Nuclear Nuisance Nuclear Shambles Wind of Fortune

Cameron’s “Clowns” ? Nuclear Sums

[ YET ANOTHER UPDATE : Hinkley Point C, if it ever reaches the point of producing grid power, will only generate 2.2% of Britain’s total energy use (excluding transport fuel). SEE COMMENTS. ]

[ A FURTHER UPDATE AGAIN : Neil Crumpton of Planet Hydrogen calculates that for a typical mix of onshore and offshore wind turbines, a total of 2,400 wind turbines would be needed to match the power output from Hinkley C, not the 6,000 projected by DECC. SEE COMMENTS. ]

[ IN ANOTHER QUIRKY TURN OF FACTS : The UK’s subsidy commitment to Hinkley C could amount to sales for EdF of £2.59 billion a year – to provide just 2.2% of the nation’s total energy. Now that’s not a very good bargain, in my view. The money could be better used otherwise. ]

Can one ickle-biddy-teensy-weensy nuclear power plant displace the need for 30,000 wind turbines ? Really ?

David Cameron went LEGO ™ yesterday in full workman’s uniform and shiny building site safety helmet to announce the deal for the Hinkley Point C new nuclear reactor. He challenged Vlad’mir Putin in the manliness stakes, even. Much revere.

But some of the other people on his team made a good show of clowning around, in my view, including what looks like a miscalculation from the Department of Energy and Climate Change.

Pull out your big desk calculators, people, this one is surely up for the questioning of.

According to this :-

Hinkley Point C will have 2 of 1,750 MW steam turbines for the generation of electrical power, i.e. a total of 3.5 GW.

An average wind turbine capacity these days, onshore, is, well, increasing, but let’s take an average.

The UK currently has “4,998 wind turbines with a total installed capacity of over 10 gigawatts: 6,368 megawatts of onshore capacity and 3,653 megawatts of offshore capacity” according to Wikipedia.

Wikipedia also says there are 2,620 onshore wind turbines, so an average of 2.4 MW each.

How many turbines of a similar size would you need, at 30% of nameplate capacity (0.72 MW), to beat 3.5 GW ? 4,861 turbines. So, the Minister, or the Ministry, or perhaps the Daily Telegraph if they’ve misread the briefing, might be out by a factor of 6.

[ UPDATE : This is a case of the newspaper headline misquoting the official briefing. The article says “The government has disclosed that the new reactors at Hinkley B in Somerset alone will produce the same amount of energy as 6,000 wind turbines built on 250,000 acres of land.” Now, assuming they meant “Hinkley C”, at 3.2 GW and at 90% reliability, it would produce the equivalent power to displace 4,000 turbines of 2.4 MW each. Where does the 6,000 wind turbines idea come from ? ]

[ UPDATE 2 : Hinkley Point C may take up only 430 acres of space, but will have a much large land footprint in total. First off, there’s the land that will be required for the radioactive waste depository, wherever that turns out to be. Then there’s all the despoiled land from uranium mining. What ? It’s in other countries, so it doesn’t count ? Then there’s the land required for the uranium ore processing and refining facilities. And to cap it all, once a piece of land has been used for the nuclear power project and the mines and facilities it depends on, much of that land could be lost permanently. With wind power, if you want the land back, you can have it if you need it. No radioactive waste. No massive concrete edifices. No spent fuel ponds. No cancer-causing mine tailing ponds… ]

[ UPDATE 3 : The Government infographic issued with the press release suggests that the 6,000 wind turbines prevented by Hinkley C would take up 250,000 acreas. Does anybody really believe that each of the 6,000 wind turbines that Hinkley C might prevent each take up 42 acres of space ? That’s genuinely unbelievable. No, it’s ridiculous. ]

[ UPDATE 4 : I’ve worked out why DECC thinks that 6,000 wind turbines would be needed to match the output of a 3.2 GW nuclear power station – they are assuming that the wind turbines can only be counted on for around about 20% of the time. If all the turbines are rated as 2.4 MW, and they can only be counted on for 22% of that, each turbine would have an effective (de-rated) capacity of 0.528 MW, meaning that to make the equivalent of a 3.2 GW plant, you would need 6,060 wind turbines. ]

Nuclear power station will avoid ‘blight’ of 30,000 wind turbines, minister says

A new generation of nuclear power stations will avoid the “blight” of
building tens of thousands of wind turbines in the countryside, a
minister has said.

Britain’s first new nuclear power station in a generation is to be
built under a £16 billion project which will create thousands of new

By Steven Swinford, Senior Political Correspondent
21 Oct 2013

The government has defended a decision to hand a French company
billions of pounds in subsidies to build Britain’s first new nuclear
power plant for a generation.

Ministers said they want to build a new generation of 12 new nuclear
reactors to ensure that people can “turn on the kettle” and to help
“keep the lights on”.

The Department for Energy and Climate Change said that Britain would
need to build more than 30,000 onshore wind turbines to produce the
same amount of energy, seven times the number currently in operation.

Michael Fallon, the Conservative energy minister, said that nuclear
power stations will ultimately prove a cheaper and less controversial

He told The Daily Telegraph: “This is the first in a wave of new
nuclear plants to replace the ageing fleet that Labour did nothing to

“Without new nuclear local people would face many thousands more wind
farms blighting our landscape. By contrast, nuclear power is popular
in areas that have existing stations and will deliver significant jobs
and investment.”

The deal, which prompted warnings that household bills could rise to
cover the costs of building the plant, was announced by David Cameron
during a visit to Hinkley Point in Somerset.

Experts have warned that Britain is facing an energy crisis, with all
but one of the country’s nuclear power station stations due to close
by 2023.

The government has disclosed that the new reactors at Hinkley B in
Somerset alone will produce the same amount of energy as 6,000 wind
turbines built on 250,000 acres of land.

Ministers hope to meet Britain’s future energy needs by building 12
reactors across five sites.

However, despite agreement between Liberal Democrats and Conservatives
on the need for new nuclear power stations Mr Fallon’s comments are
still likely to provoke a Coalition split.

The Conservatives are opposed to building more onshore wind farms,
with David Cameron saying earlier this year that he “wouldn’t expect”
many more to be built in Britain.

The Liberal Democrats only accepted building nuclear power stations as
part of their party policy at their conference last month and highly
supportive of wind energy.

In contrast to Mr Fallon’s comments Ed Davey, the energy secretary,
said that onshore wind turbines remained “very competitive” and that
their costs were continuing to fall.

The deal to build the £14 billion Hinkley Point plant in Somerset with
French company EDF Energy has provoked a new row over rising energy

The government is guaranteeing the price for each megawatt hour of
power produced by the plant at £92.50, twice the present wholesale
price, ensuring billions of pounds of income for EDF Energy.

Analysts have suggested that the move could increase household energy
bills by £8 a year, but Mr Davey yesterday said it would be cheaper
than building wind turbines instead.

He claimed that a new generation of nuclear power stations will reduce
the average British energy bill by £77 a year from 2030. He admitted
however, that he could not “guarantee” that people’s household bills
would fall.

He said: “There’s huge amounts of uncertainties here. What’s the gas
price going to do, how quickly will the cost of wind power go down.
Will we get carbon capture and storage to be commercially viable?
These are inherent uncertainties.”

Mr Davey said that building the power station will create jobs for
25,000 people, although he was unable to confirm how many will be for
British workers.

The debate over the scale of the subsidy for EDF comes as the company
prepares to raise prices for its 5 million customers. On Monday Npower
became the latest energy company to raise prices, announcing that
customers will face a hike of 10.4 per cent.

Mr Davey confirmed he confronted EDF executives about price rises in
the back of a car on the way back from Hinkley Point yesterday. They
declined to tell him if they were raising prices.

Vincent de Rivaz, the chief executive of EDF Energy, claimed the
company had yet to make a decision but insisted that any price rise
would be at the “lowest possible level”.

Mr Davey yesterday insisted that consumers would be protected from any
hikes in costs and that EDF Energy would share in the “pain”.

He also dismissed security concerns over Chinese investment in British
nuclear power stations.

Under the deal, the China Nuclear Power Group and China National
Nuclear Corporation will investing in the scheme. However Bob Stewart,
a back-bench Tory MP, said: “I am really concerned. We are in a benign
environment at the moment but say things turn out quite differently,
we could be running risks with our infrastructure”.

Mr Davey said: “We are moving to a new era where we can work with the
Chinese and indeed other foreign states.”

During a visit to Hinkley Point, Mr Cameron said: “This government has
a long-term economic plan for Britain, and we’re delivering, including
this vital nuclear power station which we hope will be the first of
several other nuclear power stations, kick-starting again this
industry, providing thousands of jobs and providing long-term safe and
secure supplies of electricity far into the future.”

Danny Alexander, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, will announce
that an offshore wind farm off the Scottish coast is among
infrastructure projects in line for Government financial guarantees.

The Neart Na Gaoithe wind farm in the Forth Estuary is one of a list
of 16 major projects that could get Treasury backing, Mr Alexander
will announce.

9 replies on “Cameron’s “Clowns” ? Nuclear Sums”

From Herbert Eppel by email :-

“Actually, I think the 30,000
wind turbines story referred
to “a new generation of 12
new nuclear reactors”, but in
any case, I would certainly
rather see 30,000 wind turbines,
either onshore, or offshore,
or both. And why stop at 30,000?”

Another take on the data, and the sums :-

Alstom will supply 2 of 1,750 MW steam turbines for Hinkley Point C, which would put 100% output at 3,500 MW or 3.5 GW.

The piece also says that the Hinkley Point C “is a proposed 3.2 GW nuclear power plant with two EPR reactors (each of 1.6GW) capable of producing 7% of the UK’s electricity.”

Now, if those EPR reactors were operating in total at 90%, they would supply 3.2 GW * 365 * 24 * 90 / 100 = 25,229 GWh = roughly 25 TWh.

According to DUKES 2013, UK consumed 376.241 TWh of electrical power in 2012.

According to the DECC press release, Hinkley Point C should come into service in 2023, by which time, UK power demand could be, according to National Grid projections – the UK Future Energy Scenarios (UKFES) 2013 “Gone Green” for 2020 will be 317 TWh, or “Slow Progression” 303 TWh, so an average projection of 310 TWh.

So Hinkley Point C would provide about 8% of the UK’s power needs, not 7%.

For total gas and power, the UK could be needing something of the order of 1,112 to 1,178 TWh, so taking the mid-point, 1,145 TWh, Hinkley C would be providing 2.2% of the UK’s total energy demand (excluding transport fuels).

Hardly big cheese, is it ?

Your numbers on the numbers of wind turbines and power generated are incorrect, as they are from two different dates. The 6,300 MW of capacity is for August this year, the number of turbines is from October 2010. A casual look at the list of wind turbines on wikipedia shows clearly that the majority are smaller than 2MW in size.

This data base states there is currently 4,026 turbines with a combined capacity of 6,565 MW:

That’s an average of 1.63 MW per turbine. Not 2.4 MW as you claim.

Using that the number you get almost exactly 6,000 turbines needed to replace Hinkley points generation. Which doesn’t include the need for backup/storage/oversupply to smooth out the time when the wind isn’t blowing.,

When criticizing others calculations, it’s a good idea to make sure yours are correct first 😉

Hi Ben,

Thank you for letting me know current figures. With the rapid expansion in wind power, it’s sometimes hard to keep abreast of affairs.

It would be nice to know the assumptions used for the DECC infographic that accompanied the Hinkley Point C announcement.

I am guessing that for their calculation they probably used 2 MW wind turbines running at 24% load – the average figure for England, which interestingly would produce a figure of 6,666.6666666666666666666666667 wind turbines (I think I may have missed a few decimal points there) to meet the equivalent capacity of 3.2 GW, so they generously rounded it down to 6,000.

As for each turbine taking up 42 acres, that is still a ridiculous claim. Sheep may safely graze (and crops may usefully grow) around the base of wind turbines – a wind turbine mast has a very small profile.

A letter to Emily Gosden at the Daily Telegraph, received by email :-

Dear Emily,

In your article you have written that Hinkley C ‘could generate 7 % of Britain’s energy needs’.

Do you actually believe that Hinkley C would produce 7 % of UK energy ? It’s an impressive figure – it could persuade many on-the-fence readers. The whole existing 11 GW UK nuclear programme only generates about 3.6 % of UK energy !

The figure for Hinkley C (3.2 GW) is more like 1.8 % of UK energy. You are out by a factor of nearly 4

Hinkley C (3.2 GW) would generate about 25 TWh/y at about 90 % capacity factor (3.2 x 8.76 x 0.9). UK final energy demand may fall to around 1,400 TWh/y by 2030 and 1,300 TWh/y by 2050 (excluding UK related international aviation and shipping which would add around 200 TWh/y).

So Hinkley C would generate about 1.8 to 1.9 % of UK final energy, not 7 % (or 1.66 % including aviation and shipping ie 25/1,500)

You are in good company in your confusion between electricity and energy – many if not most UK journalists in most article about energy and nuclear power over all the time I have been an energy campaigner (about 19 years) have overstated nuclear output by stating a nuclear reactor’s or programme’s % electricity output as % energy output. The pro-nuclear lobbyists have benefitted greatly from such honestly held but erroneous figures routinely repeated year after year. Perhaps journalists just cannot believe nuclear power produces so little % energy that they subconsciously use the biggest figure someone else has written.

I would accept that finding the nuclear % figures takes some expertise to find – DECC (and the IEA) do not really want the real nuclear figures out there I presume. In around 2008 civil servants supplied Gordon Brown when he as PM with PRIMARY uranium ore figures which went out on TV – around 7 % ! ( that s the theoretical energy content of the uranium ore imports, not the electricity output of reactors at around 38 % thermal efficiency). But who cares about truth – alls fair in love and nuclear PR.

By the way, nuclear power globally (over 400 reactors) generates about 2.5 % of global energy demand in 2011 (ie 2,584 TWh/y out of about 8,918 x 11.63 TWh/y) IEA page 16 and page 28. Theres not enough uranium to get above this figure (given population/demand increases, unless ‘Generation IV’ or ‘fast’ reactors can be proven (technically and commercially at large / utility scale – not just current demos). Monbiot and Lynas promote ;fast reactors as a given ! – and CCS as not proven. its the other way round.

Yours faithfully,

Neil Crumpton

Chair Planet Hydrogen / rep on DECC-NGO nuclear Forum (ex Friends of the Earth nuclear campaigner)

07417 451 6212

PS Davey has been misled (and thus misleads millions) about nuclear waste by a factor of around 25 by his civil servants or nuclear PR (or both) – Davey says (a recently as Glasgow conference energy fringe) that the new nuclear programme would produce ‘far less waste’ (compared to the legacy waste) – but this is comparing volume NOT radioactivity (the later being far more relevant in terms of cost, repository planning, health, safety). He presumably gave the Hinkley planning consent under this mis-apprehension ! he said on Andrew Marr programme last week that he is examining the China deal in ‘minute detail’ – hope so !

Comments from Leonard Sanford by email

I don’t believe the ‘subtleties’ of supply/demand such as total energy, total electrical energy, peak power demand, the distinction between energy and power and so on even enter the average journalist’s head, to judge by the way the 7% figure has been widely copied without comment. But it seems plain what was intended. Hinkley C’s output at full bore would be 7% of a UK electricity demand of around 45 GW. That’s why the original claim was worded as ‘could be’ 7%. The originator knew that mainstream journalists wouldn’t check it, and that it would be widely taken to mean ‘7% of electrical energy supply’ at least, and by some, of all energy. An equivalent claim for, say, German PV, would be that it could generate half of the country’s electricity supply, or more. We all know that it can, occasionally for short periods, and I’m sure we’ve all seen that claim…

(Commenting on the electrical generation turbines to be used in the Hinkley C plant – questioning the final total power output of the two nuclear reactors)

The Arabelle ST is rated at 1750 kW, but will be operating at close to the reactor’s output which is put at 1.6 GW, although since there is no working example of the EPR in the field there might be a small margin of uncertainty there. The parasitic power also has to be taken into account, and is surprisingly high for nuclear plants, so the final working capacity will likely be nearer the 3 GW mark.

Comments from a Claverton Energy Research Group forum contributor by email

Hello Jo,

Looking through your figures which look broadly correct to me, but both you and Cameron have overlooked one other very important mistake.

Hinkley C may only occupy 430 acres but it will wreck far far more acres than that.

There are hundreds of acres in Cannington and nearby villages that will be wrecked building roads and training schools.

Every cubic metre of concrete needs 2.35 tonnes of concrete, of which roughly 0.4 tonnes of cement and 150 kg is steel. (that is a low figure for steel, as many nuclear facilities have up to twice this amount of rebar / m3)

I don’t happen to know what the volume of concrete it but it could well be 20 to 50,000 m3.

Roughly 8 to 10 tonnes of overburden is removed to get at the aggregates.

Aggregates typically come in seams only 2 to 3 metres deep. Many many square miles of seabed and river valleys will be wrecked over and above the 430 acres listed.

If anybody happens to have a figure for the concrete in the reactor, I would be pleased to work these figures out in more detail.

It would be interesting to compare the amounts of steel and concrete per MW generated between wind and nuclear.

As a professional contractors estimator and project planner, I also very much doubt the accuracy of the employment figures quoted.

My reply


And also one should take into account the amount of land lost to uranium mining, including tailing “ponds” or pits, refining, processing and also reprocessing plants and their waste repositories, and also the final radioactive waste disposal facility after use in the reactors.

What ? This land – it’s not in the UK ? It doesn’t count ?

Their reply

The whole waste thing is kicking off again with searches for repositories underway. In my day job I am seeing something of it.

The answer will be the same it was in the 1980’s with NIREX and Bedfordshire the best option technically. Politics may be another matter however.

I actually believe that there are few challenges open to a Civil Engineer these days more important than nuclear clean up, and I am proud to have worked for companies who have been involved in that work.

Observing just how difficult it is and seeing how projects just get put off and put off makes me so anti-nuclear.

There was a time when there was no alternative, but that is no longer true.

From Neil Crumpton of Planet Hydrogen by email


The turbines may well be rated at 3.5 GW but some of that would be consumed by the station itself to drive pumps etc. Its rated at 3.2 GW (2 x 1.6 GW) as far as I know.

So, Hinkley C would generate about 25 TWh/y (3.2 x 8.76 x 0.9).

So depending if the turbines are offshore (say average turbine capacity of deployment in next ten years is 5 MW) or onshore (say 2.5 MW) then :

* offshore (assuming 38 % capacity factor) it would require a 7.5 GW deployment (7.5 GW x 8.76 x 0.38 = 25 TWh/y). This could comprise 1,500 turbines, each of 5 MW or a mixes of sizes averaging 5 GW.

* onshore (assuming 27 % capacity factor) it would require a 10.6 GW deployment (10.6 GW x 8.76 x 0.27 = 25 TWh/y). This could comprise 4,240 turbines, each of 2.5 MW or a mixes of sizes averaging 2.5 GW.

A mix of onshore and offshore deployment (2/3 rds offshore) would require around 1,000 offshore turbines averaging 5 MW turbine capacity (16.7 TWh/y) + 1,400 onshore turbines averaging 2.5 MW turbine capacity (8.3 TWh/y)

So it would require somewhere between 1,500-4,240 turbines, or a typical offshore and onshore scenario of 2,400 turbines (comprising a mix of turbine capacities of between 2-6 MW).

The Telegraph article states :

“Ministers said they want to build a new generation of 12 new nuclear reactors to ensure that people can “turn on the kettle” and to help “keep the lights on”.
The Department for Energy and Climate Change said that Britain would need to build more than 30,000 onshore wind turbines to produce the same amount of energy, seven times the number currently in operation.”

Well the 12 reactor programmes refers to the planned 16 GW programme. This would generate about 120-125 TWh/y at about 86-90 % baseload (16 x 8.76 x 0.86 = 120)

So for a mix of on and offshore turbines it would require 12,000 turbines (5 x 2,400) or as low as 7,500 offshore turbines (1,500 x 5) as most of the avoided wind capacity would likely be offshore

I’m not sure who is campaigning for 125 TWh/y from ONSHORE wind – this is scaremongering in my view (my scenarios did not really go above about 50 TWh/y from memory).


However, it would require about 21,200 onshore wind turbines (5 x 4,240) of average turbine capacity of 2.4 MW or 30,000 turbines of average turbine capacity of 1.7 MW (1.7/1000 x 30,000 x 8.76 x 0.27)

So, in theory it would require around that many – but no one is proposing that. My scenarios advocate mostly offshore after 15-20 GW onshore (35-50 TWh/y). So, two thirds of a 125 TWh/y scenario would likely be offshore.

As say 10-15 GW is already built or consented onshore (say 30 TWh/y) I would suggest that most of the ‘avoided’ capacity would be OFFSHORE and in the 2020s. Around 16-17 GW offshore (53 TWh/y) is supposedly on track BY 2020 to contribute to EU commitments. So 16 GW nuclear programme deployed by 2030 would seriously damage offshore deployment in the 2020s. I reckon about halved – to ‘slow regression’ of around 15 GW in the 2020s compared to a non-nuclear scenario of more like 30 GW in the 2020s*. This may well seriously undermine supply-chain industries being based in UK (eg Hull, north east) even if Siemens do set up in Hull. I wrote about this to an Economist article recently.

I will write a letter to Telegraph


* 30 GW would generate 100 TWh/y (30 x 8.76 x 0.38)

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