Britain is caught in an energy crunch that is shaping up to be one of the most serious problems to face this administration – and the next. Nuclear plants that produce about a fifth of our energy began to be shut down last year. By 2023, only one – Sizewell B in Suffolk – will still be in operation. By the middle of this year several coal-powered stations, which have been supplying the equivalent of 6m homes’ worth of power, will be closed under EU agreements to reduce carbon emissions. Only a single gas-fired power plant is being built to replace them, and uncertainty over policy has paralysed the industry. The lethargy is palpable. Why does it seem impossible to make a plan and execute it before it is too late? By the early years of the next decade, Britain, once the envy of Europe thanks to its North Sea energy riches, will have lost nearly a third, 25-30 gigawatts (GW), of its generating capacity. At the same time, America is enjoying an energy bonanza. If nothing is done, we could face decades lurching from crisis to crisis. Yet we can keep the lights on – provided that we act now. THE great potential game changer is shale. In America, the exploitation of vast reserves using a process known as fracking has slashed energy bills – easing the burden on consumers and reducing industry costs so sharply that some manufacturing is returning there from China and other low-wage countries. Three companies – EDF Energy; Horizon Nuclear, owned by the Japanese firm Hitachi; and NuGeneration, a French-led group – plan to build up to a dozen reactors, beginning with EDF’s twin 1.6GW plants at Hinkley Point in Somerset. Yet, despite relaxation of the planning rules, problems remain – such as how to fund building costs that, in the case of Hinkley, reach £14bn. EDF was reported last week to be in talks with the Treasury over the “strike price” – a guaranteed minimum paid to firms for electricity they generate. EDF was said to be holding out for nearly £100/MWh, about twice the wholesale price of power: the government, which has ruled out any public subsidy for nuclear power, does not want to go so high.
Sunday Times 17th Feb 2013 read more »
Stop Hinkley Newsletter February: Worst ever week for Hinkley.
Stop Hinkley 16th Feb 2013 read more »
DOCUMENTS outlining plans to protect the community in the event of a major nuclear accident at Sizewell could have ended up in domestic bins, Suffolk’s head of emergency planning has acknowledged. Ten thousand copies of the documents – inviting comments on a revised off-site emergency plan – were sent to homes within and just outside a 4km radius of the nuclear site. But the envelopes were not individually addressed and were only marked “Important Documents” – similar to markings on a range of “junk” mail. A proportion may have ended up unopened in bins, emergency planning chief Andy Osman has conceded following criticism of the way the consultation has been handled. “Royal Mail gave us a range of possible markings but in retrospect it may have been better to clearly identify the documents as relating to the Sizewell emergency plan review,” he said.
East Anglian Daily Times 16th Feb 2013 read more »
French utility EDF is expected cut more costs, sell assets and scale back investment as the state-controlled group struggles with a cap on electricity prices and heavy debts. When EDF reports 2012 earnings on Thursday, analysts predict the world’s largest single operator of nuclear plants is likely to embark on a one billion euro cost-cutting plan, on top of 2.5 billion euros ($3.34 billion) of cuts begun in 2011. EDF and other European utilities are burdened with big debts built up through rapid expansion before the 2008 crisis. They also face falling demand due to the weak economy in the region and a drive for greater energy efficiency. EDF has the additional complication of being 84.4 percent owned by the French government, which caps electricity prices while demanding huge dividends, pushing EDF deeper into debt.
Reuters 12th Feb 2013 read more »
THE Spanish energy giant Iberdrola has taken a dividend of almost Â£900m from its British subsidiary Scottish Power after pushing through inflation-busting rises in household bills. The payout – equal to £158 for each of the Scottish utility’s 5.6m customers – will inflame the debate over soaring gas and electricity prices. The average annual bill has doubled in the past five years to £1,340, pushing one in five homes into fuel poverty. Scottish Power raised its dual-fuel tariff by 7% in October, adding about £100 to the average annual charge.
Sunday Times 17th Feb 2013 read more »
The Chelyabinsk region, about 1,500km (930 miles) east of Moscow, is home to many factories, a nuclear power plant and the Mayak atomic waste storage and treatment centre.
BBC 15th Feb 2013 read more »
Iran’s supreme leader has said the Islamic republic is not seeking to develop nuclear weapons but warned that no world power could stop the regime from building them if it chose to do so. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Saturday that his country backs the elimination of nuclear weapons.
Guardian 16th Feb 2013 read more »
Scotsman 17th Feb 2013 read more »
North Korea’s third nuclear test last week will have cost the country enormous amounts of money, has infuriated everyone (including China, its principal ally and supporter) and will probably bring a further round of United Nations sanctions down upon North Korea’s head, writes John Everard, a former British ambassador to North Korea.
Telegraph 16th Feb 2013 read more »
The long-delayed cleanup of the nation’s most contaminated nuclear site became the subject of more bad news Friday, when Washington Gov. Jay Inslee announced that a radioactive waste tank there is leaking. The news raises concerns about the integrity of similar tanks at south-central Washington’s Hanford nuclear reservation and puts added pressure on the federal government to resolve construction problems with the plant being built to alleviate environmental and safety risks from the waste. The tanks, which are already long past their intended 20-year life span, hold millions of gallons of a highly radioactive stew left from decades of plutonium production for nuclear weapons.
Huffington Post 15th Feb 2013 read more »
Lady Barbara Judge is just back from inspecting the nuclear plants at Fukushima in Japan, the ones closed down after the devastating earthquake and tsunami two years ago. She visited the control rooms at Daiichi – plant one – where three of the reactors went into meltdown and met many of the men who risked their lives by working during the emergency to cool the over-heated reactors and eventually shut them down. It’s not what she expected but the mood there was ” fantastic”. “What was astonishing was the optimism and hope shown by the workers that these plants can be made safe, and that they can start operating again,” she says. But this was in stark contrast to the mood of the Japanese public, still in a state of shock and strongly opposed to the restoration of the nuclear programme. Already being hailed as Japan’s nuclear saviour, Lady Judge was in Fukushima with the bosses of the plants’ owner, Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco), which was criticised for its bungled reaction to the catastrophe. It’s her first trip since being appointed deputy chairman of Tepco’s new Nuclear Reform Monitoring Committee, set up after the disaster to propose a new self-regulatory structure for the industry. If all goes well, Tepco hopes to persuade the new government – said to be more favourable than the last – to restart two of the plants later this year.
Independent 17th Feb 2013 read more »
Letter: Each year the UK Government spends £2 billion of taxpayer’s money on nuclear weapons, but it has been estimated that diverting £1 billion from the Trident replacement into infrastructure spending in the west of Scotland would generate around 15,000 jobs, considerably more than would be lost should Trident be removed. Far from being a job-creator, Trident is a job destroyer, and to try to justify having weapons of mass destruction on the Clyde, opposed by both the Scottish Parliament and the majority of the Scottish people, is obscene.
Scotland On Sunday 17th Feb 2013 read more »
Electricity prices in New England have been four to eight times higher than normal in the last few weeks, as the region’s extreme reliance on natural gas for power supplies has collided with a surge in demand for heating.
New York Times 15th Feb 2013 read more »
Demonstrators brought traffic to a standstill in central London today as they called on the Government to do more to help households struggling with soaring energy bills. Campaign group Fuel Poverty Action formed a blockade outside the Department of Energy and Climate Change, in Whitehall, to urge ministers to act for families facing the choice between eating and heating. Around 50 people, including many disabled and elderly supporters, blocked the normally busy route through the capital, causing long tailbacks.
Huffington Post 16th Feb 2013 read more »