24 June 2015

Hinkley

Austria is to officially file a legal complaint in Brussels against state subsidies for Britain’s planned new Hinkley Point nuclear power plant, the government in Vienna said. “We cannot accept that a technology such as this being portrayed through subsidies as being modern, sustainable and future-oriented,” Chancellor Werner Faymann said after a cabinet meeting. The complaint, which Vienna had already threatened in September and which will be filed next Monday, “is also of symbolic value against nuclear power”, the centre-left chancellor said. Despite opposition from activists and several member states, the European Commission approved the Hinkley Point project – where France’s EDF is to build two reactors – in October, after the UK modified funding plans for the £16bn deal. A spokeswoman for the Department of Energy and Climate Change said: “We are confident that the European Commission’s state aid decision on Hinkley Point C is legally robust and have no reason to believe that Austria will submit a challenge of any merit.” Environmentalists see Hinkley Point as an unnecessary support of nuclear energy just when the use of renewables, such as wind and solar power, is beginning to take hold. But the EU Commission insists that the choice of energy source, no matter how controversial, is strictly up to member states.

Telegraph 23rd June 2015 read more »

EU Business 23rd June 2015 read more »

EPRs

The head of France’s nuclear watchdog has upset the industry by taking an increasingly assertive approach that critics say could jeopardise efforts to win more business overseas. The tensions at the top of a key French industry bring into focus the role of the ASN, an independent body set up in 2006, whose decisions can cost nuclear companies billions of euros. The ASN shocked the country’s mainly pro-nuclear establishment in April when it disclosed that state-controlled Areva had found weak spots in the steel of its flagship European Pressurised Reactor (EPR) which is being built in Normandy. The French industry is worried about the damage the EPR’s problems could do its image abroad, with export orders such as the 16 billion pound ($25 billion) Hinkley Point project in western England vital to tide it over until France decides whether to renew its ageing nuclear plants. Industry insiders argue other competitors like Russian or Chinese companies do not face the same level of scrutiny.

Reuters 22nd June 2015 read more »

New Nukes

Recently, interesting and lively correspondence on the merits and demerits of nuclear power has taken place between Dr Becky Martin, a geneticist formerly at Oxford University and Baroness Worthington, the Labour Party’s energy spokesperson in the House of Lords. Jonathan Porritt and R Ian Fairlie wrote a joint reply to Baroness Worthington’s reply to Dr Martin reproduced here: In our view, as two individuals involved in these matters for more than 40 years, nuclear is so undemocratic, uneconomic, unsustainable, unhealthy and unsafe that anyone who continues to support today’s increasingly corrupted nuclear dream would appear to have lost at least part of their own moral compass.

Dr Ian Fairlie 23rd June 2015 read more »

Moorside

People had their say about West Cumbria’s proposed new nuclear power station at a consultation event in Workington today. More than 20 people attended the consultation event to ask Stephen Bray, NuGen’s stakeholder and public consultation manager, questions and view information about the plans. Mr Bray said he was pleased with the turnout and the feedback had been valuable. He added: “The good thing is that we’ve had lots of intelligent questions and strong discussions and you pick up a lot of information we didn’t have before about the local area.

West Cumberland Times & Star 23rd June 2015 read more »

Radhealth

A study coordinated by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), the specialised cancer agency of the World Health Organisation, shows that protracted exposure to low doses of ionising radiation can cause leukaemia. The study, published in The Lancet Haematology, shows that the risk of death from leukaemia increases linearly with the radiation dose.

eCancer News 23rd June 2015 read more »

Supply Chain

Crucial flange-maintenance tools produced by Equalizer International – the Aberdeen-based provider of tools for the energy sector – have been recognised as having a positive impact on safety and quality while challenging tasks durations and costs. Equalizer’s Secure-Grip (SG) tools were recognised in the nuclear industry at the EDF Energy Nuclear Generation Challenge Awards in the UK.

Scottish Energy News 24th June 2015 read more »

Energy Policy

Peter Strachan & Alex Russell: What will become of UK energy policy now that the Conservative Party holds all the levers? The government has already given clear indications of its plans to pare back onshore wind in recent days. June 24 is the turn of offshore wind, when energy secretary Amber Rudd gives one of her first keynote speeches at the Global Offshore Wind Conference. Rudd has been described as “really green” in the past, but that is unlikely to reassure the offshore wind industry. With the government apparently committed to nuclear and shale gas and oil, renewables companies are wondering if they still have a place at the table. Keith Anderson, chief operating officer of Scottish Power, has estimated removing ROCs from onshore wind a year early will cost consumers between £2bn-3bn in more expensive electricity generation. This will increase the risk of fuel poverty across the UK. Offshore is already now much smaller than originally envisaged. It remains an expensive option in the UK even compared to new nuclear, and although costs are falling, it is not being deployed on the scale necessary to reduce costs to the point that it is commercially viable. If the subsidies are now cut, it will become a dead duck. Compare Denmark, where the industry is now seeing costs fall dramatically through learning by doing. While the industry has benefited from highly competitive support mechanisms, deployment has been greatly facilitated by having 20% local ownership of projects. Shallower waters have helped too, but the UK could still learn from the Danish approach. Danish offshore wind costs are significantly less than the projected new nuclear build costs at Hinkley Point C in Somerset in the UK, the country’s first new nuclear plant since the 1990s. As Hinkley Point C has already illustrated, the financial costs of new nuclear are enormous, and construction overruns look inevitable. The government also faces an impending legal challenge by the Austrian government over the up to £25bn of state aid required to bring the project to fruition. This could delay completion by up to four years. Put this all together and the government’s emerging approach to wind looks very unwise. New nuclear looks a very costly and unreliable drain on the government’s budget, while fracking looks expensive, incompatible with emissions targets and probably uneconomic at current oil prices. It remains to be seen if these technologies will yield any long-term and positive outcomes for the country. If the government gets it wrong, the consumer could be saddled with soaring electricity and gas bills for years to come. If ever we needed some sign of reprieve for UK renewables, it is now.

The Conversation 23rd June 2015 read more »

Global Nuclear

World nuclear generation tracked by Platts in 2014 rose 1% compared to 2013, the first annual gain since the 2011 accident at Fukushima I in Japan curbed global nuclear output sharply, an analysis shows. The analysis considers generation by the nuclear plants reporting gross generation to Platts. Those plants generated about 2.039 billion MWh in 2014. That was a slight increase from the 2.018 billion MWh in reported generation in 2013. About 350 of the world’s 429 nuclear units report gross generating data to Platts.

Platts 22nd June 2015 read more »

NDA

Over the last few months the NDA has run a competition to select a company to work with the civil nuclear sites across the UK and bring their records to a new archive in Wick for long-term preservation. Crimson has been selected by the NDA as the preferred bidder for an initial contract of up to 7 years.

NDA 23rd June 2015 read more »

Sweden

Unit 2 of the Oskarshamn nuclear power plant in Sweden would close by 2020, with unit 1 shutting between 2017 and 2019, under a proposal announced today by majority owner EOn. Minority owner Fortum opposes the early shutdown of the units.

World Nuclear News 23rd June 2015 read more »

E.ON has said it plans to shut Swedish nuclear reactor Oskarshamn 2 in southeastern Sweden because it is unprofitable. “In E.ON’s view, the economic prerequisites for investments to run Oskarshamn 2 beyond 2020 do not exist, and… the prerequisites do not exist either for the measures that would be required to continue operations until 2020,” E.ON Sweden said in a statement. The reactor has been in service since 1974, and was built with an original lifespan of about 40 years. It is in need of a major modernisation if it is to continue beyond 2020, when new cooling requirements take effect.

The Local 24th June 2015 read more »

AFP 23rd June 2015 read more »

Germany

A proposal for the storage of waste generated from the reprocessing of German used nuclear fuel in France and the UK has been announced by the country’s environment minister. The operators of Germany’s nuclear power plants have welcomed the proposal. German utilities are obliged to take back the wastes resulting from the reprocessing of their used nuclear fuel at Areva’s La Hague plant in France and at Sellafield in the UK. Under the plan proposed by the federal environment minister Barbara Hendricks on 19 June, 26 waste storage containers will be held at four interim storage sites across the country.

World Nuclear News 23rd June 2015 read more »

Saudi Arabia

I am saying, as clearly as possible, that I want Saudi Arabia to possess nuclear weapons; Egypt and the UAE too. Today, though, I am writing from the Saudi point of view. I have had direct relations with King Salman for many decades, and he is capable of making an agreement with Pakistan tomorrow to buy nuclear bombs. This is due to the fact that Saudi Arabia financed the Pakistani nuclear programme and has rescued Pakistan’s economy many times over. Of course, it runs the risk of sanctions, but Saudi Arabia is in a position to sanction others, not the other way around. The wheels of the global economy are lubricated with oil and Saudi Arabia is the largest producer of oil in the world.

Middle East Monitor 23rd June 2015 read more »

Trident

A ground-breaking study into how the UK’s military community views nuclear weapons and disarmament has highlighted significant concerns about the costs and role of Trident. The funding crisis facing the Ministry of Defence means that spending on nuclear weapons is increasingly seen as unjustifiable when conventional equipment is needed and many in the armed forces have lost their jobs. The military are split on whether or not they want Trident replaced. Many are concerned that Trident does not meet current defence needs; there are deep concerns over the costs of Trident at a time when equipment and jobs are being cut.

Nuclear Information Service 23rd June 2015 read more »

Nuclear Weapons

Just days before an the independent celebrity-backed World Asteroid Day conference calling for more action from global governments to come up with asteroid defences, NASA has revealed it is considering using nuclear warheads. The US space agency says they could be used to destroy an incoming asteroid or comet that threatened to cause major destruction or global annihilation.

Express 23rd June 2015 read more »

100% Renewables

The Solutions Project has published plans for how each of the 50 states in the US could switch to 100% renewable energy. Importantly, they didn’t just paint a broad stroke — they actually looked at electricity needs by region in 15-minute segments for the entire year and matched those with the most logical renewable energy resources in the region. What you might not know is that The Solutions Project crew (led by Mark Z Jacobson on the research end) has been doing the same thing for countries across the world. In simplistic form, you can see what splits The Solutions Project formulated for the US, the UK, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, and Japan in the 7 infographics below that Mark recently shared with me.

Renew Economy 24th June 2015 read more »

Renewables – onshore wind

The Scottish and UK energy ministers are due to meet for the first time following a row over an early end to wind farm subsidies. Last week, the UK government announced new onshore wind farms will be excluded from a subsidy scheme from 1 April 2016, a year earlier than expected. Scottish Energy Minister Fergus Ewing said the decision would disproportionately affect Scotland. The move was part of a manifesto commitment by the Conservative party. UK Energy and Climate Change Secretary Amber Rudd said it will give local communities the final say over any new wind farms. The ministers are due to meet at a renewables conference in London, where both will be speaking.

BBC 24th June 2015 read more »

Scottish Energy Minister Fergus Ewing today warned his UK counterpart that axing the £800 million subsidy to onshore wind farms will have a disproportionately heavy impact in Scotland. This is because more than two-thirds (68%) of all wind farm developments in the pipeline in the UK are in Scotland. And he called for a gradual phase-out over five years of the subsidy, instead of the axe falling by April 2016.

Scottish Energy News 23rd June 2015 read more »

The scale of the impact on the onshore wind industry of the government’s controversial decision to end subsidies for new projects was laid bare yesterday, as energy and climate change secretary Amber Rudd told parliament 250 planned projects are now “unlikely” to be built. Speaking following last week’s announcement that the government intends to stop new onshore wind farms from accessing the Renewables Obligation (RO) subsidy scheme from next April while also tightening planning rules for the sector, Rudd confirmed the grace period for projects with planning consent and grid connections would exclude hundreds of projects. “We estimate that around 7.1GW of onshore wind capacity proposed across the UK will not be eligible for the grace period and are therefore unlikely to go ahead as a result of announcement of 18 June,” she said. “That equates to around 250 projects totalling about 2,500 turbines now unlikely to be built.”

Business Green 23rd June 2015 read more »

There is considerable uncertainty around the interaction between the new Contracts for Difference (which were designed to replace the Renewables Obligation) and the Conservative manifesto commitment to end subsidies for onshore wind. Amber Rudd stated that “with regard to CfDs, we have the tools available to implement our manifesto commitments on onshore wind and I will set out how I will do so when announcing plans in relation to further CfD allocations”. Such vague statements can surely do little to appease the rampant uncertainty which is currently flying around amongst investors. One of the core strategies for ensuring energy security is maintaining investor confidence, otherwise the required investments in generating capacity will simply not materialise. Allowing politics to trump pragmatism in such a blatant way creates massive uncertainty, and sends a signal to investors that the UK is lacking in the kind of long-term political stability which is required to make investments in costly, long-lasting energy infrastructure; this is the case not only for the wind industry, but for other forms of generation and networks as well. This decision risks endangering not only the decarbonisation and affordability agendas, but the security imperative as well.

SPRU 23rd June 2015 read more »

Here is a question: will Amber Rudd be delighted or disappointed if the onshore wind industry grinds to a complete halt from next year? Given the new energy and climate change secretary this morning announced an early end to subsidy support for new onshore wind farms through the Renewables Obligation (RO), confirmed plans to give local councils greater say over planning approval for the largest wind farms, and hinted strongly that the onshore wind farms will also be locked out of the contract for difference (CfD) mechanism, this might strike as a facetious question – it is pretty clear the government wants to kill the industry. But the confusing signals emanating from DECC as it strives to square the instruction to cut emissions as cost effectively as possible with the instruction to halt the development of one of the most cost-effective sources of clean energy, mean it is fair to ask whether or not ministers really want to see an end to new onshore wind projects in the UK.

Business Green 18th June 2015 read more »

Renewables – tidal

A second tidal energy scheme could be coming to the Severn estuary as plans have been unveiled for a 30MW tidal energy fence to be constructed in the Bristol Channel.The new tidal technology has been developed by Oxford University’s department of engineering science for deployment in shallow, low velocity tidal waters around the UK coastline. If it is approved, the £143m Bristol Channel tidal fence – which will be constructed from the latest carbon fibre technology – could be installed and operational by 2020/21.

Edie 23rd June 2015 read more »

Renewables – solar

The Scottish Government has launched a consultation, which aims to remove planning permission for commercial solar rooftop projects. Unlike England, no cap is expected to be placed on installation size. The move could prompt the English government to re-analyze its decision. In a move welcomed by the Scottish Solar Trade Association (STA Scotland), the country’s government has yesterday launched a consultation, “Permitted Development Rights for non-domestic solar panels and domestic air source heat pumps,” to consider removing the need for planning permission for commercial solar rooftop projects. Responses are requested by August 27. Currently, commercial solar PV and thermal rooftop projects in Scotland up to 45 kW and 50 kW, respectively, are not required to apply for planning permission; domestic installations are also exempt.

PV Magazine 23rd June 2015 read more »

Scottish Energy News 23rd June 2015 read more »

Permitted development rights for air source heat pumps and solar panels are being reviewed to ensure that those wishing to install the technology in Scotland and those manufacturing the technology have similar conditions to England and Wales. For solar panels this is also an opportunity to provide similar permitted development rights across residential (domestic) and non-domestic (any building that isn’t a home) buildings. This can help support the market for air source heat pumps and solar panels, whilst also reducing the reliance of individual properties on fossil fuel heat and power sources.

Scottish Government 23rd June 2015 read more »

Energy Storage

UK clean technology start-up Powervault is to launch a new home energy storage system, after raising more than £700,000 with help from online crowdfunding platform Crowdcube. The London-based company states that it hopes to sell 50,000 units by 2020 of the new product, which allows homeowners to capture electricity generated from solar panels.

Business Green 23rd June 2015 read more »

Fossil Fuels

An application to start the first fracking operation in the UK for four years will be decided later. Energy firm Cuadrilla wants to extract shale gas at Little Plumpton and Roseacre Wood on the Fylde Coast in Lancashire. The county council began considering the bid on Tuesday, after fracking was suspended in the UK in 2011. Councillors are due to make a decision about the Little Plumpton site, which has been recommended for approval.

BBC 24th June 2015 read more »

Hundreds of people protested against a proposed fracking site in Lancashire on Tuesday, as the county council considered whether to approve the project. Over 450 people massed outside the county hall in Preston while Lancashire County Council listened to representations for and against Cuadrilla’s bid to frack at Preston New Road in Little Plumpton, between Preston and Blackpool. Last week the council’s planning officers advised members to approve Cuadrilla’s bid to start fracking at the site, one of two that would see the UK’s first full-scale fracking if given the green light.

Guardian 23rd June 2015 read more »

FRACKING lobbyists denied yesterday that they had created a pro-shale gas campaign by roping in college students as supporters of the climate-destroying drilling method. Westbourne Communications, which has shale gas companies Centrica and Caudrilla as clients, said it did not “astroturf” a fake grassroots movement in favour of fracking — a practice halted in Britain since 2011. In press releases swallowed up by mainstream media, eight students were shown standing on the steps of Lancashire Country Council with a “Students for Shale” banner on Monday, before councillors make a landmark decision this week on whether to allow fracking in the area. Green Party leader Natalie Bennett will join up to 2,000 people at a protest outside the County Hall in Preston today urging councillors to “consider the strength of opposition to fracking,” including concerns over damage to homes, noise, pollution and traffic.

Morning Star 24th June 2015 read more »

As Lancashire councillors prepare to decide on Cuadrilla’s fracking applications, a senior academic has called for a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing until more information is known about the risks of contamination. Stuart Haszeldine, Professor of Geology at Edinburgh University, said there were still uncertainties about faulting and the underground movement of fluids and gases in Lancashire. He made his comments in a submission to Lancashire County Council’s development control committee, which is expected to make a decision today on Cuadrilla’s application to frack up to four wells at Preston New Road. Another application for its site at Roseacre Wood is expected later in the week. Professor Haszeldine said his submission was based on recent published research. It comes to the same conclusion as that presented last week to a pre-meeting of the committee by David Smythe, Emeritus Professor of Geophysics at Glasgow University. Professor Haszeldine, who is currently working on several research council funded projects on fracking, said: “I recommend a moratorium, so that truly scientific investigations can be undertaken. UK Government has allocated £31m for such purposes.”

Drill or Drop 24th June 2015 read more »

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Published: 24 June 2015