In our article of 18th February 2012 (http://www.british-gazette.co.uk/2012/02/18/epr-versus-ap1000-the-result-was-fixed/) we reported upon the sorry tale of corruption and incompetence surrounding the selection of the EPR as the new plant to be constructed on the Somerset coast. Sadly, the situation has not improved.
The Finnish EPR is now bogged down in lawsuits and startup is further delayed; the EPR at Flamanville in France is doing only slightly better. These problems are due to an overly elaborate design that is very difficult to construct.
French engineers have form in this regard – of producing overly complex designs that actually end up being unreliable and fragile when compared to more basic simpler designs.
It is a variant on the pressurised water reactor, so named because the cooling water surrounding the reactor core is kept at high pressure to prevent it from boiling. The design is particularly advanced. The design is supposed to generate more electricity from less fuel and need less downtime for maintenance. It is a very ambitious design. Unfortunately it is not coming to fruition on time and on budget.
It will be years before the two reactors planned for Hinkley Point generate electricity. In the meantime, many ageing nuclear reactors will have to shut down. Each reactor is designed to produce 1,650 MWe (net). The resulting 3,300 MWe represents 7% of UK load.
So far as the Westinghouse AP1000 is concerned, there were problems with this design regarding the outer containment vessel and its ability to hold the safety water reservoir and resist external impacts. These problems – reasonably straightforward, albeit expensive to fix – have been overcome and new construction is going well in China and the US.
The AP1000 is a much simpler, less advanced reactor that uses more fuel in relation to the power it produces. It also produces less power being rated at 1,117 MWe (Net). Thus one would need three AP1000 reactors to produce the power of two EPR reactors.
However, it is the firm opinion of the British Gazette that given the urgency and the critical nature of the UK’s situation and the risks to its economic future should it cease to possess a reliable generation capability, it would be common sense to err on the side of caution and adopt the cheaper, proven and straightforward technology of the Westinghouse AP1000.
Of course, this requires our politicians to receive a sudden dose of common sense.
Meanwhile common sense governs China these days. The Chinese have 29 nuclear reactors under construction. This is the right approach as a single plant is costly, but building several creates economies of scale. What the UK needs is an emergency programme of at least twenty AP1000 reactors. For political reasons they should be built at ten sites in England. These should be (from North to South):
- Hinkley Point
Twenty would mean two per site. It would be better to build three per site and to have these reactors supply 73% of UK load requirements. Such a programme has a name: Energy Security.
There are those who would say no private company would undertake such a programme. They are right. The way to go is for the government to set up a limited company and issue shares. If there are private individuals and corporations who want to buy shares, well and good. If not the government should purchase them with taxpayer’s money. This is essential investment as failure to provide reliable base load capacity will ruin the economic prospects for the UK. This is important for the UK has a gigantic sovereign debt to pay off.
Put it this way: It is like a young man with a new wife, a new house and a very big mortgage he has difficulty paying off. He can meet the repayments. However his employer is a demanding fellow and the young man has to work jolly hard to keep his job. The young man needs that job so he puts in the hours, for he knows that if he looses the job, he cannot make the mortgage payments and would loose the house – and probably the wife shortly after!
This “real world” scenario may ring bells with British Gazette readers. Unfortunately such as David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband do not seem to inhabit the “real world.”