I feel duty bound to keep loyal readers of the blog completely up to date with the slowly unfolding Hinkley Point meltdown – spasm by agonising spasm. Three important updates; Jean-Bernard Lévy, CEO of EdF, has just threatened to cancel the Hinkley Point deal unless the French Government provides even more subsidy for the project than it is already doing; The Cour des Comptes (the French equivalent of our National Audit Office) has just urged EdF to reconsider its investment in the two EPRs at Hinkley Point, given the ‘financial stress’ that the company is currently facing – and the near inevitability of cost overruns and time delays should the project (ever) go ahead; And what might well be influencing the Court des Comptes is the increasingly likely possibility that the steel reactor vessel EdF has constructed for the EPR at Flamanville may be so seriously flawed (through high concentrations of carbon, with a correspondingly high risk of cracking) as to require it to be broken out of the reactor building for repairs. This would be an unbelievably expensive and time-consuming process. This is of course a deal that has nothing to do with market reality. Nothing to do with affordability, let alone with the UK’s ‘hard-working families’ that Secretary of State Amber Rudd keeps bleating on about. And nothing to do with addressing our climate change responsibilities. By contrast, it’s got everything to do with political leaders in three nations (the UK, France and China), all of which ‘need’ Hinkley Point to happen for grubby geopolitical interests of their own. And that’s what it all now comes down to: three powerful nations versus the market. A titanic battle for our time if ever there was one.
Jonathon Porritt 14th March 2016 read more »
EDF’s CGT union said in a note to staff that management could push for a final investment decision on the 18 billion pound (23 billion euros) project at a March 30 board meeting.
Reuters 11th March 2016 read more »
EDF’s boss has warned that Hinkley Point nuclear plant will not go ahead without fresh financial support from the French government. Jean-Bernard Levy wrote to employees to say that EDF was in talks with officials to get the government to commit to funding and help the energy company to secure its position. ‘It is clear that I will not engage in this project as long as these conditions are not met,’ Levy wrote, without outlining EDF’s demands.
Daily Mail 14th March 2016 read more »
EDF is negotiating with the French government to obtain further financial support for the Hinkley Point C project in the UK, EDF chairman and CEO Jean-Bernard Lévy has said. A review of the project has identified areas where the project could further be de-risked, he said.
World Nuclear News 14th March 2016 read more »
EDF chairman Jean-Bernard Levy says he is “confident” that the Hinkley Point C nuclear power station will go ahead.
BQ Live 14th March 2016 read more »
Operator error was to blame for the unauthorised release of contaminated water into the Clyde from Hunterston B Power Station in November. Radioactive waste was discharged for half an hour longer than scheduled during the incident, which was immediately reported to the Scottish Environment Protection Agency. Hunterston B, owned by eDF Energy, is authorised by SEPA to release aqueous radioactive waste into the Firth of Clyde. In a report presented to the Hunterston site stakeholders group, Station director Colin Weir said: “This is a normal part of our activities and the authorisation from SEPA contains many conditions. “One of these conditions specifies when the waste can be discharged. Waste should only be released within the period between one hour after high tide and one hour before low tide. This makes sure the waste is being drawn away from the shore. “In November, operator error meant the the discharge pump was left running for around half an hour longer than scheduled. This meant that it as stopped around half an hour before low tide.
Largs & Millport Weekly News 14th March 2016 read more »
The Oceanic Pintail, the only ship owned by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) docked in Barrow’s Ramsden Dock nuclear terminal early this morning and unloaded a cargo of ‘exotic’ nuclear materials. These comprise unirradiated plutonium/ highly enriched uranium fuels which were loaded on board at the Caithness Port of Scrabster. From Barrow the consignment was transported by rail to Sellafield, with the rail route and local railway stations under heavy police surveillance to prevent hostile actions against the ‘weapons useable’ materials which are prime targets for terrorists. The use of the 29 year old Oceanic Pintail – now almost 5 years past her sell-by date (company practice has been to retire ships at or before 25 years of service) – and the sea route from Scotland via the often treacherous waters of the Minches from Cape Wrath southwards, has been much criticised as unnecessarily exposing such dangerous cargos to major risks. Having undertaken a familiarisation voyage to the Port of Scrabster in October 2014, the ship left Barrow for Dounreay on 7th March 2016 – concealing her route/destination by de-activating her Automatic Identification System (AIS) so that her progress could not be monitored on shipping websites. Generally used in the past only when a ship is actually carrying a nuclear cargo, turning off the AIS system even when the ship is unladen is becoming a common – but clearly not fool-proof – ploy by Barrow’s nuclear fleet to keep its noxious trading out of plain sight.
CORE 14th March 2016 read more »
A LARGE number of police vehicles and police activity has been spotted in and around South and West Cumbria as part of a mystery ‘transport operation’. A number of vehicles have been seen travelling to West Cumbria from the Barrow area and police officers have been stationed at railway stations across South Cumbria. The incident is suspected to be linked to the movement of material on the railway line, possibly in connection with the Sellafield nuclear site. Sellafield has not yet confirmed any details.
NW Evening Mail 14th March 2016 read more »
Nuclear energy chiefs have stated that radioactive waste being transported through Renfrewshire is safe. EDF Energy bosses have responded to a protest that was staged at Paisley’s Gilmour Street Station on Wednesday over the haulage of toxic waste through town. The nuclear material is transferred between Hunterston B power station, in Ayrshire, and the Sellafield nuclear decommissioning site in Cumbria. CND Scotland campaigners claimed the practice is dangerous and local families could be put at risk if there was a crash.
Daily Record 14th March 2016 read more »
It isn’t just far-off Ukraine that has its nuclear power concerns. The EU’s 128 nuclear power plants have an average age of 30.6 years and provide food for thought that is much closer to home than either Chernobyl or Fukushima. EurActiv’s partner Tagesspiegel reports. The most dangerous nuclear power plants are to be found dotted across the continent, from the United Kingdom and France in the west, to Bulgaria and Ukraine in the east. The World Nuclear Industry Status Report confirmed that the advanced age of the European Union’s 128 atomic facilities is of great concern. In Ukraine, its ageing nuclear reactors pose a substantial risk given the country’s economic uncertainty that has been caused by the financial crisis and civil war, meaning investment in its 15 power plants has not been forthcoming. The most worrying incident came at the beginning of 2015, when the Zaporizhia facility in the south of the country, which is currently the largest plant in all of Europe, was forced to shut down its reactors due to fluctuations on the power grid. Austrian environmental organisation Global 2000 claimed that the near-disaster was a result of sabotage, with separatists from the Russian-annexed Crimea peninsula accused of blowing up an electricity pylon.
Euractiv 11th March 2016 read more »
Five years on, Fukushima is still an exclusion zone and tens of thousands are stuck in temporary shelter. Japan shut down all but two of its 43 reactors over safety concerns. And other countries have recently sped up efforts to replace nuclear power with greener renewables. Germany plans to close all 17 of its nuclear plants by 2022, a process that has already begun. France passed a bill last year mandating that the share of nuclear power in the country’s electricity mix be cut from 75% to 50% within ten years. Meanwhile commodity prices have slumped, resulting in a cut to wholesale electricity prices. That makes it harder for many nuclear plants to cover their running costs, also leading to closures. Where markets are freer, it is harder for nuclear-power operators to make money, and too risky for them to build costly plants from scratch.
Economist 10th March 2016 read more »
Chris Busby: The BBC has been excelling itself in its deliberate understatement of the Fukushima nuclear catastrophe, writes Chris Busby. While calling in pseudo experts to say radiation is all but harmless, it’s ignoring the science that shows that the real health impacts of nuclear fallout are around 1,000 times worse than claimed.
Ecologist 14th March 2016 read more »
China – Floating Reactors
China has started work on a nuclear reactor housed in a floating vessel as part of plans to transform its energy mix. The small, modular, offshore and multipurpose reactor will be the first of its kind worldwide, with construction slated for next year and generation to commence in 2020. Approved by China’s National Development and Reform Commission, General Nuclear’s floating reactors are part of the country’s strategy to develop innovative energy technologies.
The New Economy 14th March 2016 read more »
Germany’s 1.4 GW Grohnde reactor has now generated over 350 TWh of electricity during its 32 years in operation, more than any other single nuclear power generation block around the world, but in the future will play an increasing role in providing grid stability rather than providing only baseload power, plant operator E.ON Kernkraft said in a statement. “While the plant was used exclusively in baseload [around the clock operation] in the past, it is now used up to 600 hours each month to regulate load,” E.ON said, adding that it has increased fourfold the capability of the reactor to ramp up or down to now 40 MW per minute. The reduced baseload operation of the reactor is also apparent in the 2015 output statistic, which remained below 10 TWh despite an availability of 92.4%, E.ON said.
Platts 14th March 2016 read more »
FRENCH state-owned energy giants EDF and Areva, which will bid to build SA’s nuclear power stations, will seek partnerships with private investors such as large industrial users of electricity, says French special envoy on nuclear energy Pascal Colombani. The request for proposals to build 9,600MW of nuclear power is expected to be issued by the end of the month. France, Russia, China and the US have expressed interest in the project, but the deciding issue is likely to be the financing solution, as SA has a constrained fiscal framework.
BDLive 14th March 2016 read more »
Kim Jong-un said North Korea would soon conduct a nuclear warhead explosion test and a test launch of ballistic missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads, the official KCNA news agency reported on Tuesday.
Telegraph 14th March 2016 read more »
Guardian 15th March 2015 read more »
Independent 15th March 2015 read more »
Renewables – offshore wind
A new wind-ustry report has provided strong evidence that the cost of energy from offshore wind continued to fall last year and remains on track to deliver the target of £100/MWh by 2020. This would put wind power on a level similar to with the proposed price presently offered by the UK government to the operators of the new Hinkley Point-C nuclear power station (if it actually gets built). The report also identifies forthcoming announcements by DECC on timing and scale of future Contracts for Difference (CfD) auctions and long term capacity requirements as key enablers of further cost reduction.
Scottish Energy News 15th March 2016 read more »
Renewables – wave
The Wave Energy Scotland quango has made two final awards from its first competitive call for power take-off systems. The first hand-out of £475,000 is to Trident Energy while another £90,000 will be made to Exceedence.
Scottish Energy News 15th March 2016 read more »
Building more renewable energy capacity with public money would cost less than the current subsidy regime in the UK, a new analysis has found, despite government claims that subsidies are too expensive. Ministers have justified the slashing of some incentives to install solar panels, and ending support for onshore wind, on the basis that subsidising the construction of green energy was adding too much to energy bills. The government does not subsidise renewable generation directly but allows for incentives to some technologies through additions to consumer bills. But a pre-budget analysis by the Green Alliance thinktank has found that the current system – under which fossil fuel generation also receives extra support – is more costly than a simplified system that would favour renewables. The analysis comes as the government’s energy policy has been thrown into disarray by the potential collapse of its deal with the French state nuclear company EDF to build two new nuclear reactors at Hinckley Point. EDF’s finance director resigned over the issue, and the company is now seeking extra support from the French government to go ahead with the construction. This is despite the UK government’s agreement to pay EDF about twice the usual electricity price for its power. The Green Alliance urged the chancellor, amidst the resulting turmoil and uncertainty in the electricity market, to lift restrictions on new renewable generation, arguing this would be cheaper for the UK’s future energy supply.
Edie 14th March 2016 read more »
The Energy and Climate Change Committee (ECCC) has called for an extension of the Energy Company Obligation (ECO) to March 2018 to avoid “making the same mistakes” as previous schemes. ECO, a government scheme to obligate large suppliers to deliver energy efficiency measures to households, is due to end in March 2017 before a new obligation is expected in 2018. In a report, the ECCC recommended that Decc reconsider its decision to use a supplier obligation to tackle fuel poverty and extend ECO until March 2018, in order to provide stability for the supply chain while a new supplier obligation is developed.
Utility Week 14th March 2016 read more »