Examination of Witness (Questions 540-559)|
TUESDAY 4 DECEMBER 2001
540. Because no one has mastered it.
(Mr Tindale) Because nobody has mastered it, precisely,
and we do have an enormous potential for wave power, so I would
very much urge the Committee and, through you, the Government
to take the wave area seriously. On the issue of particularly
wind, you are absolutely right that the Danes have stolen the
march on us and are quite a long way ahead. We believe that if
we went seriously for a programme of offshore wind, some UK companies
would benefit from that and there would be significant manufacturing
capacity by Danish companies in the UK, so we would have those
two economic benefits, but you are absolutely right to point out
the fact that we have already missed out on some of this market.
541. Inward investment is one thing, and production
of the licence is perhaps another, but I have to say to you that
the arguments you are advancing in relation to wave are exactly
the same arguments that were put from the seat you are sitting
in by people from the coal industry in respect of carbon sequestration
and in respect of clean coal technology, that if there were just
a few more pounds, they would somehow go far further than dollars
and deutschmarks and gilders or euros, as we will have in the
future. I have to say that, as far as I am concerned, every energy
source seems to advance exactly the same argument for its technology
and at the moment none of us really has had any convincing evidence
to prove the intrinsic attractiveness of British technology and
some of us are a wee bit cynical, and I would advance exactly
the same argument against the nuclear industry as well, I have
to say. Really at the end of the day why do we generate electricity
or why do the companies operate? They operate to generate electricity
and make profit. They do not necessarily do it to make money out
of engineering or secondary activities and I think that is something
where the pulling-up-by-one's-boot-straps argument which you are
advancing might meet with a degree of doubt and cynicism here
because everybody is singing from the same hymn sheet, but in
a slightly different key.
(Mr Tindale) I think I would say just one thing in
response to that. It is a perfectly fair point you make of course,
but the reason we are promoting particular technologies is primarily
because of their environmental advantages. I think our view would
be that any sector that benefited from significant government
support would be likely to perform better in the export stakes
and in the manufacturing stakes and that would go for all the
sectors that you have mentioned. The reason why we argue for support
for the renewable sector and not for clean coal and not for nuclear
is because, in our view, those two are unacceptable for environmental
542. I think you have just sent the ball across
once more. When I read your report, it says that there should
be subsidies for the building of a new offshore cabling network
for wave and wind. You are asking for subsidies on something where
we have not got the technical know-how on how to deal with wave
yet, so I am just intrigued as to where you are coming from on
that and what calculated costs are you expecting the Government
to pick up?
(Mr Tindale) On the point about the know-how, we have
not perfected the know-how on wave, but it would be, I think,
wrong to assume that we were too basic. There is a great deal
of expertise and some of the demonstration projects in the past
are proving successful and what is needed is to move from a research
stage to a development stage. In terms of the costs, the Government
is looking, as you know, at the possibility of a connector down
the west coast of Scotland and there are some cost estimates associated
with that and they are, on the face of it, quite high. The reason
we think it is important for the Government to pick up those is
to create a level playing field between these new generation technologies,
offshore generation technologies and onshore generation technologies.
If you want to build a CCGT in the middle of Oxfordshire, your
clients will benefit from the fact that the grid already exists
and it has been built in the past by public money, so we believe
that if you want to have a fair comparison of costs between a
CCGT in Oxfordshire and an offshore wind farm, the public sector
needs to pick up the grid extension.
543. Just taking that a little bit further,
you say that the costs are high. What is high?
(Mr Tindale) Well, I have heard the figure of £1
million per mile.
544. For the cabling?
(Mr Tindale) Yes.
545. The other thing is whether it is really
feasible to expect to use the Irish Sea given the environmental
conditions there, and we all know the extremes of what happens
in the Irish Sea?
(Mr Tindale) In terms of the weather conditions, do
(Mr Tindale) Well, this is the big challenge, particularly
for wave power. It is a relatively simple technology and what
you need to develop are things that are robust enough to withstand
the very extreme conditions that you get, but I can only go on
what industry are saying and on what the Energy Technology Support
Unit are saying in terms of what the capacity for offshore renewables
is and both of those are talking about extremely high potentials.
547. I notice you have not considered geothermals.
(Mr Tindale) We are not opposed to geothermal. We
have not seen any estimates that suggest that it is likely to
be a major contributor in the UK, but there are certainly other
parts of the world and other Greenpeace officers who are working
actively on thermal.
548. On nuclear power, have you estimated the
direct and indirect costs of phasing out nuclear power stations
and any other build or would you say that whatever the costs,
it is counter-balanced by the environmental disbenefits and dangers
from radioactivity, waste and possible terrorist attack?
(Mr Tindale) That is correct, it is the latter. Our
objection to nuclear power is not on economic grounds, but that
it is unsafe and unnecessary, so we would argue that whatever
the economics, nuclear power should be phased out. The fact that
the economics appear to be on our side of the argument as well
is a helpful coincidence, but that is not the reason why we oppose
549. So you have worked on those costs, but
you still feel overall that the case for
(Mr Tindale) We have not done any work on the economics
of nuclear power for the reasons I have just suggested.
550. On that question, could we just be clear.
You do not mind gas too much or how do you feel about gas as against
(Mr Tindale) Gas is better than nuclear, to answer
your question directly.
551. Despite the fact that the emissions have
a great play on climate change and the environment? You do not
give any credit to nuclear for being almost emission-free?
(Mr Tindale) We do not because energy policy needs
to meet a number of environmental objectives. Carbon is a very
important one, but the avoidance of radioactive waste and radioactive
emissions is also a very important one. Our view on gas is that
it is a necessary transitional fuel. When we talk about phasing
out fossil fuels, we recognise that we cannot do that overnight.
Gas is less polluting than other fossil fuels and, therefore,
will have more of a transitional role than the other fossil fuels,
so we do see an ongoing role for gas both in the electricity generating
and in the transport sector, but we would argue that by the middle
of this century, that transition should have come to an end.
552. As far as nuclear is concerned, we were
told that they could get it down to something like 1.8 to perhaps
2.2 pence per unit. They could meet some of the economic arguments,
it would appear, I am not sure, and it has been suggested that,
say, an oil refinery is as dangerous or as vulnerable as a nuclear
power station to the kind of Twin Towers attack and there are
more oil refineries, more chemical plants, therefore, they might
be equally vulnerable. At which point does the precautionary principle
stop kicking in or do you think that as far as nuclear is concerned,
that has to be the one that can be banned?
(Mr Tindale) I think the Committee would be wise to
be sceptical about the claims of economic advances in the nuclear
sector given their past performance, but
553. Well, we have already been told that some
of the ones you are advocating start off at 4 pence, that they
are going to require subsidised additions to the grid, that we
do not know what the impact will be on the existing labour market
because of the redundancies that would be caused in the engineering
industry and things like that, so we do know that there are a
fair number of costs associated with the renewable energy programme
that you are advocating and if we take the micro in both, you
might end up with really not much of an economic argument one
way or t'other.
(Mr Tindale) Well, as I have said, the economics is
not the basis of our objection to nuclear. I was simply making
the point that their projections in the past have proved over-optimistic,
but even if their huge projections will not be correct, we would
argue very strongly that nuclear is not acceptable because of
the production of nuclear waste and because of the inevitable
radioactive emissions associated with it. The key reason why nuclear
has to be phased out very quickly is because there is no acceptable,
safe, long-term solution to the problem of nuclear waste and that
is not true of other energy sources.
554. Do you think your organisation in Finland
is meeting with much success in arguing that, given that in Finland
they have quite a highly developed means of handling nuclear waste?
(Mr Tindale) Our organisation in Finland is certainly
arguing the case very strongly. It is not clear which way the
Finnish debate will go. I think it is fair of you to point out
that the Finnish nuclear industry currently appears to have a
stronger case than the industry in this country, but we would
argue that it is the appearance rather than the reality of a strong
case. We are confident that we will win the argument in Finland
as well as elsewhere.
Chairman: It might be difficult for the Swedes
if you do because as a consequence of them shutting down one of
their reactors, they are now going to have to import nuclear power
from Finland, as far as I understand, so there will be knock-on
effects in the Baltic area too.
555. It is a long way off and I understand the
point you are making about nuclear as an efficient energy. Can
I ask what Greenpeace's view is on nuclear fusion? It is a long
way off, but do you think we should be putting money into long-term
research on that?
(Mr Tindale) No, we do not because we believe that
the capacity of renewable energy combined with hydrogen is well
able to meet all of our energy needs, so we think that nuclear
fusion, quite apart from its potential environmental impact, is
likely to divert resources away from the area of real potential.
556. What do you think the main environmental
impact of nuclear fusion is?
(Mr Tindale) I am afraid I am not qualified to answer
that. I can get one of my colleagues to write to you on that.
Chairman: Thank you. That would be helpful.
Sir Robert Smith
557. So in a sense the essence, in answer to
the questions from the Chairman, of Greenpeace's argument is that
the UK should increase its contribution to global warming to avoid
local pollution by the radioactive route?
(Mr Tindale) First of all, radioactive pollution is
not local. Secondly, we do not believe that the nuclear plants,
when they close down, will need to be replaced by fossil fuel
plants, but that they can be replaced by renewables.
558. So you would use the nuclear plant to the
end of its useful life?
(Mr Tindale) No, we would not. Well, we would argue
that its useful life has already ended.
559. So despite the fact that it has made most
of its carbon contribution and the vast bulk of the nuclear waste
has been generated, you would not be willing to take a marginal
(Mr Tindale) The Magnox stations, to be absolutely
clear, should be closed down immediately because they are operating
beyond the end of their design life and we do not believe it is
safe to continue operating them and they are producing large quantities
of nuclear waste. The AGRs and the PWRs should be closed down
soon, but not necessarily immediately.