The proposed new nuclear power station at Hinkley Point in Somerset has turned into the first headache for Theresa May’s government. The issue is now about far more than Britain’s energy policy. It is about foreign policy too. May is yet to say anything publicly about the government’s decision to review the £18bn project. The only official comment was from Greg Clark, the new business, energy and industrial strategy secretary, who welcomed EDF’s approval of the project but added: “The government will now consider carefully all the component parts of this project and make its decision in the early autumn.”Security, of course, should be a concern. But when Britain agreed to sell British Energy to EDF for £12.5bn in 2008, it became inevitable that foreign investment and expertise would be needed to build new nuclear power stations. The only way, therefore, to develop a home-grown energy policy is to move away from large Hinkley-type projects, either towards forms of renewable energy or towards smaller nuclear power plants, which Rolls-Royce can build. But if the government does decide to scrap Hinkley Point C, the decision should not be about security: it should be because alternatives offer more value, efficiency, and safety. The potential cost to the taxpayer through subsidies to EDF and China, and the question marks about the EPR reactor – there still isn’t one in service anywhere in the world – are more pressing concerns than Chinese involvement. If the government does scrap Hinkley Point C, it must outline the alternative route it intends to take – and then ensure there are no hard feelings in Beijing.
Observer 14th Aug 2016 read more »
China’s senior diplomat in Britain, Liu Xiaoming, has a reputation for undiplomatic remarks. The ambassador’s infamous likening of Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe’s government to Lord Voldemort, Harry Potter’s threatening nemesis, did little to ease historical bilateral tensions between the two countries. His blunt remarks last week about the delay to the Hinkley Point nuclear power station project ordered by Theresa May also jarred badly. Liu put the government on notice that cancellation of the troubled £18bn scheme, in which the state-owned company, China General Nuclear Power (CGN), has (or would have) a 33% stake, could have serious, negative consequences for wider trade, investment and political relations between Britain and China. His warnings about damaged “mutual trust” and a “critical juncture” sounded less like the counsel of a friend, more like the threats of a bully. May will feel obliged to give serious weight to China’s concerns over Hinkley when a final decision is made next month. The Hinkley decision has suddenly been rendered more fraught by US allegations of industrial espionage involving CGN and by Australia’s refusal, on grounds of security, to allow Chinese control of a key energy asset.
Observer 14th Aug 2016 read more »
The fate of the new Hinkley Point nuclear plant could hinge on a little-known get-out clause that allows Theresa May to pull vital financial support if a similar plant in France is not running by 2020. The new prime minister shocked Hinkley’s developers — France’s energy monopoly EDF and the Chinese state giant CGN — when she decided to postpone approval of the £18bn project just hours before it was expected to get the go-ahead last month. EDF has been developing plans for Hinkley — the first atomic station in Britain for a generation — for nearly a decade. But soaring cost projections and delays have raised doubts about the Somerset plant, while there are concerns over giving a Chinese state entity a hand in key British infrastructure. However, problems at a sister plant at Flamanville in northern France could give May added political and legal cover to scrap the deal. Two years ago the EU approved a generous subsidy scheme that the government had agreed with EDF and CGN to underwrite the project. A key part of the deal was a Treasury guarantee for up to £17bn in loans.
Times 14th Aug 2016 read more »
Thank goodness that Theresa May has put on hold the Hinkley Point nuclear project. This joint venture between China and France was the trophy takeaway from a bold new age of Sino-British ties proclaimed last year. I do not know whether it is a good idea or not to build the plant. But the pause is a chance to make it a test of our national interests. It is baffling that so many people still think this is all about trade, energy or even principles. It isn’t. The Chinese ambassador, Liu Xiaoming, has warned us that Beijing is irritated by the delay. That is a clue to the real motive for China’s weird courtship of George Osborne, who championed investment by the People’s Republic. For him it was business. For China it was politics. Britain is important to Chinese leaders only because of our links with the United States. Their ambition is to push the Americans back across the Pacific. The politburo does not care about a few billions or a couple of nuclear power stations that may never be built on a faraway island. It does not mind if the renminbi is traded in London. Intelligence about British nuclear systems is not a priority, just a bonus. Human rights are irrelevant. China’s sole aim — the mandate handed to its eminently successful ambassador in London — was to divide Britain from the US by creating such economic dependence that in a moment of crisis the British government might falter in its resolve and let the Americans down. It is an ancient strategy: weaken your foe by stealth.
Times 14th Aug 2016 read more »
Greater support of low carbon investment is needed from government to “plug the gap” left by its earlier climate and energy reset according to a new report penned by a former HM Treasury economist. Writing in his capacity as co-head of policy at the Grantham Research Institute at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), Dimitri Zenghelis – once head of economic forecasting at HMT – has claimed frequent changes to policy “at a time of imposed fiscal austerity” has undermined confidence in the policy environment and discouraged investors. Zenghelis references changes to subsidies, cancellation of zero-carbon homes policy, and ending the climate change levy exemption for renewables as just some of the decisions taken in the last year to compromise the policy agenda in the UK. Zenghelis claims that the government will need to prompt greater levels of both public and private investment in low carbon infrastructure if it is to hit its own carbon targets required in the Climate Change Act.
Solar Portal 12th Aug 2016 read more »
When American executives at the Beijing branch of a US technology company need to discuss innovations created back home, they go to a park — without their phones — in the hope that their conversation will not be monitored by Chinese colleagues or state security. Such measures are familiar to expats in China, where local partners and the government have sought to secure foreign technology by fair means or foul. As China takes bolder steps on the global stage, bidding for an electricity network in Australia and proposed nuclear power stations in Britain, fears have deepened about the state-run programme of industrial espionage overseas by which Beijing seeks commercial and political advantage. Intelligence sources confirmed that the key issue in the review of Hinkley and its related projects is China, not cost, the future price of its electricity nor the reliability of the reactors. China’s appetite for stealing sensitive information is now so comprehensive that the US has launched a programme to safeguard its secrets. Companies are given regular briefings to keep them abreast of the latest methods used by China, Russia and others to steal or sabotage American products.The Chinese can sell and deploy systems that are free of anything that it would even be logically possible to detect, and at any stage in the life of the power station introduce such means by which the system could be attacked (or be programmed to fail) at a later date, with minimal chance of detection at that stage.”
Times 13th Aug 2016 read more »
Ben Chu: Stop worrying about China’s nuclear investment – it will not compromise our national security. Ho is being prosecuted by the US Justice Department, accused of stealing US nuclear technology secrets on behalf of the China General Nuclear Power (CGN) company. He is alleged to have tapped up six nuclear experts in the US to funnel information to CGN with the alleged aim of speeding up the development of reactor technology in China. The US indictment stresses that CGN is a state-owned company and answers to Beijing’s State Council. To anyone who knows anything about the Chinese economy, the fact that a nuclear power company has close links to the Beijing government is as startling as the revelation that pandas occasionally defecate in bamboo groves. Assuming there is something in the case against Ho, how should our own government respond? Some have already called on Theresa May to pull the plug on the Hinkley deal and to follow the example of the Australian government which this week blocked Chinese investors from buying the country’s largest electricity network on national security grounds. There are good reasons for Downing Street to reconsider the Hinkley deal, not least the exorbitant cost the electricity purchasing deal signed by the Coalition would likely impose on UK households over the next 40 or so years. But to tear up the agreement on the basis of the Ho charges would seem like an overreaction. The idea that the Chinese state will install computer programmes to shut down UK nuclear energy supplies in future, as Nick Timothy suggested might happen in a blog for Conservative Home last year, seems like something out of a Fu Manchu thriller. As Lord Mandelson has said, it would be “commercial global suicide” for China to sabotage its own investment in this way. One shouldn’t underestimate the brutishness, or even incompetence, of the Chinese Communist Party. But at the same time it’s worth considering this from the perspective of Beijing. The irony is that the Chinese could be purloining know-how from the Americans to help us keep the lights on here in the UK because our own governments have failed to invest enough in developing our domestic nuclear construction capability.
Independent 13th Aug 2016 read more »
Britain is to forge ahead with plans to develop ‘baby’ nuclear reactors just two weeks after the Prime Minister threw energy policy into chaos by revealing there will be a shock delay to making a decision over Hinkley Point. The announcement over whether to proceed with Hinkley in Somerset has been postponed until next month. That allows new Premier Theresa May more time to consider concerns relating to the cost of the £25billion project and potential security risks posed by Chinese involvement. This weekend the Government revealed it will shortly select preferred partners to construct Small Modular Reactors – which could help provide an alternative to Hinkley. They would be built using British factories and participation and could boost UK firms including Rolls-Royce. The Government has already earmarked £250 million to fund a five-year programme to develop SMRs and this autumn it is expected to announce the next phase including naming the lead companies to be involved. Hinkley supporters fear an announcement could be timed to coincide with a final decision on Hinkley, drawing the sting if the Government decides to cancel the larger project.
Daily Mail 13th Aug 2016 read more »
Magnox and its contractors Priory Construction, supported by Aurora, have successfully completed decommissioning of the Old Main Active Drain (OMAD) at Harwell. The project, which involved the removal of 4000 metres of drain and 95 manholes, was completed on time and 14% under budget, with no lost-time accidents or significant radiation exposure to workers. Some of the areas traversed by OMAD have been subsequently de-licensed, demonstrating that the project achieved a fully clean end state. The drain which originally transferred contaminated liquids to the Liquid Effluent Treatment Plant for storage and subsequent treatment had been filled with grout many years previously; in order to immobilise the residual radioactive contamination. The principal concern during the works was the number of live services in the ground above the drain that had to be protected. The project recovered over 2000 m3 of very low level radioactive waste, the majority of which has now been exported to its final destination.
Magnox 12th Aug 2016 read more »
The perilous fate of the Transocean Winner has sparked a series of questions, from whether the existing Hebridean Deep Sea Water route – which passes just four miles off the coast – is far enough out at sea to protect the archipelago from ships in distress, to why such a vast rig was towed along such an exposed route when forecasters warned of treacherous conditions. Some answers must wait for the Marine Accident Investigation Branch to complete its investigation. Others are already the subject of intense debate. Chief among them is a row that has been playing out in the Western Isles for the past six years, but which has received cursory national attention. It concerns the capacity and response of the UK’s emergency towing vessels (ETVs), powerful salvage tugs designed to usher stricken vessels to safety lest they drift on to rocks or vulnerable coasts.
Scotsman 13th Aug 2016 read more »
It is the historic inn powered by 100 per cent renewable energy, where even the leftovers are used to warm the water to wash the plates. The Glenuig Inn at Lochailort, which had its roof burned off in 1746 for seemingly lending support to Bonnie Prince Charlie, is now helping to lead the charge in Scotland’s green energy revolution. Owner Steve Macfarlane took over the business nine years ago and set about finding ways of cutting the fuel bills at a time when year-on-year energy price rises were in the pipeline. Since then, he has cut energy costs from around nine per cent of his turnover to around 2.5 per cent – saving tens of thousands of pounds a year.
Scotsman 14th Aug 2016 read more »
A post mortem of the Green Deal: Austerity, energy efficiency, and failure in British energy policy. The Green Deal was a British flagship policy intended to deliver energy efficiency retrofits at scale. About 2.5 years after its launch the programme was effectively terminated and is now seen as a dramatic policy failure. In this paper we analyse the reasons for the failure and the politics that led to the rise and the fall of the Green Deal. We conclude that even though the risks were understood and voiced by critics well in advance of the launch of the Green Deal, the logic of a subsidy free energy efficiency scheme became the accepted wisdom at the highest levels of Government, through a combination of ideology and failure to listen.
Energy Research & Social Science November 2016 read more »
Christopher Booker: A few weeks of not abnormally warm summer weather have prompted light-headed journalists to report not only that this could be the “hottest August for years” and “the hottest year on record” but that, thanks to climate change, we can, within 30 years, expect “killer heatwaves” to become “the norm”. This claim was taken from the latest report by that curious body the Committee on Climate Change, which, under the Climate Change Act, has more influence than anyone else on Britain’s energy policy.
Telegraph 13th Aug 2016 read more »