Daily News Roundup

12 February 2017

New Nuclear

Ministers are poised to admit that taxpayer cash will be used to fund a new fleet of nuclear power stations – reversing years of government opposition to direct public subsidy. With Britain’s ageing coal plants due to shut by 2025, the government is banking on new nuclear reactors going up at sites including Wylfa in Anglesey, north Wales, and Moorside in Cumbria. Successive energy ministers have insisted that no public cash will be used to fund this new generation. Yet industry sources claim the business and energy secretary, Greg Clark, accepts that this hands-off approach cannot persist if the plants are to be built. They say Whitehall is preparing to launch a consultation, possibly this summer, on the government taking minority equity stakes in new nuclear projects to kick-start their construction. The future of the NuGen consortium building the Cumbrian plant will be thrown into doubt this week when the financially troubled Japanese industrial giant Toshiba confirms its retreat from the industry. To ensure the plant is built, British taxpayer cash will probably be matched with funds from the Japanese government, possibly via the Japan Bank for International Co-operation and Nippon Export and Investment Insurance.Japan’s Hitachi, which is behind the Wylfa project, is locked in talks with the British and Japanese governments over how to fund the 2.7-gigawatt station. The consultation on state equity is likely to be launched alongside an outline deal on funding Wylfa. Sources said the deal and the consultation are not certain and could yet collapse.

Sunday Times 12th Feb 2017 read more »

Toshiba/Moorside

Toshiba’s withdrawal from building nuclear reactors will reveal the cracks in Britain’s muddled energy policy, When the giant crane gingerly lowered a 278-ton steel cylinder into place at the Plant Vogtle nuclear power station in America’s Deep South last November, tension was high. The 11-metre high-pressure vessel will eventually house the beating heart of America’s first nuclear reactor for three decades. But there was not much to celebrate – the project on the banks of the Savannah river in Georgia is more than three years late and billions of dollars over budget. This week, the waves from that troubled project will wash up 4,000 miles away on the Cumbrian coast. Toshiba, the Japanese company building the US reactors, will beat a humbling retreat from the construction of nuclear power stations. Problems at Plant Vogtle and another nuclear project in South Carolina have brought the proud technology giant to its knees, saddling it with losses from the delays. And they have thrown a spanner into the works of Britain’s already muddled energy policy. On Tuesday, alongside announcing a writedown likely to total more than $4bn (£3.2bn) stemming from those ill-starred American schemes, Toshiba is set to confirm its exit from NuGen, which is due to build Moorside nuclear power station near Sellafield. The 3.8 gigawatt (GW) plant, which will power 6m homes, is one of a string of nuclear projects that ministers want to replace dirty coal-fired sites. In theory, the Hinkley Point plant in Somerset will take some of the strain – firing up in 2025, just as the old coal and nuclear sites close. Yet few in the industry believe it will be built on time, piling pressure on the next nuclear projects in the queue to be delivered to schedule. Industry sources say ministers have gradually realised that Britain’s nuclear ambitions will probably require direct state support, if they are to get affordable deals. It could form a key pillar of Theresa May’s new industrial strategy. The Sunday Times reported last March that Britain had asked the Japanese government to help bankroll Horizon and NuGen, but in return was asked by Tokyo to stump up UK taxpayer funds. The falling price of wind and solar generation, increasing energy efficiency and declining demand have led many to question whether the days of big “baseload” power stations are numbered. Households are meeting more of their power needs through domestically generated electricity, such as rooftop solar panels. A big leap in battery technology could spur a groundswell in this “distributed generation” – where power also comes from schemes such as community wind farms, rather than big, central power stations. Electric cars, meanwhile, confuse the debate on future demand. Mass adoption of electric vehicles could crank up demand on the national grid – making new power stations vital. “You are going to need a shed-load of cheap baseload,” said a senior industry source. Yet cars could turn into a power source themselves, especially when coupled with domestic generation such as rooftop solar. Nissan, which builds the electric Leaf car in Sunderland, has already developed a “vehicle to home” system that turns the car’s battery into a domestic power supply. The battery charges at night when demand is lower, and releases electricity during the day, helping to ease demand on the grid during peak periods.

Sun Times 12th Feb 2017 read more »

Moorside

The three new nuclear reactors Cumbria has been promised are now in doubt. Could the county and its economy cope without them? Ever since Calder Hall power station opened in 1956, nuclear energy has been part of the furniture in Cumbria, as much a part of our county as lakes, mountains, daffodils and Hadrian’s Wall. For six decades it’s been providing energy for civilian use – heating and lighting our homes – and not just for nuclear weapons. And it’s been a source of thousands of mostly quite well-paid jobs. Yet it’s never been without its risks, controversies and difficulties, not to mention its image problems. And its latest difficulties could be putting thousands of hoped-for jobs and millions of pounds of expected investment in jeopardy.

Carlisle News and Star 11th Feb 2017 read more »

Cumbria

The Conservatives’ campaign in Copeland, the byelection described as “Theresa May’s to lose”, has received a big boost after the largest trade union representing workers at the Sellafield nuclear power station said it would not strike before voters go to the polls on 23 February. The Conservatives’ plans to fight the election – triggered by the resignation of Labour MP Jamie Reed – on a pro-nuclear platform were thrown into jeopardy in December, when union leaders said “serious industrial unrest” by the 10,000 workers could not be ruled out amid a dispute over government plans to downgrade the final-salary pension scheme for employees of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, which runs Sellafield.

Guardian 11th Feb 2017 read more »

Nuclear Waste

This volume examines the national plans that ten Euratom countries plus Switzerland and the United States are developing to address high-level radioactive waste storage and disposal. The chapters, which were written by 23 international experts, outline European and national regulations, technology choices, safety criteria, monitoring systems, compensation schemes, institutional structures, and approaches to public involvement. Key stakeholders, their values and interests are introduced, the responsibilities and authority of different actors considered, decision-making processes are analyzed as well as the factors influencing different national policy choices. The views and expectations of different communities regarding participatory decision making and compensation and the steps that have been or are being taken to promote dialogue and constructive problem-solving are also considered.

Sonnensite 7th Feb 2017 read more »

Energy Demand

UK could need 20 more nuclear power stations if electric cars take over our roads and cause ‘massive strain’ on power network. Britain could need up to 20 more nuclear power stations should the electric car replace the petrol engine. Research by Transport for London suggests a switch to an all-electric fleet in the city would cause a ‘massive strain’ on the network due to the amount of power needed to recharge vehicles’ batteries. It comes days after the Department for Transport announced measures to boost electric vehicle use.

Daily Mail 11th Feb 2017 read more »

Radhealth

Tim Farron MP has agreed to quiz the Director of Public Health Cumbria on his failure to reply to our questions regarding Moorside and the health of children in the vicinity of the proposed Moorside reactors..

Radiation Free Lakeland 11th Feb 2017 read more »

Protest

Trump faces an uprising on another front besides – thanks to his overt advocacy for the spread of nuclear weapons, nuclear disarmament activists are reviving their movement to oppose him. They have a long history to draw on. The campaign to eradicate nuclear weapons began almost immediately after the first atomic bomb was dropped. However, military strategists’ faith in a strong nuclear deterrent thwarted demands for disarmament. Stockpiles of weapons increased exponentially during the Cold War. In response, protesters focused on smaller, more urgent but achievable goals in the hopes that disarmament would eventually follow. The movement has experienced lulls, notably between 1963-1980, but has maintained an interrupted presence since 1945.

The Conversation 10th Feb 2017 read more »

Fukushima

Radiation levels have reached such alarming levels that even a robot couldn’t survive.

IB Times 11th Feb 2017 read more »

France

Less than two weeks ago, the French nuclear regulator, ASN, published a press release on the English part of its web site entitled “The situation regarding nuclear safety and radiation protection is worrying ASN remains vigilant“, 30/01/2017 5:36 pm. In it they quote the ASN Chair, Pierre-Franck Chevet, as having told the press on January 18th that “a year ago, the situation with regard to nuclear installations was worrying in the medium term. If I had to summarize my thoughts today, I would say that the situation is worrying. I omit “in the medium term“. Unlike the US NRC, the French ASN appears to want to do its job, but is short-staffed, as well as in the difficult situation of being a government department trying to hold majority government-owned (EDF-Areva) companies accountable. This includes the need to watch-dog both old reactors and possible manufacturing defects (both new and old) at Areva Le Creusot. In short, they are in over their heads, but at least they seem aware of this fact and are worried. Up until now, the US NRC appears to lack any such excuses, and shows little concern, though the new US administration may well shut the US NRC down. Regarding Flamanville – David Lochbaum of the Union for Concerned Scientists explains that “Fire is a major hazard at nuclear power plants because it can, as it did at Browns Ferry, disable primary safety systems and their backups.” The Spokesperson for Wise Paris adds that there is a risk that a large enough explosion or uncontrolled fire could impact the nuclear reactor itself. The French nuclear safety authority, ASN, news release, itself, speaks of a detonation, rather than an explosion. Both words occur in French and English.

Mining Awareness 10th Feb 2017 read more »

Submarines

The cost of building four new attack submarines jumped by almost £200m last year and the date for the next boat entering service has been delayed by 10 months, according to a Ministry of Defence report. Experts this weekend warned that a delay in delivering HMS Audacious, the Royal Navy’s fourth Astute-class nuclear submarine, could see Britain’s fleet of hunter-killer submarines shrinking from seven boats to six. The revelation comes after a Sunday Times investigation last week uncovered equipment failures and bungled procurement deals and reported on concerns that the armed forces would be unable to defend Britain against a serious military attack.

Sunday Times 12th Feb 2017 read more »

Share

Published: 12 February 2017