17 February 2017

New Nuclear

The government’s plans to quit the Euratom treaty pose a fresh threat to the UK’s increasingly embattled nuclear new build programme, a new report has warned. The study, issued by the Institute of Mechanical Engineers says that the government’s plans to exit the treaty could imperil fuel supplies, jeopardising energy security as well as threatening plans to build new nuclear reactors and decommissioning activities. Former energy secretary of state Sir Ed Davey told Utility Week last week that withdrawal from Euratom put the nuclear sector’s security of supply at risk. The report’s publication coincides with reports this morning that companies building the new generation of nuclear stations have been told that new strike price agreements must offer a lower guaranteed electricity price than the £92.50 per MW hour deal concluded for EDF’s Hinkley C plant. According to the Financial Times, the government has indicated that it wants the level of future agreements to be 15-20 per cent lower. In its new report, the IME calls on the government to cushion the blow of Euratom withdrawal by creating a transitional framework for the nuclear industry.

Utility Week 16th Feb 2017 read more »

The UK Government’s plans to leave the EU, and consequently the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom), could threaten plans to build new nuclear reactors and decommissioning activities, as well as jeopardise energy security due to the impact on nuclear fuel supplies, according to a new report by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.

Energy Business Review 16th Feb 2017 read more »

Moorside is supposed to be one of six new nuclear schemes built around the UK. These form the backbone of government plans to renew and decarbonise the UK’s electricity system. Carbon Brief has a summary of the plans and how they fit into the UK’s climate and energy future. Existing nuclear plants have a combined capacity of 8.9 gigawatts (GW). Last year, they generated 72 terawatt hours (TWh) of electricity, around a fifth of the UK total and their highest output since 2006. The UK plans to cut emissions to 57% below 1990 levels by 2030 and to close all coal plants by 2025. That’s where new nuclear plants are supposed to come in. The most recent government projections, published in 2015, suggest new nuclear power will play a growing role in the UK’s electricity mix. The UK’s nuclear capacity will begin to fall in the early 2020s, with the 1GW Hunterston B and 1GW Hinkley Point B closing in 2023. If the 14GW of projected new nuclear plants were replaced with gas, it would add 42MtCO2, equivalent, or more than 8% of current UK greenhouse gas emissions (497MtCO2 in 2015). For the UK’s fifth carbon budget in 2028-32, UK emissions must fall to an average 353MtCO2 per year. Alternatively, each 1GW of nuclear could be replaced with 2GW of offshore windfarm capacity or 3.2GW onshore, because windfarms have lower load factors than nuclear or gas-fired power stations. To replace all 14GW of planned new nuclear would therefore require 28GW of offshore wind or 45GW onshore, compared to current capacities of 5.1GW and 9.4GW respectively. These figures are far beyond current plans and could even push the limits of what is technically possible for the UK.

Carbon Brief 15th Feb 2017 read more »

Letter Dr Simon Taylor, director, Master of Finance, Judge Business School. In “The case for public funding of UK nuclear” (editorial, February 14) you argue that market failure justifies government funding of nuclear power in the UK. Market failures, such as externalities and public goods, are cases where the conditions for a free market to work well are absent. But your argument that investors require too short a payback time on investment is doubtful as a case of market failure. The private sector routinely funds very long investments in technology (companies with no profits), and in bioscience (drugs take many years to come to fruition). We also see private funds for very large capital-intensive investments of high risk and long payback, such as liquefied natural gas in Russia and Australia. In some cases these projects have suffered delays and cost overruns of a scale similar to the troubled nuclear industry. So the private sector’s refusal to finance new nuclear appears a rational response to the enormous construction risk, a point reinforced by Toshiba’s latest troubles. Nuclear is but an extreme case of the wider private sector unwillingness to invest in greenfield infrastructure. Once built these assets may become acceptably low risk private investments. The Wylfa project you mention actually has better prospects of success because it plans to use the advanced boiling water reactor (ABWR), which is a proven design that has actually been built on time and budget (in Japan and Taiwan), unlike the reactors in the other new nuclear projects in the UK.

FT 17th Feb 2017 read more »

Remember “Nuclear power? No thanks”? That sunny, smiling sticker which was almost standard on the back of every Citroen Deux-Chevaux? How we smiled at such naivety. Nuclear power was the future! The fume-belching little 2CV may have gone the way of the Trabant but, after another grim week for the nuclear industry, it seems those stickers may have been right after all. A financially viable nuclear power station looks increasingly like a mirage. Even the eye-watering guarantee from the UK taxpayer for Hinkley Point C is not enough to cover the risk that building it will bankrupt EDF. Toshiba’s woes have claimed the scalp of its president. Hitachi is signalling that its project in Anglesey needs government backing to proceed. It’s telling that after 60 years of mostly successful operation, commercial viability still eludes the nuclear power industry. Perhaps we have been lucky to have avoided serious accidents and the decommissioning costs were hugely underestimated – but the combination of ever-rising safety demands and cheap hydrocarbons has destroyed its economics. Appealing for fresh state aid looks like a desperate last throw of the nuclear dice. If an industry cannot finance its own projects after half a century of development, it may be time to try another industry.

FT 17th Feb 2017 read more »

Toshiba’s nuclear meltdown has come as little surprise to an industry wracked by spiralling losses, credit downgrades and growing debt. The latest signs of crisis within Toshiba’s US-based nuclear company follows the French government bail-out of reactor developer Areva which wracked up 10bn euros of debt in five years and billions in cost pressures facing state nuclear giant EDF. But further east the prospects for nuclear development are rosier, revealing a twin-track fate for nuclear developers depending on the political climate they are based in. World Nuclear Association (WNA) figures have revealed that the number of new reactors under construction is at one of the highest points of the past two decades. In the USA and Europe reactors may be shutting down faster than they are being built but the strong growth of Government-backed projects in India and China are leading the way in rolling out new nuclear reactors. The difference, according to experts, is in the level of state support.

Telegraph 16th Feb 2017 read more »

Is nuclear power a busted flush? With controversy now hampering two of the UK’s most developed new nuclear projects, it’s hard to feel optimistic. It would be hasty to let these setbacks destroy the case for nuclear power, however. Britain’s current plans involve relying on large nuclear projects for years to come. Rather than throwing up our hands in despair and banking on cheap gas supplies to last for ever, we had better develop the ability to build nuclear plants on time and on budget. Other countries have shown it can be done. Nuclear combines three major advantages that elude fossil fuels and renewables: it generates extremely little pollution, can provide a much needed boost to our energy security and supplies reliable power not dependent on the weather. The reason that nuclear is so eye-wateringly expensive is that we haven’t built many new plants for decades. “If you just build nuclear power plants once every 20 years you never develop that supply chain or capability. The good news is that the more predictably we embark upon these projects, the more reliably and successfully they will be executed. South Korea, for example, manages to build new nuclear plants on time and on budget consistently . Why? Because it has not allowed its nuclear programme to lapse. The second way forwards is to invest in smaller plants. Building modular nuclear reactors in factories i s a new idea , but the UK is investing £350m in developing technology to do it and one prototype is already under regulatory consideration in the US. Smaller reactors will lend themselves more easily to private financing as they can be brought online more quickly and investors don’t have to wait so long to start getting returns.

Telegraph 17th Feb 2017 read more »

The UK government’s nuclear new build ambitions have been branded “pie in the sky” by an international energy expert, as Toshiba announced this week that it will not take a construction role on its proposed £106bn Moorside plant in Cumbria. According to reports this week, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy is pushing the Treasury to help with building the costly nuclear power plants by taking stakes in the projects. Taking minority stakes, worth up to 30%, would mean the construction cost of the power stations would not show up on the government’s balance sheet. But Mycle Schneider, who has advised a number of European governments on nuclear issues, said the cash-strapped UK government would not be able to offer the level of capital support required to deliver the planned fleet of new atomic power plants. Hinkley alone has an estimated construction cost of £18bn. He said: “It’s very clear that the public subsidy would be very limited. We are talking about very large sums of money. This is pie in the sky. If the government comes up with a few billion pounds, it will not be enough to fill the gap.” Schneider said the government should put its efforts instead into encouraging renewable energy, which is delivering increasing levels of generation capacity.

Building 17th Feb 2017 read more »

Toshiba

CORE comments on Toshiba’s delayed decision on Moorside. Given that the world’s financial markets are widely speculating today that the delay can only result in the subsequent release of a far worse set of financial figures than already reported by Toshiba – a melt-down primarily brought about by the chronic performance of its subsidiary Westinghouse at the two AP1000 construction sites in the US. CORE’s spokesman Martin Forwood has commented today: ‘It is more than fitting that coming exactly 88 years to the day after gangster Al Capone snuffed out members of a rival street gang in Chicago in the notorious Valentine’s Day Massacre, Toshiba’s announcement may already have wiped out 60% of the NuGen gang on Valentine’s Day 2017 or soon after’. This may well go down in history as the Moorside Massacre, but does not mean that West Cumbria has been swept clean of the gangster threat once and for all. The cigars, pin-stripe three piece suits and buttonholes may no longer be seen on the streets of Whitehaven, Workington or Millom but, as with all gang warfare, there will be new hoodlums waiting in the side side-streets and playgrounds to plug the holes inevitably left by Toshiba’s tommy guns. The French gang Engie – known to be keen to leave the new-build mob to fight another day in the rival renewable energies outfit – could cross the street at any moment. In that event, the Japanese banking fraternity could step in and of course there are always the UK Government’s well-known Westminster Wideboys lurking in the shadows, keen to muscle into the financial fray with UK citizen’s money to save NuGen, but widely known to switch gang allegiance at the drop of a fedora hat or the merest whiff of a new reactor. And last but not least there’s the brotherhood from South Korea in the shape of KEPCO, still struggling to shake off corruption and bribery scandals but clearly tooled up and raring to get a piece of the action on the UK’s remote western shores where other desperados have wisely feared to tread.

CORE 14th Feb 2017 read more »

It seems scarcely believable that anything in this quiet US rural town, about 30 miles south of Augusta, could have brought one of Japan’s greatest industrial companies to its knees. But the reactors under construction at Plant Vogtle just outside Waynesboro are at the heart of the greatest crisis in the 141-year history of Toshiba. Westinghouse, Toshiba’s US-based nuclear engineering subsidiary, is building at Vogtle two of its new AP1000 reactors, a “generation III plus” design that was intended to be the flagship of its expansion into markets around the world. Two more are being built about a hundred miles away in South Carolina at a plant ca lled VC Summer. At both sites, the new plants are taking shape. In December, a 1,100-tonne steel ring 40 metres in diameter that forms part of the reactor containment vessel was lowered into place for the first new unit at Vogtle. The equivalent component at Summer was also lowered into place last weekend. Yet all this progress is too little, too late. The projects are already more than three years behind schedule and, on a combined basis, more than $10bn over their original budgets. This week the timetable for the Summer project was pushed back again, and there were warnings that construction at Vogtle could also slip further. It is these problems that lie behind Toshiba’s announcement on Tuesday that it is planning to book a $6.3bn writedown on its US nuclear business, which will propel the group to a net loss of ¥390bn for the year to March 31, although there is still uncertainty about these figures, partly because they have not been audited.

FT 17th Feb 2017 read more »

Japanese conglomerate Mitsubishi Heavy Industries has ruled out rescuing Toshiba’s stricken nuclear reactor business, warning there are too many differences between their respective technologies to make a tie-up possible. Analysts have suggested Toshiba may need to partner with another Japanese company that has nuclear capabilities such as MHI or Hitachi in order to survive, after its future was called into question on Tuesday by a $6.3bn writedown on its US reactor business. But in an interview with The Financial Times, Shunichi Miyanaga, MHI president and chief executive, dismissed coming to Toshiba’s aid.

FT 16th Feb 2017 read more »

Shares in troubled conglomerate Toshiba dived again Friday as Standard & Poor’s warned it may cut its credit rating while a possible saviour of the Japanese firm’s loss-hit nuclear unit reportedly ruled out any rescue deal. Investors have sliced more than 20 percent off its Tokyo-listed stock this week as Toshiba, one of Japan’s best-known firms, warned of huge losses and possible accounting fraud at its US nuclear arm Westinghouse Electric. On Friday, shares plunged 9.2 percent to end the day 184 yen ($1.62) with worries swirling that the firm will be booted off the Tokyo Stock Exchange’s prestigious first section as its finances deteriorate. S&P said it may downgrade the conglomerate’s credit rating again, while Shunichi Miyanaga, the head of Japanese industrial giant Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI), told the Financial Times that he had ruled out a rescue of Toshiba’s ailing nuclear unit. There has been speculation Toshiba may need to join forces with another firm involved in atomic power to keep the business from crashing.

France24 17th Feb 2017 read more »

Wylfa

Horizon has insisted that it remains committed to plans to build a new nuclear plant in north Wales after hiring a team from Exelon Generation to advise on the scheme’s operation. Hitachi-owned Horizon has announced that it is bringing in four experts from the US company to help safety & generation director Greg Evans to develop its own model for operating the power station at Wylfa Newydd on the Isle of Anglesey.

Utility Week 16th Feb 2017 read more »

Horizon Nuclear Power has partnered with Exelon Generation to help advance the planned 2,700MW Wylfa Newydd nuclear plant in Anglesey, Wales, UK.

Energy Business Review 16th Feb 2017 read more »

Hitachi Ltd. has partnered with Exelon Corp. to promote a nuclear power project in Britain, as it seeks to use the largest U.S. nuclear power plant operator’s expertise in running a reactor, Hitachi said. Horizon Nuclear Power Ltd., Hitachi’s nuclear unit in Britain, is cooperating with Exelon Generation to operate two advanced boiling water reactors that are scheduled to begin commercial operation from the early 2020s. The tie-up with Exelon, which operates 22 reactors in the United States, was announced Thursday. Hitachi acquired Horizon Nuclear Power in 2012 to expand its nuclear power business overseas. Japan Atomic Power Co., a builder and operator of nuclear plants, is also involved in the project to help in assessing construction costs and crafting plans toward the test operation of the reactors to be built in North Wales in Britain.

Japan Times 17th Feb 2017 read more »

Moorside

The Labour and Tory by-election candidates for Copeland locked horns over whether the Government should underwrite investment into the planned Moorside nuclear power station. Prime Minister Theresa May had earlier been accused by the GMB union, which represents nuclear workers, of “ducking” concerns about the future of the development after huge losses reported by Toshiba, one of its backers while on a visit to Copeland.

Nuclear News 16th Feb 2017 read more »

The company behind plans for nuclear new build in Cumbria has welcomed comments by Prime Minister Theresa May on the project. NuGen made the statement after Mrs May spoke about the proposals for a new power plant at Moorside, near Sellafield, during a visit to Copeland yesterday. She was asked about the project after one of its key backers – Toshiba, which has a 60 per cent stake in NuGen – revealed it was on track for losses of 390 billion yen (£2.7 billion) for the year to March. The Japanese giant has said it remains committed to Moorside. The extent of this commitment remains in doubt though as Toshiba has said it will eventually seek to sell its shares in the project and it would seek not to “take on any risk” from the proposed plant’s construction. Mrs May said: “The consortium involved in Moorside has been absolutely clear. They have reconfirmed their commitment to Moorside.”

Whitehaven News 16th Feb 2017 read more »

World Nuclear News 16th Feb 2017 read more »

The following letter was published in the Whitehaven News today. It is a question we have asked repeatedly…An Open Letter to All the Candidates in the Copeland By Election. Radiation Free Lakeland are a campaign group for nuclear safety with many supporters in West Cumbria. Last September the science correspondents of all the national newspapers reported on the release of a new report which should concern all the Copeland candidates. Since the 1980s there have been concerns that nuclear plants were causing leukaeimia in children after disease rates were found to be up to 20 times greater than the national average in communities like Seascale and Maryport. On 30th September 2016 the Committee on Medical Aspects of Radiation in the Environment said there was no evidence that it was nuclear power plants themselves which were behind the increase, as, they said, the radioactive emissions “are too low.” Instead, they said it was more likely that the large influx of people who moved to rural areas to staff the plants had brought in a mystery virus, which had triggered cancer in the children of local populations. They call this “population mixing.” Historically this was rather less of an increase than that which is being proposed now for Moorside which makes John Woodcock’s carrot of over “20,000 jobs” (Cumbria has 4000 receiving JSA or Universal Credit ) more of a threat than a promise.

Radiation Free Lakeland 16th Feb 2017 read more »

The Prime Minister has been accused of “ducking” concerns about the future of a planned multibillion-pound nuclear power station following huge losses reported by one of its backers. 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. “It is crucial for the future of Moorside, for the economy and jobs in Copeland and for the future security of Britain’s electricity supply that there is a Government-backed Plan B. “The Government just crossing its fingers and toes will not guarantee the lights stay on if there is a further wobble with Toshiba.” A hustings is being held in the constituency later which is expected to feature questions from nuclear workers and their families about the future of Moorside.

Whitehaven News 15th Feb 2017 read more »

Nuclear Waste

An Italian businessman dumped radioactive nuclear waste in the ocean near Taiwan in the 1990s, according to documents from an Italian intelligence service declassified Wednesday.The information was contained in 61 documents from SISMI, an Italian military intelligence department, which were submitted to an Italian parliamentary investigation commission, according to the Italian media. The reports named Giorgio Comerio as a businessman who made a fortune by sending ships loaded with nuclear and other dangerous materials to the bottom of the sea in the Mediterranean and near Somalia and Taiwan.

Taiwan News 10th Feb 2017 read more »

SMRs

SMR Start is a new organization of potential customers and vendors investing in the development of advanced modular nuclear reactors (SMRs). It was formed to get SMRs over the initial market humps that plague all new technologies by using proven public-private partnerships that have succeeded with other technologies like renewables. Because of their small size, 300 MW or less, SMRs are economic, factory built and shippable, flexible enough to desalinate, refine oil, load-follow wind, produce hydrogen and provide something we’ve all been waiting for – a reactor that cannot meltdown. SMR Start’s goal is to ensure that SMRs are a cost-competitive option in the future, with the first units operating by the mid-2020s.

Forbes 16th Feb 2017 read more »

Fukushima

The latest robot seeking to find the 600 tons of nuclear fuel and debris that melted down six year ago in Japan’s wrecked Fukushima Dai-Ichi power plant met its end in less than a day. The scorpion-shaped machine, built by Toshiba Corp., entered the No. 2 reactor core Thursday and stopped 3 meters (9.8 feet) short of a grate that would have provided a view of where fuel residue is suspected to have gathered. Two previous robots aborted similar missions after one got stuck in a gap and another was abandoned after finding no fuel in six days. After spending most of the time since the 2011 disaster containing radiation and limiting ground water contamination, scientists still don’t have all the information they need for a cleanup that the Japanese government estimates will take four decades and cost 8 trillion yen ($70.6 billion). It’s not yet known if the fuel melted into or through the containment vessel’s concrete floor, and determining the fuel’s radioactivity and location is crucial to inventing the technology needed to remove it.

Energy Voice 17th Feb 2017 read more »

US – WIPP

The shipment of transuranic wastes from generator sites to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in New Mexico is set to resume in April. The US Department of Energy (DoE) expects a total of 128 shipments to be made to WIPP over the next 12 months.

World Nuclear News 16th Feb 2017 read more »

Israel

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah today called on Israel to dismantle its Dimona nuclear reactor, threatening to target the facility with rockets if Israel failed to comply.

Middle East Monitor 16th Feb 2017 read more »

Nuclear Weapons

Victim of Soviet test wants all nuclear weapons destroyed Twenty-seven years after the last Soviet nuclear test in the barren steppes of Kazakhstan, in an area known as The Polygon, the BBC has been to explore the terrible legacy. There we met Karipbek Kuyukov, an extraordinary survivor, a celebrated artist and anti-nuclear campaigner.

BBC 17th Feb 2017 read more »

Transport

A full electric operation of two London bus routes will be in place by 2018 thanks to a new partnership between Transport for London (TfL) and a French public transport operator. A total of 36 zero-emission electric buses will ride along the C1 and 70 bus routes, which fall under the new Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) announced by London Mayor Sadiq Khan last year. The infrastructure needed to park and charge the electric buses at Shepard’s Bush depot will be developed by operator RATP Dev, which aims to convert the West London site into the capital’s first all-electric fleet bus depot.

Edie 16th Feb 2017 read more »

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Published: 17 February 2017