There are a lot of opinions about the impacts on energy policy and investments in the UK following the non-binding vote to leave the European Union. The UK Parliament has to take the formal action to request separation from the European Union. Given the level of political turmoil in the UK resulting from the vote, it is impossible to predict whether that will happen or not.
In the meantime, questions are being raised as to whether the UK plans for 19 GWe of new nuclear power will move ahead. Chief among them is the controversial Hinkley Point project which is planned to consist of two 1650 MW Areva EPRs. Estimated costs for the project have caused the French unions that represent the workforce at EDF, which will build the reactors, to dig in their heels saying the project could wreck the company financially.
French economy and trade minister Emmanuel Macron said 6/28 that his country will continue to invest in nuclear energy, including providing support for utility EDF’s plan to build a nuclear plant in the UK. He said this progress would take place despite delays on existing projects and a reorganization of the French state-controlled industry.
On June 21 Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) made a surprise announcement that it would not seek to renew the NRC licenses for its two 1100 MW PWR type nuclear reactors located at the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant California’s Pacific Ocean coastline near San Luis Obispo, CA.
Michal Shellenberger, an environmental policy expert who has written a series of analyses of the plan to close the reactors, points out that the numbers just don’t add up. Of the 17,600 gigawatt-hours of electricity that would be produced by the reactors, about 4,000 would be replaced by energy efficiency, solar, and wind power. The remaining 13,600 giga-watt hours could have to be made up with burning natural gas and these plants would also be needed to keep the electrical grid stable for intermittent sources like wind and solar power.
Every year these natural gas plants are online will add 5.4 to 6.8 million tons of CO2 to the atmosphere. If the twin reactors at Diablo Canyon were to remain in service for another 20 years,, the total amount of CO2 emissions that would be avoided would be 108-136 million tons of CO2.
On June 21, LPP Fusion’s President Eric Lerner reported a new record for ion energies of over 260 Kev (equivalent to a temperature of over 2.8 billion degrees K). This was obtained with the FF-1 plasma focus experimental device in Middlesex, NJ, and was a 50% advance over the previous record for a single shot (170 Kev). The variability in fusion yield from shot to shot was only about 14%. These results mean that FF-1 now has achieved the ion energy needed to ignite hydrogen-boron fuel in an average shot, not just in the best shots.
According to Princeton University Physicist Ryan Snyder’s forthcoming paper, a new laser-based uranium enrichment technology may provide a hard-to-detect pathway to nuclear weapons production. Research on the relevant systems for laser enrichment is currently ongoing in the United States, Russia, India, China and Iran. Third Generation Laser Uranium Enrichment Technology is likely more than 5 times more energy efficient and more compact than the best centrifuges.