SCOTTISH Secretary David Mundell is under pressure to reveal the consequences of leaving the European nuclear regulator for public safety and energy supplies. Mundell has also been urged to state what effect it will have on Scotland’sNHS, amid warnings that cancer patients could face delays to treatment if there are difficulties moving radioactive material around. The call came after reports about a threat to public safety caused by a UK exit from the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom), which oversees the movement of nuclear fuel and waste through a system of safeguards.
Herald 16th July 2017 read more »
In the south of France, the largest scientific experiment mankind has ever embarked upon is rising out of the ground. This facility, the Iter project, will demonstrate nuclear fusion power on a commercial scale, involving the European Union, US, Japan, South Korea, China, Russia and India. Fusion is the process that powers the sun and the stars, and bringing it to Earth has long been a staple of science fiction fantasies. It is an energy source that, instead of burning fossil fuels, uses water; it produces no long-lived waste and can operate alongside solar, wind and other renewables to power the world to a carbon-free future. Iter will be operational within a decade and will represent a huge step towards fusion, revolutionising the way we generate electricity in the middle part of this century For decades, the UK has led the world in addressing this grand challenge. The fusion (or sticking together) of types of hydrogen to release energy requires the fuel to be heated to temperatures 10 times that of the sun. The harsh conditions required for fusion are a challenge for even the most robust of materials. International partnership has always been crucial to overcome these challenges; the complexity of the science and engineering and the cost of building large test reactors make it difficult for one nation to go it alone. Currently, my organisation, the UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA), operates the world’s largest fusion experiment, Joint European Torus (Jet), on behalf of Europe. In so doing, we have acquired unique capabilities in critical areas for fusion – robotic maintenance, material testing and fuel handling to name just a few – enabling us to help UK industry to win contracts on Iter totalling more than £450m already (which could rise to more than £1bn). The UK government has made a number of supportive statements about retaining our excellence in fusion research and development, as well as a firm commitment to continue paying the UK’s fair share of Jet costs beyond 2018. This is very welcome, and offers some reassurance to my staff, which includes some of the brightest minds in the world, but a more comprehensive and complete solution is still required. The existing Euratom R&D programme comes to an end in 18 months and the European commission is already formulating the future programme.
Observer 16th July 2017 read more »
Euratom, an obscure treaty that has suddenly poked its nose into the public consciousness. It regulates the movement of nuclear materials across the EU (and much more, as we shall see) but pre-dates the EU and is thus under the auspices of the European Court of Justice, from which Theresa May is determined to escape. Already the howl-round has begun. The Royal College of Radiologists says thousands of UK cancer sufferers might not get their radiological treatment if we leave Euratom — a specious allegation and true Remoaner scaremongering. Deals can be struck relatively quickly to ensure we still get our radio-isotopes. That’s not the real problem. I was at the Culham Centre for Fusion Energy, near Oxford, a couple of weeks back. They’re smashing atoms of tritium and deuterium together, trying to get more energy out of this fusion process than they put in, a tricksy procedure that needs large concrete walls and powerful magnets, ie, a bit bigger than those you played with as a kid to make a face out of iron filings. Eventually, though, we will have a clean, safe, virtually renewable and abundant source of energy, given that deuterium and tritium are isotopes of hydrogen and there’s loads of the stuff around, gagging to be extracted from sea water or purged from common-as-muck lithium.
Times 16th July 2017 read more »