The Times – Nuclear energy

Sir,
Paul Spence from EDF energy claims that his company have “never called for public subsidies to fund its plans ” (Letters July 19). Well maybe not publicly but the incestuous relationship that the utility companies have with Whitehall ensures that they can lobby perfectly well in private.
New plants are being underwritten by the tax-payer as HMG is guaranteeing the nuclear industry a minimum price going forward to 2030: This is effectively a massive PFI scheme. Add to that the cost of disposing of Britain’s current stock-pile of nuclear waste, which officially is over 100 billion pounds , and factor in that 80% of DECC’s budget now goes on decommissioning, and one begins to understand the extent to which the nuclear industry has been kept afloat by the tax-payer. The final insult is that HMG have acceded to the demand by EDF/Centrica that the Government underwrite the medical costs in the event of a nuclear accident in the UK. By all means let’s have a debate about nuclear as one possible solution to climate change, but with all the subsidies included.
Yours Sincerely

Dr Robin Russell-Jones MA FRCP FRCPath

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NUCLEAR AND SHALE GAS

Letter to the Times, 15.04.12

Sir,

It is pretty obvious that big business prefers Shale Gas and Nuclear rather than Energy Conservation and renewables as an answer to the world’s future energy requirements.(The Nuclear Option, April 10 and American Fears Over Fracking Make Weir Group Investors Tremble, April 14).  However, it is not just earthquakes that render Shale Gas unacceptable.  The problem with fracking is that it results in atmospheric releases of methane twice that encountered with conventional gas. Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas with a global warming potential 70 times greater than carbon dioxide over a 20-year time frame. In order for shale gas to be environmentally friendlier than other fossil fuels, it is necessary to keep methane emissions from fracking below 2%. Current operations release around 10% and in the US the fossil fuel industry is strenuously resisting methane control legislation by the EPA.

As for nuclear, it is prohibitively expensive to the tax-payer. Official figures put the cost of disposing of our current nuclear waste in the UK in excess of 100 billion pounds. In addition, HMG has recently agreed to underwrite the costs of medical claims arising from a nuclear accident in the UK.  In any other business that is called a subsidy.

Yours Sincerely

Dr Robin Russell-Jones MA FRCP FRCPath

Chair Planetary SOS

Response to Matt Ridley’s article in The Times

On 1 November 2011, The Times published yet another appalling article on climate change, by the maverick and somewhat deluded commentator Matt Ridley, entitled ‘Seven Billion People Is Nothing To Be Scared Of’. Apart from dismissing the importance of a rising world population, Matt Ridley made the extraordinary claim that humanity’s carbon footprint could be lessened by switching from coal to natural gas.

I wrote a detailed rebuttal of this Alice in Wonderland scenario, but The Times refused to publish it, despite email correspondence directed to The Times Letters Editor Jeremy Vine. Indeed, The Times did not publish any letter in response to Matt Ridley’s illiterate article.

To: letters@thetimes.co.uk

Subject: Fwd: Letter For Publication: Corrected Response to article by Matt Ridley. Attention Jeremy Vine

Dear Mr Vine, Thank you for agreeing to reconsider my response to the article by Matt Ridley which I feel cannot go unchallenged. Just out of interest, I have reviewed my contribution to your letters column over the past 30 years. From 1980-1990 I had 17 letters or articles published in The Times FT or TES mainly on the subject of lead in petrol and ionising radiation (Nuclear discharges and leukemia clusters).   Since then I have had 22 letters or articles published in The Times mainly on the subject of global warming/climate change and the majority of these were first letters.  I can send you the full CV if you are interested.

Yours sincerely

Robin Russell-Jones

Begin forwarded message:

To: letters@thetimes.co.uk

Subject: Letter For Publication: Response to article by Matt Ridley.

Sir,

Matt Ridley paints a rosy picture of the world with a population peaking at 8 billion and then possibly falling back to 6 billion by the end of the century (Seven Billion People Is Nothing To Be Scared Of, 1 November, 2011). He also makes the extraordinary claim that humanity’s carbon footprint “will fall as gas replaces coal and oil”.  A dose of reality is required in this Alice in Wonderland scenario.

Up until 2009 world carbon emissions were approximately 7 gigatonnes annually which works out at one tonne of carbon per head of population per year. In the US the figure was higher – 5.5 tonnes per year per head of population, whereas in the developing world it was lower – 0.5 tonnes per year. For China the figure was 1.0 (and rising fast) and for India it was 0.3 (likely to rise even faster). Emissions of CO2 world-wide have risen 40% since 1990, the base-line year for the Earth Summit in Rio. However, figures published last week by the US Department of Energy show that carbon emissions worldwide have increased by a further 6% whilst emissions from China have leapt by 10% during 2010 alone, the highest year on year increase ever recorded (The Very Latest Figures from Peters et al in Nature Climate Change 4 December, 2011 show an increase of 49% since 1990).

In order to stop catastrophic global warming it is generally agreed that levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere must be kept below 450 parts per million (ppm). In pre-industrial days it was 280 ppm and is currently almost 390 ppm. To keep levels rising above 450 ppm by century’s end it is necessary to limit emissions of CO2 per capita to 0.6 tonnes per year by 2050 and to 0.3 by 2100. In other words the carbon footprint of individuals in the most industrialised society, the US, must fall to the level of the least industrialised, India. This is not going to be achieved by changing from one fossil fuel such as coal, to another such as gas. If CO2 levels are not kept below 450 ppm then the Greenland ice sheet will eventually melt raising sea-levels by 7 metres which will terminate financial centres such as London and New York.

Matt Ridley was a non-executive chairman of the UK bank Northern Rock from 2004 to 2007, in the period leading up to the bank’s near collapse. It would appear that Ridley’s grasp of science is on a par with his financial acumen.

Yours Sincerely

Dr Robin Russell-Jones MA FRCP FRCPath

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