What I wanted to say on the Today programme this morning
Catherine Mitchell, IGov Team, 29th July 2016
I was just on the Today programme at 8.54 am, and was not able to give my view on George Monbiot’s proposal that we restart an Integral Fast Reactor (IFR) programme to solve the twin problems of using up our stockpile of nuclear waste, and have a long term source of energy.
My answer to this would have been that the problem with using nuclear waste as a fuel in reactors is that it makes the fission reaction less predictable and occurs at a higher temperature. This means that it is more difficult and complicated to keep the reactor cool and safe, and that means it is even more expensive. This was the case with Fast Breeder Reactors, and no doubt, would be the case with IFRs.
Moreover, having an IFR programme would not use up the nuclear waste, but it would add more volume. Yes, some nuclear waste, including plutonium would be used in the fuel rods , but the process itself will create new nuclear waste. This is why decommissioning a nuclear power plant takes 100 years plus and why the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority thinks we are going to have to pay anywhere between £95-219 bn (2016 estimate).
Thus, IFRs would have all the problems of conventional nuclear power plants, but more so.
What we should do is not use our nuclear waste any more than we have to; we should find some way to store it safely (not the case at the moment); and we should not add anymore volume to what we already have (and what we have to leave to future generations to deal with).
Moreover, we need to recognise that the energy system is rapidly changing (because of new technologies and new ways of operating) and is providing all sorts of new, cheaper, more sustainable, more secure opportunities which can benefit customers; and begin to transform our energy system to one which is smart and flexible…