Electricite de France’s deal with the U.K. to build the nation’s first new nuclear plant in two decades faces an in-depth investigation by the European Union, which must approve large state subsidies. The European Commission “has doubts that the project suffers from a genuine market failure,” the regulator said in an e-mailed statement today. It “will assess whether the construction of a nuclear power station could not be achieved by market forces alone, without state intervention.”
Bloomberg 18th Dec 2013 read more »
Brussels has launched a full investigation into whether Britain is providing up to £17bn of potentially illegal public guarantees for the first nuclear power plant in a generation. The European Commission will examine the contract between the UK government and French utility EDF for Hinkley Point C nuclear power station in Somerset, which aims to provide 7 per cent of the country’s electricity. The inquiry, expected to last at least six months, is justified on the grounds that the commission “in particular has doubts that the project suffers from a genuine market failure”. This puts into question the rationale for the UK offering support such as a guaranteed price for nuclear power and a financing “guarantee” to entice the private sector into building a series of nuclear reactors. Brussels estimates total government support would amount to almost £17bn, depending on future electricity prices and the actual capital costs of the operator. This figure was not disclosed at the time when the contracts were unveiled by Ed Davey, the energy secretary.
FT 18th Dec 2013 read more »
The UK government will dispute that the ‘contract for difference’ constitutes state aid. It contracts the government to compensate EDF if the market price for energy is lower than the agreed price – and EDF to compensate the government if the market price rises above the guaranteed price. The UK’s secondary argument is that, if this is considered state aid, it should be permitted because the project would not be funded without it and the project is necessary to meet the government’s decarbonisation and energy security goals. A public consultation will begin in January, once commercially sensitive information has been removed from the UK’s evidence to the Commission. A decision is expected from the Commission in the Spring. The case is being closely watched by other member states, particularly in eastern Europe, which are considering building nuclear power plants.
European Voice 18th Dec 2013 read more »
The European Commission this week launched investigations into two types of financial support for energy projects: the British government’s guaranteed price for power from a nuclear plant, and the German government’s subsidies for renewable energy.
European Voice 18th Dec 2013 read more »
On the day royal assent was finally given to the coalition’s controversial Energy Act, the EU’s executive arm expressed doubts that British ministers could justify state aid to nuclear which it estimated could reach £17bn. The EC warned of the risk of a “subsidy race” between member states and Joaquín Almunia, vice-president for competition policy, described the aid package as a complex measure of an unprecedented nature and scale. “The commission therefore needs to investigate thoroughly its impact on the UK and the EU internal energy markets, and is requesting all interested parties to submit their observations.”
Guardian 18th Dec 2013 read more »
Times 19th Dec 2013 read more »
BBC 18th Dec 2013 read more »
European Commission 18th Dec 2013 read more »
Institute of Mechanical Engineers 18th Dec 2013 read more »
Daily Post 18th Dec 2013 read more »
Sky 18th Dec 2013 read more »
Solar Power Portal 18th Dec 2013 read more »
British consumers could pay £17bn in potentially unnecessary subsidies to fund construction of the country’s first new nuclear plant in a generation, the European Commission has said. The EC said it was assessing whether the planned subsidies for Hinkley Point in Somerset – which could exceed the £16bn cost of the plant itself – were needed at all, or whether energy companies would build the plant anyway without a penny of public support.
Telegraph 18th Dec 2013 read more »
Investigations by local pressure group CORE [Cumbrians Opposed to a Radioactive Environment] have revealed that Sellafield Ltd has significantly overstepped the timescale promised in its planning application for the ‘Evaporator D Project’ – a Project already heavily criticised by two Government Committees for its escalating costs and for its poor project management by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA). Granted planning approved by Copeland Borough Council (CBC) in August 2009, the beach landing section of the overall Project was defined as consisting of three phases – excavation work on Sellafield beach to allow 11 evaporator modules to be offloaded from a barge, their transport onto the Sellafield site, and the remediation of the beach work once the transport was completed. Cited in CBC’s approval letter as a ‘reason for decision’ to grant planning permission, the phases were to be completed in a period which should ‘in total, not exceed a period of approximately three years’. With the final module offloaded onto the Sellafield beach in September 2013 – some four years after planning approval was granted – and with no beach remediation started – CORE queried the validity of CBC’s planning approval via a Freedom of Information request to the Council. CBC responded that it was not aware that any breaches of planning permission had occurred but that ‘the onus was on Sellafield Ltd to implement the remediation works in accordance with the permission’. Prompted by CORE’s FoI request, CBC emailed Sellafield Ltd on 8th October 2013 asking that ‘an update on the marine access project, with particular reference to remediation and likely completion of the project (the original estimate was three years), be provided’. As at 11th December 2013 – two months after that request, no response from Sellafield Ltd had been received by CBC.
CORE Press Release 18th Dec 2013 read more »
FEARS have been raised over the safety of the nation’s nuclear arms cache after seven police officers attached to AWE Burghfield resigned amid reports of widespread security lapses.
Reading Chronicle 19th Dec 2013 read more »
Engineers working to decommission the Sizewell A power station in Suffolk say they have removed 75 percent of the radioactive fuel rods from the plant’s two reactors. The spent elements are being transported to the Sellafield plant in Cumbria for reprocessing.
ITV 19th Dec 2013 read more »
Hinkley C is the biggest infrastructure project in Europe Gavin Thompson assesses how the greater West Country can benefit. The plans to build a new nuclear reactor at Hinkley Point near Bridgwater will see at least £500 million of contacts handed out to firms in the West Country. And firms in the remainder of the region have a leg up on cashing in as well as those based in Somerset itself. Chris Langdon is the Somerset Chamber of Commerce’s project manager for the Hinkley supply chain team. He says: “This is the biggest infrastructure project in Europe in the next ten years.” Given the scale of that opportunity Bristol companies should be looking at how they can get a slice of the action.
Western Daily Press 19th Dec 2013 read more »
Jacobs Engineering Group has been awarded a framework management contract to provide engineering support and related services for the two new nuclear power generation plants Horizon Nuclear Power is currently building in the UK. The power plants are being constructed at Wylfa on the Isle of Anglesey, and Oldbury in South Gloucestershire. Under the contract, the company will partner with Horizon to provide development and planning, site investigation, engineering, environmental permitting and waste management, and project management support.
Energy Business Review 18th Dec 2013 read more »
BRISTOL is well positioned between two major nuclear opportunities. While the new reactor at Hinkley is closer to becoming reality, there are also plans for a new power station in Oldbury, right. A new nuclear power station at Oldbury could generate a minimum of 2,600MW of low carbon electricity, substantially more than the existing station which is being decommissioned. To achieve this it would require new cooling towers to cool the steam that is used to generate electricity. The project will take some time. There are several key stages in the planning process before any construction can start.
Bristol Post 18th Dec 2013 read more »
The Queen has given her seal of approval to the Energy Bill today, ending two years of parliamentary debate over how the UK can best drive billions of pounds of investment in new clean energy infrastructure. At the heart of the Bill is the Electricity Market Reform (EMR) package, which aims to attract £110bn of investment to replace polluting power plants, head off the risk of blackouts, upgrade the nation’s creaking grid infrastructure, and ensure emission reduction targets are met, all while minimising costs to consumers and businesses.
Business Green 18th Dec 2013 read more »
Energy Act Briefings.
DECC 18th Dec 2013 read more »
You don’t have to believe that freezing consumer energy prices is good public policy to see that just three sentences in Ed Miliband’s speech to the Labour party conference in September transformed the energy scene in the UK. The opposition leader’s comments sent a chill through the market, reducing the value of utility stocks and has left the coalition government struggling to respond to a completely unexpected outbreak of populism. The consequences of the speech, intended and unintended, run on and could yet force a change in energy policy across the EU. The utilities are not off the hook yet, but the focus of debate has moved on to the impact of green policies designed to reduce emissions and prevent global warming. So far that impact is limited but it is set to grow and grow. To the dismay of the green lobby and the businesses who have been living on subsidies the costs of new nuclear and offshore wind have come under scrutiny. New nuclear may be a good thing but is it so good that we need to lock ourselves into a deal which doubles the current wholesale price and is then index linked for 35 years? For an opposition politician to change the agenda in this way is remarkable, but of course Mr Miliband hit a nerve. People do feel energy prices are too high and they do not understand why when they can see the world prices of oil, gas and coal are flat or falling. Businesses can see that energy costs are making the UK uncompetitive and risk driving energy intensive operations away completely. Concern is not limited to the UK. Energy costs are becoming a key concern elsewhere in the EU and will be top for the new German government. Next year could well see a rebalancing of the European approach, particularly given the absence of a serious carbon price and the likelihood that talks in 2014 on a global deal on climate make no real progress.
FT 19th Dec 2013 read more »
IN THE EARLY HOURS of December 7, a crack appeared in a large leach tank in the processing area of the Ranger uranium mine in Kakadu National Park. The area was evacuated, the tank completely failed, the containment system was inadequate and one million litres of highly acidic uranium slurry went sliding downhill — taking Energy Resources of Australia’s credibility with it. The spill has left traditional owners who live and rely on creeks only kilometres downstream angry and “sick with worry” and raised profound concerns about the management culture and integrity of infrastructure at the mine.
ABC 18th Dec 2013 read more »
Small Modular Reactors
The US Department of Energy has awarded up to $226 million to support the development of small modular nuclear reactors. Small nuclear reactors can be constructed in factories and shipped to site, cutting costs and avoiding construction delays, but their benefits remain unproven.
Christian Science Monitor 18th Dec 2013 read more »
Tory Defence Secretary Philip Hammond committed the government yesterday to more funding for new Trident nuclear submarines despite growing opposition. He announced £79 million will be splashed on Britain’s “largest and most-advanced boats” in a written annual update on the nuclear weapons programme. The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) pointed out that even former Tory defence minister James Arbuthnot has blasted the decision.
Morning Star 17th Dec 2013 read more »
Tougher safety standards were introduced Wednesday for spent nuclear fuel reprocessing plants and other facilities handling nuclear fuel, based on the lessons learned from the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster. The new regulations cover 247 facilities, including a spent fuel reprocessing plant in the village of Rokkasho, Aomori Prefecture. The problem-prone plant, which is expected to play a key role in Japan’s fuel recycling strategy, is designed to reprocess spent uranium fuel and reuse the extracted plutonium and uranium as reactor fuel. Plant operator Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd. plans to apply soon for the Nuclear Regulation Authority’s safety checks to start the long-delayed process of getting the plant in operation.
Japan Times 18th Dec 2013 read more »
The operators of the crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan are to decommission two reactors that were not badly damaged by the earthquake and tsunami in 2011. They have bowed to public pressure that the plant be shut permanently. Workers are still struggling to stem leaks of contaminated water and have begun to remove fuel rods from one of the reactors. Four reactors were severely damaged by the disaster that struck in March 2011. Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco) had delayed making a final announcement on the fate of reactors number 5 and 6 at Fukushima while negotiations continued about the financing of the decommissioning process.
BBC 18th Dec 2013 read more »
Fukushima Crisis Update 6th to 16th December. Once again, record levels of radiation have been found at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in the last few days. The plant’s operator TEPCO announced on December 6th that a record level of radiation in an outdoor location had been found on the site. Potentially lethal levels measuring 25 sieverts per hour were found on piping near reactors #1 and 2#’s exhaust stack.
Greenpeace 18th Dec 2013 read more »
A vital subsea cable linking renewables projects in the Western Isles to the mainland has suffered another setback, with developers saying there will be a further two-year delay. Energy firm SSE has written to renewable developers on the Western Isles seeking formal confirmation that they plan to take forward their projects before actually commissioning the £750 million interconnector. The project is being progressed by Scottish Hydro-Electric Transmission Ltd (Shetl), a division of energy giant SSE.
Scotsman 18th Dec 2013 read more »
Renewables – Offshore Wind
The UK’s offshore wind industry has today received a major boost, after the government granted final approval for ambitious plans to build a new £450m marine energy hub on the banks of the Humber. Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin today granted development consent for the Able Marine Energy Park (AMEP) at North Killingholme, which aims to deliver state of the art port facilities specifically designed to support the North Sea’s offshore wind industry.
Business Green 18th Dec 2013 read more »
RenewableUK says today’s Government announcement granting final planning permission for a huge industrial base for the offshore wind sector on the east coast of England is a significant step forward which could lead to the creation of thousands of jobs.
Renewable UK 18th Dec 2013 read more »
Is the UK on the verge of a domestic oil and gas boom? Newspapers are excited about the prospect following the release of a new government report. But while the government is keen it’s still unclear how much onshore oil and gas the UK has, and what impact it could have on the UK’s emissions.
Carbon Brief 18th Dec 2013 read more »