The government is refusing to say whether it has followed its own rules in allowing China’s investment in the new £24bn Hinkley nuclear power plant, citing questions of national security. Chinese involvement in UK energy schemes remains controversial, not least because of the historical links between its industry and the military. The National Security Council is supposed to review critical projects. But ministers have consistently refused to say whether this has been the case. The BBC requested information, under Freedom of Information laws, about whether the National Security Council had discussed China’s investment in a proposed new Hinkley C reactor as part of a consortium led by French firm EDF and if it had, whether it had been approved. In a delayed response, the government confirmed the information was held by the Cabinet Office but refused to say whether the NSC had approved or even discussed China’s expected 30-40% stake in the Somerset project or the implications of its long-term aim of building nuclear reactors of its own in the UK. The Labour MP Dr Alan Whitehead, a member of the Energy and Climate Change Committee, said the government’s refusal to say whether it had followed its own rules was “not acceptable”. “There is clearly an issue of national security about a Chinese government stake in and possible control of the building and operation of a British nuclear power plant,” he said. “Refusing to discuss it by hiding behind supposed national security will cause most people to conclude that expediency is trumping security in the review process.” Antony Froggatt, senior research fellow on energy and environment at the Chatham House think tank, said openness about the Hinkley project was “absolutely vital” given the scale of state financial support. “The government should therefore make public the details of the discussions in the National Security Council and other key decisions such as within the HM Treasury on the UK Guarantee Scheme to inform the public and the wider EU about the cost, security and overall value of the project,” he said.
BBC 15th Jan 2015 read more »
A new power station in Sizewell will be needed, energy secretary Ed Davey has said – but costs will have to come down to compete with other low carbon technologies. The Liberal Democrat minister, who has been in charge of the UK’s energy policy since 2012, said that he had changed his mind on the need for nuclear because of his concerns about climate change, but was adamant that he would do the industry “no special favours”. He said that if plans started soon, the plant could be in operation by the middle of the next decade, but that it was up to the French energy company EDF to come forward with proposals for the Suffolk project.
Ipswich Star 14th Jan 2015 read more »
The UK Government has given assurances that efforts to clean up the Dounreay nuclear plant have “worked well” amid concerns about a similar project at Sellafield. Ministers have stripped the Nuclear Management Partners (NMP) consortium of a £9billion contract at Sellafield following recommendations from regulators. The group faced criticism over rising costs and delays from MPs and the National Audit Office. Energy Secretary Ed Davey was called to the Commons yesterday to answer urgent questions on the issue. John Thurso, MP for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross, asked for reassurance that there were no such concerns at Dounreay in his constituency. “At Dounreay, where considerable scoping was possible prior to laying the contract, will my right honourable friend assure me and all those who work so well and effectively at Dounreay that, notwithstanding the slight adjustments currently being made, that contract is working well and his department has full confidence in the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, the contract and the workers at Dounreay?” “I can give him the reassurances he seeks. The contract has worked because it has been easier to specify the scope, as my right honourable friend rightly pointed out. “As a result, significant efficiencies have been made and significant savings to the taxpayer have been accrued, so the model has worked well on that site.”
Aberdeen Press & Journal 14th Jan 2015 read more »
The NDA made the recommendation following a detailed review which concluded that the complex, technical uncertainties at the Sellafield site were less suited to the Parent Body Organisation (PBO) model that is working well elsewhere in the NDA’s estate. Under the new arrangements, Sellafield Ltd will acquire a ‘strategic partner’ from the private sector to assist in its delivery rather than operate under the temporary ownership of a PBO.
NDA 13th Jan 2015 read more »
A private consortium has lost a multi-billion-pound contract to clean up the nuclear waste site at Sellafield. The Government confirmed termination of the £9bn contract awarded to Nuclear Management Partners. Ownership will switch to the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA).The industrial consortium — US engineering group URS, British firm AMEC and French energy firm AREVA — has run the site for more than six years, and was granted a five-year extension in 2013, despite criticism from unions of its performance.
Dundee Courier 14th Jan 2015 read more »
The Greens/EFA group in the European Parliament today presented its proposal for a European energy union (1), ahead of anticipated proposals from the European Commission over the coming month. Commenting on the Green energy union paper, Green energy spokesperson Claude Turmes said: “The energy union will be the flagship project for Europe over the coming years and the focus of this union must be on promoting a European energy transition. This means an energy union that focuses on energy efficiency and boosting home-grown secure and safe renewable energies and which can ensure that citizens and municipalities have a real say in and control of the process. This must be the focus if we are to truly strengthen our energy security, create high-quality green jobs, boost our economy and ensure we do our part to prevent climate change. Our Green Energy Union has outlined how this is possible and we now hope the European Commission will make this the focus of its proposals.”
Euor Greens 14th Jan 2015 read more »
The European Union emissions trading scheme – the EU:ETS – is a wonderfully bold experiment. A tremendous example of ten years of cross-border co-operation between 28 sovereign states, attempting to combat one of the greatest threats to mankind. Even so, it needs to be altered dramatically. And if it really cannot be changed, so it can for the first time deliver real carbon savings, then it must be side-lined in importance – even (reluctantly) scrapped. It is now exactly ten years since the trading scheme began operating. That it ever managed to do so was a great tribute to the dogged determination of those at the European Commission who – together with executives from a couple of the big power utilities – had championed it despite a background of incredulous scoffing at their apparent over-ambition by the Bush Administration in the US and business-as-usual mouthpieces across Europe.
ACE 14th Jan 2015 read more »
European Nuclear Safety Regulators Group (ENSREG) has launched a public consultation on the revised National Action Plans.
ENSREG 13th Jan 2015 read more »
Information on the UK, including the revised action plan is avaliable here.
ENSREG 13th Jan 2015 read more »
RESEARCHERS in the UK have found that members of the public can provide useful and meaningful information about the design of nuclear power stations, in contrast to common thinking. Nuclear power has always had an image problem, but many believe it will be vital for meeting energy needs as the world moves to more low-carbon sources. Martin Goodfellow, Adisa Azapagic and colleagues from the University of Manchester, UK, and Rolls Royce say that if the public are consulted and involved in the planning process for new power stations, it could increase acceptance and trust in the technology. The researchers used a national polling agency to survey around 1,300 UK adults to better understand the public perception of nuclear design and whether the answers could be useful. Opinion polls typically involve around 1,000 respondents, so this is a representative figure. The survey had three multiple-choice sections, looking at participants’ views on and familiarity with nuclear power, nuclear design and their demographics. Questions covered subjects such as safety, waste disposal, terrorism and cost. A significant proportion expressed a preference for more small reactors on a site rather than fewer large ones, in opposition to current planning. 32% said that smaller reactors would make them feel safer, compared to 8% who said it would make them feel less safe.
Chemical Engineer 14th Jan 2015 read more »
It sounded like a good idea back in 2000. Two decades after the Cold War ended, the United States and Russia each agreed to dispose of 34 metric tons of weapons-grade plutonium — enough for about 20,000 warheads — by combining most of it with uranium to create mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel for commercial nuclear reactors. Proponents boasted it was a modern-day fulfillment of the biblical call for nations to “beat their swords into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks.” Unfortunately, it didn’t turn out to be that simple. The bilateral agreement resulted in the MOX Fuel Fabrication Facility, now under construction at the Savannah River Site, a 310-acre federal nuclear reservation near Aiken, South Carolina, that employs more than 10,000 people. The facility was originally slated to be finished by 2016, but its completion date has been extended to 2025. Meanwhile, the program’s projected “life cycle” cost, which includes construction, operation and decommissioning, has ballooned from an initial estimate of $1.6 billion to more than $30 billion. Why? According to the Government Accountability Office, because of the Department of Energy’s (DOE) “record of inadequate management and oversight.”
Huffington Post 14th Jan 2015 read more »
To what extent could coalition Government policies contribute to high energy bills? The capacity market has paid quite a lot of large electricity suppliers for keeping their generating stations going when that’s what they were planning to do anyway. In particular old nuclear stations were almost certainly going to carry on as long as they could. But they’re now being paid to do so as well. The Contract for Difference (CfD) support mechanism really suits big players, who can keep out the smaller players and so maintain the existing system that has been responsible for the prices we see. There is considerable complexity, little transparency over contract allocation, and considerable risk in investing for energy development upfront – a situation where the risks are best dealt with by large players with legal and public affairs teams.Despite setting itself against consumer subsidies for nuclear power in the Coalition Agreement, the proposed new power station at Hinkley Point will have many implicit subsidies under CfD, such as grid connection, accident insurance, and repayment risks covered by Government. Despite this, its index-linked headline cost of power will still be higher than onshore wind, and probably ground-based solar well before it gets built. If it ever does. The best way for consumers of energy to lower their bills is to use less. Not by shivering in the dark but by using the gas, electricity and heating fuel more efficiently. This is not only a social good but should cut emissions too. How well have the coalition done in encouraging energy savings?
Energy Desk 14th Jan 2015 read more »
David Cameron has said sharp drops in the oil price and falling inflation have demolished Labour’s campaign on the “cost of living crisis” – one of the opposition’s key economic arguments. In late 2013, Ed Miliband had the UK prime minister on the run with his promise of an energy price freeze. But this week’s decision by Eon, one of the big six utility groups, to pass on falling wholesale oil prices with a 3.5 per cent cut in gas bills may be a political turning point. Mr Miliband’s freeze was hastily rebranded a “cap” after Tories pointed out that a freeze might not be popular with consumers now that prices were falling. With earnings starting to rise and inflation falling to a 15-year low of 0.5 per cent, Mr Miliband’s talk of a “cost of living crisis” has become less frequent in recent weeks – its political impact blunted by economic facts.
FT 14th Jan 2015 read more »
SMALL and medium sized manufacturers in the Bristol area must focus more emphasis on quality and health & safety if they are going to make the most of the £60 billion+ nuclear new build and decommissioning opportunity. The rallying call was made by Fit For Nuclear (F4N) assessor John Ruddleston, currently helping a number of companies stake their claim for work ranging from fabrication and maintenance, to precision components and technical design.
Bristol Post 14th Jan 2015 read more »
SMEs in the manufacturing sector must place more emphasis on quality and health and safety if they are going to make the most of the opportunities offered by the nuclear industry. This is the opinion of John Ransford, who is an assessor for the Fit For Nuclear (F4N) initiative, which helps UK manufacturing companies get ready to bid for work in the civil nuclear supply chain.
Machinery Market 14th Jan 2015 read more »
Last month’s hacking of South Korea’s nuclear operator means the country’s second-oldest reactor may be shut permanently due to safety concerns, said several nuclear watchdog commissioners, raising the risk that other ageing reactors may also be closed. “The operator failed to prevent [the hack], and they don’t know how much data has been leaked. If the old reactor is still allowed to continue to run, it will just hike risks,” said Kim Hye-jung, one of the nine commissioners who will this month review an application to restart the Wolsong No1 reactor.
South China Morning Post 13th Jan 2015 read more »
Five of Japan’s 50 nuclear reactors will be decommissioned due to old age, the Yomiuri Shimbun has reported, as the government seeks to reassure the public of the safety of the country’s reactors which have lain idle for almost four years. The reactors are the Nos. 1 and 2 reactors at KEPCO’s Mihama nuclear power plant in Fukui Prefecture; the No. 1 reactor at Japan Atomic Power’s Tsuruga plant, also in Fukui; the No. 1 reactor at Chugoku Electric’s Shimane plant in Shimane Prefecture and the No. 1 reactor at Kyushu Electric’s Genkai plant in Saga Prefecture.
Straits Times 15th Jan 2015 read more »
EDF’s new chief executive said Wednesday that he is confident that it will obtain approval to extend the service life of its reactors in France by up to 20 years. The comments by Jean-Bernard Levy came a day after Energy and Environment Minister Segolene Royal endorsed building new reactors to replace ageing plants in the first signal that the Socialist government will keep nuclear a major component in France’s energy production despite reducing it in favour of renewables. “France’s existing reactors have an average age of 30 years, and I am confident of EDF’s capability along with its main partners their service life in complete security up to 50 years or even 60,” he told a Senate committee.
AFP 14th Jan 2015 read more »
Top diplomats from Iran and the United States met Wednesday for “important” talks aimed at speeding up negotiations for a nuclear deal as a new July 1 deadline for an historic accord looms.
Middle East Online 14th Jan 2015 read more »
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Iran’s foreign minister Mohammad Jawad Zarif held intensive talks on Tehran’s disputed nuclear programme on Wednesday, returning for an evening session before handing off to their deputies, officials said.
Reuters 14th Jan 2015 read more »
The rising costs of huge new military equipment programmes such as the replacement of Britain’s nuclear deterrent mean the Ministry of Defence will be forced to make more significant cuts to troop numbers unless the next government agrees to keep real-terms increases to the defence budget, new figures show.
FT 14th Jan 2015 read more »
BARROW’S MP has told Parliament that Labour continues to be committed to a continuous at-sea nuclear deterrent. The Labour leader Ed Miliband said earlier this month that he wanted to see Britain have the “least-cost nuclear deterrent we can have” – a comment that was seized upon by opposition politicians. In a defence debate in Parliament on Monday, Conservative MP Steven Baker said: “Will the Government reassure me that they, apparently unlike some parties opposite, will not allow even the distant prospect of coalition negotiations to soften their commitment to continuous-at-sea nuclear deterrence?” Michael Fallon, the Secretary of State for Defence, answered: “Absolutely. Successive governments have maintained that commitment to a continuous-at-sea deterrent and this government are also determined to do so.” Barrow MP John Woodcock said: “I am puzzled by the attempts of the Minister for the Armed Forces to goad the opposition on the issue of the nuclear deterrent. “Let us be clear: we are committed to a minimum strategic nuclear deterrent delivered by submarines that are continuously at sea. “We continue to support the programme that we started in government, which his government have delayed. In what way is that different from his policy?”
NW Evening Mail 14th Jan 2015 read more »
SAFETY fears have been raised after reports that a convoy carrying nuclear weapons travelled over the Erskine Bridge during dangerous weather conditions. Motorists driving high-sided vehicles were warned not to travel over the bridge on Monday because of the wind and rain which was battering the community at the time.
Gazette 14th Jan 2015 read more »
The nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS John Stennis has left Puget Sound in Washington for a training mission after a $240 million overhaul. The Stennis is 1,092 feet long with a 4.5-acre flight deck and can carry as many as 6,000 sailors and Marines.
Daily Mail 14th Jan 2015 read more »
Renewables – offshore wind
RWE could reverse a decision to halt work on the giant Galloper offshore wind farm project off the Suffolk coast, revealing it is in talks to revamp the project using new turbine technology. RWE Innogy, the renewables arm of German energy giant RWE AG, ceased work on the 340MW Galloper scheme late last year, after its project partner SSE confirmed it would not be investing in the scheme. RWE strongly hinted the company was looking at using larger turbines than originally planned on the project and refused to deny that Siemens 6MW offshore wind turbine, which is due to be produced from the company’s new Hull facility from 2017, was under consideration.
Business Green 14th Jan 2015 read more »
Winds well in excess of 100mph, towering waves of more than 60ft, ferocious tidal currents and sub-zero temperatures mean our seas are one of the most challenging places on the planet in which to work. For renewable energy developers, it is the power in those winds, waves and tides which makes Scotland attractive. But 2014 was a challenging year for marine energy in Scottish waters – particularly for our nascent offshore wind industry. Be under no illusion: the opportunities opened up by the granting of consent for the Neart Na Gaoithe, Inch Cape and Seagreen Alpha & Bravo projects off the coast of Fife and Angus are immense. The Scottish Government estimates these four projects alone could generate up to £1.2 billion for the Scottish economy over their lifetime, and support up to 13,600 construction jobs. The other wind farms in the Moray Firth – Beatrice Offshore Wind Ltd (BOWL) and Moray Offshore Renewables Ltd (MORL) – were consented in March this year. In total, the six projects could deliver more than 4GW of offshore wind capacity and power almost three million homes. There remain, however, numerous challenges to delivering these schemes – challenges which will be discussed in detail at Scottish Renewables’ Offshore Wind and Supply Chain Conference in Aberdeen in January.
Scotsman 15th Jan 2015 read more »
Renewables – wind
Thousands more wind turbines will be built in the countryside if Labour wins the next election, the party has secretly promised the industry. Labour has publicly declared that it is “technology neutral” on the question of how to meet Britain’s legally binding target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. However, senior Labour figures have assured onshore wind farm companies that there will be a substantial increase in the number of turbines and that new projects will continue to attract subsidies. Mike Parker, the head of onshore wind at RWE Innogy UK, one of the biggest wind farm companies, said that he had found “very strong support for onshore wind in one-to-one conversations” with key Labour and Liberal Democrat figures. “It gives me confidence to continue with what we are doing,” he added. Mr Parker declined to name the people he had met, saying that the meeti ngs were private.
Times 15th Jan 2015 read more »
Billions of pounds of public money is to be spent supporting ‘green’ boilers, despite evidence from the government’s own experts and industry that they will do little to help the UK meet its clean energy targets. A study by the Department of Energy and Climate Change found that biomass boilers in the non-domestic sector were around 10-20% less efficient than expected. Those boilers account for 90% of payments under the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI), the government’s flagship scheme to encourage a shift to low carbon heating. The UK has pushed biomass boilers as a technology to help meet an EU target of getting at least 15% of its energy from renewable sources by 2020, incentivising businesses and individuals to switch to them in return for payments under the RHI. But “under-performance appears widespread in the UK biomass heat sector,” the paper admits, adding that the efficiency shortfall “also means emissions will be higher than laboratory test results suggest”. Decc’s own Future Of Heating publication shows hardly any biomass by 2030, with super-efficient heat pumps, currently a little more expensive than biomass boilers, becoming the dominant heating technology by mid-century. Heat pumps are an electrified heat circulation system seen as state-of-the-art. But as a way of avoiding punitive fines from Brussels, an unspoken consensus emerged in Whitehall that biomass boilers offered the cheapest short-term way of meeting the 2020 renewable energy targets. The former climate change minister Greg Barker once said that, while a call by the UK’s statutory climate advisers for 6.8m heat pumps by 2030 might seem a stretch, he expected them “to play a major role in achieving heat’s contribution to the 2020 renewable energy target”.
Guardian 14th Jan 2015 read more »
With over 7 million households lacking solid wall insulation, 6 million lacking cavity wall insulation and over 7 million having inadequate loft insulation, Neil Marshall, Chief Executive of the NIA is today calling on all party leaders to make energy efficiency retrofit of the nation’s housing stock a national infrastructure priority supported by additional funding from the Government Infrastructure budget and to pledge to provide support to 6 million low income households by 2025.
National Insulation Association 14th Jan 2014 read more »
New research has found that Brits added almost £393m to their energy bills over the Christmas season, with festive lights one of the biggest culprits for energy consumption. Lighting provider BLT Direct is urging customers to avoid a Christmas energy ‘hangover’ by switching to LEDs or low-energy alternatives as quickly as possible, off-setting the dramatic rise experienced over the festive season. B&Q and the Energy Saving Trust teamed up to conduct the research, which found that 53% of people in the UK had at least two sets of Christmas lights, and 31% of people left them on overnight. Though Christmas lighting is pretty and festive, their contribution to larger electricity bills cannot be overstated. BLT Direct is a leading provider of lighting solutions, and many of them are considered to be especially low-energy options. With huge electricity bills hanging over many of the UK, waiting to be paid, the lighting experts are encouraging customers to offset their Christmas output by switching to LEDs in 2015.
BLT 12th Jan 2015 read more »
Scientists have a good idea of the different factors that contribute to sea level rise. But historical measurements of sea level change from the twentieth century don’t seem to match up to sum of all these individual factors. A new paper, published in Nature, offers an explanation to this puzzle. The study finds that the amount of sea level rise during the last century is lower than scientists previously thought. But the implication of this finding is that the acceleration in sea level rise seen in recent decades is more rapid than scientists thought, the study says. And the researchers say that melting ice sheets are the reason.
Carbon Brief 14th Jan 2015 read more »
Independent 14th Jan 2015 read more »
BBC 14th Jan 2015 read more »
Guardian 15th Jan 2015 read more »
Fracking companies will be legally bound to reveal the chemicals used to blast gas out of every well they drill and to better monitor for groundwater pollution, under concessions made by the government in parliament. But the Labour party, which proposed the changes, said many flaws remained and ministers remain “zealously opposed” to the necessary regulation.
Guardian 14th Jan 2015 read more »