23 February 2016

AGRs

A new graphite irradiation research program has been launched in support of ageing management of Advanced Gas-Cooled Reactors (AGRs) in the UK. Last week, EDF Energy announced new scheduled closure dates for four of its UK AGR nuclear power plants. AGR reactors feature a graphite moderator and are cooled using carbon dioxide. The graphite blocks cannot be replaced or repaired during the operating life of the reactors. However, radiation damage changes the shape and size of the crystallites that comprise graphite, a process known as dimensional change, which in turn degrades the mechanical properties of the graphite. For continued operation, it is therefore necessary to demonstrate that the graphite can still perform its intended role irrespective of the degradation. EDF Energy – together with Atkins, Frazer Nash and NRG – launched the Blackstone project in 2006. The project aims to simulate accelerated aging of reactor graphite. This involves neutron irradiation at the right temperature combined with simultaneous radiolytic oxidation.

World Nuclear News 22nd Feb 2016 read more »

Dounreay

THIRTEEN years without a lost time accident has not been down to being lucky as a Dounreay clean-up team celebrate a major milestone. The Dounreay Fast Reactor (DFR) has just celebrated a record 4748 days of safe working without a lost time accident. The dome-shaped fast reactor, the first in the world to provide electricity to a national grid, is in the midst of a £250 million programme which should see it levelled by the late 2020s. Although there is no single factor contributing to the safety record, the DFR team believe that their open reporting culture is a major contributor. The team has become adept at identifying and learning from issues before they become significant.

John O Groat Journal 21st Feb 2016 read more »

A County Antrim manufacturing firm has plans for 80 new jobs due to business growth, including a multi-million pound contract at a nuclear power plant. Toomebridge-based Creagh Concrete said 50 of the posts will be in Northern Ireland, with the rest in Edinburgh. The firm has just won a £27m contract to supply concrete containers for use in the decommissioning of Dounreay nuclear power station in Scotland. Up to 6,000 of its containers will be used to store “low grade waste”.

BBC 23rd Feb 2016 read more »

EDF

[Machine Translation] EDF: the state can avoid an industrial and financial disaster. EDF is the worse for having relied on a nuclear industry with an uncertain future. The state must resume its role as strategist and push EDF as other historical actors to renewable energy, where market shares are important to take. By Raphael Homayoun Boroumand, Professor at the Paris School of Business, Stéphane Drop, Lecturer at the University of Paris 8, and Thomas Porcher Professor at the Paris School of Business. EDF is not a flagship of French industry is facing a wall of huge investments of tens of billions of euros in the coming years for which provisions are insufficient (power plant maintenance, life Areva , UK EPR, decommissioning). The output of the CAC 40, with a market value divided by 8 since 2008 (a loss of value of € 136 billion), and a 2015 profit divided by three in one year, suggest an industrial and financial disaster.

La Tribune 22nd Feb 2016 read more »

Energy Policy

The Department of Energy and Climate Change (Decc) and the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) have published new departmental plans, detailing the UK’s energy and environmental policy priorities from 2015-2020. The plans outline how Decc and Defra will spend their annual budgets, of £3.3 billion and £2 billion respectively in 2015/16. Decc said it will help the UK “deliver an energy infrastructure fit for the 21st century”, keeping bills “as low as possible for families and businesses” and pushing for ambitious international action on climate change “to safeguard our long-term economic and national security”. Specifically, Amber Rudd’s department will “ensure the UK has a secure and resilient energy system” by driving a “significant expansion of new nuclear”; considering new smart technologies such as energy storage and demand-side response; supporting fracking to supplement gas production from the North Sea; and doubling funding for energy innovation.

Utility Week 22nd Feb 2016 read more »

The new strategy contains few surprises, providing confirmation of many of the policies and consultations the department has launched or trailled since the election. For example, it confirms plans to bolster energy security by reviewing the Capacity Market to “ensure it provides the right investment incentives for new gas plants to be built in the UK”, supporting new interconnectors, delivering a “significant expansion” of new nuclear capacity, considering new smart technologies for energy storage and demand response, and supporting the “safe development of shale gas”. The document also defends the government’s recent decision to slash renewable energy subsidies and energy efficiency spending, arguing that the Levy Control Framework which caps spending on ‘green levies’ at £7.6bn by 2020 was on track to overshoot by £1.4bn.

Business Green 22nd Feb 2016 read more »

The public, media and politicians have not yet caught up with the fundamental changes going on in the UK energy sector, says Lawrence Slade, chief executive of industry group Energy UK. The UK needs a national conversation and narrative around these changes, effectively its own version of Germany’s “Energiewende” (energy transition), says Slade, speaking exclusively to Carbon Brief before publication today of an Energy UK report on pathways for the sector out to 2030. Today’s report, on pathways to 2030 for the UK electricity sector, was prepared for Energy UK by KPMG. It is based on interviews with 23 companies from across the UK energy industry on where the sector needs to be in 2030, and what needs to happen to get there. The report touches on almost every aspect of UK energy policy, from the coal phase out (the energy industry backs it) to the institutional structures of energy regulation and markets (they need to change). It looks at carbon budgets (the report assumes they must be met) and the squeeze on electricity generating capacity (it isn’t as bad as the government fears). A broader theme runs through the report, however: the energy sector is in a state of transformation. Energy firms sense a looming technology-led “revolution”, similar to those that have overtaken telecomms and banking, the report says. Asked which sources of electricity will be playing a larger role in 2030, their top pick is solar. Solar is expected to reach grid parity “in the next few years at residential level”, the report says. It adds: “Many [in the sector] believed…the combination of small-scale renewables and electricity storage could create a complete paradigm shift in how the power sector operates.” So, what might a UK Energiewende look like? It would probably be very different than Germany’s, not least given government support for new nuclear power. A more flexible energy system should be at its heart, Slade suggests. Today’s report sets out a vision for an energy system that is less reliant on baseload generation; one that is more flexible, more decentralised and much more consumer-oriented.

Carbon Brief 23rd Feb 2016 read more »

There are two changes which are fundamentally altering both practice and mind-set within electricity systems around the world. The first is the rapid take-up of variable power renewables within a few countries or states. Denmark, Germany, Portugal, Spain, California, and Hawaii all derive 25 to 43 per cent of their electricity generation from variable renewables sources (primarily wind and solar). The second change, building on the first, is a greater understanding of the value of flexibility for the secure operation of energy systems. This knowledge has transferred to other countries, even if they do not yet have high proportions of variable power. As I argued in a recent article for Nature Energy, the next six years through to 2022 will see the continuation of this accelerating trend; the shift worldwide towards renewable, energy-efficient and flexible electricity systems.

IGov 22nd Feb 2016 read more »

The government’s policy to promote shale gas as a bridge to a low carbon future is challenged by new research from the UK Energy Research Centre, published today. The future of natural gas in the UK concludes that gas has only a limited role as a ‘bridging fuel’. It looked at the place of gas in UK energy if we are to meet our mandatory climate targets. It found that without carbon capture and storage, the scope for gas use in 2050 would be little more than 10% of 2010 levels. In November 2015, the government scrapped a £1bn competition to develop commercial CCS. And in September, the Energy Secretary, Amber Rudd, said in a statement that access to natural gas “for years to come” was a key requirement if the UK was to “successfully transition in the longer term to a low-carbon economy.” She added: “The Government therefore consider that there is a clear need to seize the opportunity now to explore and test our shale potential.”

Drill or Drop 23rd Feb 2016 read more »

The use of natural gas for electricity generation in the UK may have to decline significantly over the next 30 years, according to a new study. Without carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology, gas-fired electricity would have to fall to 10% of the mix to meet emissions targets for 2050. The new study also warns that current government policies will deter investment in gas. The report has been published by the UK Energy Research Centre.

BBC 23rd Feb 2016 read more »

The world must reinvent the way it generates, purchases and distributes electricity if it is to win the fight against climate change, according to a major new report published last week by the International Energy Agency (IEA). The paper suggests that while the technology of electricity generation has undergone a massive revolution in recent years, the regulatory regime and market design of most electricity markets have not kept up with the pace of technological change. Electricity markets of the future will require a new framework to encourage low-carbon investments while maintaining security of supply, the IEA said. Changes to network investments, regulations, capacity markets, and integration processes are all required, although it admits there is no definitive answer to what the “perfect market design” will be in a low-carbon world. Instead, improvements to market design are likely to be evolutionary and reflect interactions between different technologies and market rules.

Business Green 22nd Feb 2016 read more »

Uranium

The United Nations Climate Change Conference that took place in Paris in 2015 engendered a new global commitment to clean energy and reinvigorated discussion of nuclear power as a solution to climate change. It’s low-carbon. It’s technology we have. And political and economic support can be found among the elite. Yet, this turns a blind eye to nuclear power’s health legacies, seen most clearly in rural uranium communities, where the technology continues to make residents ill well after the Second World War and the Cold War ended. Individuals in hundreds of such communities share similar experiences but lack the power to tell their stories. Yet the stories demand to be heard, and the tellers need help for the unsustainable damage they and their communities endure – the very communities poised to produce much of the uranium needed to fuel a nuclear renaissance. In fact, the $54 billion-worth of United States federal loans pre-approved for subsidised nuclear reactor construction should also fund cancer screening and treatment facilities in affected communities. If the government funds nuclear power as a renewable energy source near these communities, as is currently occurring in the state of Utah, then monies should also go toward sustainable community development.

Aeon 22nd Feb 2016 read more »

US – radwaste

The US Department of Energy has issued notices against Nuclear Waste Partnership (NWP) and Los Alamos National Security (LANS) for violations of its nuclear safety requirements regarding two 2014 incidents at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico, marking the completion of its investigations and enforcement processes.

World Nuclear News 22nd Feb 2016 read more »

Germany

Germany is willing to shield its utility companies from the risks of rising costs linked to the country’s nuclear exit, according to a draft report from a government-appointed committee seen by Reuters on Monday. The report recommends that Germany’s “big four” utilities — E.ON, RWE, EnBW and Vattenfall — transfer the provisions set aside to pay for interim and final storage of nuclear waste in cash to a government — controlled fund by 2022. In addition, the committee has raised the possibility that the power companies remain liable for up to €36 billion ($39.7 billion) in costs for storage. Up to now the utilities have set aside around 18 billion for this.

Business Insurance 22nd Feb 2016 read more »

Reuters 22nd Feb 2016 read more »

Nuclear Testing

Residents of French Polynesia who suffered due to 30 years of French nuclear tests in the Pacific archipelago have a legitimate right to compensation, President Francois Hollande said on his first visit to the region on Monday. The sensitive issue of reparations for damage caused by the atomic testing between 1966 and 1996 at Mururoa Atoll is top of the agenda of Hollande’s tour of French Pacific territories.

Reuters 22nd Feb 2016 read more »

Renewables – tidal

Sustainable Marine Energy has bought 16 ‘plug ‘n play’ Schottel turbines to launch a ‘commercially viable’ tidal energy project in Orkney. Over the next two years German manufacturer Schottel Hydro will deliver 16 of its instream turbines with a capacity of 62 kW each to Sustainable Marine Energy (SME). Although based on the Isle of Wight, Sustainable Marine Energy has an operateing base in Kirkwall, where it has signed a long term contract with the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) to build a platform array off the Orkney Islands.

Scottish Energy News 23rd Feb 2016 read more »

Renewables – Scotland

The Scottish Affairs Committee of Westminster MPs is due to start its inquiry into the renewable energy sector in Scotland by taking evidence tomorrow (24 Feb) from leaders of, among others, E3G, UK Energy Research Centre and the Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Innovation. Pete Wishart, Chairman of the Scottish Affairs Committee, (and SNP MP for Perth & North Perthshire) (pictured, left) said: “Scotland can be rightly proud of its record on renewable energy, as it has surpassed fossil fuels and nuclear to become our principal electricity source. “In this session we will be hearing from the association which represents the industry Scotland, and three other organisations involved with the renewables sector. “We will be asking them about the Government’s strategy for supporting the renewables sector in Scotland, and in particular whether they have any concerns regarding recent reductions in government subsidy.”

Scottish Energy News 23rd Feb 2016 read more »

“Scarcely a volt of electricity is generated from our offshore waters,” Mr Wilson wrote in yesterday’s Sunday Times. Brian Wilson, the former energy minister, has said that Scotland’s offshore powerhouse has failed spectacularly to match the hype. “Scarcely a volt of electricity is generated from our offshore waters,” Mr Wilson wrote in yesterday’s Sunday Times, recalling the predictions that the seas around Scotland would become “the Saudi Arabia of renewables”. “The growth in Scotland’s green energy output has been almost entirely attributable to onshore wind farms, the low-hanging fruit of renewables,” he said. “Offshore, the hype has failed to translate into projects or jobs. “It proved easier to issue press releases about harnessing the power of the waves and tides than to actually do it. “Contrary to myth, Scotland is not particularly well endowed for off shore wind developments. Most of our waters are too deep and wild. A handful of sites on the east coast have been deemed feasible and only two potential projects are near the starting blocks. One, 12 miles off Fife, faces collapse. In the time it has taken to achieve an impasse over what should be Scotland’s first custom-built offshore wind farm, 17 projects have been approved in England and Wales.” Mr Wilson added that the funding process had become tougher and that new projects were unlikely. “If the metaphor is to be maintained, Scottish waters can be compared to Saudi Arabia without any oil.”

Times 22nd Feb 2016 read more »

The growth in Scotland’s green energy output has been almost entirely attributable to onshore wind farms – the low-hanging fruit of renewables technology. Offshore, the hype has failed to translate into projects or jobs. Salmond’s Saltire prize, to incentivise marine developers, is but a distant memory, now abandoned. It proved easier to issue press releases about harnessing the power of the waves and tides than to actually do it. But the well-established technology involved in offshore wind farms has remained equally unproductive in terms of outcomes, due to obstacles and delays peculiar to Scotland. Contrary to myth, Scotland is not particularly well endowed for offshore wind developments. Most of our waters are too deep and wild. A handful of sites on the east coast have been deemed feasible and only two potential projects are near the starting blocks. One, 12 miles off Fife, faces collapse. In the time it has taken to achieve an impasse over what should be Scotland’s first custom-built offshore wind farm, 17 such projects have been approved in England and Wales.

Sunday Times 21st Feb 2016 read more »

Local Energy

Shoppers in London’s West End could soon take a break from the hustle and bustle of Oxford Street by visiting the capital’s first power-generating street. The New West End Company has secured funding from Transport for London (TfL) to turn Bird Street – a traffic-free space just off Oxford Street – into an ‘intelligent street’ boasting solar and kinetic power generating technologies. The company said under the project “materials in roofs, canopies and pavements would generate the energy, and would be integrated into an enjoyable public space that will prioritise pedestrians and cyclists”.

Business Green 22nd Feb 2016 read more »

Energy Storage

If Tesla’s Powerwall is the “Lamborghini” of the solar storage industry, a small Brisbane company backed by University of Queensland researchers says it has hit on the formula to deliver the “Toyota”. “Fundamentally, the big thing we all need to be talking about as consumers is not batteries or whatever, but self-consumption – that is the itch we have to scratch,” Livingston said. The big thing we all need to be talking about as consumers is not batteries but self-consumption. The average solar-powered house consumed only 25-30% of the power it produced, the rest now fetching scant rates on the wholesale power market, he said. The Powerwall, with its Lithium battery, would take “self-consumption” to 57%. The Ouija system would better that at 61% and “about a third less in cost” than the Powerwall, Livingston said.

Guardian 23rd Feb 2016 read more »

Climate Change

Sea levels could surge by well over a metre this century unless dramatic action is taken to tackle global warming, according to an alarming new study which reveals the oceans are rising at their fastest rate for at least 2,700 years. Levels increased by 14cm last century, with climate change responsible for more than half of the rise, as warming temperatures expanded the sea water and melted glaciers, the research found. The rapid rises in the water level have already brought dozens of low-lying islands dangerously close to the sea – but that is nothing compared with what lies in store this century, the researchers warn. They predict that, even in the unlikely event of dramatic overnight action to curb climate change, the global sea level will jump by between 20cm and 60cm by 2100. And if extreme action is not taken quickly, this century could see an increase of between 50cm and 130cm, according to a report led by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research.

Independent 22nd Feb 2016 read more »

Guardian 23rd Feb 2016 read more »

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Published: 23 February 2016