Wylfa

Can the UK meet its climate goals without the Wylfa nuclear plant? Recent analysis from the government’s official advisers the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) shows the UK could meet its power demand and climate goals to 2030 at low cost, without any new nuclear beyond the Hinkley C scheme already being built in Somerset. This new analysis reflects the dramatic cost reductions seen for renewables in recent years. Greg Clark, the UK’s secretary of state for business, energy and industrial strategy (BEIS), made a similar point last week as he spoke in parliament about the failed Wylfa deal. The outlook to 2050 is much less certain and, for Clark, nuclear will continue to have an “important role” in the future UK energy mix. Modelling from the Energy Technologies Institute and Imperial College London suggests new nuclear would help to keep costs down as the UK approaches zero emissions. Work by Aurora Energy Research finds that a highly renewable energy system in 2050, with no new nuclear added after Hinkley C, might have similar overall costs as a high nuclear pathway. In this in-depth Q&A, Carbon Brief looks at what the Wylfa news means for the UK’s climate goals and what role nuclear might play in future.

Carbon Brief 21st Jan 2019 read more »

More cash could come from the Welsh Government to help workers affected by the suspension of work on a new nuclear power station, a minister has said. Japanese firm Hitachi’s decision to halt its Wylfa Newydd project on Anglesey was described as a “tremendous blow” to the north Wales economy. About 9,000 workers had been expected to build the £13bn plant. But economy secretary Ken Skates told the North Wales Economic Ambition Board he wanted UK government help too. Speaking at an emergency meeting on Monday, he told delegates at the event in Llangefni, Anglesey that the Welsh Government was willing to contribute more finance to a growth deal for north Wales but he wanted the UK government “to contribute more as well”. However he added the discussion was “about more than just the cash”. With plans for the nuclear power station “paused” for a number of years, Mr Skates said: “In that environment we need to ensure that people who are being skilled up and the businesses that were preparing for the Wylfa Newydd project have alternative opportunities to get work.

BBC 21st Jan 2019 read more »

Publicly, the company is stressing the project is not irrevocable. Director of Corporate Affairs Leon Flexman told BBC Wales: “It is not a stop, we are ‘halting the activities’ until it can be restarted providing the right conditions are in place and the finance is there”. The opposition party in Wales, and the group on the island sending an Assembly Member to Cardiff, Plaid Cymru (PC), say it will be devastating for Anglesey. Nuclear power has always been a problem for PC particularly – the importance of the jobs and votes are stressed at internal strategy meetings, but the party is also committed to renewables such as energy from special tidal lagoons, and is renowned as a ‘green’ group. Rhun ap Iorwerth is not luke warm about nuclear energy. Those jobs appear to be central too for the PC Assembly Member (AM) for the island, Rhun ap Iorwerth, who appears to be oblivious to the contradiction.

The Eye 22nd Jan 2019 read more »

HITACHI has announced the decision to suspend indefinitely its UK nuclear power station construction project, located in Wylfa Newydd, Anglesey, Wales. Experts have warned that this could lead to a UK energy crisis. “Hitachi’s announcement, coming so soon after the Moorside fiasco, raises the very real prospect of a UK energy crisis,” commented Justin Bowden, GMB National Secretary for Energy. Matthew Fell, Chief UK Policy Director at CBI, said: “The loss of new nuclear projects could leave us more heavily dependent in the long-run on fossil fuels, which could risk our legally binding climate targets. The Government needs to build on its support for new nuclear power by giving individual projects the certainty they need, alongside measures that deliver a mix of low-carbon and renewable technologies.” The Nuclear Industry Association said: “The urgent need for further new nuclear capacity in the UK should not be underestimated, with all but one of the UK’s nuclear power plants due to come offline by 2030. If we want a balanced generation mix, Government must work with industry to deliver that vital capacity on this site. At stake is our ability to provide bulk, low carbon power, energy security, and the potential loss of the chance of thousands of highly skilled, well paid jobs in Wales and North West England. “Without a diverse low carbon mix and with increasing demand to power electric vehicles, we run the risk of becoming more reliant on burning fossil fuels to produce our electricity.”

Chemical Engineer 21st Jan 2019 read more »

Posted: 22 January 2019

Bradwell

Rolls-Royce has confirmed it is in talks with Chinese state-run firm China General Nuclear (CGN) over providing essential systems for a new power station in the UK. The UK engineering company makes instrumentation and control systems for nuclear reactors. The plant will be based at Bradwell, on the River Blackwater in Essex. The project is one of three new nuclear schemes in this country in which CGN is centrally involved. Rolls-Royce already has an agreement with CGN’s subsidiary, CTEC, to develop and sell reactor control systems for selected projects in China and on international markets. The planned new “Bradwell B” power station is a major component of the government’s nuclear strategy. The country’s existing reactors are ageing and all of them are due to shut down by 2035. Last year, a leading US security official reportedly warned the government against developing a close relationship with Chinese contractors, on the grounds that civil nuclear technology was being adapted for military use. Some experts believe the involvement of Rolls Royce will help to allay concerns about the security of the Bradwell project.

BBC 21st Jan 2019 read more »

Rolls-Royce has made a fresh play to secure a central role in Britain’s nuclear revival, pitching its equipment for use in the proposed Chinese plant in Essex. The engineering giant has approached China General Nuclear (CGN) to propose using its control systems at the Bradwell plant instead of the Chinese company’s own kit. Rolls-Royce’s approach marks a change of tack in its UK nuclear strategy after its efforts to develop smaller reactors, dubbed “mini nukes”, foundered. Its talks with CGN, which were first reported by the Financial Times, come amid heightened scrutiny of Chinese control over UK critical infrastructure. CGN told The Times that it intended to proceed with its own control systems for the Essex plant and was seeking permission from UK safety authorities to use them. Rolls-Royce, a FTSE 100 eng ineering group that employs about 50,000 people worldwide, had been a vocal advocate of an alternative approach to new nuclear by building smaller “modular” reactors. However, it has slashed jobs in its division after failing to secure government funding. It now appears to be positioning itself to instead capitalise on potential unease over China’s lead role at Bradwell. Control systems are hardware and software that are critical to the safe operation of the plant. Rolls-Royce’s technology is understood to be one of the options that could be considered if the regulator rejected CGN’s plans.

Times 22nd Jan 2019 read more »

Rolls-Royce has confirmed it is considering supplying equipment for a power plant China’s largest state-owned nuclear firm plans to build in Essex. China General Nuclear Power Group (CGN) is looking to ease concerns over national security on the project planned for Bradwell on the Essex shoreline, which using Rolls-Royce as a supplier could help with.

City AM 21st Jan 2019 read more »

While it remains a way off completion, the proposed Bradwell B nuclear station has the potential to serve the UK’s energy needs with a 2.3GW capacity. The proposed Bradwell B location is situated next to the decommissioned Bradwell A nuclear power station at a 183-hectare site the government deemed suitable for new nuclear build in 2011. The project is in its infancy, with multiple consents and permissions still required before construction can begin, including a development consent order (DCO), a nuclear site licence and various environmental permits.

Compelo 21st Jan 2019 read more »

Posted: 22 January 2019

New Nuclear

Once hailed as a key part of the energy future of the United Kingdom and several other countries, the high-tech atomic industry is now heading in the opposite direction, towards nuclear sunset. It took another body blow last week when plans to build four new reactors on two sites in the UK were abandoned as too costly by the Japanese company Hitachi. This was even though it had already sunk £2.14 billion (300 bn yen) in the scheme. Following the decision in November by another Japanese giant, Toshiba, to abandon an equally ambitious scheme to build three reactors at Moorside in the north-west of England, the future of the industry in the UK looks bleak. The latest withdrawal means the end of the Japanese dream of keeping its nuclear industry alive by exporting its technology overseas. With the domestic market killed by the Fukushima disaster in 2011, overseas sales were to have been its salvation.

Climate News Network 21st Jan 2019 read more »

The government’s nuclear strategy is in “meltdown” following Hitachi’s announcement that it is halting work on its plans for a new UK atomic power plant in north Wales, Alan Whitehead has said. Labour’s energy spokesperson told the House of Commons that Hitachi’s announcement, which also means a halt of work by the company’s UK nuclear arm Horizon on its other UK project at Oldbury in Gloucestershire, is a “significant blow” to the economy. He said that the latest move, combined with Toshiba’s decision in November to scrap its plans for a three-reactor plant at Moorside, means that a total of 9.2GW of planned nuclear generation will not be delivered. Whitehead also accused the government of reacting “far too slowly” to concerns about financing from its potential nuclear partners, including Hitachi’s arm Horizon, adding that government “dithering” had contributed to the axing of Moorside.

Edie 21st Jan 2019 read more »

Posted: 22 January 2019

Nuclear Skills

An ambitious project to boost nuclear businesses across Copeland looks set to take a leap forward this week when the plans go before the borough council. The Industrial Solutions Hub is the cornerstone of a new initiative involving the nuclear industry and the local authority, but is still in the very early stages. Copeland council’s executive has been asked to back the next stage of the project – the procurement of support services to develop a business case and get the plans off the ground. The council-led project will initially be funded by Sellafield Ltd and the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, with cash of between £10,000 and £75,000 available. The hub will also market the area’s skills and give the supply chain a shot in the arm as Copeland keeps an eye on the region’s post-decommissioning future.

In Cumbria 21st Jan 2019 read more »

Posted: 22 January 2019

Wylfa

Business and political leaders will meet to discuss ways they can help workers affected by the suspension of work on a new nuclear power station. Japanese firm Hitachi’s decision to halt its Wylfa Newydd project on Anglesey was described as a “tremendous blow” to the north Wales economy. About 9,000 workers had been expected to build the £13bn plant. Economy secretary Ken Skates will be at an emergency meeting of the North Wales Economic Ambition Board later. Mr Skates said he wanted to discuss what job opportunities there were for people in similar fields in and around Anglesey. Energy is not currently devolved to the Welsh Government and Mr Skates said he was “deeply concerned” and wanted the UK government to “step up to the plate” to give assurances about the project and the wider implications for the regional economy.

BBC 21st Jan 2019 read more »

Almost every farmer who owned land on the prospective new Wylfa B site sold it to Horizon. All, that is, except one. Richard Jones and his wife Gwenda refused steadfastly to sell their farm to be torn up for the nuclear site. It had been in the family for 300 years. “They could have offered us a billion pounds an acre and we wouldn’t have sold,” said Richard when we met in their cosy farmhouse kitchen last year, drinking warm mugs of tea and eating three kinds of homemade cake. Richard pulls out a map that shows all the farms sold off around him. “Churchill said something like ‘you cannot reason with a tiger when your head is in its mouth,’” he said. His farm is positioned like the head inside the tiger’s mouth, surrounded on three sides by lands sold to Horizon. But he and Gwenda did more than reason with Horizon, they defied and challenged the company and its frequent emissaries to their farm. When the local activist group — People Against Wylfa B (PAWB) — brought the former prime minister of Japan, Naoto Kan, to Anglesey, he met with the Jones family (and hopefully was also treated to some of Gwenda’s delicious cakes!) The family had been getting quite a bit of press for their refusal to sell out. Horizon didn’t like it.

Beyond Nuclear 20th Jan 2019 read more »

Posted: 21 January 2019

Bradwell

China’s largest state-backed nuclear company is in talks with Rolls-Royce about supplying equipment for the power plant it hopes to build in Essex as it seeks to allay national security concerns about the project. CGN is in discussions with the British engineering group over providing the control systems for the Hualong HPR1000 reactors the Chinese group plans to install at Bradwell. Regarded as the central nervous system of a nuclear power plant, this technology not only drives the operation of the reactor, but allows it to be safely shut down should problems occur. Using the British group’s equipment would be a significant concession by CGN. The Chinese group has developed its own control systems which it hopes to export along with its reactor technology. But the move is seen as a necessary sop to ease concerns about Chinese companies building critical national infrastructure in the UK.

FT 20th Jan 2019 read more »

Posted: 21 January 2019

Hinkley

Plantforce Rentals has acquired assets and taken on staff from Hawk Plant at the Hinkley Point C nuclear power station project in Somerset. Hawk went into administration last week, citing cashflow problems. Plantforce has worked alongside Hawk at Hinkley Point C for the past four years with 186 of its own items of plant on site. It has now taken on all of Hawks’ 100+site-based machinery, contracts and infrastructure, securing the employment of more than 100 full-time plant operators.

Construction Index 21st Jan 2019 read more »

Posted: 21 January 2019

New Nuclear

One thing British politicians have never lacked when making nuclear policy is optimism. When it comes to atomic energy, they leave Dr Pangloss in the shade. Take the last big nuclear programme back in the 1960s, whose purpose was to meet a fifth of the UK’s electricity needs. Rather than using proven (if US made) reactor technology, the government bet instead on a homegrown gas-cooled type. The minister of power, Fred Lee, confidently predicted the experimental design would be a world beater. Britain had “hit the jackpot”, he declared. The UK certainly hit something. But it wasn’t pay dirt. The AGR programme dragged on for more than two decades and was, in the words of the man who commissioned it, Arthur Hawkins of the Central Electricity Generating Board, “a catastrophe that must not be repeated”. Which brings us to the present, and Britain’s latest programme. Once again, there is plenty of wishful thinking. Indeed, policy has been driven largely by a series of optimistic guesses. These include not just the cost of new reactors, but also the willingness of private capital to fund them without assistance from the state. There are multiple reactor types. Repurposing often almost untested equipment for UK safety rules means that each starts from scratch with its own prototype, learning as it goes along. Add the need to fund these “first of type” schemes with private capital and it’s not surprising that projects have been falling by the wayside. The result is that a decade in, Britain has just one project under way – at Hinkley Point in Somerset – for which the government has struck an eye-wateringly expensive contract. The owner, EDF of France, is now saying it could do subsequent projects cheaper, because it will have the Hinkley experience to draw on. But given the absence of competition (the only other participant left in is CGN of China, EDF’s partner at Hinkley), the government faces the unpalatable prospect of a series of potentially disadvantageous bilateral deals. If more plants are to be built, the government needs much more bang for its buck. Logically the answer is to tender competitively for a fleet of reactors of the same design. The potential gains are substantial. Consider the difference between Hinkley and the deal Abu Dhabi struck by tendering for a fleet of four reactors, won by Kepco of Korea. While Britain is getting 3.2GW of capacity for £20bn, Abu Dhabi will get 5.3GW for an estimated $24.4bn, and in far quicker order, too.

FT 20th Jan 2019 read more »

Hitachi’s decision to freeze its $28 billion nuclear power project in Britain strengthens the hand of France’s EDF and its Chinese partner in talks with the government on how to finance new reactors. Funding new nuclear plants has become critical as Hitachi became the second Japanese firm to say its British nuclear power project had hit the buffers over financing. The two projects would have covered about 13 percent of Britain’s power needs. EDF and its partner China General Nuclear Power Corporation(CGN) want to use a financing model under which investors in their nuclear projects receive payment from the moment they start construction, reducing their risk. But to proceed with this approach, the government must first win over lawmakers and consumers, already frustrated by hefty energy bills and costly nuclear projects that often face delays. “The question is whether it is sellable to parliament that all the risks go to the public. But if that is not the case, they will get no investors,” said Stephen Thomas, emeritus professor of energy policy at Greenwich University. EDF is negotiating with the government on funding the Sizewell C project using the so-called regulated asset base model in which investors earn a government-set fixed return from the start, instead of waiting years until construction is completed before receiving a return. China General Nuclear Power Corporation (CGN) has a 20 percent stake in Sizewell C, while EDF has a 33.5 percent stake in CGN’s project to build a reactor at Bradwell, Essex.

Japan Today 20th Jan 2019 read more »

Posted: 21 January 2019

Flamanville

French state-owned power company EDF said it would make further tests next month on faulty weldings at its Flamanville nuclear reactor plant, which has been plagued by technical problems. “EDF actively continues to implement the action plan on welds of the main secondary system announced on 25 July 2018. The ‘hot tests’ are now scheduled to commence during the second half of February,” EDF said in a statement. EDF said it would keep the targeted construction costs for Flamanville at 10.9 billion euros ($12.4 billion).

Reuters 21st Jan 2019 read more »

Posted: 21 January 2019

New Nuclear

“It is a national emergency and it’s been left far too late,” says Greg Clark. “We’ve known for the last 10 years that most of our nuclear power fleet would come to the end of its planned life.” The Business Secretary’s dire warning is almost a decade old. In late 2009, as a member of the shadow cabinet, Clark could not have guessed that the UK’s delayed nuclear dawn was a false one. The Labour government had just given the go-ahead for 10 new nuclear projects. They were expected to begin powering homes by the Christmas of 2017. The biggest concern was whether the public would tolerate such a rapid pace of nuclear construction. They needn’t have worried. In the years since Britain heralded a new nuclear renaissance the plans have quickly unravelled. Hitachi, a major Japanese industrial conglomerate, is the latest to turn its back on the chance to build a £16bn plant in Anglesey, Wales. In an echo of Clark’s 2009 warning, Matthew Fell, from the CBI, says the “significant blow” leaves in doubt the UK’s ability to replace its existing nuclear fleet before the lights are turned out at ageing plants across the country. The UK relies on nuclear power for a fifth of all electricity used in homes and businesses. All but one will close by 2030, and only one is guaranteed to start generating power by then. In a little over two months, three follow-on projects with a total capacity of over 9GW have been wiped from the UK’s new nuclear future. The nuclear programme’s leading light is Hinkley Point C, one of the country’s most derided infrastructure projects of a very competitive field. Those that remain are part-owned by a Chinese state-backed company despite mounting global fears over Chinese interference. In truth, Whitehall offered the most comprehensive package of support measures that any government has offered a nuclear developer. The UK Government offered to take a one-third stake in the project alongside Hitachi and the Japanese government. It also offered to cover the debt financing needed for construction, which is the riskiest phase of development. In return, Hitachi would be guaranteed to earn £72.50 per megawatt-hour for the lifetime of its project, levied on household bills. The nuclear project was still a risk not worth taking. If an offer this generous can be snubbed, what chance is there for the Sizewell C and Bradwell projects still awaiting a deal? The sheer scale of the risks means building new nuclear plants is largely the preserve of state-owned companies backed by treasury-sized balance sheets. China and Russia lead the way. France follows, but even state-run EDF is struggling. “The cost of renewable technologies such as offshore wind has fallen dramatically, to the point where they now require very little public subsidy and will soon require none,” Clark told MPs. “We have also seen a strengthening in the pipeline of projects coming forward, meaning that renewable energy may now not just be cheap, but also readily available.” The Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit says an 80:20 mix of wind and solar power matching the capacity of Moorside, Wylfa and Sizewell C could be done at an average price of £50 to £65 per megawatt-hour, even including the extra costs needed to balance the intermittency of weather-based power. “The UK Government has nuclear in its DNA,” says Professor Aled Jones, an Anglesey native now leading the Global Sustainability Institute, “We have a long history of nuclear development, and that institutional memory still seems to be there. There’s something in the culture, but that culture might need to change.”

Telegraph 19th Jan 2019 read more »

Ministers must act quickly to make up for the firm’s decision to axe its Wylfa nuclear power plant. By any standards, last week’s decision by Hitachi to end construction of its £20bn nuclear power plant at Wylfa in Wales was a major blow to Britain’s prospects of creating an effective energy policy for the 21st century. The move follows a withdrawal by Toshiba from the construction of a similar project in Cumbria last year and leaves Britain struggling to find ways to generate electricity for a low-carbon future. Together, these nuclear plants would have generated 15% of Britain’s electricity – without emitting carbon dioxide. However, the loss of the Hitachi and Toshiba plants undermines our chances of achieving this first goal of decarbonising our power production and, therefore, of succeeding in the ultimate goal of making Britain a completely carbon-free nation later this century. So how should the government respond? Nuclear power plants require massive investment and take decades to construct. Britain’s only new reactor, currently under construction at Hinkley Point, is eight years behind schedule and faces huge cost overruns. Its construction has proceeded only because the government agreed to pay vastly inflated prices for its electricity for a guaranteed 35 years. At the same time, prices of power from renewable energy sources continue to plunge. However, there is a limit to how much power can be generated from a source that operates only when it is breezy. As the nuclear expert Prof Sue Ion says: “It is a fallacy to think we can provide the UK’s energy with intermittent renewables alone.” This leaves ministers with a number of options that need to be tackled urgently. They need to reopen talks with Hitachi and Toshiba to hammer out a sensible electricity pricing mechanism for power from their plants and so allow building work to resume. Investments in other areas also need to be pursued more emphatically and imaginatively. As we report in New Review (“The northern powerhouse”), the development of new UK renewable energy sources, from tides and waves, is underfunded, while failures to promote wind energy technology 30 years ago let Germany and Denmark dominate the now lucrative wind turbine market. Such a mistake must not be repeated with tide or wave power.

Observer 20th Jan 2019 read more »

Posted: 20 January 2019