30 April 2012


It's not asking much, is it? We want the light switch to turn the lights on any time night or day; this includes 3:00 am, when we've got to get up and find the Alka-Seltzer. In other words, living in an industrialised, developed-world country should entitle us to power on tap 24/7. We want the rest of the world to get up to this standard; we don't want to drop down to a standard lower than this.

So getting away from the figures so beloved by the wind industry and supporters, which are always averages, percentages and totals, what amount of electricity actually gets into the grid from this proposed steel rain forest (less the bio-diversity) of turbines and interconnecting grids, pumped storage and OCGT back-up?

From 'A Report by Stuart Young':   ANALYSIS OF UK WIND POWER GENERATION, March 2011

The final two paragraphs of:  EXECUTIVE SUMMARY:

The nature of wind output has been obscured by reliance on "average output" figures. Analysis of hard data from National Grid shows that wind behaves in a quite different manner from that suggested by study of average output derived from the Renewable Obligation Certificates (ROCs) record, or from wind speed records which in themselves are averaged.

It is clear from this analysis that wind cannot be relied upon to providen any significant level of generation at any defined time in the future. There is an urgent need to re-evaluate the implications of reliance on wind for any significant proportion of our energy requirements.

And leading up to these paragraphs:

in respect of analysis of electricity generation from all the U.K. 
wind farms which are metered by National Grid, 
November 2008 to December 2010 

The following five statements are common assertions made by both the wind industry and Government representatives and agencies. This Report examines those assertions.

1.   “Wind turbines will generate on average 30% of their rated capacity over a year.” 

2.   “The wind is always blowing somewhere.” 

3.   “Periods of widespread low wind are infrequent.” 

4.   “The probability of very low wind output coinciding with peak electricity demand is slight.” 

5.   “Pumped storage hydro can fill the generation gap during prolonged low wind periods.”

This analysis uses publicly available data for a 26 month period between November 2008 and December 2010 and the facts in respect of the above assertions are:

1.   Average output from wind was 27.18% of metered capacity in 2009, 21.14% in 2010, and  24.08% between November 2008 and December 2010 inclusive. 

2.    There were 124 separate occasions from November 2008 till December 2010 when total generation from the wind farms metered by National Grid was less than 20MW. (Average capacity over the period was in excess of 1600MW). 

3.    The average frequency and duration of a low wind event of 20MW or less between November 2008 and December 2010 was once every 6.38 days for a period of 4.93 hours.  

4.    At each of the four highest peak demands of 2010 wind output was low being respectively 4.72%, 5.51%, 2.59% and 2.51% of capacity at peak demand. 

5.    The entire pumped storage hydro capacity in the UK can provide up to 2788MW for only 5 hours then it drops to 1060MW, and finally runs out of water after 22 hours.


Well informed speculators, shrewd wind farm operators and industrial opportunists along with the 'wanna-believers' hope that wind turbine deployment will continue to grow and grow. Well they'd better ponder the nature of essential, back-up technologies which will need to be in place in 2 or 3 generations time, when scarce and unaffordable hydrocarbons disappear.

GE Hitachi - PRISM Power Block
It will be breeder reactors.

So be honest - what's the point in subsidising this inconsequential technology? Why spend massive amounts of already taxed income (much of  it from those who can least afford it) on a mass of interconnected wind farms, when breeder reactors can do it all anyway?

27 April 2012


Yes indeed - I managed to get myself an invite!


I am pleased to invite you to a meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Thorium Energy:

Is there a Safer, Brighter Future for Nuclear Power?

Prof. Jim Al-Khalili OBE (University of Surrey, Dept. of Physics,)

Inline images 1  

Prof. Robert Cywinski (University of Huddersfield, Dean of Applied Sciences)
Prof. Robin Grimes (Imperial College London, Dept. of Physics)
DECC Speaker (TBC)

Monday April 23rd - 5.30-7.00pm

Committee Room 6, House of Commons


A compelling, but strange atmosphere with the 'Division Bell' sounding off periodically accompanied by a partial evaporation of the attendees.

Professor Al-Khalili was on the button with his presentation, carrying a take-away message of a dire need to present/inform/educate the electorate as to why nuclear energy must represent the best bet of 'curing' our addiction to hydrocarbons. If peace and prosperity are to be maintained as the inevitable scarcity problem unfolds and the population expands to 9 billion, only nuclear power provides the numbers that add up to a centuries-long, or even millenia-long solution.

Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to - please everybody with a finger in the energy supply and distribution pie. Just how tortuous can the thinking of the DECC get? I DON'T UNDERSTAND! Just before I went down for the meeting, the boss of DECC was thinking of installing an underground cable to Iceland - What???

There was striking clarity of thought from Baroness Worthington, in the conduct of the meeting. In the Q & A session, I tried to make a point about the importance of the PRISM reactor, now being considered for burning our stockpile of plutonium, as a potential game-changer for the UK's 'New Nuclear'. I'm afraid it got a bit lost in the rambling nature of my 'contribution'.

My expectations of what might come out of the meeting were tempered by the realisation that, as a first get-together, we (the foot-soldiers) were never going to have the battle-plan for the next decade laid out for us. The generals need some heads-together time for their plan of action, within the Chambers, but I do hope that, in the not too distant future, they have messages and possibly activities to keep the troops motivated.

Just before I left, the Bishop of Hereford asked me if I was the chap who wrote to him to make him aware of LFTR technology and energy from thorium. After pleading guilty, he said that, in taking up the baton, he had asked questions in the House and was instrumental in the creation of the APPG.

I couldn't have been more chuffed - in my amateurish way, I have made a difference.

LET'S HEAR IT FOR 'LFTRs to Power the Planet'

18 April 2012

This is JAPAN we're talking about!

Japanese nuclear fuel cycle under review

18 April 2012
Japan is evaluating a wide range of nuclear fuel cycle options as part of the larger reviewof the future role of nuclear power within energy policy, a government minister told the annual meeting of the Japan Atomic Industrial Forum.

".....Five options are being considered, one scenario involving direct disposal of light-water reactor fuel after use, two scenarios where this is reprocessed and with fuel materials recycled as mixed-oxide fuel. Two more scenarios look at the use of fast reactors and fast breeder reactors....."

".....This review will quantify the amount of plutonium and used fuel generated by each option as well as looking at broader impacts such as energy security, the international perspective, and the impacts of the changes resulting from each of the potential policies.

Separately Japan is reviewing its Basic Energy Policy, which may recommend nuclear's contribution to electricity be targeted at either 0%, 20%, 26% or 36% for the medium term....."


Now I'm a betting man and:   Japan - the need for energy security - breeder reactors - 36% nuclear contribution - all go hand-in-hand.

I can forsee where the politics is going:  persuing energy security; the imperitive of keeping the lights on for the Japanese 'way of life'; the clamour for an emission-free electricity supply; the demonstration of dumping PWR and BWR technologies because of their safety frailties - all nicely leading into a programme of deployment of inherently safe, fast breeder reactors, with enough 'home-made' fuel to power Japan for a century or two!

Any one prepared to give me any decent odds on this 'outsider'?

15 April 2012

Professor Paul Howarth and the Future of Fast Breeder Reactors in the UK

Is it reasonable to surmise that this individual in charge of this organisation could well dictate the UK's nuclear direction for the foreseeable future?

Will he dictate the timing or even the prospects of UK deployment of breeder reactors?

As of mid-April 2012, no apparent utterances on his opinions of the potential or capabilities of the GE Hitachi PRISM.

This is the situation so far:

Legal Status and Ownership

The National Nuclear Laboratory is a UK registered private limited company in which the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change holds all of the shares through a holding company NNL Holdings Ltd.


The Government’s objectives for the NNL are for it to:
  • operate as a sound commercial business;
  • demonstrate value for customers;
  • create a platform for UK and internationally funded R&D;
  • ensure the latent value of the UK’s R&D can be demonstrated and realised;
  • become an international centre of excellence in nuclear research and development, playing a vital role in cleaning up the UK’s nuclear waste legacy and contributing to the programme of nuclear new build;
  • safeguard the UK’s high tech nuclear expertise, facilities and skills;
  • ensure the stability of the immature UK civil nuclear R&D market;
  • provide a basis for opening up the UK market to nuclear facility operational and clean up R&D; and
  • safeguard the contribution that the NNL makes to the West Cumbrian economy and local ambitions to become an Energy Coast.
Paul Howarth, Managing Director
Professor Paul Howarth
Director of Science,
Technology and Project Delivery,
National Nuclear Laboratory, UK
Vision, Mission, Values:

Our strategic vision is the overarching guide to what NNL aims to achieve:
To be a valued and successful nuclear science and technology laboratory, world renowned for its exceptional staff, cutting edge facilities and excellent value for money.

GE Hitachi - NNL Memorandum of Understanding (MOU)

“With our recognised technical capability and long experience in fuel cycle analysis, we are pleased that GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy has looked to NNL to provide independent and authoritative input to the potential U.K. application of a PRISM reactor,” said Paul Howarth, managing director of NNL.

Add caption
April 2012 Issue of Ethos JournalPaul Howarth - "Nuclear Future"

".....There are three approaches to managing the UK’s plutonium stockpile: store it, treat it as waste, or use it as fuel. My feeling is that it should be turned into fuel – we should derive the benefit of electricity from it....."

News:  13 April 2012
NNL Managing Director participates in Prime Minister’s top level business delegation to Japan
Managing Director of the UK’s National Nuclear Laboratory (NNL), Paul Howarth, was part of the top level business delegation which visited Japan this week.
The group was led by Prime Minister David Cameron..... During the visit UK and Japanese officials agreed and signed a Framework on Civil Nuclear Cooperation, providing the basis for UK companies to engage in multi-billion pound decommissioning opportunities in Japan. In a separate development, the UK Nuclear Industry Association and the Japan Atomic Industrial Forum signed a Memorandum of Understanding to further industrial collaboration between companies from the UK and Japan.

Paul Howarth said: “I was delighted to be invited as a delegate on this tremendously important trip to Japan. There is clearly a huge opportunity ahead for the UK and Japan to work together to address nuclear challenges across the sector – including the areas of new nuclear build, waste management and decommissioning....”

In keeping a close eye on Professor Howarth's utterances in respect of the Plutonium Question and Breeder Reactor Deployment, I intend to publicise any developments with alacrity.

10 April 2012


The Tumbrel takes Energy from Coal, Gas, Oil 
and PWR Reactor to their Deaths.
Public Funds for  Wind, Solar PV and 
Other Renewables are aboard.

The wheels of the Tumbrel grind into motion, with its payload of doomed energy technologies. Along the way, investors will be clawing at their former milch cows to get their money out; politicians will be telling how 'it's time to move on'; most of the crowd will be listening to the scores, texting or talking on smartphones; a few will be thanking a variety of deities or other things, that the day has come at long last!  

It's only a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), but may this move be the defibrillator applied to the heart  of UK manufacturing. We have the expertise and capacity to manufacture plant and equipment for Breeder Reactors which operate at atmospheric pressure.

Who cares at this stage that they use solid fuel and that they're unnecessarily huge. We're on our way to renewable energy at affordable prices and free of greenhouse gas emissions.

We're on our way to using plutonium stockpiles and stores of long-lived nuclear waste, which at the moment do nothing but soak up immense expenditure; while we're doing that, we're able to provide valuable electricity for a few centuries, without digging anything else out of the ground.

We're on our way to burning up masses of existing 'nuclear waste' (in fact it's valuable fuel), leaving only minuscule amounts of left-over waste, which decays to background radiation levels in 300 years and this can be safely and cheaply stored.

We're on our way to a Reactor Technology to displace Pressurised Water Reactors (PWRs), which is currently the foremost nuclear technology to generate electricity. This rids us of the burden of high pressure operation, with its 'driver' potential to eject radiotoxic substances upwards and outwards into the environment.

We're on our way to rapid deployment, by virtue of modular construction and factory-made units capable of transportation on flat-bed trucks. We eliminate the constraint of single-sourcing of PWR pressure vessels - only Japan Steel Works have the capacity. Breeder operation is at atmospheric pressure and any plant and equipment required can be multi-sourced.

But best of all - we're on our way to a foothold for LFTR technology. The advantages over fast breeders are irresistible:  Elimination of solid fuel - the bane of accidental high temperature excursions - with meltdown potential ever-present. The greatly reduced fuel payload, with all that means in terms of muting one of the most potent anti-nuclear arguments and reinforcing the safety message to the public at large. The greatly reduced reactivity of coolant salts over liquid metals - a very saleable safety bonus.

Breeder Reactors will become embedded as the only renewable, clean, emission-free way to equitably meet the future energy needs of everyone on the planet. 

This will include the birth of a global Hydrogen Economy, for the manufacture carbon-neutral liquid fuels, from atmospheric CO2 for all of our transport needs, and the manufacture of ammonia, as feed-stock for nitrate fertilisers, from atmospheric nitrogen, to feed a burgeoning population. 

During this period, which can be reasonably envisaged as into the 2020s and 2030s, LFTRs will start to dominate demand as public perception of their inherent, passive safety gains more and more  credence. There's every chance that LFTRs will send other breeder designs the way of video tapes. 

If only the UK could get into the manufacturing race as a front-runner, we would see scientific activity, manufacturing employment, growth and prosperity last witnessed 3 generations ago.

08 April 2012

Nuclear Waste Problem - What Nuclear Waste Problem?

Memorandum of Understanding to study the Breeder Reactor Solution to the UK's Plutonium Stockpile.

GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH) has signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the National Nuclear Laboratory (NNL) on handling UK plutonium.
NNL will provide expert technical input to the potential U.K. deployment of GEH’s innovative PRISMreactor, which would be specifically designed to deal with the UK’s plutonium while generating 600 megawatts of low-carbon electricity.
GEH met with a number of skilled nuclear workers in West Cumbria to learn how they could work with GEH on PRISM’s potential deployment.
The country is currently storing more than 87 metric tons (and growing) of plutonium at the Sellafield nuclear complex in West Cumbria, England. 
“We are excited for the potential opportunity to utilize the expertise of NNL and help the U.K. continue to take a leadership role in the reuse of plutonium,” said Danny Roderick, senior vice president of new plant projects for GEH.
“With our recognized technical capability and long experience in fuel cycle analysis, we are pleased that GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy has looked to NNL to provide independent and authoritative input to the potential U.K. application of a PRISM reactor,” said Paul Howarth, managing director of NNL.
Today, GEH, along with leading U.K. engineering firms Costain, Arup and Pöyry, (GEH’s “CAP Alliance” partners), met face-to-face with the number of highly talented and experienced nuclear sector suppliers in West Cumbria.
Should PRISM be approved for construction, in addition to creating about 900 permanent jobs and thousands of expected indirect jobs for the local community, this multibillion-pound investment would stand to create a range of opportunities for suppliers while continuing to develop the country’s nuclear energy skills base.
Drawing of the PRISM Reactor
(Power Reactor Innovative Small Module) 

PRISM is based on technology that was demonstrated in a fast reactor in the U.S. called the EBR II (Experimental Breeder Reactor) that operated successfully for 30 years. Calculations have shown that PRISM technology would use practically all the stored plutonium at Sellafield, as PRISM consumes much of the plutonium as a true fuel.

06 April 2012


In this groundbreaking account of an energy revolution in
the making, award-winning science writer Richard Martin
introduces us to thorium, an alternate source of energy
and how it is revolutionizing nuclear power, promising a
safe and clean future for millions, and why thorium was
sidelined at the height of the Cold War.
In 1965, Weinberg and his team built a working reactor, one that suspended the byproducts of thorium in a molten salt bath, and he spent the rest of his 18-year tenure trying to make thorium the heart of the nation’s atomic power effort. He failed. Uranium reactors had already been established, and Hyman Rickover, de facto head of the US nuclear program, wanted the plutonium from uranium-powered nuclear plants to make bombs. Increasingly shunted aside, Weinberg was finally forced out in 1973.

The above is the penultimate paragraph from  Richard Martin's article in 'WIRED'  online magazine:   Uranium Is So Last Century - Enter Thorium, the New Green Nuke.

All we LFTR enthusiasts should do our bit and get this book ordered - release date 08 May 2012 - to see if we can get it popular enough to be reviewed where it matters.

03 April 2012


26 years ago and only 3 weeks before Chernobyl, a US reactor underwent a Common Mode Failure of the type which devastated the Fukushima-Diiachi reactors. 70 scientists and technologists were jammed into the reactor control room in, what ordinary folks would have considered, a suicide pact. At that point, the Common Mode Failure occured and nature took its course.

 In Dr John Sackett's word:  ".....the worst accident that could befall a nuclear power system, that worst accident is a complete loss of electric power to everything, back-up as well, and failure of all the safety systems that shut the reactor down...."

Left - Darrell Pfannensteil, Shift Supervisor
Centre - Dr John Sackett, Director
Right - Dick Lindsey, Director of Communications
This is exactly what happened at Fukushima-Diiachi -  after all of the electricity from the reactors themselves was turned off, along came the sunami and knocked out all of the back-up systems. The result was a catastrophe.

Darrell Pfannensteil was issuing instructions to his plant operators as the event occured. He had told colleagues beforehand that he was not scared of this type of accident occuring, so what was his response? In his own words:  ".....we got to watch the forces of nature shut the reactor down.....we'd found a reactor that could protect itself....."

 Later, Darrel's experience of working on EBR-II, lead him to draw a comparison with the predominant nuclear reactor used for power generation, the Pressurised Water Reactor (PWR). ".....I did have experience - about 6 years - on pressurised water reactors.....if I [n]ever see another pressurised water reactor, it would not bother me. This is the technology to go with....."

After 33 years of dedicated, productive work, the political decision to shut down EBR-II was made and in September 1994, Dr Sackett recollects that:  "....when I had to go to the operating crews and tell them we'd got the order to shut EBR-II down.....the reaction amongst all the crews was - doesn't the country realise what they're losing here?....". Near to tears, he goes on to say:  ".....I remember directing the shut-down---and the scram---and just silence...."

You witness men saddened by their knowledge of what the world has turned away from and bemused by the decades lost before we all have to accept the deployment of breeder reactor technology. And what of the planetary desecration that has been allowed to happen in those decades? When these vociferous anti-nuclear activists are finall silenced, will they still puff out their chests as they plug in their electric cars, but then will they also switch on the light in their air conditioned living room, turn on the TV and wrap-around sound system, sit back and think about those wasted decades? Probably not.

All of this can be seen on :  http://vimeo.com/35261457