A leaked paper disclosed by German magazine der Spiegel has shown the European Commission is on the verge of approving eye-watering amounts of public funding to build nuclear reactors at Hinkley Point, in the United Kingdom, saddling taxpayers with the financial and environmental cost. Without opposition from a majority of European commissioners at a vote on 8 October, only days before the current Commission leaves office, the European Union could for the first time allow taxpayers to fund the construction of nuclear power plants in Europe.Austria has already reacted angrily to the plan, threatening to challenge it at the European Court of Justice. Outgoing energy commissioner Günther Oettinger last year described the plan as “Soviet”. Commenting on the leak, Greenpeace EU legal adviser Andrea Carta said: “If this deal is approved, the outgoing Commission will be leaving Brussels in a getaway car after the heist of the century. Taxpayers would be left paying for one of the most expensive power stations in the world, and for the consequences when things go wrong, while EDF rakes in subsidies. What’s worse, they want to do this in the name of climate change, locking in support for nuclear for decades, just as major banks are telling investors the smart money is in renewable energy. European commissioners voting next week should think hard about the threat to generations of Europeans and put a stop to this madness”.
Greenpeace 1st October 2014 read more »
GDA & EPRs
Nuclear experts receiving EDF pensions were involved in the official safety review of the company’s planned Hinkley Point C plant in Somerset, sparking concerns about a conflict of interest over the approval of the project. The involvement senior executive grade officers at the Office of Nuclear Regulation (ONR) made it “very difficult” for the regulator to take a critical eye, warned another independent industry consultant. The revelations, obtained via a series of freedom of information (FoI) requests, raise wider concerns about the use of consultants due to a lack of experienced staff inside the ONR and come a week after the Hinkley project got a go-ahead from the European competition directorate for a proposed UK subsidy scheme. Critics argue that vital safety issues highlighted in the regulatory process were ignored, which may have happened to ensure the project’s approval met the deadline set out by the UK government. “The ONR bypassed a number of safety issues with the rationale of ‘although it is not solved we think it will be solved by the time we need’,” said nuclear industry consultant John Large. “I suspect the political pressure was on them. The government was putting the pieces in place to give an announcement [that Hinkley Point C had been approved] in January 2013.” In August 2012, six issues related to the instrumentation and control system were highlighted. Four of these were given a red alert, which, according to the report means the resolving of these issues are “in serious doubt with serious risks apparent”. By December the nuclear regulators approved the EPR design, signing off all of these alerts without much explanation.
Guardian 1st Oct 2014 read more »
The world’s last surviving Magnox nuclear power plant has been granted a one year life extension and will keep generating electricity until December next year. The current lifetime extension is the latest and final in a series as the Wylfa on Anglesey power plant, in north Wales, was originally supposed to be turned off in 2010. However, the regulators permitted it to continue generating electricity after the operator demonstrated the plant meets all safety requirements.
Engineering & Technology 1st Oct 2014 read more »
Utility Week 1st Oct 2014 read more »
Balfour Beatty has announced that its joint venture with AMEC and Jacobs has been appointed to a framework contract to provide a new nuclear waste processing plant at Sellafield in Cumbria, UK. The joint venture will be the sole contractor on the four year framework with Sellafield which is worth between £240m and £336m to construct the new ‘Box Encapsulation Plant’ which will receive, segregate and encapsulate hazardous waste already stored on the Sellafield site.
H&V News 1st Oct 2014 read more »
Climate change doesn’t appear to be part of the Conservative Party’s electoral strategy. At its annual conference in Birmingham this week it has seemed a case of the less said on the subject, the better. In the weeks and months before May 2015 it’s the problems discussed on those doorsteps that will matter far more to the Conservatives than far-off, intangible problems like climate change. Even issues like onshore windfarms just aren’t “electorally salient” for the Conservatives says Ben Page, chief executive of pollsters Ipsos MORI. So to an extent it doesn’t really matter what leading Conservatives think about climate change. Whatever their views on the subject, it probably isn’t a big part of the party’s electoral strategy.
Carbon Brief 1st Oct 2014 read more »
There was a huge amount for political analysts to comment on in David Cameron’s barn-storming conference speech: the promise of tax cuts and the mystery of how they will be paid for; the vague vow to tackle free movement of people within the EU; the passionate and tearful defence of his commitment to the NHS; the laser-guided attacks on Ed Miliband’s character and credibility. But there was next to nothing on the issue Cameron last week described as “one of the most serious threats facing our world”: climate change. There was one throw-away line, when he declared towards the end of the speech that the UK was “leading, not following, on climate change”. But a week on from his commitment to drive more climate action and a year on from the political row over energy bills there was nothing on flooding, nothing on fracking, nothing on renewables, and nothing on nuclear. On climate change, the green economy, and the wider environment, Cameron’s leadership is starting to look distinctly lacking. Cameron did not forget the green bit of his speech; for political reasons it was never going to appear – and that silence speaks volumes.
Business Green 1st Oct 2014 read more »
During a fringe event hosted by the Nuclear Industry Association, Sky News’ political correspondent Anushka Asthana interviewed chair of the Energy and Climate Change Committee Tim Yeo, focusing particularly on nuclear skills but also on broader energy issues. Asthana opened the session by asking Yeo where our weaknesses lay in terms of energy independence. Tim Yeo MP, chair, Energy and Climate Change Committee noted that we were hugely dependent on imported gas. In terms of the key pillars of energy independence, he said a central component of this was nuclear energy, with the other factors being greater energy efficiency, as well as substituting imported gas for shale gas. He felt shale reserves could be quite substantial in the UK, and he added that nuclear and shale would both create skilled jobs.
Politics Home 1st Oct 2014 read more »
If ever there was a story that perfectly reflected the increasing frenzy of europhobia in the UK it is the story in today’s Times newspaper headed ‘ Britons may foot bill for power plants in Europe’. The story springs from the fact that under the UK Government’s new ‘capacity mechanism’ designed to build up power plant capacity in the UK, the auctions to procure this capacity will also have to be open, heaven forbid, to plant based outside the UK. Never mind the fact that the only reason that this will happen is if the power plant can supply energy more cheaply than British based plant; never mind the fact that four out of six of our major energy utilities are owned by non-British companies anyway; never mind the fact that trying to build a common electricity market will actually help the UK (and everyone else) achieve more secure sustainable energy supplies, it just adds to the mindless anti-EU feeding frenzy that is Britain today. The fact that such a system will help the common good doesn’t cut much ice either since increasing numbers of Brits (you’d think by reading the press) would rather cross the other side of the road before helping anything called ‘euro’.
Dave Toke’s Blog 1st Oct 2014 read more »
Millions more households will desert the major suppliers by 2020 and some companies may quit the market altogether, Citigroup forecasts. The Big Six energy suppliers will lose a quarter of their customers by 2020 as millions of households switch to cheaper rivals, leading analysts have forecast. The least competitive of the major suppliers are likely to quit the market altogether in a radical shake-up of the energy sector, according to analysts at Citigroup. British Gas, SSE, EDF Energy, E.On, ScottishPower and Npower – collectively known as the Big Six – currently control about 92pc of the household supply market. But this is likely to fall to less than 70pc by the end of the decade as the market becomes more competitive, the analysts said.
Telegraph 1st Oct 2014 read more »
Consumers will still suffer as the average dual-fuel bill will be at least 20% higher by 2020, the analysts predict. The rise of small suppliers highlighted in the Citi report, UK Energy Policy – Unwinding the Big 6, will please the coalition government but the authors said Ed Miliband’s promised price freeze has played a key role too. The report concluded: “Due to increasing competition we see the market share of the ‘Big 6’ in energy supply declining from 98% in 2013 to below 70% by 2020. When combined with declining demand and lower margins the total profit pool available to the large energy suppliers could fall [by about] 40% from [about] £1.2bn in 2013 to just £700m.”
Guardian 1st Oct 2014 read more »
Further work on national and regional solutions for deep geological repositories is “essential and urgent” to ensure that spent nuclear fuel and high level waste can be safely disposed of when necessary, says a report published today. The report, ‘Management of spent nuclear fuel and its waste’, was written by the European Commission’s in-house science service, the Joint Research Centre, and the European Academies’ Science Advisory Council. It says that even with a closed or partially closed nuclear fuel cycle there will always be a need for deep geological repositories. It says every EU member state with a nuclear programme should implement a repository programme and that regional geological disposal solutions “may be investigated in parallel”. Most countries with nuclear programmes have investigated deep geological disposal, but none have yet completed or operated a geologic repository. Preferred sites for high-level waste and spent fuel have been chosen in France, Sweden, the US and Finland, where construction has begun. A site selection process is under way in some countries including the UK, Germany, Switzerland and Canada. A 2011 report by the International Panel on Fissile Materials said there had been “sustained interest” in the possibility of multinational spent fuel storage facilities or geological repositories, but progress had been “very limited”.
NucNet 30th Sept 2014 read more »
Chronic lapses in safety procedures at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico may have led to a radiation leak that has forced a prolonged shutdown across the state of the only permanent U.S. nuclear waste repository, federal inspectors said on Wednesday. The inspectors, in a sharply critical report, sought to explain how a barrel of plutonium-tainted debris from the nuclear weapons lab near Santa Fe ended up improperly packaged before it was shipped off for burial 300 miles away at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant. The leak of radiation, a small amount of which escaped to the surface and contaminated 22 workers at the plant, ranks as the facility’s worst mishap since it opened in 1999. Previous findings by government regulators suggest the waste drum contained a volatile mix of nitrate salts and organic matter that ruptured the barrel after it was placed in a vault half a mile underground at the plant. Such a mix was shown to be “inherently hazardous” in a 2000 study by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. But flawed procedures at Los Alamos fostered a culture “that permitted the introduction of potentially incompatible materials” in waste drums there, according to the report by the U.S. Energy Department’s Office of Inspector General.
Reuters 2nd Oct 2014 read more »
The Energy Department says it hopes to resume operations at its shuttered nuclear waste dump in New Mexico by early 2016, roughly two years after two serious accidents released radioactive materials and soot throughout the 2,150-foot-deep repository.
LA Times 1st Oct 2014 read more »
Sweden may be facing the phase out of nuclear power following agreement by the country’s Social Democrats and their junior coalition partner, the Green Party, to set up an energy commission tasked with achieving a 100% renewable electricity system. Sweden’s outgoing centre-right governing coalition of four parties agreed in 2009 that new reactors could be built to replace ageing ones. Social Democrat leader Stefan Lofven had said that nuclear power would be needed for “the foreseeable future”, while the Greens want to see more of Sweden’s reactors closed in the next four years. Lofven’s opposition party emerged as victor in the general election on 14 September, but with no clear parliamentary majority. With 31.0% of the vote, the Social Democrats were ahead of 23.3% for Fredrik Reinfeldt’s Moderate Party and 12.9% for the far-right Sweden Democrats. The Green Party achieved 6.9%.
World Nuclear News 1st Oct 2014 read more »
Sweden’s Social Democrats said on Wednesday they had agreed with junior coalition partner the Green Party to set up an energy commission, offering hope of reconciling their opposing views on nuclear policy. The Social Democrats and Greens have agreed on a number of thorny policy issues – such as defence – in the last few days as they try to build a minority government that can draw support across the political spectrum for its policies.
Reuters 1st Oct 2014 read more »
Sweden’s Social Democrat and Green parties, which will form a minority government this week, have agreed an energy policy that the Greens say could see four nuclear units close by 2018.
Argus Media 1st Oct 2014 read more »
The French government may allow Electricite de France SA to keep its oldest nuclear plant running, going back on one of President Francois Hollande’s first promises after taking office in 2012. “If EDF has a better proposal than closing Fessenheim, I will look at this proposal,” Energy Minister Segolene Royal told France Inter radio. Two reactors must still be shut, to comply with a bill capping nuclear capacity, when EDF starts a new operation at Flamanville in Normandy, she said. Hollande’s plan to close Fessenheim in 2016 has been fought by labor unions and opposition parties partly because of job losses. Royal made today’s comments before a debate on a long-delayed energy law that would cap atomic capacity and set a goal of lowering the country’s dependence on nuclear to half of all power output by 2025 from about three-quarters now.
Bloomberg 30th Sept 2014 read more »
Benjamin Netanyahu has made a public appeal to President Barack Obama, urging him to reject any agreement that would leave Iran as a “threshold nuclear power”. During a meeting with Mr Obama in the Oval Office on Wednesday, the Israeli prime minister voiced his unease over the talks designed to settle the confrontation over Iran’s nuclear ambitions by a deadline of Nov 24.
Telegraph 1st Oct 2014 read more »
THE US Department of Energy (DoE) has offered US$12.6bn in loan guarantees for new nuclear projects as the country builds its first new plants in decades. The loan guarantees would support projects that are often unable to secure full commercial financing due to their scale and use of innovative technology. In draft plans, the DoE says that up to US$2bn of the guarantees will be targeted at the ‘front end’ of the nuclear cycle, including uranium enrichment, conversion and nuclear fuel fabrication projects. The remaining US$10.6bn will be available for helping companies upgrading existing plants, or building advanced and small modular reactors. The US government has already committed US$6.5bn in guarantees for the Vogtle nuclear plant in Georgia, which it says is the first of a new generation of power stations to be built in the country.
Chemical Engineer 1st Oct 2014 read more »
Fresh satellite images show North Korea has completed upgrading its main satellite site to handle far larger rockets, suggesting a possible launch by the end of the year, a US think tank has said. “North Korea is now ready to move forward with another rocket launch,” the US-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University said on its closely followed 38 North website.
Telegraph 2nd Oct 2014 read more »
Renewables – marine
Scottish ocean energy companies will be able to bid for a share of a new €7 million funding pot, Energy Minister Fergus Ewing said yesterday. At the Ocean Energy Conference in Paris, Mr Ewing announced Scottish Enterprise will contribute £450,000 towards the first joint call of the Ocean Energy European Research Area Network (ERA-NET) which is opening up opportunities for ocean renewables innovation in Europe. Companies and research organisations from countries such as the UK, Spain, Portugal, France, Ireland, Belgium (Flanders), Netherlands and Sweden, will be eligible to apply for funding for collaborative research and innovation projects when the fund opens for applications on October 23.
Scottish Energy News 2nd Oct 2014 read more »
Renewables – wind
RenewableUK says media speculation that wind farms can affect people’s hearing is incorrect and irresponsible. Several national newspapers wrongly claimed today that research published in the journal Royal Society Open Science showed a possible link between wind turbines and deafness.
Scottish Energy News 2nd Oct 2014 read more »
Islington Labour has announced plans for a pioneering ‘people’s energy company’ to take on the ‘Big Six’ energy companies to provide cheaper energy for local people. Energy bills have risen by almost £300 for families under this government – twice as fast as inflation and four times faster than wages, adding to the cost of living crisis affecting households across Islington. The average household energy bill is now a staggering £1,300 a year. The innovative proposals being considered are the next stage in Islington Labour’s fight against the cost of living crisis affecting people across Islington.
Islington Labour 26th Sept 2014 read more »
In response to the Town Hall’s energy company plans, Charlie Kiss, Green Party candidate for Islington South & Finsbury, said “offering another alternative to the big six energy suppliers is an empowering step, and could offer social and economic benefits. For too long the country’s main energy companies have been making huge profits from customers with little regard for the communities they serve or for the planet. Although there are smaller renewable energy companies these have struggled to reach the mass market so far. Deregulation was supposed to bring competition and a better deal for the consumer and businesses but has utterly failed to deliver this.” As well as buying energy on the open market, Islington Green Party will be encouraging the Council to use their own energy sources and invest in alternative and renewable energy generation schemes across the borough such as solar panels on schools and council buildings, and installing more Combined Heat and Power (CHP) to provide estates with cheaper heating as well as electricity.
Islington Greens 1st Oct 2014 read more »
Social Investment Scotland (SIS) has a role in funding the UK’s largest community-owned commercial-scale wind farm, Beinn Ghrideag in the Western Isles. Led by former MP Calum MacDonald, the 9MW project breaks new ground in community-owned renewables projects previously been kept small scale as community groups struggled to secure sufficient finance. The size and scale of the wind farm are not of greatest significance. The potential social and economic benefits that such innovative community-owned projects can bring are. Studies have shown that the local economic impact of renewable energy projects is much greater from community-owned schemes than from private developer-led schemes paying into a community-benefit fund. In the case of Beinn Ghrideag, it is expected that, over the course of a 25-year lifespan, it will return £20 million to community projects across the Western Isles.
Herald 2nd Oct 2014 read more »
Is energy efficiency about to become an electoral issue? The Labour party last week put a plan to help UK households cut energy use, save money, and reduce their carbon footprint at the core of its election agenda. Speaking at Labour’s annual conference last week, the shadow energy and climate secretary Caroline Flint declared a “war on cold homes”. UK household’s are horribly inefficient, she argued, calling the government’s current policies “useless”. Labour’s plan would make five million homes more energy efficient within 10 years, all “without spending any more money or adding to anyone’s energy bill”, Flint claims. So what are the new policies, and how do they differ from the government’s current schemes? Most importantly, would it work? So Labour plans to do a lot. But how will it pay for it all? And will it work? Labour has earmarked the £940 million energy companies are already expecting to put into ECO to pay for the energy assessments and low income households’ improvements. Campaign group energy bill revolution says that could be enough to hit Labour’s target of improving 200,000 homes a year, or two million households by 2025. But there’s around six million low income households in the UK. If all those homes were to be made more energy efficient, Carbon Brief understands it could need to find in the region of £3 billion a year to fund the scheme. Labour has also set aside £300 million to subsidise its zero-interest energy efficiency loans between 2015 and 2017. That comes from the a pot of money the government has already set aside for Green Deal loans, it says. Carbon Brief understands that could be enough to provide interest free loans to around 200,000 homes a year, depending on the size of the loan they take out. If the funding was continued at the same rate after 2017 – and that’s a big if – it could mean improving the energy efficiency of a further two million households by 2025. But that’s less than ten per cent of the UK’s total households, most of which need to some sort of energy efficiency upgrade.
Carbon Brief 1st Oct 2014 read more »
Canada has switched on the first large-scale coal-fired power plant fitted with a technology that proponents say enables the burning of fossil fuels without tipping the world into a climate catastrophe. The project, the first commercial-scale plant equipped with carbon capture and storage technology, was held up by the coal industry as a real life example that it is possible to go on burning the dirtiest of fossil fuels while avoiding dangerous global warming. Saskatchewan’s state-owned electricity provider is due to cut the ribbon on the $1.3 billion Canadian project on Thursday. But officials from SaskPower International Inc told guests invited to the ceremony the 110 megawatt plant went live on Tuesday night.
Guardian 1st Oct 2014 read more »
FT 1st Oct 2014 read more »