NucPower Kendal07

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Nuclear power: the security dimension: 

Nuclear power: the security dimension Dr Stuart Parkinson

Some context…: 

Some context… Climate change By 2100, potentially more rapid change than at any time in human history Major threat to water, food, health, shelter… At least 61 states at risk of armed conflict related to climate change Most vulnerable are least responsible for the problem Nuclear non-proliferation treaty Current deadlock over disarmament Without progress, global regulation of nuclear power will suffer Rising religious fundamentalism Can affect both terrorist groups and some governments

In a world such as this, should we expand or phase out nuclear power?: 

In a world such as this, should we expand or phase out nuclear power?

Nuclear weapons proliferation: 

Nuclear weapons proliferation Many overlaps between civilian and military nuclear technologies/ materials/ skills, for example: Uranium enrichment Civilian use: 3-5% U-235 Military use: ~90% U-235 Plutonium from reprocessing nuclear waste Proliferation risk is greater from plutonium On average ~300kg plutonium produced per modern power station per year – reprocessing would yield enough to make up to 40 nuclear bombs

Nuclear bomb dropped on Nagasaki: 

Nuclear bomb dropped on Nagasaki 9 August, 1945 ~6 kg of plutonium equivalent to 21,000,000 kg of TNT Heat, blast and radiation killed at least 70,000 people from population of 200,000 Almost all buildings within 1½ miles of ‘ground zero’ destroyed

NW proliferation: risks: 

NW proliferation: risks More civilian nuclear facilities increases potential for diversion to weapons Determined states which have access to civilian nuclear programme are hard to stop going military Terrorists interested in stealing fissile material International Atomic Energy Agency (Regulator) complaints of lack of resources also has a role promoting nuclear power Will the nuclear non-proliferation treaty hold?

NW proliferation: examples: 

NW proliferation: examples Diversion of civilian nuclear know-how to create Pakistan’s nuclear weapons Current concerns over Iran’s nuclear power programme

The role of the UK: 

The role of the UK UK is very influential country Member of UN Security Council, G8, EU, Head of Commonwealth UK plans to retain its nuclear weapons UK go-ahead for new nuclear power sends strong message on climate, energy and security strategy Also, can the UK keep its own plutonium secure for next 100+ years?

Plutonium-MOX economy?: 

Plutonium-MOX economy? Use of MOX fuel (part plutonium) in nuclear reactors to prolong uranium supplies presence of plutonium leads to increased risk of proliferation Potential for move to ‘Generation IV’ reactors completely fuelled by plutonium even greater proliferation risk

Security & safety of nuclear facilities: 

Security & safety of nuclear facilities Risk of major nuclear ‘incident’ is very low, but… Terrorist groups consider nuclear facilities as potential targets ‘Successful’ attack on high-level waste/ plutonium store could be worse than Chernobyl Even a ‘failed’ attack could cause major disruption

Labour’s think-tank: 

Labour’s think-tank “Not only does more civil nuclear activity mean more nuclear weapons related materials being available to potentially fall into the hands of terrorists or rogue states worldwide, but reactors, waste sites and reprocessing plants themselves are also possible terrorist targets which, if hit, could lead to massive loss of life and economic disruption”

Are the climate benefits of nuclear good enough to offset the security concerns?: 

Are the climate benefits of nuclear good enough to offset the security concerns?

Nuclear power and carbon emissions: 

Nuclear power and carbon emissions Nuclear fuel cycle uranium mining + milling UF6 conversion U-235 fuel enrichment nuclear fuel fabrication fuel transportation reactor operation waste encapsulation waste transportation future waste disposal

CO2 emissions especially depend on: 

CO2 emissions especially depend on uranium ore grade as grade declines, energy consumption/ carbon emissions rise uranium ore type U-235 enrichment method future nuclear waste plans eg underground repository also construction of power station

Estimated Nuclear CO2 Emissions: 

Estimated Nuclear CO2 Emissions Source: House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee (2006)

Even if low carbon…: 

Even if low carbon… Sustainable Development Commission: Replacement nuclear programme would only lead to 4% cut in CO2 emissions from 1990 levels Not realised until at least 2024 “A new nuclear power programme could divert public funding away from more sustainable technologies that will be needed regardless, hampering other long term efforts to move to a low carbon economy with diverse energy sources”

What are the alternatives?: 

What are the alternatives? Renewable energy Wind Bioenergy Solar Hydro Wave Tidal Geothermal Energy efficiency Combined heat & power (CHP) Building insulation Efficient lighting Efficient appliances Efficient vehicles Controlling demand Behaviour change Carbon capture and storage ‘burial’ of carbon from fossil fuels

Energy efficiency: 

Energy efficiency 30% of UK’s overall energy supply dumped as waste heat/ hot water from power stations more than 10 times energy produced by nuclear power Combined heat & power (CHP) UK: 7% of electricity Netherlands: 30% Denmark: 50%

Case 1 - Tyndall Centre study: 

Case 1 - Tyndall Centre study Non-nuclear path to reduce UK carbon emissions by ~85% by 2050 Energy consumption down by ~40% by 2050 due to efficiency technologies & behaviour change (driven by economic reform) Strong support for R&D of renewables, carbon capture & storage, hydrogen fuel cells

Case 2 – CAT study: 

Case 2 – CAT study Non-nuclear path to reduce UK carbon emissions by ~100% by 2027 Energy consumption down by ~50% by 2027 due to efficiency technologies & behaviour change – including wide use of Tradable Carbon Quotas Strong support for R&D of renewables & energy storage (but reliance on expanding existing and near-term technologies)

The role of R&D: 

The role of R&D To realise the scale of emissions reduction necessary to tackle climate change, we need serious funding of non-nuclear energy R&D – especially renewable energy


Source: IEA (2001)


Source: IEA (2006)


Conclusions Nuclear power creates serious security problems Major factors affecting global security over coming decades are likely to greatly increase these problems Low-carbon benefits of nuclear are not great enough to outweigh drawbacks Alternatives have great potential to reduce carbon emissions without nuclear security risks



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