50% of French nuclear reactors off-line as a result of corrosion: Scotland’s renewables are cleaner, safer and more reliable

Frances McKie

Andy Cartwright’s dismissal of sustainable alternative energy sources [Herald 14 November, above] as the core providers of Scotland’s future electricity supply was, at the very least, disingenuous: it was, in fact,  misleading: Mr Cartwright’s letter, by omission,  suggested that our only alternative energy source is wind power. He failed to mention current investments in Scottish Tidal and  Hydro Power and the massive potential of both for this country- which, in any case, already regularly exports surplus electricity.

This surplus gives Scotland- and the multi-national oil companies who are engaged in such diversification- time to complete development of more  alternatives, including blue and green hydrogen.

Like other proponents of nuclear power Mr Cartwright moved on from his dismissal of alternative, sustainable energy sources to the old Thatcheristic  insistence of “TINA” – there is no alternative. Again, however, his false premise is based on deliberate omission of historical evidence: after 70 years of blank cheques from governments throughout the world,  multi-national energy companies will not invest in nuclear power. Money talks: they know it is not a sensible, economic, safe, reliable option.

On June 16th this year, Reuters reported that in France- frequently cited by nuclear lobbyists as a successful example of nuclear investment-  at least 50% of nuclear reactors were off-line as a result of corrosion.

The same report  confirmed that the struggle to complete the construction of the now notorious  EPR reactor at Flammanville was 4 times over budget (nearly 13Billion Euros)  and over 10 years late.  Failure of materials and welding were cited as the key problems.

The implications for the UK government’s  similar project at Hinckley Point in Somerset are stark reminders of  the fundamental problems associated with  nuclear power: faulty designs,  failure of materials, containment and welding and – above all- insurmountable corrosion.  Its lethal vulnerability to natural disasters (Fukushima) , human error (Dounreay, Sellafield, Chernobyl) and missile attack (Zaporizhzhia) is a separate but very serious issue.

Nuclear protagonists also refuse to acknowledge the unimaginable costs of decommissioning and nuclear waste disposal. In 1976, Westminster accepted the findings of the “Flowers Report” that “There should be no commitment to a large programme of nuclear fission power until it has been demonstrated beyond reasonable doubt that a method exists to ensure the safe containment of long-lived highly radioactive waste  for the indefinite future” .

In 2022 the UK government still has no proven method  for safe storage of high level nuclear waste. On the contrary, highly radioactive, potentially lethal particles of nuclear spent fuel now contaminate the beaches and sea-bed around Dounreay in Caithness. According to SEPA- they are irretrievable. At Sellafield  there are leaking ponds of highly radioactive spent nuclear fuel rods for which there is still no solution. That kind of environmental destruction- for most people-  makes nuclear power an unacceptable risk.  The days of Scottish communities being nominated as expendable areas for such experiments with nuclear, fracking or any other gamble with safety- are over.

There is -indeed- an alternative, cleaner, safer and more reliable future.

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8 thoughts on “50% of French nuclear reactors off-line as a result of corrosion: Scotland’s renewables are cleaner, safer and more reliable

  1. If England wants to invest huge sums of money in nuclear power stations in order to not have it’s green and pleasant land blotted by windmills and solar panels ,then that is their political choice.
    Unfortunately,as usual,political choices made in England have a detrimental effect on Scotland.
    We are going to have to pay for these choices,one way or another with no benefit accruing to us.
    Perhaps this is one of the reasons why the Great British Labour party in Scotland are so keen for us to have nuclear stations here as well in order to cover this up.

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  2. Were Mr Cartright able to point to an instance in Britain’s extensive historical records of weather when a dead calm descended upon all the land of the UK and it’s seas, he might have a point, but there has been no such instance.

    The wind may be fickle, but not near so fickle as the lobbyists for nuclear, it is far and away the most expensive method of energy generation there is, before addressing any of the other issues.

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  3. “Let the market decide.” “You cannot buck the market.” etc. That same lady, the utterer of those quotes, whilst trying to flog off every bit of UK Plc, could find any takers for the nuclear industry. Even when she took the decommissioning burden out of the sale, still no takers.
    Have to wait and see if Hinkley and Sizewell come to fruition, the French are having difficulty finding steel of quality for the build. I expect UK government will use the problem to fuel the crisis and make it easier to funnel more money into S.M.R.
    Some time ago I was looking for information on hydrogen investment from the UK Gov, was surprised that £300m had been earmarked for SMR. I translated that as Steam Methane Regeneration for hydrogen, in reality Small Modular Reactors.

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