Archive for November, 2011

November 29, 2011

Nuclear power not a popular choice for energy future

by Jasmina Nikoloska

Since we are highly dependent on energy to accomplish our everyday needs, it is almost impossible to imagine the energy shortage, no matter what.

After Fukushima effect wakened the question can we feel safe using the current energy sources available and can we met our energy needs without nuclear?

For some time we are trying to abandon coal and it seems that more and more counties are realising that the nuclear power is not delivering a sustainable energy future to.

According to a recent poll by the global research agency GlobeScan, most counties believe that boosting efficiency and renewables can meet their needs.

The Agency polled 23,231 people in 23 countries from July to September this year and the results published by BBC News show that just 22% agreed that “nuclear power is relatively safe and an important source of electricity, and we should build more nuclear power plants”, with 71% which said their country “could almost entirely replace coal and nuclear energy within 20 years by becoming highly energy-efficient and focusing on generating energy from the Sun and wind”.

From the counties having nuclear programmes, comparing with 2005 survey there are significantly increased opposition to nuclear, with only the UK and US supporting the programme. In the UK, support for building new reactors has risen from 33% to 37%.

From the countries which already use nuclear continuing role for existing nuclear power stations while not building new ones was strongest in France and Japan (58% and 57%), however Spaniards and Germans (55% and 52%) were the strongest to shut down nuclear plants straightaway.

The other two polls Ipsos-Mori and the Japanese Asahi Shimbun newspaper published in June revealed not so different conclusion as well.

Tackling the greenhouse gas emissions and growing energy demand are challenges which favour nuclear power in the UK and according to the British Science Association-commissioned poll published in September 41% of respondents agreed that the benefits of nuclear power outweighed the risks, up to 38% in 2010 from 32% in 2005.

In the interview for the Guardian newspaper climate advisor to the German government, Jochen Flasbarth, said that building a new nuclear power stations, will make it harder for UK to switch to renewables.

In March, Germany announced its decision to shut down all of its nuclear power plants by 2022. According to Jochen Flasbarth who is advising German government on its nuclear phase-out, it is unlikely for Germany to experience an energy shortage because their energy plan is based on fostering growth of green energies, more than any other industrialised nation. Their calculated cost is no more than 5% increase in the energy bills for the next ten years.

How well is UK prepared for the nuclear future?

The UK energy strategy includes new nuclear reactors which will generate around 16 gigawatts by 2025, and nuclear future that would secure up to 40% of our electricity needs by 2050.

But the recent report from the House of Lords Science and Technology Select Committee, which has considered how well we are prepared on the future development of nuclear power, concluded that we are not.

The problem, the committee claims, is that successive governments have lacked the necessary vision to invest in the research and development infrastructure needed to keep us at the forefront of nuclear technology. The expertise we’ve built up over previous decades is in danger of being lost as the current generation of nuclear scientists, engineers and regulators reaches retirement, – BBC News published on 22 November.

Since the UK is committed to cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 80% from 1990 levels by 2050, according to the Government nuclear technology is vital to achieve this target as well to secure energy supply and jobs.

The committee says lack of investments and research in the industry could create a skills gap and threatens long-term electricity plans.

A government spokesman said that they are already investing £540m in energy research through the research councils including money to be spent on research and training in nuclear fission.

Advertisements
November 4, 2011

Fracking operations in Blackpool lined to recent earthquakes – the report finds

by Jasmina Nikoloska

Controversial ‘fracking’ technique linked to resent earthquakes near Blackpool, where UK Company Cuadrilla Resources is working on shale gas extraction.

To access shale gas, drilling must be downwards into the gas-bearing rock, ten thousand feet below the surface, and then horizontally for thousands of feet more when a mixture of water, chemicals and sand is plumed to fracture the rock, under high pressure.

The water opens up cracks in the rock, and the sand grains lodge in them and keep them open which creates space for the gas to travel up and be collected at the surface.

According to the report, commissioned by Cuadrilla, it is “highly probable” that shale gas test drilling triggered earthquakes, one of magnitude 2.3 hit the Fylde coast on 1 April, followed by a second of magnitude 1.4 on 27 May.

Following protests against shale gas drilling Cuadrilla suspended  its operations in June and commissioned a report.

But the report, also said the quakes were due to an “unusual combination of geology at the well site” and conditions which caused the minor earthquakes were “unlikely to occur again”.

Cuadrilla’s chief executive officer Mark Millerchief said for BBC news: “There are procedures we can put in place to practise earthquake prevention”.

Some environmentalists are not conversed in the safety of fracking and they suspect that potentially carcinogenic chemicals could escape during the process and contaminate drinking water sources. Therefore they are they are calling for a moratorium on fracking.

Cuadrilla said groundwater in Lancashire was protected by layers of rock between the aquifers which are up to 300m deep.

In the Statement Charles Hendry, Energy Minister said: “We are committed to the highest standards of safety and environmental protection in all UK oil and gas activities, and we will look at Cuadrilla’s report carefully with the assistance of our independent experts and regulators, before deciding whether hydraulic fracturing operations should resume. This is a potentially important addition to our energy resources, but its development must be done in a way that carries public confidence.”

The Government believes that the potential for unconventional gas is worth exploring as additional energy security and economic benefits; although it’s commercial viability at this stage is still unknown.

In September Cuadrilla announced this week that its tests showed there could be as much as 5.6 trillion cubic metres (200tn cubic ft) of gas in the Bowland shale under  Lancashire .

But according to Doug Parr, chief scientist at Greenpeace fracking is a “distraction from the real challenges” and the real energy solutions would be found in using renewable sources, the BBC news published on 02 November.

Cuadrilla’s report can be found on the Cuadrilla website [External link]: