22 January 2017

Plant Life Extensions

THE nuclear industry is secretly bidding to relax safety standards to allow the doubling of the number of cracks in the radioactive cores of Scotland’s ageing reactors. EDF Energy is asking for the safety rules to be rewritten so that it can keep running its nuclear power stations at Hunterston in North Ayrshire and Torness in East Lothian until they are at least 47 and 42 years old. They were originally designed to last 30 years. Prolonged radiation bombardment causes the thousands of graphite bricks that make up reactor cores to crack, threatening a safe shutdown. But EDF is asking the UK government’s watchdog, the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR), to permit an increase in the proportion of cracked bricks from 10 to 20 per cent. The revelation has sparked alarm from politicians and campaigners, who say that the industry is “gambling with public safety” and the public must be consulted. One leading expert argues that Hunterston should be immediately shut down. EDF’s bid to relax safety standards at Hunterston and Torness is highlighted in a new report today for the Scottish Greens. It concludes that the risks from graphite cracking are serious and argues that an international convention demands that environmental risks must be assessed, alternative energy sources considered and the public consulted. According to the report’s author, Edinburgh-based anti-nuclear campaigner and consultant, Peter Roche, Scotland doesn’t need nuclear electricity. “Despite the fact cracks are beginning in the graphite core of these reactors, increasing the risk for us all, the public has still not been asked for its opinion once,” he said. “The Scottish Government should ask itself if it really wants ageing reactors to continue operating and producing nuclear waste for up to another thirteen years – gambling with public safety – when we know that there are plenty of ways to provide alternative sources of energy.” Scottish Green MSP for West of Scotland, Ross Greer, warned that communities would be concerned about proposals to allow more cracking. “The lack of public consultation is just unacceptable,” he told the Sunday Herald. “If we did this properly, the public would reject an ageing, cracking, safety hazard. The Scottish Government’s relaxed position on nuclear needs challenged. We simply don’t need to sweat these plants and add to our toxic legacy.” John Large, a consulting nuclear engineer, pointed out that the integrity of the graphite bricks was vital to nuclear safety. If they failed, they could block channels that enable control rods to be inserted to close down reactors and prevent them from overheating. “Ageing problems like this serious cracking of the graphite bricks at the heart of each reactor are deeply worrying, so much so that these nuclear plants should now be permanently shut down,” he said. Large accused EDF and the ONR of “false confidence” in believing they fully understood graphite cracking, which was difficult to predict. “The Hunterston B nuclear reactors now in their forty-first year of operation, should be immediately shut down,” he stated. But EDF, a state-owned French company, insisted that its nuclear stations would continue to operate safely. “The graphite in our reactors is behaving exactly as experts predicted it would, and this is confirmed by our regular inspection programme,” said a company spokeswoman. The ONR told the Sunday Herald that its periodic safety review for Hunterston was due at the end of January. “While the decision is still being made, it would not be appropriate to comment on it,” said an ONR spokesman.

Herald 22nd Jan 2017 read more »

Toshiba

With mounting writedowns from its nuclear business, Japan’s Toshiba Corp is looking to sell part of its core semiconductors business, a world No.2 in the flash memory chips used in smartphones. But its rush to plug a hole in its U.S. nuclear business that Japanese media now estimate at as much as $6 billion may complicate any asset sale. Toshiba, which warned last month of multi-billion dollar charges for U.S. nuclear project cost overruns, wants to boost its capital base by the end of March. Failure to offset the nuclear hit could wipe out already thin shareholder equity and push the company into negative net worth – jeopardising its role in public infrastructure projects and its place on the Tokyo stock exchange.

Reuters 22nd Jan 2017 read more »

Sellafield

Over the past few years, several demonstrations of new technologies have been successful. Some of them have the potential to change the way we currently approach decommissioning. We’ve been buzzing with excitement at Sellafield, seeing for the first time: successful cutting up of a dissolver vessel with LaserSnake2, a flexible robotic arm: successful inspection of nuclear facility by a flying a drone; Technology and innovation are high on the agenda right now. The NDA has seen a number of technologies they’ve funded developed through to successful active deployment and commercialisation. With all this momentum and enthusiasm, I was delighted to get involved in a collaborative innovation Competition, which we have now called ‘Integrated Innovation for Nuclear Decommissioning’.

NDA 20th Jan 2017 read more »

Cumbria

Jeremy Corbyn is set to become the first official opposition leader to lose a by-election to the Government in 35 years, according to theLabour Party’s own canvass returns. The Telegraph understands internal analysis of more than 10,000 conversations with voters in Copeland, the Cumbrian constituency, shows Labour’s support down by a third since 2015. A senior Labour source said Mr Corbyn’s “incompetence” as a political leader is coming up repeatedly on the doorstep when discussing voting intention.

Telegraph 20th Jan 2017 read more »

Nuclear Security

The Prospect union has warned that plans to end personal searches at three Scottish airports make it “far more likely” that a nuclear power plant will be a terrorist target. Highlands and Islands Airports Ltd (HIAL) is to end the standard screening of passengers and their cabin baggage at Barra, Tiree and Campbeltown airports from 30 January. Uniquely, Barra airport uses the beach as a runway for scheduled flights to and from Glasgow. Under Civil Aviation Authority rules, small passenger aircraft are exempt from the usual obligations for full security screening. Passengers flying around Orkney already face no security checks before boarding flights.

Independent 21st Jan 2017 read more »

Japan

A crane collapsed Friday night at the Takahama power station in Fukui Prefecture, western Japan, damaging a building housing spent nuclear fuel, the plant operator said Saturday. No one was injured in the accident, which occurred around 9:50 p.m. near the plant’s No. 2 reactor building, and although the roof of the adjacent building was damaged, nothing fell into the spent nuclear fuel pool below it, according to the operator, Kansai Electric Power Co. The crane also damaged the roof of another building nearby. A wind warning was in effect in the area, and strong winds were blowing at that time, according to the utility. The 112-meter-long crane had been used to prepare for safety-enhancement work in which a concrete dome-shaped cover will be placed over the No. 2 reactor building. Work was not being undertaken at the time of accident.

Japan Today 21st Jan 2017 read more »

Mainichi 21st Jan 2017 read more »

Canada – radwaste

Ten groups and individuals have been given another $146,000 to help them weigh in on the wisdom of burying hazardous nuclear waste in a bunker close to the shore of Lake Huron. The bulk of the new money from the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency is earmarked for indigenous people to take part in the review of the safety of the contentious project proposed for near Kincardine, Ont.

CTV 20th Jan 2017 read more »

US

The Brexit vote in England and then the election of Donald Trump, those two unexpected but consequential convulsions, are going to bring some big changes, many to be feared, but others to be welcomed. To my mind, both were driven by fear of the future and “a wildly mistaken interpretation of what is happening to us.” Both are going to make for some near-term chaos, but in the end I actually think they are going to accelerate changes that finally need to come. Trump is a symptom of something much bigger and more fundamental going on in the world. So are the people behind Brexit in Great Britain. They are not driving the change, they are reacting to the change. They are not showing the way forward, they are making desperate attempts to cling to the past, a past that is gone forever. The world is in the relatively early stages of an almost inevitable transition to what can be best understood as a new 21st-century civilization. Relatively early — meaning roughly one-third of the way through. And almost inevitable — meaning it can be derailed if we make some catastrophic political choices. There are three fundamentally different characteristics of this civilization: One, it will be run totally on digital technologies, smarter and smarter, more and more interconnected computers. Two, it will be totally global and operate on a planetary scale. And three, it will have to be sustainable, in its energy usage and its impact on the planet. All three of these shifts are well underway and can be tracked and explained by pointing to investments, the morphing of the advanced economy, the positioning of leading companies, and just following what innovative people are doing. In many ways, these developments are happening despite what governments do. Governments can make things better, and accelerate changes, or slow down changes, but they can’t stop them at this macro level.

Medium 19th Jan 2017 read more »

(IPEC) announced that the three unit nuclear power station on the Hudson River will close fully by 2021. The power station has been a source of controversy through most of its 40 plus year life, beginning when its construction almost bankrupted Consolidated Edison Co. of New York, its builder. It was subsequently owned by the state’s power authority and then eventually purchased by a subsidiary of New Orleans based Entergy Corp. The original Indian Point site contained a waterfront amusement park. We doubt at this stage that anyone is still amused.

Oil Price 20th Jan 2017 read more »

Trident

A serious malfunction in Britain’s Trident nuclear weapons deterrent was covered up by Downing Street just weeks before the crucial House of Commons vote on the future of the missile system. The Sunday Times can reveal that a Trident II D5 missile – which can kill millions when armed with nuclear warheads – experienced an alarming failure after being launched from a British submarine off the coast of Florida in June last year. It was the only firing test of a British nuclear missile in four years and raises serious questions about the reliability and safety of the weapons system. The failure prompted a news blackout by Downing Street that has remained in place until this weekend.

Times 22nd Jan 2017 read more »

It was the first big task for the new prime minister, Theresa May. Just five days after entering Downing Street in July last year, she rose to her feet in the House of Commons to propose a motion backing the renewal of the Trident nuclear weapons system. “There is no greater responsibility as prime minister than ensuring the safety and security of our people,” she began. “That is why I have made it my first duty in this House to move today’s motion. “For almost half a century, every hour of every day, our Royal Navy nuclear submarines have been patrolling the oceans, unseen and undetected, fully armed and fully ready – our ultimate insurance against nuclear attack.” Implicit in the argument for renewal was the assumption that t he Trident weapons system was reliable and, as a basic minimum, could hit its target. May failed, however, to tell the House a crucial piece of information that had been known to Downing Street and the Ministry of Defence (MoD) for four weeks. The Trident weapons system had been tested by a British submarine for the first time in four years. And it had malfunctioned.

Times 22nd July 2017 read more »

Ministers have stood firmly behind the Trident nuclear weapons system after claims of a “disastrous” test malfunction occurred shortly before a crunch Commons vote on the future of the weapon. According to the Sunday Times an unarmed £17m Trident II D5 missile veered off course during a drill off the coast of Florida last June – the first such test for four years. The missile was supposed to reach a sea target off the west of Africa but instead hurtled towards the US.

Politics Home 22nd Jan 2017 read more »

Ministers accused of covering up failed Trident test weeks before vote to renew £40bn nuclear programme

Telegraph 21st Jan 2017 read more »

Mirror 21st Jan 2017 read more »

Renewables – solar

The bungalows of Oxspring may look an unlikely testing ground for a new technology billed as a way to help renewable power, stymie energy price rises and aid the local power grid. But later this month, dozens of homes in this South Yorkshire village will have a home battery installed as part of a £250,000 trial to see if they can make solar power more valuable to homeowners and less painful for grid managers. Smaller than the high-profile Powerwalls introduced to the UK by Elon Musk’s Tesla last year, the British-engineered batteries will be fitted for free in 30 homes with solar panels on their roofs and 10 without.

Guardian 21st Jan 2017 read more »

With clients ranging from The Queen to the Scottish Parliament, a small company in Forres has been playing a leading role in Scotland’s renewables revolution for more than three decades. AES Solar is the longest running solar thermal manufacturer in Western Europe, offering a range of bespoke systems to domestic and commercial clients capable of generating heat or electricity. Such is its reputation, the Moray-based firm’s technology can be found in both Holyrood and Balmoral, The Queen’s private estate in Royal Deeside.

Scotsman 21st Jan 2017 read more »

Renewables – Scotland

Holyrood energy minister Paul Wheelhouse has called on the UK Government to match Scotland’s commitment to renewables. Mr Wheelhouse insisted the Scottish Government has a “strong” record on supporting the green energy sector but said there was a “need to question the UK Government’s commitment to renewables”. Some 14,000 people are employed in “highly-skilled jobs” in the industry, which produced a turnover of £5.4 billion in 2014. The Scottish Government’s draft energy strategy, to be published next week, will build on the commitment of SNP ministers to renewable energy, Mr Wheelhouse said. He urged the UK Government to adopt a similar stance by putting investment in renewables at the “very heart” of its forthcoming industrial strategy. “Scotland has a pipeline of consented projects awaiting final investment decisions. I would like to see these projects, which would provide hundreds of millions of pounds of engineering and construction activity, developed at the earliest opportunity and at the lowest cost to the consumer. “We now need the UK Government to ensure projects have a route to market and remove the uncertainty around timing and eligibility across sectors, including Remote Island Wind, onshore wind, wave and tidal, while there is no price stabilisation mechanism for pumped hydro storage energy as yet either.

Aberdeen Evening Express 22nd Jan 2017 read more »

Green Investment Bank

Ministers are poised to scrap a planned sale of the Green Investment Bank (GIB) to Australian investment firm Macquarie, pushing instead for a £3.8bn stock market listing. In a humiliating climbdown, the business secretary Greg Clark is expected to tear up a deal that had started to come under intense scrutiny at both Westminster and Holyrood in Edinburgh. The privatisation could be even larger than the £3.3bn stock market listing of Royal Mail in 2013.

Times 22nd Jan 2017 read more »

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Published: 22 January 2017