back to article Legal threat to 'Green nuke' consultation

Greenpeace is considering taking legal action over the Government's expensive "consultation" process on reviving the nuclear power industry. Opinion Leader Research carried out nine meetings and surveyed about 1,000 members of the public on behalf of the Government. In answer to the question whether energy companies should be " …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The alternative?

    You see, the greenies are at loggerheads with each other.

    They don't want fossil fuel power and we should use renewables. But then you try to create wind farms, tidal barriers they have cry that we are ruining the landscape.

    I'd ask them what they would like, but I think the answer would be for us to live in mud huts and be at one with the earth, whilst listening to shite Sting songs running on pixie dust powered recycled carboard stereos (provide the volume doesn't go pass 1)

  2. James Anderson

    Just not true!

    The statement

    "nuclear power is uneconomical without huge subsidies "

    is just not true.

    It is demonstably true that the special case of a nuclear power station built by British civil servants is uneconomical, but, the general case (France, Japan, British reactors built for military purposes ) is that nuclear power stations generate cheap electricity over a twenty year period.

    If it were true I doubt if we would be buying so much nuclear powered enegy from France.

    It is true that nuclear power stations are very expensive to build, but, it is equally true that they have very low operating costs once built - so over 20 years or so the whole setup is quite competitive.

    There valid arguments against nuclear power on grounds of safety and disposal of radioactive waste -- but the "economic" argument is dead.

    This is yet another example of enviromentalists shouting Wolf. If they were to act more like scientists and stick to the facts and reasoned argument then perhaps more people would listen to them.

  3. Dominic (The Pimp) Connor

    I've been cold, didn't like it one bit

    It is fair and reasonable to criticise the government for spinning.

    But let us not pretend that Greenpeace is an objective source of information. They have a superstitious fear of all things nuclear comparable to that of a medieval peasant confronted with witchcraft.

    For anyone other than the middle class arts graduates who drive Greenpeace, it is entirely obvious that nuclear energy can reduce carbon emissions to whatever level we like.

    Is it worth it ?

    Good question, but not one that is addressed by a allowing any statement by Greenpeace to be taken as if they were the keepers of true knowledge.

    It is true that nuclear energy in Britain is a money pit on an appalling scale, but those of us who did economics beyond counting our pocket money know that energy costs have risen notably in the last few years, and very few are betting on them coming down.

    At some point the odds are that almost any energy source becomes viable compared to oil, gas and coal, regardless of your view on climate change since we are going to run out of them.

    We should not follow the example of the BBC whose "science" coverage seems to includes giving equal time to grotesquely biased and ignorant pressure groups whose positions are simply not challenged.

    Nuclear energy is dangerous of course, and expensive, but we need a higher quality of debate than that which can be obtained by a rent a quote flake from Greenpeace.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I fail to see why the man on the street should be able to understand the implications of how power is generated. It's not as if it is a simple subject. Most people tend to be of the opinion nuclear bad, coal bad, wind ugly, solar maybe, hydro good (it isn't), tidal err and wave dunno?

    There consultation didn't even go into why we can't rely upon wind/tidal/solar for our entire energy needs, what a base load is, why we have to have one. They didn't mention the implications of wind generation being best in the palces where there are no pylons (for obvious reasons). This isn't just the government either, Greenpeace didn't explain about base load and its importance and they haven't AFAIK come up with a descent suggestion as to what we should do about it.

    In my opinion, we are giong to have to have nuclear and pay more for energy (which we will have to do anyway). It would be great not to have to use nuclear, but I can't see another base load generation option.

    Oh yeah, am I the only one that thinks Carbon Capture is along the lines of brushing the CO2 under the carpet. "... I know, we'll just stick all the CO2 in a hole in the ground, how could that go wrong?"

  5. Chris Collins

    Carbon neutral

    Ultimately it's still pretty much carbon neutral energy (the infrastructure isn't) and churns out lots of it in one go, unlike a wind turbine. If people are banging on about no greenhouse gases then I challenge them for a viable alternative to oil and gas. Cover the entire island of Great Britain in windfarms and we still don't have enough. The Japanese and the French manage it with nuclear.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Reality Sucks, I want to live in a fantasy land

    "says nuclear power was misleadingly explained by linking it to climate change"

    1 watt of Nuclear energy produces less CO2 than 1 watt of oil or gas. As oil runs low and is being increasingly produced from shale and heavy oil, the amount of CO2 produced goes up.

    We were supposed to have fusion developed by now, we don't, so unless Greenpeace have a magic solution, what the hell are we supposed to do as the oil runs low and the price shoots up, oh yeah and the climate thing?

    Quit yer whining and come up with a solution, nobody thinks nukes are good, they're just less sucky than the alternatives and hopefully a stop gap measure. Do you have a better solution?

  7. Darrell

    Bloody Hippies

    Typical! the Hippies start complaining and progress halts!

    What does greenpeace suggest as an alternative?

    We all love our Computers, DVD players, Xboxes and TV's more than we love 'Nature'. and anyone who says different is either a fool or a lier!

  8. This post has been deleted by its author

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I rather think if Greenpeace were making the presentation instead of the government it would be more-or-less the same. Except you would be played soothing music whilst listening to the bit about hydro-electric power instead. There would also be a bit in there encouraging you to hate anyone who wasn't 'intelligent' enough or anyone you believed to be ignorant of your cause.

  10. Steve Hill


    I would have thought the way to get people to accept Nuclear power generation is to point out that without it, they will be unable to switch their lights on of the hippies have their way. Grudgingly or not, if you want electricity to happen, you need to have a *reliable* generation network.

  11. Maurice Shakeshaft


    When did this bout of "consultation" take place; and what form of statistical magic was used to turn "1000" people into a representative sample?

    If it is that important that we have the nuclear option on our Energy menu then let's get our MPs involved in the debate of green papers.

    It Ps me off big style that the government is trying to so adversely condition the grounds for the debate in such an underhand but obvious way.

    A bit Machiavellian but it might be that the Government actually don't want nuclear power and are going about its proposition in such a ham-fisted way so that their backers can't demand the party contributions back when it all goes tits-up?

  12. Hayden Clark Silver badge


    Continental nuclear power is only economic because the State picks up the decontamination bill.

  13. Starace

    'uneconomical without huge subsidies'

    Didn't they actually mean wind, solar and all those other wonderful 'renewable' energy sources?

    Anyone looking to invest in those, based on making money from selling the resulting generation capacity would run away very quickly indeed if it wasn't for the current subsidies sweetening the deal.

  14. Steve Todd

    Base load

    The problem with wind, wave and solar power is they are not constant. Something needs to generate the power to keep everything running when these are not available. What's more it takes considerable amount of time to bring a power station up on line, it's not just a case of throwing a switch. Because of this you want a large amount of low cost power available all of the time, which is something that atomic stations are good at.

  15. Dominic (The Pimp) Connor

    All energy sources are awful

    Energy is the ability to effect change, uncontrolled change is bad, and the more energy the worse it is. Dams cause huge environmental damage, windmills chop birds out of the air in pitiful numbers, and photo voltaic cells produce truly impressive amounts of pollution for barely enough energy to run pocket calculators.

    Bio-diesel is already hitting the price of food, and modern farming consumes so much energy that it's not at all clear we get more resources out than we put in.

    Genetic modifcation is of course a possible solution to the failiings of fuel crops, but Greenpeace's superstitious fear of anything invented after 1800 makes that equally contentious.

    There is geothermal, which is about the cleanest non-trival source of energy, but it is a fossil fuel, and although the Earth's atmosphere may warm up, it's rocks are only ever getting colder.

    I'm old enough to remember when mining unions cut off the power to people's homes. I have scars gained as a child in a house with no electric power. Not nice. Richer people could afford to get past this, and we note that the average Greenpeace person one meets is clearly from a richer household than the average Tory.

    They can afford high cost energy, indeed taxes on foreign travel keep the peasants away from their favourite beaches.

  16. Hayden Clark Silver badge

    Where do you put the waste.

    Not the high-level stuff - you embed it in glass pucks and bury it under the Lake District.

    Not the low-level stuff - you just leave it in a shielded shed or a trench for a few years, and it cools off of its own accord.

    The intermediate-level waste, now that's a problem. There's rather a lot of it, too much to use the glass-puck method. The half-life of the contaminants is too long to use the "just-wait-until-it-cools" method. So it sits around in pools and containers at Sellafield, waiting for somebody to think of a good solution. Seriously.

    Look at , read the footnotes on page 1.

  17. 3x2

    Digesting my Greens

    "middle class arts graduates "

    Far from it. Many are hardcore, politically astute, Marxists who became temporarily homeless after the Berlin Wall came down.

    I get the impression they have no idea what they want as long as it's not what they have now.

    Back to the Garden of Eden for us then. Free ranging through the English countryside in our white silk robes gathering natures harvest. All 60 million of us.

    Personally I want to live long enough to see Drax close and just as the crusties start celebrating move the bulldozers in and build the biggest fusion reactor in Western Europe on the rubble.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It was the wrong question

    Yes the question asked at the study was loaded, but I don't accept that nuclear power is uneconomical without huge subsidies.

    If reactors are build and optimised for power generation then it can be economical. I believe It's only when you are also using them for other purposes (like generating raw material for weapons) which require a lot of unnecessary handling of nuclear materials adding the costs that go with it, that create uneconomical conditions.

    Greenpeace are as guilty (if not more so) of spreading misinformation about nuclear power and preventing valued research into safe nuclear power and waste management. They have done this for decades and even want to stop research into fusion power.

    Quote: "Governments should not waste our money on a dangerous toy which will never deliver any useful energy," said Jan Vande Putte of Greenpeace International.

    What an idiot. I guess that big fusion ball in the sky (known as the sun) is not delivering any useful energy then? I think, that it was because of the blocking and delaying tactics of groups like greenpeace, that we are now in a position where we have to fall back on the best sources of "reliable" and proven energy. Fusion didn't get the level of support it deserved and know we have to use what we know will work, which of course is fission.

    IMO the question should have been what would make nuclear acceptable?

    With priorities based on safety and waste management.

  19. Tim Wesson

    Various Disasters

    I am amazed at how short peoples' memories are: we've experienced enough nuclear disasters to be rationally a bit weary of them. These disasters have almost always been due to some kind of human error, or even human arrogance (Chernobyl), so neat engineering calculations proving the saftey of the system are moot. Not only that, but the disribution of risk (a small chance of something going catastrophically wrong) should not be dealt with in an averaged manner.

    Blair wanted "forward-thinking" nuclear power essentially to prove that Labour had moved on. This is an argument that has nothing to do with safety or efficiency (BTW the big inefficiency is waste disposal, in response to James Anderson's observation).

    People aren't wearing their common sense hat when discussing nuclear power; instead the argument is about being modern or old. Keeping up with the Joneses is not a good basis for policy, although you do see so much of it in politics. Perhaps instead we should be "ahead" where it makes sense to be ahead, and be "behind" where it doesn't.

  20. Robert Long

    Standard of living

    "What does greenpeace suggest as an alternative?

    We all love our Computers, DVD players, Xboxes and TV's more than we love 'Nature'. and anyone who says different is either a fool or a liar!"

    This is a very good point, actually. We're brainwashed from a very early age to want more and more consumer goods. Why? Because using more is the only way that shares can increase in price year on year rather than stabalise. Since all the people involved in government have their snouts in the capitalist trough in one way or another they have to drive demand ever upwards to keep the backhanders and cosy non-exec directorships coming.

    But in reality, my standard of living is fine right now. I don't need it to improve at all. So, one alternative is to stop increasing our usage every year just so that Jeremy Stockbroker can buy a new Porche. Instead of puring more and more energy down the drain and having to find ways to supply it, maybe we should just concentrate on using less.

    Nucear isn't a great answer, not just because no one has solved the waste issue, but because it's fuel distribution is even worse than oil's. If we depend on uranium mines for our economy there'll be even more wars than at the moment. Sunshine, for example, is something America has quite a lot of, so there might not be any need for them to send teams of murderers, rapists, and torturers all over the world to secure supplies if we got solar working well. Which would be an improvement for everyone everywhere.

  21. call me scruffy


    No No No No No.

    If you demolish Drax, I do NOT want you putting the biggest fusion reactor in western europe on it.

    If you build anything less than the biggest f*ck off fusion reactor on the planet, I'll feel dreadfully short changed

    As for fision... waste of time, remember "Nuclear Power? No Thanks!" might not include a rationale, might not actually even make sense, but it's a cute motto, which in Nu Brit means it must be true.

  22. call me scruffy

    Re:It was the wrong question...

    You don't seem to understand Greenpeace's business model.

    In order for Greenpeace to seem positive and wonderful, there must be horrible evil things out there for them to campaign against.

    Horrible Evil Things (HETs) are normally well hidden, which makes finding and publicising them expensive. So to cut costs Greensheesh just pick harmless, or even positive things that no-one had even thought to protect, and demonise them to buggery. (See also Brent Spa and the "Ghost Fleet").

    It's a bit like munchausens by proxy, when you think about it. In MBP The "sufferer" gains an ego boost by appearing to heroically care about the "patient".

    As for "Middle Class Arts Graduates", fraid not old bean m'lad. I knew a couple of girls from my old state-comp who went off to be greenpeace activists,

    * Thick as pigs-doo-doos,

    * failed every science exam they ever sat,

    * and they'd get quite litteraly violently upset uf you disagreed with them, especially if you had such an obscene thing as a "reasoned argument".

    * (They were right mingers too.)

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Where are the French when you need them?

    See: The Sinking of the Rainbow Warrior

    Ever get the feeling that Greenpeace is heavily infiltrated by the oil industry? No nuke plants, keep burning coal, let's look into shale extraction. Are you a greenie, or do you work for Halliburton? Hard to say-- the platforms are so similar.

    But how will they ever charge their electric cars....?

  24. Nigel Callaghan

    Dodgy questions

    The on-line consultation is interestingly phrased, questions in the mould of 'would you prefer to be shot or hanged' and 'have you stopped beating your wife'.

    Even setting aside the overall assesment of risk and advantages of big business v. small is beautiful, the long-term waste issues and the alternatives of spending to reduce need through insulation etc, rather than just generating more, the 'consultation' is not impartially phrased. The decision has already been made and the consultation is designed to get the answers Tony Bliar and his friends wanted.

    The grounds for change suggested are that security of supply and reduction in CO2 are essential, and from this the Govt decide that nuclear is the answer. But nuclear supply isn't secure - uranium is imported and in limited supply, and producing power from a small number of large, expensive generators and then transmitting it wastefully across hundreds of miles is not sensible. Lose one generator, for whatever reason (accident, terrorism, stupidity) and a serious proportion of power is lost for an area. Much better to have large numbers of small generators, sited near to the point of use, e.g. lots and lots of a wide range of renewables. Solar-cell technology is improving by leaps and bounds, efficiency goes up and cost goes down. By the time the first nuke is up and running it will be cheaper to slap solar cells on everyone's roof!

    The CO2 argument is also a bit dodgy - the concrete production for a nuke produces a lot of CO2! And low or neutral CO2 production cannot be the overriding factor, otherwise we'd be building power stations to burn dead babies, old people and politicians - cheap and totally carbon neutral, but no-one seems to be rushing to go down that road.

    Have a look at the consultation, it's a masterpiece of spin!

  25. Scott Broukell

    What to do with the waste

    Granite Re-Crystalisation (a simplified description) - Drill a hole 1 or 2 Kms deep, into a sutable granite strata, underneath parts of Britanny,Cornwall or Scotland, then send the waste down in Tungsten capsules. These melt the granite as they go, which recrystalises behind the capsule when it cools, sealing it in and warming the rocks. So you can run some pipework around the site later and capture the heat energy as superheated steam to run trubines and produce more lecy.

    There are problems tracking the capsules final resting places I understand, but I'm sure a solution will be found.

    Now whose going to object to that! eh?

  26. Dominic (The Pimp) Connor

    I do like the idea of Greenpeace being infected by Munchausen

    Tim Wesson talks of "nuclear disasters", but fails to mention the rather larger number of deaths from carbon fuels. Google on Aberfan.

    Yes of course it's risky, all useful energy sources are bad.

    Unusually for a faux green he uses something one might recognise as mathematical languages, but sadly loses it by the standard green arts grad idea that if there is ever an error in any calculation, calculation is itself meaningless.

    His basic premise is entirely wrong though. Of course we should average it.

    In a nucelar future, your chances of dying in some nuclear accident go up quite a lot. The question is whether the risk is worth it, a question that Greenpeace are uniquely incapable of judging.

    He hasn't even got his politics right.

    Historically the Labour party is responsible for far more of Britain's generating capacity than the tories. Go look up the role of Tony Benn in nuclear history.

    I think we can take it as read that Mr. Benn is not Blairite...

    He also gets "keeping up with the Joneses" wrong.

    Actually it does matter what your neighbours do.

    Ask a Mexican if they think their history would be different if the USA had been poor and lacking in energy sources.

    If other countries have rational energy policies and we do not, then we will be poorer than them, and history is quite clear on the point that poor countries get shat upon.

  27. andywebsdale

    In an ideal world

    fission would be OK. But the forthcoming nuclear stations will be built & maintained by the sort of companies who look after the Tube & the railways etc.,

    probably involving PFI style creative accounting, Capita, infinite layers of subcontracting & agency workers with their brother-in-laws tools. When it all goes wrong (and you know it will) it won't matter whose fault it is. Once we contaminate the earth with radioactive material there is probably no way back

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    All systems fail

    The oil business has done its share of damage. Exxon Valdez has destroyed that part of Alaska pretty much thoroughly for hundreds of years. Certainly through this century.

    Chernobyl was a bigger disaster than governments overtly admit to. Look at stats on birth defects etc. through north Europe and even Scotland. And the appalling effects in the immediate area. How many generations there have to endure agonising lives so we can charge our iPods?

    Greenpeace gets slated as hippies and well-heeled nay-sayers. They distort as much as any action-for-change organisation, but they have stopped really nasty things from happening and have brought dirty practices to the public eye. I agree that they don't have a viable answer for where our future energy comes from, but they are not insane weirdos: they are concerned that we are heading for nuclear power without fully thinking it through, and they think that a future without nuclear power is one far to be preferred, because a nuclear disaster is a world-wide disaster. This isn't non-rational.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I grew up just by Sellafield (in Seascale to be precise) and I vividly remember from my youth that Greenpeace would often park (I'm not a seafairing man, no idea what the right word is) their ship - you know, the one the French blew up, don't recale the name - just off the shore of the village.

    I used to spend many a happy hour on the beach with a mate, firing air rifles, crossbows, etc. at them. Dunno if I ever hit them though!

    I think that the only choice for us at this moment is to actively push for more nuclear power. Let's face it, coal and oil are really bad options. Nuclear power may have it's dangers (although they are exadgerated enormously by the likes of Greenpeace) but it's the nearest thing we've got to plentiful, clean, efficient energy production.

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Or more particularly

    If Greenpeace ever bring genuine bad practices to light it's only by sheer dumb luck.

    Re:Dodgy Questions

    Very interesting... now look up "base load" "day time" and "day light". Unless you feel like storing the "surpless" juice in lead-acid? NIce and sound solution that.

    Re: All systems fail

    One concerted cock up twenty years ago, and we never hear the end of it! Since then every single aspect of reactor design, fuelling, operation and maintenance has been revised, Enough Already!

  31. Steve

    Nuclear power is (un)economical?

    @James Anderson

    In the current situation, nuclear power is uneconomical.

    There are five main costs :

    Build (this is very expensive compared to most other alternatives)

    Running costs (this is comparable to other renewable options and very cheap in comparison to fossil fuels)

    De-commisssioning (this is very expensive compared to every other alternative)

    Getting rid of nuclear waste (this is currently very expensive, no-one has found a politically and publicly acceptable way of doing it yet)

    Insurance (this is currently impossibly expensive unless under-written by the government)

    The first one is a big problem, as you need a big money commitment from a company to get started, they need to know that they will recoup their money back at some point.

    The fourth one may or may not make nuclear power uneconomical, depending on your views on future technology and future political and public acceptability.

    But the biggest problem is the fifth one, and this is the one that definitely makes nuclear power uneconomical compared to the alternatives. You CANNOT buy insurance at a reasonable price, so the government has to pay for the insurance. If you crash a 747 into a nuclear plant it costs tens of billions to fix. Do that to a coal plant and it costs tens of millions.

    Of course, imposing a carbon tax may change the economics, depending on the details and it's severity.

  32. Simon Brown

    Brent Spar

    You only have to look at the Brent Spar fiasco to know that you can't trust Greenpeace's claims

  33. JimC

    There aren't many organisations more likely than our current government

    to create ridiculous spin bordering on and even including outright lies, but Greenpeace is definitely one of them. Remember Brent Spar?

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    was considered a bad reactor design even when it was built. No one ever mentions that Three Mile Island had a meltdown and yet didn't render an entire region unusable.

  35. Tim Wesson

    "The Pimp" Misrepresents the Point

    Dominic (The Pimp) Connor does a great hatchet job, but clearly isn't reading for meaning, but rather just rebuts points singly without attemption to see what I am really saying.

    The reason why the distribution, and not only averages matters is easy to see with a simple example: what if a nation (with a very small probability) were wiped out? The fact that on average you might be better off doesn't mean that you're better off over all.

    If you want the maths for it, it's straightforward: it is rational to act to maximise the log of your wealth if you're a gambler. Halving your wealth should be compared fairly with doubling it. If you lose 50%, gaining 50% next time won't put you right. Only for small numbers is averaging a reasonably thing to do.

    Risking being wiped out should be done for a higher value, such as liberty, rather than for a form of energy that could easily be substituted.

    With regard to risk, I'm not simply arguing that all engineering calculation is useless; clearly if a power station is built, it should be built to high standards. However, human nature is such that such risks are pushed. The safer the system, the more leeway is felt by those who are running the system. Allowing for human psychology, there isn't even proportionality between paper and real risk.

    As for Keeping up With the Joneses, Domonic makes out that nuclear power is the only possible source of energy (since he is comparing growth with non-growth). Maybe he himself is the arts graduate in making such ridiculus assumptions.

    As for the history, who cares if Benn has supported nuclear power? He's not the reason why it's current government policy to push it regardless. Tony Benn's opinion is frankly an irrelevancy.

  36. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    These are the same dudes who are trying to get ITER shut down before it is even constructed. Basically, they're going against every single research that may solve current problems (genetic research, fusion energy) and sometimes it may even seem they got their own interests on this. They shat on the Mexican tuna fisher economy by promoting a ban on Mexican tuna for not being "dolphin safe". And with their stubborness where energy is concerned, I'd say they're keeping Oil as the primary energetic source.

    Solar energy is a joke: there is *no* sun during nighttime, and storing energy involves batteries, which are high in the pollution scale. Wind doesn't always blow, and hydro can't be tapped that much without damaging the ecosystem anyway.

    I do align with some of the stuff they promote (recycle, stop forest decimation, stopping resorts that damage ecosystems), but they're just too crazy on other stuff.

    As for nuclear power, well Chernobyl did screw up our views; I was about 5 y/o when that happened, and well, it was truly shocking. But Chernobyl was a bad reactor design combined with sloppy mistakes made by the erstwhile operators. It seems that few remember that Three Mile Island had a meltdown and *gasp* nothing happened.

    I root for nuclear, though only as a midstep for fusion: that will be the real fuel of the future!

  37. Ronny Cook

    Uranium reserves...

    Something that rarely seems to crop up in these discussions is that we have enough uranium for about another century of nuclear power plants at current rates of consumption. If consumption rates increase that lifetime will go down.

    I'm sure exploration will find additional reserves but the cost of exploration and mining counts against the cost (in dollars and carbon) of running a nuclear plant.

    Basically where renewable energy sources are concerned, nuclear... isn't. In many ways it's the *least* renewable source available, as reconstructing split nuclei is distinctly nontrivial.

    With regard to the intermittent nature of most renewable sources... geothermal does not have this problem; storage of energy doesn't necessarily need to be done using traditional batteries (which do tend to be highly toxic) - fuel cells are fairly "clean" although the elements used for catalysts also tend to be rare; then there are schemes such as pumping water uphill which of course lose a lot of energy but are pretty much pollution-free.


  38. Dominic (The Pimp) Connor


    OK, let's do risk management 101 shall we ?

    For a start, let's just remove the clutter of a "small nation getting wiped out by a nuclear accident".

    For a start, you'd have to be a *very* small nation to be wiped out by a Chenobyl sized accident, maybe the Vatican but not a "giant" like Lesotho.

    I do not see the difference between (say) 50,000 people killed in a small country and 50K in a large one.

    And yes, unlike Greenpeace I am prepared to accept that my favoured option has risks. I accept that it is effectively certain that we will experience some truly bad things from nuclear energy.

    Using past data points, I guess we will be dealing globally with about one or two thousand deaths per year from accidents. That will be a mix of small and big events. Sometimes we will get 10,000 dead in a year, sometimes very few.

    I believe that a rational person cares about dying more than exactly what gets them. So unlike a Greenpeace member a rational person is indifferent between dying of cancer caused by breathing in fumes from carbon fuels as from radiation.

    Thus I would not really care if I were the only person to die in my accident, or one of thousands.

    A rational person cares about the chances of getting shafted, what we non-Greenpeace types call "probability".

    We observe that in Britain, you have about a one in 12,000 chance of dying in a road accident per year. Most people die in single death crashes, but those don't make the news. Train crashes do make the news.

    If you were merely to rely upon the media, you would assume that trains were vastly more dangerous than cars. Indeed, recently one might get the impression that one only died in a road accident if criminals were making a getaway or you were shot, both highly rare events.

    A trick we non-artsgrad Greens use to tell if an argument is bollocks, is to change the nouns, and see if the logic still makes sense.

    Swap the Green "risk" argument against nuclear and you do indeed get them arguingf that trains should be banned. Firemen have been complaining for some time that the channel tunnel trains lack proper firefighting precautions, and that one day several thousand people with die.

    But to a Green trains are good, so their risks don't matter.

    Of course trains are vastly safer.

    If you look at carbon, we see lots of people dying because of oil and coal, but usually in small events, and often because they are coloured the media doesn't bother much, unless it's the latest mass death in Nigeria from poking holes in pipelines.

  39. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Damn hippies!

    "Personally I want to live long enough to see Drax close and just as the crusties start celebrating move the bulldozers in and build the biggest fusion reactor in Western Europe on the rubble."

    I'll drink to that!

    "Greenpeace are as guilty (if not more so) of spreading misinformation about nuclear power and preventing valued research into safe nuclear power and waste management. They have done this for decades and even want to stop research into fusion power."

    Very true (and sad).

    "I used to spend many a happy hour on the beach with a mate, firing air rifles, crossbows, etc. at them. Dunno if I ever hit them though!"

    Good man!

    "Tony Benn's opinion is frankly an irrelevancy."

    Would it be if it was to fit in with your opinion? I bet not!

  40. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    nuclear - no problem

    you want one in your back yard? get planning permission and do it.

    the /real/ problem is that the nuke people want unlimited amounts of our money and are trying to get by saying the lights will go out. I'm not scared of the dark.

    Also, the nuke people are utterly incompetent - todays example :,,2173838,00.html

  41. Dominic (The Pimp) Connor

    Selective Arguments

    Actually Tony Benn reflects an underlying ironic part of Labour policy for the last 60 years. They have always been into technology, OK not competently, but fans nevertheless.

    Look up "white heat of technology", not a slogan for the thermal output of the next wave of Intel chips, but a Labour slogan.

    If like me, you've been handed BNP or NF propaganda, you will notice just how similar the far right and Greenpeace are.

    Both the BNP and Greenpeace want people to stay where they are put, and want to stop travel over any distance.

    Both hate globalisation.

    The BNP has hooked into the idea of stopping imports of food, and is at one with Greenpeace's view on "food miles".

    Many right wingers of various parties are right up there with "protecting the countryside" from development and of course any form of energy production be it nuclear or "ugly" wind farms.


    As it happens I think modern windmills look really cool, and am disappointed that they are as relevant to our energy needs as the "consciousness raising" that Greens prefer over doing anything useful about the problems we face.

    As for Nickj's point, I used to be on the academic board of Queen Mary College, who did indeed have a nuclear plant in our back yard. Or more precisely under the Mile End Road. Rather than let us dispose of it properly one Ken Livingstone screwed us around and it ended up.....

    Yep you guessed it right in the middle of the area where they are building the new Olympic stadiums. Since socialists of any kind simply do not care about anything that happens East of Oxford Circus, Livingstone didn't object much to it being moved to Stratford, indeed as I recall he used taxpayers money to make it so.

    Of course the nuke people want money, they have to be managed. Alas that ain't gonna happen. There simply isn't anyone to do it.

    If you told 100 senior MPs of any party that there had been a major leak of Nitrogen gas in Stratford you would get the following responses.

    The Guardian reading ones would blame the USA

    The Daily Mail reading MPs would blame Moslems

    The Telegraph readers would worry until they realised it was E15 not the home of the bard, then stop caring.

    Sun reading MPs would ask if any celebrities had been hurt.

    I'd bet less than 10% would know that nitrogen gas isn't really that toxic.

    Reckon they can make informed decisions on wastes disposal, risk and future energy prices ?

  42. Jim

    Base load bullshit

    Sorry, but WTF do you mean that we have to have base load?

    Base load demand is a result of a desire to run stuff 24/7/365 - often because there are serious financial/energy repercussions of starting and stopping processes or just because you (non-specific) can't be bothered turning your DSL on or off. But there is actually no intrinsic need to provide base load capacity, this is a problem created when generation capacity has a poor response time to load changes, like nuclear. The ex-CEGB even had to stimulate demand for base load capacity to keep the nuclear plant running, think Economy-7.

    With regard to Greenpeace, there seems to be a lot are wankers on here who don't actually know anything about them so just make stuff up. Greenpeace is not anti-energy use, their policy is to encourage people to reduce energy use where possible and to encourage governments and people to have a rational approach to future energy generation. The current push for nuclear is not rational, until a serious solution is provided for waste management - since the 50s, this solution has been 'only' 20 years away...

    And please take note that to group all 'green' organisations into a single entity is disingenuous as, while many groups agree on a few issues, there are serious disagreements between most 'green' groups about many issues. Take the following from the first comment.

    "They don't want fossil fuel power and we should use renewables. But then you try to create wind farms, tidal barriers they have cry that we are ruining the landscape."

    This apparent dichotomy is merely an illusion created by artificially grouping non-related organisations to prove a fallacious argument.

  43. SImon Hobson Bronze badge

    Just a few odd bits and bobs ...

    Decommisioning costs have been high in the past because, largely, the designers never really thought about it when designing/building things in the first place. New designs take account of the fact that the things have to be dismantled eventually and plan for it.

    We have enough fuel in storage to fuel quite a few reactors for quite a while. If we build breeder reactors, then they can use a lot of what is currently waste (because current designs can't do anything with it) and also generate more material that can be used in older designs. A side effect is that the waste from such plants has a MUCH shorter half life and so only needs to be stored for a couple of hundred years before it becomes low level waste. But once again, irrationality comes to the fore again as people get all jittery if you mention the P word - because everyone just KNOWS that the only use for Plutonium is to make things go bang in a big way !

    Lastly, I understand that more modern designs go more for passive safety - ie if you stop 'doing things' to the reactor then it naturally stops reacting, instead of having to 'do things' to keep it under control (active safety).

  44. Tim Wesson

    Probability and Party

    Dominic, in comparing Nuclear Power with trains or roads, you are missing the point: several small disasters with a statistically predictable downside is not a fair comparison with something that could conceivably touch almost every family.

    There are a number of catastophies that do not follow a normal distribution, and from what we've seen so far, nuclear meltdowns are not of a typical size; a power distribution is likely to be closer, as is the case in most situations exhibiting self-organised criticality.

    For the record, I do favour fission, as a self-limiting reaction seems to be precisely what is called for. I don't see that we should make do with an unstable system because the stable system hasn't been made to work yet. I am not opposed to new "weird science"; I am rather weary of a system of generating power that is based upon holding an inherently unstable reaction within bounds.

    Also, I have to say that I am not a member of any specifically green groups, so "gulit by association" is not only bad logic, but in my case misplaced.

    Finally (responding to "Damn hippies!" above), I have a bit more integrity than to cling to famous figures that I happen to agree with. History is tosh (except as a source of data). I believe that my stance is rational, and not a response to fear, and finding characters that are part of the "same movement" is tiresome and doesn't addess the point.

  45. Dominic (The Pimp) Connor

    Probability ?

    Tim's response is indeed rational, and I mean that in the formal economic sense. That is not the same as wise.

    As it happens, I agree about it being a power series, and the risk management used by investment banks tends to use all sorts of fat tailed distributions.

    But tim, are you really telling me that you don't know anyone affected by the sort of car accident I mentioned ?

    You can't predict the downside of transport accidents, I can see why you might be comfortable that way, but it is simply not true. That's why us science types get so impatient with arty Greens.

    It's pretty much certain that two jumbo sized planes will collide over Oxford Street, in the middle of London. indeed the LFCDA has actually carried out exercises to deal with that. Not terrorism, just a tail of the distribution.

    What risk managers call "fat tails" are a critical aspect of risk management, and it takes a very smart person such as my friend Nassim Taleb ( to even try.

    It turns out to be the case that in the future we can expect 10 or 20 times as many people to die in a year from transport accidents, No I don't know when, but that's the nature of randomness.

    9/11 was not actually that improbable, indeed in the early 1990s The Economist did an article pointing out that planes hitting large buildings would increase due to this sort of effect. We are actually getting *fewer* such incidents than their theory might suggest.

    All human actions, and indeed inactions have the possibility of amazingly bad outcomes.

    The world can expect a (say) 50,000 death toll from a transport screwup with (I'd guess) a probability of about 2% a year. The mechanisms are much the same as a nuclear event of the same scale. Human error may be amplified by malice, and a consequence of a previously under-weighted effect turns out to be huge.

    Such time series are of course patchy, in the last century the worst transport event killed around 25,000 Dutch people.

    Ironically an almost synchronous event in Britain seems to have seriously improved life expectancy by stopping them choosing a truly dreadful diet.

  46. Tim Wesson

    Very good points, yet...

    The one thing that remains outstanding (and this is a matter for evidence, rather than argument) is what the slopes are on the graphs of damage verses frequency for different sources of risk.

    My (posibly false) intuition is that vehicluar collisions have a far faster fall-off, certainly beyond a certain point, in that if you double the size of the disaster, the frequency of disasters of that order of size is a smaller fraction of the original than would be the case for failures of nuclear power. Since this a matter for evidence and I don't have it to hand (and in any case, there isn't a whole lot of data for the nuclear camp), I will have to leave things there.

    For now, it is sufficient to note that the ratio of two power distributions is another one.

    If fission could be made to work, then that is something that I would support. A self-limiting process just seems to me to be a lot more sane.

  47. Dominic (The Pimp) Connor

    Transport event

    I assume Tim means fusion ?

    Indeed, it's hard to see any motorway crash killing more than 5,000 and I've never heard of such an event. But it's quite possible, and somewhat inevitable.

    Not by impact of course, but some really bad things are carried by road, and yes I know that includes nuclear material, but there are chemicals and explosives as well.

    Also, we know from experience that tens of thousands of people will die in a future transport foul up. It's happened several times before.

    There is essentially no public noise about road deaths, and that is around 5,000 per year. If we make the assumption that the number of nuclear caused deaths is proportional to the amount of power produced, we are looking at 50-100 deaths in the UK for 100% electricity generation by fission.

    That is the average of course, and yes one day we will have thousands die in a nuclear accident, even at current levels that is inevitable.

    But that illustrates the intellectual dishonest of the Greenpeace position.

    My earlier point is that I don't care if my death is one of thousands or one of one, I care about the probability.

    Greenpeace care about the headlines.

    Look at death on global scale, what kills people ?

    Lack of money.

    Makes the other causes look like being obsessed with the fear of dying in a piano tuning accident.

    You want clean water, health care, food and an economy capable of paying for old people and baby girls, you need a grown up source of energy.

    Look at the countries that don't use much energy.

    Look at the old people, although there is a lot of old looking people, they are 50, real old people ain't there. Also the male/female ratio. Girls are a luxury when you ain't got a proper economy.

  48. Tim Wesson

    Fusion, yes


    Poverty is the greatest priority, but given that rich countries don't really care about poorer ones in general, we should be comparing like with like. For example, "climate change" should be compared with rich-country insurance, rather than their (ridiculously low) generousity to others. I'm not saying how this calculus works out, BTW, only that the suffering of the poorest is a bit of a distraction, resembling the mother's "Think of the starving in Ethiopia" when encouraging their kid to eat.

    With regard to Nuclear Power, you might be right, especially if I am wrong about the slope of the curve on the log-log graph.

    As I said, I don't have the data to hand, so I can't say a load more.

    Success with fusion would certainly remove a worry.

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