Prime Minister's Questions

PMQs today! Tony is obviously demob happy and enjoying life. He was very sparky today. Cameron had another bad hair day. I don’t know who is advising him – but his choice of attack is failing. Lot’s of stuff about asking what the ‘new’ Prime Minister will or won’t do. Firstly – he is no match for Tony. Secondly – the problem he has whenever he goes for health or education or useless ministers is that he always finds himself on the back foot because however different Dave wishes to present himself as – Tony reminds him of what the Tory party thinks and says – and usually quotes some killer Tory hostage to fortune to nail his coffin. It will be soooooooo interesting to see how it goes when Gordon is crowned. And Ming did well – but it wasn’t hard given the open goal the Government’s White Paper on Energy is in terms of its nuclear strategy.

0 thoughts on “Prime Minister's Questions

  1. Susan Kramer MP said:”This consultation is a total farce. Ministers have clearly already decided to back nuclear.Probably true, because its proven, we have the sites to put the next few installations on, the financial sums can be done now, its easy to administer (sic) by simply letting a very small number of contracts to a proven supplier of reactors.”The Government’s attempt to justify nuclear on the grounds of security of supply and climate change does not stand up to scrutiny.”I think that it does on security of supply – providing that we can get the uranium (everyone wants it, some Aboriginees have just stopped a big mine).”Carbon capture and storage and nuclear are competing technologies on the way to the ultimate goal of a fully-renewable system.” As above, nuclear is proven, carbon capture is still developing.“Nuclear would not significantly reduce our reliance on fossil fuels – its main impact would be to squeeze out renewables.”Prove it. Anyway, its only the LDs who have documented energy saving (that seems to have been forgotten here) – but that is too complicated for our present govt to manage, yet the Germans manage it.”It is also disappointing that the Government has given so little detail on introducing smart metering, and has totally failed to take action on social tariffs for poorer families.”Side issues.I was a teenage physicist…

  2. Thanks for the pointer to the IFR (Integral Fast Reactor). First, I was never a nuclear physicist. More into semiconductors at the application level, i.e. transistors, then ICs (but was taught thermionic valves at university when I already knew about semis). However, I remember being taken on a school trip to Calder Hall (Windscale), when, if memory doesn’t lie to me, we were allowed to run around on the top of the 50MW reactor….Knowing someone who is involved in maintenance of a Magnox reactor, I’m aware of how basically simple that kettle is. By contrast IFR is complex: the liquid sodium as the primary heat removal medium, then the secondary isolating circuit, then the main heat extractor circuit… Reminds me of a civil servant who said to me that the best is the enemy of the good. Wrong in many cases: the mediocre is the enemy of the elegant. But you have to look at whole of life: does it degrade gracefully, can it be repaired easily? I can see that a relatively minor problem in the IFR could force it to be scrapped – but there is hope in the story below.The several references that I have now turned up show that the IFR was killed in 1994, but the AFR (Advanced Fast Reactor) and further designs followed on and continue at the Argonne Lab: http://www.ne.anl.gov and look for Generation IV (but the UK is not listed as a partner). The capital cost is very high, certainly always a killer in the UK: govt doesn’t understand investment. Argonne appears to have some cost reduction initiatives now, and claims continuing multi-national support, so there is hope of a commercially viable design with a long service life and capable of being maintained. Of course this line of development addresses that problem of the demand for uranium for today’s inefficient reactors: IFR, etc, are dramatically better at converting the uranium, so they should have a future from that viewpoint. Importantly they also make processing spent fuel much easier (but more capital investment now rather than spending 30 years later). But note that the criticism of today’s reactors that they make plutonium but don’t burn it isn’t entirely true: they burn a lot of the plutonium as well. The new designs are fast neutron systems, and Argonne expects them to be cost effective by 2030. That all suggests that here in the UK, with the combination of the inept public sector and fast reactors not yet ready to be deployed in a cost effective way, we will indeed have a new build of a number of dirty reactors before the clean and efficient ones are ready to go.When my mate turns up in the pub looking tired, I ask him if its been a hard day shovelling the neutrons…