Daily News Roundup

16 February 2017

New Nuclear

Companies vying to build nuclear power stations in the UK have been told they must offer a price for their electricity sharply lower than that approved for the Hinkley Point plant last year, raising further questions about the viability of Britain’s plans for a new generation of reactors. Government officials have indicated that future projects will be expected to deliver a discount of at least 15-20 per cent on the price of electricity from the £18bn Hinkley plant in Somerset, a settlement widely criticised for its high cost. Lower prices compared with Hinkley are seen as crucial to maintaining political support for new nuclear plants, which are at the heart of UK plans to maintain energy security while lowering carbon emissions. Uncertainty surrounding the UK’s nuclear “new build” programme — one of the biggest in the developed world — was highlighted this week when Toshiba said it wanted to sell its controlling stake in the NuGen consortium planning to construct three reactors at Moorside, Cumbria. “One of the biggest factors pushing up the strike price is the cost of capital. If government wants a low strike price, it is pretty clear that government has to think about a different kind of [financing] solution,” said one of the industry leaders. Both people acknowledged that government remained cautious about the idea of investing taxpayers’ money in nuclear power but they hoped some form of public support, such as loans or credit guarantees, would be forthcoming. One of the people said there were signs the government wanted to pit NuGen and Horizon against each other in a competitive process, with no guarantee that both would go ahead. A third industry figure said such an approach would be a mistake.

FT 15th Feb 2017 read more »

Nick Butler: Toshiba is just one company in the global nuclear industry, but its current problems are symptomatic of the difficulties facing all the private enterprises in the sector. Civil nuclear power involves huge up-front capital costs, very long pay-back periods and high risks that are compounded by a lack of experience, especially in managing nuclear construction projects after a long period with few new plants. For all those reasons, private investors avoid the sector and prefer to put their money where they see faster and safer returns. The problems of Toshiba are serious but not fatal for the company nor for the nuclear sector. But to keep the nuclear option will require hard cash and a strategic view. Without decisive action, the sector will soon be completely dominated by countries that are prepared to put in the necessary money, such as Russia and China. That should not be an acceptable option.

FT 15th Feb 2017 read more »

Euratom

The future of Britain’s nuclear reactors and fuel supplies are at risk if the government makes a clean break from the EU without making transitional arrangements, a new report argues. The government confirmed in January the UK would sever ties with the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom) when it left the EU, causing concern about Britain’s plans to build a new generation of nuclear power stations. A report today by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IME) argues the government must act fast to develop a suitable transitional framework to replace Euratom, the 1957 treaty that enables a single market of goods and services for nuclear projects as well as creating trade deals. Without transitional arrangements, the UK is at risk of losing access to the markets and skills it needs to construct new nuclear power plants, and existing stations may be unable to access fuel, said Jenifer Baxter, head of energy and environment at the IME and lead author of the report.

City AM 16th Feb 2017 read more »

Process Engineering 16th Feb 2017 read more »

Last month the government announced that Britain would leave the European Atomic Energy Community, (Euratom) because it ultimately falls under the European Court of Justice. The prime minister had said that leaving the jurisdiction of the ECJ would be one of the red lines for leaving the EU. In a report out today, the Institution of Mechanical Engineers says that a transition to a replacement state body for the control of the nuclear industry ought to be a top priority. In the absence of a Euratom replacement, Britain would be unable to share research with other countries, while overseas participation in the British nuclear industry would be impossible without treaties with foreign oversight bodies. Euratom has a co-operation treaty with the US that would need to be replaced. A block on US participation would threaten the construction of new power stations at Hinkley, Anglesey and Cumbria, industry figures said.

Times 16th Feb 2017 read more »

Bradwell

The Government Will Ignore Public Opinion on Bradwell! Documents seen by the Courier state that public opinion on the new build at Bradwell will be “overridden” by the national government. An item in the Agenda of Essex County Council’s Economic Development and Environment Policy & Scrutiny Committee in Feb 2010 identifies the government’s decision that: “The Government recognises that the Habitat Regulations assessment has not been able to rule out adverse impacts on sites of European nature conservation importance [but has] however concluded that there is an Imperative Reason of Overriding Public Interest [IROPI] that favours the inclusion of Bradwell in the NPS despite the inability to rule out adverse effects on European sites at this stage.” In plain English: the government will ignore and over-ride any objections made by the local community despite its own assessors having recognized that the new build will damage the environment. Elsewhere in the document the government recognizes that: “the Appraisal of Sustainability cannot rule out adverse effects on sites and species considered to be of European nature conservation importance. Potential adverse effects on the Dengie SPA/Ramsar site, Blackwater Estuary Ramsar Site, Colne Estuary SPA/Ramsar Site and the Essex Estuaries SAC through impacts on water resources and quality, air quality, habitat and species loss. “ (Our italics.) Again in plain English: the government knows that the new build will wreak havoc on the local environment and marine ecology but intends to go ahead with it anyway. Our own Mersea Island Environmental Alliance (MIEA), together with WMTC and BANGG, has achieved a significant victory over Magnox and the Environment Agency (EA) already, forcing the EA to delay granting the permit to discharge undiluted nuclear waste into the estuary until at least mid-February. The discharges were due to start on Jan 5th, but a co-ordinated campaign by the MIEA exposed the failures in process by the EA. The EA can’t proceed while there is new evidence being researched, and the MIEA is producing that new evidence by funding a peer review of the EA’s consultation documents: the 250MB of unsearchable, unindexed documents revealed in previous Couriers. MIEA leader Graham Farley is confident that if the EA can be taken to a Judicial Review they can be stopped altogether from pumping undiluted waste from Bradwell, Dungeness and Sizewell into the same water our children swim in, and is appealing for donations to cover the cost. Barristers are ready to take on the case and are confident that it can be won. As it concerns environmental matters, the liability of those bringing the case is limited to £5,000. Some of the UK’s largest marine ecological bodies will match whatever funding the local community raises, so any and all donations, no matter how small, are welcome. Graham has funded the work so far out of his own pocket: a true David standing up to the Goliath of corporate might and government indifference.

Mersea Island Courier February 2017 read more »

Toshiba

The Nuclear Free Local Authorities (NFLA) notes the resignation yesterday of the Toshiba Chairman Shigenori Shiga and its announcement that it will not be involved in the construction of new nuclear reactors at the Sellafield ‘Moorside’ development in west Cumbria. Toshiba say they will stay on to develop the ‘initial phase’ of developing the project before selling its 60% stake at a later date. For NFLA there is a strong sense of ‘déjà vu’ with Toshiba’s announcement and the sorry state of the UK’s new nuclear policy. Over the past decade, international energy utilities E-on, RWE Npower, Iberdrola and Centrica have all confidently announced their commitment to building new nuclear power stations, whether at Hinkley Point, Wylfa or Moorside, but then had to pull out as they realise they cannot afford the huge levels of investment that such projects require.

NFLA 15th Feb 2017 read more »

The UK-wide association of Nuclear Free Local Authorities – which includes Glasgow council – has called on the government to abandon its costly commitment to nuclear power following the major financial losses and senior management resignations at Toshiba and EDF.

Scottish Energy News 16th Feb 2017 read more »

The embattled Toshiba group has asked its banks to extend a stay of execution for a second time this year after multi-billion pound writedowns put the group in danger of violating its loan agreements. The Japanese conglomerate tasked with developing the UK’s largest new nuclear plant has reportedly returned to its lenders in the hope they will offer it a lifeline by extending a loan agreement waiver until the end of March. A company spokesman confirmed that Toshiba met with its creditors one day after booking a 712.5bn yen (£5bn) writedown but declined to comment on any details from the meeting. Toshiba is saddled with loans totaling around 800 billion yen and last month convinced its lenders not to call them in early after its crippling financial troubles triggered a credit rating downgrade late last year, putting it in violation of the terms of its loans. The conglomerate’s woes are compounded by a looming legal threat from a trio of Japanese trust banks. Mitsubishi UFJ Trust said last month that it was preparing to seek 1 billion yen in damages on behalf of its client pension funds after Toshiba admitted in 2015 it inflated profits by $1.3bn over seven years, causing a share collapse of more than 70pc. According to reports Sumitomo Mitsui Trust Bank and Mizuho Trust & Banking are also preparing similar suits, but have yet to confirm their plans publicly.

Telegraph 15th Feb 2017 read more »

SMRs

For an island built on coal, swept by tides, buffeted by offshore winds and surrounded by oil and gas, Britain makes very hard work of energy policy. Last year’s story was how EDF, the French firm that is to build a new reactor at Hinkley Point in Somerset, was torn by misgivings about the viability and affordability of the project despite being given eye-watering price guarantees. The big story today is of trouble with Toshiba, the Japanese giant scheduled to construct a plant at Moorside, near Sellafield in Cumbria. Toshiba’s problem is that its American nuclear business has turned into a horror story of cost overruns and delays building a couple of reactors. Bizarrely, while Moorside is unravelling, the Government is dragging its feet on what could be an effective alternative. Rolls-Royce has a scheme up for consideration in which the technology it uses to power nuclear submarines could be adapted to generate electricity. This would open the door to local nuclear plants, small enough to be transported by lorry but powerful enough to supply a city the size of Leeds. Half our big cities could get one for a fraction of the cost of a Hinkley Point. It would also be quicker, and it works. Rolls today announced its biggest-ever loss, driven largely by fines for bribing people to buy its engines. This has no doubt made ministers unwilling to be seen to favour a company in the doghouse, but they need to man up. We could lead the world in this with only a fraction of the financial support the Government has engineered for Hinkley and probably for Moorside.

Evening Standard 14th Feb 2017 read more »

Moorside

The prime minister has been accused of ducking the issue of whether the government supports a new nuclear power station in west Cumbria on a visit to Copeland ahead of the constituency’s byelection. The accusation was levelled after Theresa May said the Conservative party was “committed” to nuclear, but did not offer state support following huge losses reported by one of the backers of a deal to build the Moorside nuclear plant near Whitehaven. NuGen, the company behind the Moorside scheme in Cumbria, has insisted Toshiba remains committed to the project despite doubts after the Japanese giant revealed it was on track for losses of 390bn yen (£2.7bn) for the year to March. Toshiba has a 60% stake in NuGen. Justin Bowden, national officer of the GMB union, which represents nuclear workers, said: “Theresa May has ducked the central question, just when strong leadership was required.”

Guardian 15th May 2017 read more »

The Copeland constituency is among the largest in the country but the Prime Minister was in and out of it in barely 45 minutes. She came to Bootle – the tiny Lake District village with one shop and no pub, not the sprawling Liverpool suburb – to do her bit to deliver what she still very much hopes will be a historic win for her party, stealing a by-election seat from Labour whilst the Conservatives are in Government and not opposition. But it didn’t go at all according to plan. The future of the long planned Moorside nuclear power plant was cast into significant doubt, when the Japanese conglomerate Toshiba posted £5bn losses in its nuclear energy businesses, costing its chief executive his job, and prompting an announcement that the company would withdraw from the nuclear industry outside Japan.

Independent 15th Feb 2017 read more »

Wylfa

The company behind a proposed nuclear power plant on Anglesey has joined forces with a US firm to help progress. Horizon Nuclear Power said the deal with Exelon Generation would help it become a “world class nuclear operator”. Exelon operates carbon-free nuclear plants in the US with 13 facilities in Illinois, Pennsylvania, New York, Maryland and New Jersey. Horizon estimates Wylfa Newydd near Cemaes will take nine years to build. It is expected to have an operational life of 60 years. A team of four Exelon specialists will work alongside Horizon’s team providing expertise in engineering, maintenance, operations and training. Duncan Hawthorne, chief executive officer at Horizon, said: “We aim to make Horizon a world-leading nuclear operator and to be the best, you have to learn from the best.”

BBC 15th Feb 2017 read more »

Horizon Nuclear Power, the UK subsidiary of Hitachi Ltd, said today it was joining forces with Exelon Generation as Horizon develops its “expertise and capability” to operate a new nuclear power plant at Wylfa Newydd on the Isle of Anglesey. Exelon Generation operates the biggest fleet of nuclear power plants in the USA, with 19,460 megawatts of capacity from 22 units, eight of which are boiling water reactors. The Wylfa Newydd project will deploy two Advanced Boiling Water Reactors.

World Nuclear News 15th Feb 2017 read more »

Oldbury

A CAMPAIGNER is calling for the company behind the new power station in Oldbury to reveal whether the cooling towers will be “higher than the old Severn Crossing” as he fears. Retired University of Bristol professor Gareth Williams, who lives in Rockhampton, believes the power station planned by Horizon Nuclear Power could have huge cooling towers and that the surrounding countryside would be “wrecked by building a new road for the construction traffic.” “We think it is in the wrong place,” said Prof Williams, who has campaigned with others against the proposals as part of the Shepperdine Against Nuclear Energy group.

Gloucestershire Gazette 15th Feb 2017 read more »

Hinkley

The sheer size of the new £18billion nuclear power station at Hinkley Point is thrown into sharp relief by the scale of building three tunnels that will carry sea water to cool the reactor and take it back to the Severn Estuary. The tunnels will be made out of concrete segments that are expected to be made at a batching plant at Avonmouth Docks and transported by road to Hinkley where they will be joined together.

Bristol Post 15th Feb 2017 read more »

EDF

EDF pledged on Tuesday to deliver positive cash flow next year before it has to invest in upgrading its ageing French nuclear plants and building new reactors in Britain. The French utility, which is 85-percent state-owned, made the commitment as it posted a 6.7 percent fall in 2016 core earnings to 16.41 billion euros following the temporary closure of about a third of its French reactors last year for safety checks. EDF has been wrestling with heavy debts and has had to borrow just to pay dividends for several years. It had negative cash flow of 1.6 billion euros last year, and 2.1 billion euros in 2015. CEO Jean-Bernard Levy said that cost savings, asset sales, lower investments and a state-funded capital injection will boost EDF’s finances by next year. “The year 2018 will be the year of the rebound,” he said. EDF needs to finance the 18 billion pound (21.15 billion euros) build of two nuclear reactors in Hinkley Point, Britain and a 50 billion euro upgrade of its French nuclear stations over the next decade.

Reuters 14th Feb 2017 read more »

Sellafield

For the first time, radioactive sludge from the world’s oldest nuclear storage pond has been packaged safely within a modern store, ready for long-term disposal. The sludge has been transferred from the pond to a new encapsulation plant, where it is grouted and processed into a storage state ready for final disposal in the UK’s geological disposal facility. Sludge is an unplanned by-product of the nuclear industry formed from decaying nuclear fuel, natural growing algae and other debris. The mud-like substance has developed in the depths of the Pile Fuel Storage Pond during its 65 year lifespan, and is now being removed so the facility can be safely decommissioned.

Sellafield Sites 14th Feb 2017 read more »

Cybersecurity

Civil Nuclear Cybersecurity Strategy. The civil nuclear sector is part of the UK’s Critical National Infrastructure (CNI)1 . It generates essential baseload, low carbon electricity critical to families and businesses. It offers significant benefits in terms of security of electricity supply. The civil nuclear sector also stores, processes and transports some of the most dangerous radioactive material. Tackling cyber threats to civil nuclear means looking at risks posed by legacy systems as well as future equipment

BEIS February 2017 read more »

Nuclear Archive

A national archive of records related to the history and development of the UK’s civil nuclear industry opened to the public for the first time yesterday. The archive, located in Caithness, Scotland, is funded by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA).

World Nuclear News 15th Feb 2017 read more »

Three Mile Island

Harold Denton was known as the face of the US Nuclear Regulatory Committee (NRC) after appearing as president Jimmy Carter’s personal representative in the worst meltdown in stateside history. The Three Mile Island accident in Dauphin County, Pennsylvania, 1979, was the most serious accident in US commercial nuclear power plant operating history.

Energy Voice 16th Feb 2017 read more »

Local Energy

71 per cent of UK councils have no strategy or plan for future solar investment, including no target for future deployment, and 70 per cent have no plans to deploy solar in the next five years. Many councils blamed changes to government subsidy schemes, with 47 per cent citing cuts in financial support as the main barrier to investment in solar energy. Lack of capital to provide up front investment was also cited as a barrier by 23 per cent of respondents, while a lack of internal stakeholder buy-in was highlighted by six per cent.

Business Green 15th Feb 2017 read more »

The National Trust is continuing its march towards self-sufficient energy generation, having produced 12% of its heat from on-site renewable energy sources in 2016 – four years ahead of Britain’s national renewable heat targets. The British conservation organisation has also drastically reduced its reliance on oil consumption, with a 50% drop on 2009 levels, as of December 2016.

Edie 15th Feb 2017 read more »

The Scottish Water board is enabling the generation of more renewable power than it consumes for the first time since it launched efforts to reduce its energy bill and increase renewable generation five years ago. The utility is one of the biggest users of electricity in the country and requires about 445 Gigawatt hours (GWh) per year across 4,500 sites such as water and waste water treatment works. This is enough to power nearly 140,000 homes. Through a combination of Scottish Water’s own investment in renewable energy and hosting private investment on its estate, new figures confirm that the company now generates and hosts more renewable power than it consumes annually and is on course to double this by 2018.

Scottish Energy News 16th Feb 2017 read more »

Renewables – tidal

The report of an independent review of UK tidal lagoon energy was published on 12 January 2017 by a former UK energy Minister Charles Hendry. The report praises the proposed ‘pathfinder’ tidal lagoon in Swansea Bay as a ‘no-regrets option’, and sets out a supportive case for developing the sector.

SPRU 14th Feb 2017 read more »

Renewables – solar

How can we connect solar photovoltaics (PV) directly to railways to power electric trains? That’s the question my charity 10:10 and researchers at Imperial College’s Energy Futures Lab are trying to answer. Electric trains are by far the best long distance transport mode when it comes to carbon emissions – at least when their electricity comes from renewable sources like solar or wind. But the UK’s ageing power network poses a significant challenges to any bid to decarbonise road and rail that relies on the grid. There are now swathes of the British countryside where it is impossible to plug in any new solar, wind or hydropower without being hit with a whopping bill for the full costs of local network reinforcement. Faced with this constraint, and squeezed by government subsidy cuts, UK solar developers have started to focus on ways to generate power directly for consumption, rather than exporting it to the grid. With the right customers, solar developers can offer lower tariffs than the grid, while still earning more for their power than they would get from exporting it. Solar giant Lightsource, for example, recently signed a 25 year power purchase agreement (PPA) with Belfast airport that underwrote a neighbouring £5m solar farm, using a private wire to supply a quarter of the airport’s electricity needs. As an industrial client with high on-site daytime energy use and a structural reason to stay put, Network Rail has all of the features needed to support this kind of approach.

Guardian 15th Feb 2017 read more »

Transport

We wrongly said that switching all cars in Britain to battery power would require the equivalent of 20 new nuclear plants. This was a significant miscalculation based on a confusion of energy and power. We apologise for the mistake.

Times 15th Feb 2017 read more »

Desperate to cover the latest catastrophic meltdown to hit the nuclear industry as Toshiba sinks under the weight of its failures to construct nuclear power plant through its Westinghouse subsidiary, nuclear supporters are spreading fake news about the alleged need for new nuclear power stations to power electric cars. Last Saturday the Times published a headline stating ‘Electric cars mean UK could need 20 new nuclear plants’. I organised the submission of a letter to the Times objecting to the headline. The letter has not been printed, although today they did carry a correction (lower left hand corner, page 26) that the headline ‘was a significant miscalculation based on a confusion of energy and power. We apologise for the mistake’. Yet, the headline and story was repeated by The Mail on the very day the Times retracted it.

Dave Toke’s Blog 15th Feb 2017 read more »

Energy Efficiency

The Scot-govt. has allocated a further £11 million for local cooncils to make homes, public buildings and businesses more energy efficient. The second wave of Scotland’s Energy Efficiency Programme (SEEP) pilot fund will help local authorities test new and innovative energy-saving approaches with households, community groups and businesses, which can then be taken forward when SEEP is rolled out fully in 2018.

Scottish Energy News 16th Feb 2017 read more »

Share

Published: 16 February 2017