Table of Contents
The department of energy and Climate Change is charged with the duty of maintaining secure electricity supply in order to power the UK. The regulatory framework together with the policy of UK relating to electricity has led to a system which has provided a reliable secure power supply. Currently the electricity generating sector is undertaking major changes that will ensure that the old carbon emission technologies which led to severe pollution is eliminated, and instead, cleaner sources containing low carbon is used instead. Most of the sources of electricity that exist in UK will close up in the next two decades, while the demand for electricity is expected by the government to increase as a result of advancement of technologies which are electricity based, especially those that deals with heating homes, transportation and buildings (NAO, 2016).
The strategic aims of the department are to achieve an affordable bill to the electricity users in UK and to eliminate emissions leading to greenhouse effects. The dilemma behind achieving these goals is that the desired low-carbon generation is more expensive and intermittent compared to the traditional fossil fuel power. In addition, it is the energy consumers who foot the cost of building new generating capacity instead of funding it from taxation sources. The UK government has a target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 80% by 2050. It is the greatest desire of the department to have nuclear power to form part of the balanced mix in technological generation. The aim of this essay is to critique the audit of the National Audit Office in Nuclear power in UK using Morgan Henriton’s (1990) ten golden rules.
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Electricity system challenges
The department has a central projection of generating 95 GW by 2035 (NAO, 2016). This is an equivalent of 90% of the current capacity of the world as shown in figure 1. There is however uncertainty concerning the future generation of electricity, making the department to provide several projections (Rodrigue, 2016). These projections are based on a 20% increase in electricity demand over the next two decades as projected by the department. This is as a result of demographic changes, the electrification of transport and heat and the economic growth. The second projection is based on ageing coal and nuclear power stations which is about 30 GW of the shutting capacity as they approach the end of technical lives. The other windows of opportunity that the department has is the new capacity which replaces the generating existing sources which are less efficient at the end of their technical life compared to the new sources, thus making them to be priced pout of the market (Nate, 2016). Finally, the increasing proportion of the generation from the intermittent sources like the solar and the wind means that the total generating capacity has to be higher in order to ensure that there is enough capacity for meeting the created demand.
Source: (NAO, 2016).
This suggestion however faces and will face several challenges especially in the area of transportation. This is due to the fact that transportation is the major sector that uses energy, and thus burns most of the petroleum of the world. With this, air pollution is created, including particulates and nitrous oxides, thus is the major cause of global warming as a result of carbon dioxide emissions (Fuglestvet et al., 2007). Though there are regulations in UK which have and are still aimed at reducing the emission from individual vehicles, this has been offset by the increasing number of vehicles and the increase in the use made of such vehicles (Fuglestvet et al., 2007).
The transportation sector is considered the major source of greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) within the United States and UK. This is estimated to be 30% of all the GHGs emissions, with some regions giving even higher proportions (EPA, 2016). The UK department would thus begin by solving the transportation menace which results into such emissions by putting into place all the necessary options which will finally ensure that the emission problems are reduced to minimum, after which their projections can be achieved.
The second challenge that the deparment faces especially when making a choice for wind and solar energy is that both are inconsistent. Although wind energy qualifies as a renewable source, its speed flactuates everyday. This can lead to big dissapointment to those who develop turbines since they commit large amounts of money for such constructions. This will thus require the department to do through research first in order to pinpoint the best location where they can set up such turbines before actually installing them. The consideration in this case is that there has to be sufficient wind supply at the pinpointed place. They thus require higher elevations in order to obtain stronger winds. Again, the number of fuel stations in UK cannot be replaced by wind energy, thus further complicating the issue.
Wind and solar enegy also require high upfront capital investment. Even though the cost of installing the turbines seem to be globally reduced, the whole exercise however remains very costly. The first step in the intallation of the turbines involves a rigorous survey to be carried out on the location of the wind energy generating machine. The next step involves carrying out a pilot test by erecting a turbine in order to gauge the speed of the wind within some duration of time. once the location has been identified as being ideal, the turbine is manufactured and then transported to the site where it is then set on a strong foundation. The whole of this process adds up to the total cost of setting up the wind turbine. This is also the case when it comes to offshore wind turbines whose costs are even more pronounced. This is due to the fact that wind turbines are daunting hard to install offshore as compared to onshore, with some firms even commisioning bespoke ships which are equiped with the ability to ferry and intall such turbines at sea. The cost scenerio is the same when it comes to solar cells since the process of manufacturing and installing the cells are equally expensive (Ben, 2011).
Passing of generation cost to consumers
In the audit of the department, they have proposed to pass the energy generation cost to the consumers through their electricity bills. The prediction of the government is that investing in the capacity for new energy generation may cost up to $140 billion by 2030. A further $40 billion investment will be required in the transmission and distribution of the nuclear electricity. All these will impact directly on the consumer who is expected to foot such bills. The estimation of the department is that by 2030, its total policy costs will be $230 as an average annual bill for electricity per head (NAO, 2016).
Such a cost will be extremely high for the average earning citizen in UK. This will mean that every UK citizen will have to pay more in order to foot the bill, thus infringing on the budget of the other needs of the consumer (Walker, 2006). Generally, nuclear plants come with high capital cost which is required in building the plant. The total energy required to commission nuclear is as much as 50% more than the amount of energy needed in the original nuclear construction. The decommissioning process in most cases costs between £300 million and £5.6 Billion. Decommissioning at nuclear sites which have had experience of serious accidents are time-consuming and the most expensive. In U. S there are 13 reactors whose result is permanent shut down and are thus in the phase of decommissioning, none of which have come to the completion of the process. The current plants for nuclear energy in US have decommissioning costs which exceed $73 Billion (Mancini et al, 2015).
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On 19th March 2012, an international peer review was carried out for Magnox Ltd, UK, decommissioning program and was successfully completed, and its final report handed over to the representatives of Magnox at the IAEA. The reference point for this review was the Bradwell nuclear power plant which is located in Essex, UK. The review process started in 2008 and included site visit, documentation of the project, and two meetings for review. The results of this review asset that all contaminated areas around the site boundaries should be properly characterized in consideration to their condition which could lead to contamination migration. Again, the report states that there should be an early solution concerning graphite disposal together with intermediate level wastes. The main aim of such international reviews is to ensure that the international safety standards are achieved in the process of planning and execution of nuclear energy program in UK (NAO, 2016).
This paper has discussed the critiques on the use of nuclear energy in UK as proposed by the energy department. Currently the electricity generating sector is undertaking major changes that will ensure that the old carbon emission technologies which led to severe pollution is eliminated, and instead, cleaner sources containing low carbon is used instead. Most of the sources of electricity that exist in UK will close up in the next two decades, while the demand for electricity is expected by the government to increase as a result of advancement of technologies which are electricity based, especially those that deals with heating homes, transportation and buildings. The analysis was thus aimed at discussing the hurdles that come with the use of nuclear energy as well as other sources such as wind and solar, together with the costs that come with such changes.
- Ben, S., 2011. Solar May Produce Most of World’s Power by 2060, IEA Says. Bloomberg.
- EPA, 2016. Climate and Energy Resources for State, Local, and Tribal Governments. www.epa.go.
- Fuglestvet et al., 2007. Center for International Climate and Environmental Research. Climate forcing from the transport sectors.
- Mancini, M. et al., 2015. The divergence between actual and estimated costs in large industrial and infrastructure projects: is nuclear special?. In: Nuclear new build: insights into financing and project management. . s.l.:Nuclear Energy Agency, p. 177–188.
- NAO, 2016. Nuclear power in the UK. The Department of Energy & Climate Change, pp. 10-40.
- Nate, B., 2016. The future of freight: More shipping, less emissions?.
- Rodrigue, J. P., 2016. The Environmental Impacts of Transportation. people.hofstra.edu.
- Walker, J. S., 2006. Three Mile Island: A Nuclear Crisis in Historical Perspective.. california: University of California Press.