The Hinkley Point C nuclear plant is risky and poor value for money, according to a House of Lords committee that urged the government to set out a “plan B” in case the £18 billion project is not built on time. In a damning report on energy policy, the Lords economic affairs committee said that household energy bills had already soared by 58 per cent since 2003 and the risk of blackouts had increased, in part due to “poorly designed government interventions, in pursuit of decarbonisation”. Ministers should abandon plans to award subsidies to future nuclear plants through bilateral deals like that given to Hinkley, the committee said. Instead such projects should be forced to compete against wind farms, solar power farms and gas-fired power stations to find the cheapest way of keeping the lights on and cutting emissions. The committee said that the government should ensure that “the security of the UK’s energy supply is the priority of its energy policy” and suggested that climate change targets be “managed flexibly”. Lord Hollick, the committee’s chairman, highlighted Hinkley – which was signed off by Theresa May in September – as “a good example of the way policy has become unbalanced and affordability neglected”, and described it as “very, very expensive”.
Times 24th Feb 2017 read more »
The House of Lords has slammed the Hinkley Point new nuclear project as a good example of bad Government policy which puts cutting carbon above reliable, low cost energy. In a scathing report on the UK’s energy plans the Lords heaped criticism on the giant energy project, to be developed by EDF, saying it does not provide taxpayers with good value for money and may suffer delays. The Government has been heavily criticised for handing EDF a contract to build the £18bn plant which will pay the French state-backed company a fixed price of £92.50 per megawatt-hour of electricity produced over 35 years. The total cost to consumers is estimated to be £30bn. Hinkley has also proved highly divisive in France over concerns that EDF cannot afford the project, prompting the resignation of EDF’s former finance boss Thomas Piquemal last year. Lord Holick told the Telegraph “Hinkley Point C is a good example of the way policy has become unbalanced and affordability neglected. It does not provide good value for money for consumers and there are substantial risks associated with the project,” he said. The committee’s report blames the Government’s commitment to ‘decarbonising’ the UK’s electricity supply and the pressure to secure new power generating plants as coal plants continue to close for forcing bills higher. “Poorly-designed government interventions, in pursuit of the decarbonisation, have put unnecessary pressure on the electricity supply and left consumers and industry paying too high a price,” Lord Hollick said. The committee has called for an independent Energy Commission to advise Government on how to achieve an optimum balance of its three key objectives to keep the lights on at low cost while cutting carbon. “It would not be entirely different to the role that the OBR plays with regards to the Treasury. What it would do is provide a degree of transparency, not only for the Government itself to make its decisions but for industry and observers and analysts so that there is a greater degree of accountability as opposed to confusion,” he said.
Telegraph 24th Feb 2017 read more »
The Government’s support for the new nuclear plant at Hinkley Point reflects ministers’ failure to focus on delivering low-cost energy, a group of peers has warned.
Politics Home 24th Feb 2017 read more »
Independent 24th Feb 2017 read more »
Carbon Brief unpicks the committee’s report with the help of several climate and energy policy experts. They describe it as “confused”, lacking nuance and “very disappointing”. Others say the report summary is “very misleading” and the proposed auction “doesn’t really make sense”.
Carbon Brief 24th Feb 2017 read more »
There’s ‘overwhelming’ support for a bypass to be built around villages close to the new Sizewell C power station says Central Suffolk MP Dr Dan Poulter. He’s written to residents as part of the ongoing consultation about improving the A12. 86% of people supported a bypass for Marlesford, Little Glemham, Stratford St Andrew and Farnham.
ITV 24th Feb 2017 read more »
Hitachi Ltd., Toshiba Corp. and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. may put off the proposed integration of their nuclear fuel operations, which was expected as early as this spring, sources said Thursday. Discussions have not progressed as planned on which operational facilities the three companies should scrap and integrate, the sources also said. Toshiba’s losses from its U.S. nuclear business are another potential stumbling block to the plan. Toshiba, which owns U.S. nuclear company Westinghouse, is projecting a ¥712.5 billion loss for its nuclear business. Deterioration in the domestic business environment sparked the three-way tie-up talks by the firms. In Japan, most nuclear reactors currently remain offline amid heightened concern over nuclear energy in the wake of the meltdowns at Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.’s Fukushima No. 1 power plant after the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
Japan Times 23rd Feb 2017 read more »
Interventions in the energy market by successive governments have pushed up prices, but not secured supplies, peers found. A House of Lords committee said the interventions have led to an opaque, complicated and uncompetitive market. The peers blame “poorly designed government interventions in pursuit of decarbonisation” that they say have put pressure on energy supply and bills. The government said its priority was ensuring secure, affordable energy. In recent years policy has been focused on the so-called “energy trilema” of delivering security of supply at an affordable cost to consumers while meeting our climate change goals. However, the report states energy security should be the priority and that low-carbon policies have contributed to higher bills for households and businesses, leading some energy-intensive firms to relocate abroad. “It’s a very high price that is being paid,” says Lord Hollick, who chairs the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee. He points out that green levies, which account for around 10% of energy bills, are set to soar: “Those renewable costs are estimated to go up to nearly 25% by the mid 2020s.” The committee says decarbonisation should be achieved at the lowest cost to consumers with targets managed flexibly. The report is particularly scathing of the recent agreement between the government and EDF for a new nuclear plant at Hinkley Point in Somerset. That guaranteed EDF will be paid £92.50 per megawatt hour, inflation linked for 35 years, for the energy the plant will provide. “We thought that it was extraordinarily expensive,” says Lord Hollick. “Where is this technology up and running? Where is it proven? It’s either over budget or over time – or both.” The Lords also call for the government to publish a contingency plan in case Hinkley Point C is delayed.
BBC 24th Feb 2017 read more »
Energy Policy – Scotland
New nuclear plants should be built in Torness and Hunterston, according to a new Scottish Conservative policy paper on energy and the environment. With Hunterston nuclear plant due to go offline in 2023 and Torness due to close in 2030, the Scottish Tories said new plants are needed to “ensure a robust energy mix” in Scotland. But environmental groups question the proposal, with Friends of the Earth Scotland director Dr Richard Dixon saying the party was “flogging a dead horse” on nuclear. Releasing the paper, Ruth Davidson said protecting the environment was “one of the greatest challenge of our times”.
Holyrood 22nd Feb 2017 read more »
The UK will need new international agreements to keep its access to radiotherapy for cancer patients when the country withdraws from the EU’s Euratom nuclear watchdog. Britain imports all the radioactive medical isotopes used to treat many cancers and they are governed by strict international rules on the transportation of nuclear materials. Britain’s access to these isotopes is currently assured through its membership of Euratom, the European nuclear regulator, but the UK government confirmed last month that it would leave the organisation as part of its exit from the EU. Radiation therapies are among many critical nuclear materials and technologies that the UK would no longer be able to import or export unless new agreements are reached with a range of countries and international organisations.
FT 23rd Feb 2017 read more »
Bloomberg 23rd Feb 2017 read more »
The decommissioning of nuclear facilities is one of the major challenges of the coming decades for Europe. A precise agenda of decommissioning is not available yet, but Europe will face a large number of closed down facilities. It is inevitable that facilities will stop, either because their planned lifetime comes to an end, otherwise because of economic, industrial or security reasons. According to statistics from the World Nuclear Association (association gathering producers of energy coming from nuclear power), 14 reactors have stopped operating as a result of an accident or a serious incident, 22 were shut down because of political choices and 97 were closed for economical profitability reasons. Preparations should be made immediately to manage the massive decommissioning coming. The European Union has currently 131 nuclear plants in operation, 75% run for over 27 years, while the technical lifetime of a reactor ranges from 30-40 years, even though some will be extended to 50-60 years of operation. Europe has already several closed down reactors, but none of these plants have been completely decommissioned. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) recognizes the final shutdown of 29 reactors in Britain, 28 in Germany, 12 in France, 4 in Bulgaria, four in Italy, two in Lithuania, one in the Netherlands, three in Slovakia, two in Spain, three in Sweden.
Nuclear Transparency Watch 6th Feb 2017 read more »
To enter Europe’s largest nuclear site, a visitor must be wearing construction coveralls, steel-toed boots, a hard hat, and a pager-size device that rings if radiation levels get too high. Contamination enters the body through open wounds, so any cuts must be bandaged with medical tape. On the way out, after you remove your protective gear, a security guard sweeps your body with a handheld detection device to make sure nothing latched on. It’s as unsettling as it sounds. This is Sellafield, on the coast of the Irish Sea, more than 300 miles north (and a bit west) of London. At the dawn of the Cold War, the U.K. chose this site as the place to begin enriching uranium for its first nuclear weapon. But in the country’s haste to build a bomb, little thought was given to disposing of the waste. Much of it was placed in concrete ponds larger than Olympic swimming pools. In 1957 a reactor fire contaminated the local countryside and a devastating meltdown was narrowly avoided.
Bloomberg 16th Feb 2017 read more »
The goal of sustainable low carbon energy systems requires a nuanced understanding of social justice concerns. Energy systems are understood broadly as multiple interconnected processes of generation and consumption. These include all components related to production, conversion, delivery, and use of energy. The current energy transition calls for a rethinking of ethical dilemmas on how to allocate the benefits and costs of scarce energy resources, not only among the citizens of urban and rural; north and south; poor and rich but also between current and future generations. Past experiences have shown that realizing energy projects is seldom an uncontested process. From confrontations over oil extraction, concerns over the sustainability of biofuels, to resistance against hydropower, wind energy projects as well as nuclear power, energy questions seem inherently fraught with conflict and sustainability concerns. This ultimately raises the question of energy justice: how can we understand and foster justice when considering past, present and future energy access and production – energy for whom and for what at whose cost? Considerations such as these have implications for the justice concerns of energy development itself. Given the clear impetus for a drastic change of the energy landscape in the coming decades and the key challenges faced by many countries in meeting increasing energy needs, it is to be expected that these will become crucial questions in the coming decades.
Elsevier (accessed) 23rd Feb 2017 read more »
[Machine Translation] Nuclear: Taishan EPR start-up postponed The two EPR nuclear reactors under construction in Taishan (southern China) will start later than expected, said Chinese nuclear group CGN, which manages the project in partnership with EDF. The first reactor is expected to start “in the second half of 2017” instead of the first half, while commissioning of the second will occur during “the first half of 2018” instead of the second half of 2017, CGN said in a statement released Monday evening. With the setbacks of other EPR projects in Finland and Flamanville (Manche), these EPRs, with a capacity of 1,750 megawatts each, must be the first to enter the world. The decision comes after “a comprehensive assessment of the technical construction plan and risks,” said the Chinese group.
Le Figaro 21st Feb 2017 read more »
Even though radiation levels in a village near the site of the Fukushima nuclear disaster still exceed international guidelines, its evacuated residents are being coerced to return, according to a Greenpeace report.
Deutsche Welle 21st Feb 2017 read more »
Germany – Radwaste
For two years, BUND worked constructively and with considerable engagement with the Bundestag’s Commission on the Storage of Highly Radioactive Nuclear Waste to amend Germany’s current Site Selection Act (Standortauswahlgesetz, StandAG), a piece of legislation that we had criticized strongly. In BUND’s view, the commission report presented in late June 2016 contains a number of sound and important suggestions for improving the current site selection process. However, it also contains central, fundamental flaws that prevent us from endorsing it. Crucial points of the future site search process need to be amended to ensure that the necessary confidence is built. Among the issues BUND criticizes is the lack of clarity with regard to the kind of nuclear waste to be stored. The commission spent more than two years trying to develop criteria and a process to select a repository site for highly radioactive waste for more than two years. It finally proposed integrating radioactive waste from the Asse repository, from uranium enrichment and other nuclear waste not suitable for storage in the Konrad repository into the process as well, but without proposing appropriate criteria or a methodology. BUND also criticizes the lack of legal recourse after the first phase of site selection for above-ground exploration is complete. Furthermore, we consider the commission’s inability to agree on giving up the Gorleben site to be unacceptable. With this brochure, we aim to present the site selection process as it would be according to the commission’s proposal, as well as the specific points of the proposal that we criticize and in which we see room for improvement.
BUND (accessed) 23rd Feb 2017 read more »
English summary of the Report of the German Commission on the Storage of High- Level Radioactive Waste.
Nuclear Transparency Watch (accessed) 23rd Feb 2017 read more »
US – radwaste
There is a place in the United States, almost half-a-mile underground, in a salt mine, where radioactive waste leftover from the production of tens of thousands of nuclear bombs was to be held separate from all contact with humanity for 10,000 years, equivalent to the entire history of civilization. This separation of civilization from the byproduct of its folly had lasted one-tenth of one percent of that immense time when on Valentine’s Day, three years ago, an explosion sent the deadly contamination back to the world of humans. It shouldn’t have been a surprise because there were already two other failed geological repositories for nuclear waste, both in Germany and designed for civilian not military waste, that have also leaked within a short time of operation. But despite the signs of potential failure the United States in an leap of technological faith spent billions to hollow out a salt cavern in south eastern New Mexico, near the small town of Carlsbad, not far from the Texas border called the Waste Isolation pilot Plant or WIPP. That faith wasn’t justified as events unfolded.
This can’t be happening 23rd Feb 2017 read more »
A Washington State University study of the chemistry of technetium-99 has improved understanding of the challenging nuclear waste and could lead to better cleanup methods. The work is reported in the journal Inorganic Chemistry. It was led by John McCloy, associate professor in the School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering, and chemistry graduate student Jamie Weaver. Researchers from Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), the Office of River Protection and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory collaborated. Technetium-99 is a byproduct of plutonium weapons production and is considered a major U.S. challenge for environmental cleanup. At the Hanford Site nuclear complex in Washington state, there are about 2,000 pounds of the element dispersed within approximately 56 million gallons of nuclear waste in 177 storage tanks. The U.S. Department of Energy is in the process of building a waste treatment plant at Hanford to immobilize hazardous nuclear waste in glass. But researchers have been stymied because not all the technetium-99 is incorporated into the glass and volatilized gas must be recycled back into the melter system. The element can be very soluble in water and moves easily through the environment when in certain forms, so it is considered a significant environmental hazard.
Phys.org 23rd Feb 2017 read more »
The United States was once a projected leader in the nuclear energy race. In the 20th century, the world dreamed of finding a way to provide safe, cheap, and renewable energy, and nuclear power seemed to be the manifestation of those dreams. All of this, however, seems to be coming to an end.
Oil Price 23rd Feb 2017 read more »
President Donald Trump has said he wants the United States to expand its nuclear arsenal, in his first comments on the issue since taking office. Mr Trump said it would be “wonderful” if no nation had nuclear arms, but otherwise the US must be “top of the pack”.
He told Reuter that the US had “fallen behind on nuclear weapon capacity”.Critics say the US and Russia already have more weapons than necessary to deter a nuclear attack. The US has 6,800 nuclear weapons and Russia has 7,000, according to the US nonpartisan Arms Control Association.
BBC 24th Feb 2017 read more »
Using wood pellets to generate low-carbon electricity is a flawed policy that is speeding up not slowing down climate warming. That’s according to a new study which says wood is not carbon neutral and emissions from pellets are higher than coal. Subsidies for biomass should be immediately reviewed, the author says. Energy from trees has become a critical part of the renewable supply in many countries including the UK. While much of the discussion has focussed on wind and solar power, across Europe the biggest source of green energy is biomass. It supplies around 65% of renewable power – usually electricity generated from burning wood pellets. EU Governments, under pressure to meet tough carbon cutting targets, have been encouraging electricity producers to use more of this form of energy by providing substantial subsidies for biomass burning. However this new assessment from Chatham House suggests that this policy is deeply flawed when it comes to cutting CO2. According to the author, current regulations do not count the emissions from the burning of wood at all, assuming that they are balanced by the planting of new trees.
BBC 23rd Feb 2017 read more »
Letter: Mark Wickham, Managing director, HRS Energy. Ben Webster’s report on biomass subsidies (“£450m lost over failed green power programme”, News, Feb 22) highlights the challenge of calculating the environmental benefit of biomass. However, we should not forget that, managed properly, biomass can be a highly sustainable source of renewable energy. Biomass which uses high-moisture local waste wood is essential in forestry management, often preventing wood from rotting in landfill or being burnt on site, while providing reliable and secure energy generation. It has a crucial role to play in reducing the UK’s net emissions and reliance on fossil fuels. The industry should welcome scrutiny in this area, but let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water.
Times 24th Feb 2017 read more »
Renewables – solar
Environmentally friendly schools with solar panels on their roof will have to pay hundreds of pounds extra under changes to business rates. But academies, free schools or private schools with the same type of panels will get relief, because of their charitable status. Philip Hammond, the chancellor, is facing further pressure to soften the rate reforms after complaints from high street businesses this week that they will face a sharp rise in charges. “It’s absolutely bonkers,” said Sarah Ewins, business manager of Eleanor Palmer primary school in Camden, north London, where pupils organised cake bakes and other events last year to raise £24,000 for the panels. Instead of reducing energy bills, Ms Ewins said that the panels would now cost an extra £500 in addition to the £4,000 increase to the school’s rates bill. According to the Solar Trade Association, the rateable value for self-use solar panels will rise from £8 per kilowatt to up to £61.60. Campaigners said it was “bewildering” that the government should seek to penalise groups using clean energy to reduce their electricity bills. Leonie Greene, of the Solar Trade Association, said: “The proposed tax hike on solar is bewildering and completely at odds with the government’s new industrial strategy. “Rooftop solar is an ideal means for schools, hospitals and businesses to reduce their energy costs while doing their bit for the environment.” Nina Schrank, energy campaigner at Greenpeace UK, said: “By penalising these people, ministers could stop the solar industry in its tracks before it even gets going.”
Times 24th Feb 2017 read more »
Renewables – tax
The Scottish government has capped a massive hike in business rates bills which threatened to undermine ambitious plans to boost plans to boost renewable energy generation north of the border. According to Scottish Renewables, smaller hydro, solar and wind schemes faced business rates increases of up to 650 per cent as part of a wider revaluation of the property tax launched by the Holyrood government in December. However Dereck Mackay, finance minister in the Scottish Nationalist Party administration has announced that rate increase next year for a host of small businesses will be capped at 12.5 per cent.
Utility Week 23rd Feb 2017 read more »
The start of work to build a new £490 million electricity inter-connector between the UK and France was marked yesterday by British Energy Minister Jesse Norman helping to lay the foundation stone. The new ElecLink connection between Britain and France will provide greater access to the continental electricity market, and help to reduce consumer bills as electricity can be flexibly imported and exported to take advantage of cheaper prices, said Norman. The project will run through the Channel Tunnel between Sellindge in the UK and Les Mandarins in France. It will have the capacity to power up to 2 million homes and provide further resilience for Britain’s electricity supply.
Scottish Energy News 24th Feb 2017 read more »
The Scottish Government is ready to look into the prospect of public buyouts of vital North Sea platforms and pipelines to support the industry through the current slump. It comes amid growing concerns that “premature decommissioning” of key facilities could kill off the fragile recovery in the industry as the global oil price continues to stagnate. Talks have already taken place with potential “financial partners” about the prospect of intervention, energy minister Paul Wheelhouse told MSPs yesterday. Labour’s Lewis MacDonald called on Scottish ministers to consider a public buy-out of vital infrastructure such as pipelines amid fears these could be lost as firms step up their decommissioning plans.
Scotsman 23rd Feb 2017 read more »