The cost of energy security | Brussels Blog

The cost of energy security

posted by on 2nd Apr 2011
2nd,Apr

In an earlier post, Japan and nuclear power, Robert argued that

the nuclear industry will emerge strengthened rather than fatally weakened [from the Japanese nuclear scare]. With some justification they can say that having stared into the abyss we have emerged relatively unscathed. Obsolete reactors built in the most earthquake troubled region of the world have endured an apocalyptic event. Design faults have been identified and can be rectified.

That assessment may be correct but let’s not do it on the cheap. A recent article in the Guardian by Natalie Kopytko sounded a note of caution regarding rising sea-levels and bigger storm surges. She has a piece published January issue of Energy Policy, Climate Change Nuclear Power and the Adaptation/Mitigation Dilemma. This paper ends

Achieving the desired level of safety, and minimising the impact to climate change adaptation will likely be too expensive at many locations. Therefore, according to the criteria outlined here, nuclear power is not and will not be a suitable mitigation measure.

Natalie Kopytko briefly mentions the possibilities of tsunamis and her paper concerns nuclear power stations in the USA. But in the North Sea and the North Atlantic, there have been very large ones starting in Norwegian seas. Of the largest of these Wikipedia says

The three Storegga Slides are considered to be amongst the largest known landslides. They occurred under water, at the edge of Norway’s continental shelf (Storegga is Norwegian for the “Great Edge”), in the Norwegian Sea, 100 km north-west of the Møre coast, causing a very large tsunami in the North Atlantic Ocean. This collapse involved an estimated 290 km length of coastal shelf, with a total volume of 3,500 km3 of debris.[1] Based on carbon dating of plant material recovered from sediment deposited by the tsunami, the latest incident occurred around 6100 BC.[2] In Scotland, traces of the subsequent tsunami have been recorded, with deposited sediment being discovered in Montrose Basin, the Firth of Forth, up to 80 km inland and 4 metres above current normal tide levels.

6100 BC may a long time ago but this danger could increase with climate change. There are worries that tsunamis may be triggered by increased seismic activity as the weight of the Ice sheets is redistributed in the oceans. I hope Dr Weightman, who is conducting a review of the safety of nuclear power stations will take this into account. A note to him follows.

Geoff Beacon

Note for Dr Mike Weightman

Are there additional concerns on the safety of nuclear power?

Dear Dr Weightman,

I understand that you are conducting a review on the safety of nuclear power plants following the recent events in Japan.

I have consulted the following: Review of medium to long term coastal risks associated with British Energy sites: Climate Change Effects – Final Report, by Mark L Gallani, Met Office 22 February 2007. I make the following comments:

Missing climate feedbacks

The report relies on the HadRM3 Regional Climate Model. This may underestimate or omit the effects of certain climate feedbacks which are mentioned on the NERC website:

  • reduced sea ice cover – reflecting less of the sun’s heat back out to space, changing ocean circulation patterns
  • less carbon dioxide absorption by the oceans
  • increased soil respiration
  • more forest fires
  • melting permafrost
  • increased decomposition of wetlands

http://www.nerc.ac.uk/research/issues/climatechange/worse.asp

Increased possibility of tsunamis

The report makes no reference to the possibility of tsunamis. Certain scientists have mooted the possibility of tsunamis originating in the seas near Norway, the probability of which is increased if the frequency of earthquakes increase: I note

1. Scientists link melting glaciers to earthquakes: Experts ponder whether tectonic activity increasing, Canada.com

2. Dangerous Gaps in Knowledge

A computer model designed by Norwegian scientists shows the possible consequences of a mega-landslide. They have forecast the progression of a disaster: Minutes after the landslide 14-meter-high waves would hit Norway’s coast, with fatal results, as many cities lie at sea level or in bays with sharply canted floors, where the waves would rise even higher. After three hours 20-meter-high breakers would crash onto the Shetland Islands. Two hours later the Faeroe Islands would be covered in waves of up to 14 meters high. After six hours, the tsunamis would still be six meters high, tearing along Scotland’s beaches toward the coastal cities of Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Dundee. As they head southwards the waves would become smaller, the oscillating North Sea acting as a break.
Study Sees North Sea Tsunami Risk, Spiegel Online International

A recent paper on nuclear safety

I append Climate change, nuclear power, and the adaptation–mitigation dilemma, which the author has provided for me. It concerns nuclear power in the USA but some of its concerns may apply to the UK.

I hope your report will address these issues.

Yours faithfully

Geoff Beacon
28 march 2011

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