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New Nuclear Power Plant Costs Underestimated

The Government has vastly underestimated the cost of building a new generation of nuclear power plants, according to the head of the world's largest power company.  Wulf Bernotat, chairman and chief executive of E.ON, the German energy giant that owns Powergen,  thinks the cost per plant could be as high as €6 billion (£4.8 billion) - nearly double the Government's latest £2.8 billion estimate.

His figures indicate that the cost of replacing Britain's ten nuclear power stations could reach £48 billion, excluding the cost of decommissioning ageing reactors or dealing with nuclear waste. “We are talking easily about €5 billion to €6 billion [each],” Dr Bernotat said.

E.ON's cost estimates provoked an angry response from anti-nuclear campaigners. Tim Jackson, of the Sustainable Development Commission, said: “Combined with the myriad concerns about the legacy of nuclear waste, it should now be clear that a new generation of nuclear plants is the wrong option.”

Dr Bernotat's estimates are based on E.ON's experience as a partner in the construction of a nuclear plant in Finland to a French design viewed as the most likely for deployment in Britain. He estimated the cost of that project at €4.5 billion.

The Department of Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform said the £2.8 billion figure, contained in a White Paper published in January, was an estimate and that the final costs would hinge on many factors. 

Westminster Boffins Worried About Their Tea

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Whitehall officials worried about the survival of the great British cup of tea in the event of a nuclear attack on the UK in the 1950s, new documents have revealed. The tea situation would be "very serious" if there was a widespread attack on the UK by both A bombs and H bombs, officials drafted in to draw up contingency plans for food supplies in the event of a nuclear war said.

"The tea position would be very serious with a loss of 75% of stocks and substantial delays in imports and with no system of rationing it would be wrong to consider that even 1oz per head per week could be ensured. No satisfactory solution has yet been found," noted one official.

The formerly top secret documents dating from 1954 to 1956 were released under the Freedom of Information Act by the National Archives in Kew.

A paper drawn up in April 1955, noted: "The advent of thermo nuclear weapons .. has presented us with a new and much more difficult set of food defence problems."

Dounreay Stockpile Details Withheld

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THE UK Atomic Energy Authority has succeeded in keeping private details about enriched uranium and plutonium stockpiles at Dounreay. Disclosing the information could help terrorists gain access to potential bomb-making materials, deputy UK Information Commissioner Richard Thomas has ruled.

In the first case of its kind, Mr Thomas upheld the UKAEA's refusal to hand over seven files to Edinburgh-based environmental journalist Rob Edwards. Mr Thomas claimed disclosure could have "a far-reaching impact on the national security of the UK".

Mr Edwards had sought information relating to fissile materials held at the UKAEA's defunct fast-reactor site. After having his initial request knocked back in March 2006, he used Freedom of Information legislation in a bid to force the UKAEA to hand over the data.

AWE Staff Levels Increased

leftThe UK has hired an extra 1100 scientists and technicians for its two nuclear weapons sites in Berkshire - an increase of 25% in less than four years - despite Government denials that any decision has been taken on designing a new missile warhead for the Royal Navy.

Staff levels at the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) at Aldermaston and the warhead assembly plant at nearby Burghfield rose from 3510 in 2004 to 4620 in February this year as part of a recruitment drive targeting physicists and researchers.

The Government has also earmarked £5.7bn over the next three years for improvements at both sites and work to maintain the existing weapons stockpile, believed to be about 160 warheads.. The aim is to produce warheads which contain fewer degradable components, giving them a longer shelf life, and to make them so dependable that none would have to be detonated in an underground explosion that would contravene the worldwide Test BanTreaty in place since 1998.

The UK is meanwhile in the process of investing almost £2.2bn in the Aldermaston site to equip it with a state-of-the-art Cray supercomputer codenamed Larch and a laser codenamed Orion to help model nuclear explosions in place of live testing.

John Ainslie, Scottish CND's co-ordinator, said: "A lot of money and research is going into the design of the warheads, no matter what is said in Parliament."

Glasgow MSP at Geneva Conference

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Glasgow MSP Bill Kidd attended the Preparatory Committee for the 2010 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) in Geneva this week to support an international ban on nuclear weapons. 

Hel addressed a meeting of NGOs at the Conference and set out the opposition of Scottish CND and the SNP to the renewal of the Trident.weapons system.

  Bill said  “It is an enormous privilege to have been invited to speak on ScotlandÂ’s behalf against the renewal of nuclear weapons.  For the first time ever Scotland has a Government and a Parliament opposed to nuclear weapons with a clear vision of a Nuclear Free Scotland.  Opposition to the UK GovernmentÂ’s decision to spend a minimum of £25 billion and possibly three times that amount on a new generation of Trident to sit in the Clyde is growing every day".  

The Review Conference in 2010 will determine the future for nuclear non-proliferation.  The actions of the UK in renewing Trident are threatening any opportunity there may be to reduce the number of nuclear weapons, to end the spread of nuclear weapons across the world and to dissuade other governments and countries from entering a new arms race.” 

Safety Problems Halt Work at Burghfield

Vital work at Britain's nuclear bomb factory has been halted for months because of safety fears, preventing Trident warheads from being shipped to and from the Clyde.

The ban on crucial maintenance at the Burghfield plant in Berkshire is believed to be the first time the Ministry of Defence (MoD) has ever been obliged to stop working on nuclear weapons. The implications, say critics, are "far-reaching".

Managers of ageing bomb dismantling facilities have been struggling for the last six years to remedy more than 1000 safety flaws uncovered by the Government's Nuclear Installations Inspectorate (NII). But deadlines have been repeatedly broken.

Now the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE), which runs Burghfield, has been forced to cease "live nuclear work" while outstanding safety problems are fixed. The stoppage has been in place since at least December, though it was only admitted by AWE last week.

Scientists Call On US To Reduce Nuclear Stockpile

A group of 95 scientists says the United States should significantly reduce the country's collection of nuclear weapons.

The 95 National Academy of Sciences members said  the current U.S. weapons stockpile was going against U.S. security. Most of the experts are from prominent U.S. universities and as a group have received 32 Nobel Prizes.

The group, coordinated by the Union of Concerned Scientists, suggested that the United States cut back its arms stockpile to 1,000 explosives, compared to the 4,500 to 6,000 it has now. It also reportedly requested that the country surrender first use of the nuclear explosives.

Richard Garwin, who made plans for the first hydrogen bomb, was one of the scientists to sign the proposal..

 

Scottish Government Trident Working Group

A Working Group set up by the Scottish Government, following last year's Anti-Trident Summit, met this month in Edinburgh..

Those taking part said the Group would also prepare for Scotland's "possible attendance" at the 2010 nuclear non-proliferation treaty talks. 

The members of the Working Group are Bruce Crawford MSP, Minister for Parliamentary Business; Rev Dr David Sinclair, Church of Scotland ; John Deighan, Roman Catholic Church; Osama Saeed, Scottish Islamic Foundation; Professor William Walker, School of International Relations, University of St Andrews; Dr Rebecca Johnson, Acronym Institute for Disarmament Diplomacy.; David Moxham, Scottish Trades Union Congress; Gillian Slider, Scottish Youth Parliament ; Isobel Lindsay, ScotlandÂ’s for Peace ; James Robb, SNP councillor for Helensburgh; Alan Mackinnon, Scottish CND; Dr Richard Dixon, WWF Scotland ; and Scott Blair, Advocate  

Defects Found in French Nuclear Reactors

The French nuclear safety agency has uncovered a series of defects in the construction of a reactor in Normandy considered to be the template for the next generation of stations due to be built in Britain.

The agency, ASN, says that a quarter of the welds seen in its steel liner – a crucial line of defence if there were to be an accident – are not in accordance with welding norms, and that cracks have been found it its concrete base, also essential for containing radioactivity.

The reports – in a series of letters covering inspections made between December and last month – will cause particular concern because similar defects have been listed in a previous report by the Finnish safety authority into the only other reactor of its type being built anywhere in the world.

The earlier report helped put the Finnish reactor, on the island of Olkiluoto in the Gulf of Bothnia, two years behind schedule, three years after construction began. It is also believed to have helped increase its cost by more than 50 per cent. Similar delays and cost overruns here would play havoc with the Government's nuclear programme, and could even lead to it being abandoned.

Kate Hudson's New Statesman Article on Aldermaston

On Easter Monday, CND is going back to Aldermaston. Yes, we intend to surround the Atomic Weapons Establishment that builds Britain’s nuclear weapons – and we will celebrate 50 years of courageous, creative and tenacious opposition to nukes. But if you think this is just a blast from the past, that this is just about the 50th anniversary, you are very much mistaken.

Aldermaston is not something that belongs to the past – it produces Britain’s weapons of mass destruction today, and will continue to do so into the future, unless we are effective in our opposition.

In 2002, the private consortium that manages AWE Aldermaston published a plan to redevelop and build new facilities at the site. The building work is now well advanced, and the developments are on the scale of HeathrowÂ’s Terminal Five.

They are estimated to cost in the region of £5 billion and they will also result in the employment of more than 1,000 additional staff. Recruitment has already begun. But what are these developments for? We believe that they are for the development and production of a new generation of nuclear weapons. It is just not credible that the scale of redevelopment is solely to preserve the existing capabilities of the establishment.