Kingsnorth

Kingsnorth Power Station (2007)

Kingsnorth Power Station (2007)

According to a Kent News article dated 22nd May, “plans for a coal-fired power station at Kingsnorth remain uncertain after the Government unveiled new ‘clean coal’ measures as part of its coalition agreement.”

Well, let us hope the plant is never built because governments and power companies around the world are trying to convince us that coal + carbon capture and storage (CCS) = ‘clean coal’ when there is no such thing.

We need to expose the ‘clean coal’ myth and a good place to start is the report Coal’s Assault on Human Health by the Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR).

PSR is an American non-profit advocacy organization that is the medical and public health voice for policies to prevent nuclear war and proliferation and to slow, stop and reverse global warming and toxic degradation of the environment –  in 1985 they shared the Nobel Peace Prize for building public awareness and pressure to end the nuclear arms race.

The Coal’s Assault on Human Health report takes a new look at the impacts of coal on the human body.  Coal combustion releases mercury, particulate matter, nitrogen oxides, sulphur dioxide and other substances known to be hazardous to human health and the report looks at the cumulative harm inflicted by those pollutants on three major body organ systems: the respiratory system, the cardiovascular system and the nervous system.  The report also considers coal’s contribution to global warming and the health implications of global warming.

Each step of the coal life-cycle – mining, transportation, washing, combustion and disposing of post-combustion waste – impacts human health.  Coal combustion has been linked to these diseases/conditions: asthma exacerbations, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, stunted lung development, lung cancer, cardiac arrhythmias, acute myocardial infarction, congestive heart failure, ischemic stroke and developmental delay.  Coal combustion is also suspected of being a cause of asthma development.  CCS is only designed to deal with CO2 so does nothing to tackle these health problems.

Coal’s Assault on Human Health comes out against CCS and states that “In place of investment in coal (including subsidies for the extraction and combustion of coal and for capture of carbon and other pollutants), the U.S. should fund energy efficiency, conservation measures, and clean, safe, renewable energy sources such as wind energy, solar, and wave power.”

The report’s final paragraph states that “These steps comprise a medically defensible energy policy: one that takes into account the public health impacts of coal while meeting our need for energy.  When our nation establishes a health-driven energy policy, one that replaces our dependence on coal with clean, safe alternatives, we will prevent the deterioration of global public health caused by global warming while reaping the rewards in improvements to respiratory, cardiovascular, and neurological health.”

CCS is unproven at the required scale and, in summary, these are some of the issues with the technology:

  • if proven, only a maximum of 90% of the CO2 emissions will be captured and stored;
  • to deal with climate change, the CO2 will need to be stored for thousands of years – how can demonstrations lasting 10-15 years prove storage is safe for thousands of years?  (Some may refer to the Sleipner CO2 project as evidence to support we have sufficient knowledge about geological formations to “know” CO2 can be stored for the necessary time, however, Greenpeace International’s report, Reality Check on Carbon Storage, about leakages in the Utsira formation raises questions about the degree of certainty with which we can assess leakage or guarantee permanent storage of CO2.);
  • CCS equipped power stations require more approximately 25% more coal to produce the same amount of electricity and global peak coal could be as early as 2025 (Coal: Resources and Future Production);
  • a catastrophic release of CO2 could be lethal (the Lake Nyos event in 1986, whilst natural, gives an indication of the potential impact of CO2 out gassing – around 1.5 million tonnes of CO2 was released suddenly causing about 1,700 people within 16 miles of the lake and 3,500 livestock to suffocate);
  • money spent on demonstrating CCS is money not spent on renewables and achieving a zero carbon Britain;
  • CCS is expected to start making a substantial contribution to UK and global efforts to tackle climate change in the early 2020s yet if we put this effort into zero carbon Britain (please see below for details) we would be halfway through the process by that time.

The Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT) published a report – Zero Carbon Britain: An Alternative Energy Strategy – in 2007 which details how Britain can reduce its carbon emissions to zero within 20 years (without using new nuclear power).  The CAT Development Director Paul Allen has said, “We are confident that if Britain treated this as the serious emergency the climate science is saying it is, we could eliminate the need for fossil fuels within 20 years.”
Please note: since the original publication of this blog, Zero Carbon Britain 2030 – A New Energy Strategy has been released – please read our post Zero Carbon Britain 2030 for an overview. DMD, 6 July 21010 .

At present, the CO2 concentrations are just under 390ppm and the safe upper limit is considered to be 350ppm, therefore, we need to move urgently to sources of electricity which are zero carbon rather than ‘low carbon’.  The need for urgency and zero carbon rules out nuclear and ‘cleaner fossil fuels through carbon capture and storage’ as they fail on both counts.

David M. Davison

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4 Responses to “Kingsnorth”

  1. Zero Carbon Britain 2030 – A New Energy Strategy has been released – please read our post Zero Carbon Britain 2030 for an overview.

    David M. Davison

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