, are the exact reasons why nuclear has increased in price so much. Nevertheless, in what is clearly a rigged market, the most likely culprit is the regulatory ratchet."

Sep 10, 2014 at 4:03 PM | Unregistered Commenterc777

The greatest difficulty facing new nuclear build is the loss of expertise that has occurred because the progressive/environmentalists shut down new construction for so many years. There are very few suppliers who can build equipment to nuclear standards, there are very few engineers who understand that building these plants is very different from building coal or gas or solar or wind, and the people who have to operate them are all getting quite long in the tooth. Both the French and the Finns have had problems pouring concrete that meets nuclear standards.

The only country I can see that is building this expertise is the Chinese, because they have a steady building program, and they are building both the plants and the infrastructure to support those plants. The rest of the world, including especially the countries that first created it, are going to end up buying that expertise from the Chinese.

Sep 10, 2014 at 6:22 PM | Unregistered Commenterrxc

FOE numbers have zero credibility.They have their whole fist on the scale, not just a finger. Perhaps if they stopped siphoning money for useless self serving means then the funds could be applied to building reliable energy sources like nuclear.

Sep 10, 2014 at 6:27 PM | Unregistered CommenterMike Singleton

Phillip Bratby

I believe much of the cost of new build nuclear power stations is the "over the top" safety measures. Is it about time for a re-assessment of the cost/ benefit and rationalisation of these ?

Sep 10, 2014 at 6:38 PM | Unregistered CommenterRoss Lea

Our first nuclear power station took two years from go-ahead to power to the grid. In the mid-fifties, a decade after Hiroshima. Everything had to be created from scratch, nobody had any experience. Things were different then.

(and the main motivator and financial enabler was the weapons programme.)

Sep 10, 2014 at 6:59 PM | Unregistered Commenterrhoda

Interesting broadening of uses from simple electric power generation, to industrial heat applications and methanol production coming from the Chinese MSR program.

Thinking outside of old boxes seems to have been a problem...."there are now a lot of younger engineers willing to seriously discuss and think about the viability and potential future of molten salt based nuclear reactors"

Sep 10, 2014 at 9:51 PM | Unregistered Commenterbetapug

An off-the-wall idea.....

Some months ago the massive transformers from Didcot were exported to Germany as the station was demolished.

Let's turn the tables: Germany is closing a lot of nukes which still have decades of design life left. They obviously comply with all regulatory requirements, having run for many years, so would not be subject to all the "new-build" approval process. OK some pretty massive civil works would be needed but all the critical hardware would be ready to go....nicely run-in, one careful owner.

What's not to like?!

Sep 10, 2014 at 10:25 PM | Registered Commentermikeh

It opposes new-build mainly on cost.

So for years they've been saying that we must prevent nuclear and fossil fuels to save the planet and beggar the cost, and now they claim to care about cost?

Words fail me. At least, printable words fail me, I've got plenty of others!

Sep 10, 2014 at 11:45 PM | Unregistered Commenterkellydown

Not enough sun,
nowhere left for hydro,
wind to variable,
nuclear too expensive,

Gas (fracked and/or otherwise) and new coal it is then.


Sep 11, 2014 at 2:12 AM | Unregistered Commentertom0mason

@Mikky - The Richard Bacon interview yesterday (Wednesday) was with Craig Bennett FoE director of policy and campaigns.
1 hr 14 mins in.
Loved his comment "I’m a lover of science, I absorb the stuff all the time, reading ravenously around it."
I wonder what he considers to be a science book.

Sep 11, 2014 at 5:51 AM | Unregistered Commenterrotationalfinestructure

The pressure is on now, culturally, as the sheer obviousness of the climate scam reveals itself to the public. Its leaders and the opportunists who promoted them will be exposed as helping promote a simple Enron level scam unless they can arrange a soft landing by suddenly pretending to actually believe in a real climate emergency that opposition to nuclear exposes as being a lie. With the magic spell of a renewables utopia, opposed by evil deniers, they could get away with any nonsense, but with a massive scientific fraud being revealed, that good versus evil dramatic spell collapses, and many donators will likely become deeply angry about being willfully deceived. The hockey stick team promotion of Cook’s fake 97% consensus and of Marcott’s fake blade hockey stick are causing a panic in those who rely on the team for their activist and academic careers. But the truth will out and no soft landing presents itself any more. They decided to extend themselves and just dig deeper down the rabbit hole after the shock of Climategate, five years ago. How? With more brazen fraud!

Sep 11, 2014 at 7:10 AM | Unregistered CommenterNikFromNYC

Jamspid, Martin Reed and others mentioning wind.
My sister-in-law who, with my brother, is currently visiting us in France is very anti-nuclear pro wind, but I've felt bound not to mention the following in order to maintain peace and tranquility.

The last time that power from wind exceeded that from the French Interconnector was on the evening of 3rd September, which was before they arrived here.

Sep 11, 2014 at 7:48 AM | Unregistered CommenterSandyS

I've just had a quick look at the French page of Gridwatch. It looks like France is sending power to most of Europe as the output is 115% of demand. The excess is going to Belgium, Italy, Switzerland, Spain and UK with a little to Pumped Storage. Power is being imported from Germany, and presumably "re-exported".

Nuclear and Hydro are exceeding French requirements on their own.

Hollande is doing his best to reduce France to the same state as everyone else in the EU.

Sep 11, 2014 at 8:31 AM | Unregistered CommenterSandyS

Opposes new nuclear on the basis of cost.
Supports wind and solar on the basis of cost?

Sep 11, 2014 at 8:56 AM | Unregistered CommenterTuppence

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