25 June 2013

NDA

Crucial milestones were achieved in the clean-up of the UK’s nuclear legacy last year, the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) has revealed in its annual report and accounts. Progress was generally good across the NDA’s 19 licensed sites, with achievements during 2012/13 including: completion of defueling at Chapelcross and Dungeness A, removing 99% of radioactivity from those sites; agreement of a plan to bring forward the closure of Winfrith and Harwell research sites by a combined 32 years, with potential cost savings of £500 million; integration of a new contract at Dounreay, expected to save taxpayers £1bn and bring forward closure by 17 years; higher than expected commercial income of almost £900m, aided by extended generation at Wylfa and land sale at Capenhurst worth £50m; progress on a £7 billion competition to run 12 sites; largest ever programme of work in decommissioning programme for 10 Magnox sites; completion of first five years under private control for the Low Level Repository in Cumbria, which has so far saved taxpayers £30m; strong industrial safety performance at Sellafield whilst delivering three key projects to enable future retrieval of radioactive waste from legacy storage facilities; successful completion of the third shipment of vitrified highly active waste to Japan.

NDA 24th June 2013 read more »

Nuclear Terror

More than 100 states meeting next week will warn of the threat of nuclear terrorism but without deciding on any concrete new steps to counter the danger, a draft ministerial statement showed on Monday.

Reuters 24th June 2013 read more »

Electricity Markets

The International Energy Agency, in its recent special update of progress on climate policies, noted that liberalised energy markets should be able to encourage a “significant decarbonisation” of the energy mix. The problem was that these markets – created to support incumbent, centralised fossil fuel generators, were not suited to deliver the sort of energy transformation that was needed to meet climate change targets. Part of the problem is that the current “energy” markets are designed to allow baseload fossil fuel generation to trundle through at relatively low cost – but no environmental accounting. When demand rises, more expensive peaking plant generation is brought in, with prices rising for all generators. This has underpinned much of the revenues and profits for the incumbents. (This problem is best illustrated in France, where the government actively encouraged households to consume more electricity to justify the massive investment in nuclear. Now that efficiency is becoming a focus as it approaches the time to replace that capacity, it is no longer looking like such a smart idea).

Renew Economy 25th June 2013 read more »

Supply Chain

Defence, security, transport and energy electronics company Ultra Electronics is to help EDF Energy with the construction and support of nuclear-reactor instrumentation at sites across the UK. The £16.1m contract is the first to benefit from Ultra’s recent investment in a state-of-the-art nuclear-instrumentation manufacturing facility in Dorset, the company said on Tuesday morning.

Share Cast 25th June 2013 read more »

Radwaste

The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) will request public to give their input on a study regarding the faster removal of spent nuclear fuel from pools to dry cask storage and reduce the health and safety risk. NRC’s draft study, which is based on previous research, examined how severe earthquakes can become potential risk for spent fuel pools to overheat and release radioactive material into the environment.

Energy Business Review 25th June 2013 read more »

US – MoX

A multibillion-dollar U.S.-led effort to stem the threat of a terrorist nuclear blast is slowly unraveling because of huge cost overruns at a federal installation in South Carolina and stubborn resistance in Moscow to fulfilling the program’s chief goal, according to U.S. officials and independent experts. The 13-year old Energy Department program, authorized in agreements with Moscow spanning three presidents, is meant to transform excess plutonium taken from retired U.S. and Russian nuclear weapons into fuel for nuclear plants, so that it can’t be stolen and misused. But that ambitious goal has been blocked by a tangle of technical, diplomatic and financial problems. The Obama administration is now considering cancelling the project, an idea that has provoked furious opposition from some Republican lawmakers who say it is vital to U.S. national security.

Oroville MR 25th June 2013 read more »

France

French nuclear generation fell to its lowest level in at least six years on 22-23 June, after nuclear operator Edf reduced output by around a third to manage oversupply in the French grid and prevent prices turning negative for the second consecutive weekend. Data from grid operator RTE shows that nuclear output fell to just 26.4GW on the morning of 23 June — the lowest level since May 2007 or perhaps even earlier. RTE data from May 2007 shows that output may have dropped to 22.9GW, but the data are incomplete and actual output may have been higher. Nuclear plants do not typically vary output, preferring to run by supplying base load generation around the clock. But oversupply in the wider region caused by low demand and inflexible renewable generation forced the reduction in nuclear output.

Argus Media 24th June 2013 read more »

Support for nuclear power amongst the French public is on the rise. However, although twice as many people now favour nuclear energy than oppose it, half of the population remains uncommitted.

World Nuclear News 24th June 2013 read more »

Pakistan

It is worth remembering that the revelations almost a decade ago about the proliferation activities of the A.Q. Khan network had a silver lining in Pakistan: International pressure in general and US pressure in particular impressed on Islamabad that nuclearization entails serious responsibilities. Pakistan reacted by introducing a host of nuclear security measures and now cooperates with many global initiatives meant to deny terrorists access to nuclear facilities and sensitive materials.

Bulletin of Atomic Scientists 20th June 2013 read more »

Japan

Tokyo Electric Power Co. said Monday it has seen a rise in the level of radioactive tritium in seawater within the port at the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. A sample collected Friday contained around 1,100 becquerels of tritium per liter, the highest level detected in seawater since the nuclear crisis at the plant commenced in March 2011.

Kyodo 24th June 2013 read more »

Nuclear Proliferation

‘We may no longer live in fear of global annihilation,” President Obama declared on Wednesday, “but so long as nuclear weapons exist, we are not truly safe.” He’s right about the last point, because even as the President offers new dreams of U.S. nuclear disarmament, the world is entering a new proliferation age. Before the Cold War powers cut any deeper, how about some clarity about the size of the Chinese arsenal and its intentions? Beijing hides its warheads and missiles in tunnels and has the industrial wherewithal to build many more quickly. The Pentagon thinks the Chinese have up to 400 nuclear warheads, which sounds low. The Pakistanis possess more than 100. The Russians are terrified of a rising Chinese military on their long southern border. Beijing likely has 1,800 bombs and warheads, the former commander of Russia’s Strategic Forces told the military journalist Bill Gertz last year.

Wall St Journal 23rd June 2013 read more »

Renewables

Will the countryside soon be covered by solar panels producing more electricity than consumers really need, at “astronomical” cost to the consumer, as the Sunday Telegraph claims? Carbon Brief gathers some expert perspectives. According to the story, the government is planning a ten-fold expansion of solar farms across Britain, despite warnings from the National Grid that the system will struggle to cope as a result. In an editorial, the paper concludes solar power is “unsightly and pricey” – just like wind power, the paper says. National Grid tells Carbon Brief that it’s “highly unlikely” that the 20GW mark will be achieved by 2020. A spokesperson for solar energy company Solarcentury puts it slightly more bluntly: “The only person who thinks that’s possible is Greg Barker”. The Sunday Telegraph also warns about the cost of solar power, arguing that developers building solar farms receive a subsidy of “up to” £85 per megawatt hour (MWh) of electricity. It’s not clear where this figure comes from. The Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) tells us that last year developers could have received about £82 per MWh in subsidies. But the support levels for solar power were reduced at the beginning of this year by a fifth, so that level isn’t available any more.

Carbon Brief 24th June 2013 read more »

Jeremy Leggett: George Monbiot claims in a gentlemanly article to have won our £100 bet, made three years ago, that solar PV would be at grid parity – the same cost as conventional retail electricity – by 2013. The very good news is that over the past three years, the actual average price of installed residential solar PV has come down some 60%, while the cost of new nuclear has gone up 70% and is still rising. I base the former on the real achievement at my company Solarcentury and the latter on a recent compilation in Le Monde of data for EDF’s Flamanville EPR reactor, the type of nuclear plant nuclear advocates like George want to foist on the UK economy at great cost to the public, starting at Hinkley Point. The slightly bad news is that I probably lost my bet. Solar-industry people have been e-mailing me pleading that I argue the toss, pointing out that solar markets like the Netherlands are already at grid parity, and that by using somewhat lawyerly points I can defend my ground when it comes to the UK. I can’t be bothered, because anyone studying the pattern of play in any detail will know that if I lost, it wasn’t by much.

Guardian 24th June 2013 read more »

When Germans reduced feed-in tariffs in 2010, they did so not because they had decided “it is a waste of money,” but because the price of solar was falling faster than feed-in tariffs were. And prices continue to drop so quickly that Germany has switched to monthly reductions (currently 1.8 percent) to improve planability. Germans view this trend as a major policy success. If Monbiot had genuinely been complaining only about high feed-in tariffs for solar in Germany (and not solar itself), I would expect him to praise Germany for lowering feed-in tariffs – not take these reductions to be a rejection of solar.

Renewables International 24th June 2013 read more »

Billions of pounds of consumer-funded subsidies for offshore wind farms in Britain have ended up in the hands of foreign manufacturers. Orders worth as little as £2.1 billion of the estimated £10.7 billion spent on building wind farms have been placed with domestic companies, with the rest of the components brought in from abroad. The average UK content for the projects is in the low 20 per cent range, according to Alun Roberts, from the consultancy BVG Associates, and there are few signs that British companies will enjoy a larger share in future. The EEF manufacturers’ lobby group described it as a “major missed opportunity” and called on the Government to do more to support the domestic wind farm supply chain. It wants thousands of jobs to be created before the next generation of large projects is built.

Times 25th June 2013 read more »

Communities across Scotland are receiving £5m a year from wind farm operators, industry leaders revealed. Scottish Renewables said it was “fantastic” that local areas were now receiving this level of voluntary funding and added that the amount paid out could become “much higher” as new green energy schemes get up and running.

STV 24th June 2013 read more »

Utility Week 24th June 2013 read more »

Times 25th June 2013 read more »

Herald 25th June 2013 read more »

Scotsman 25th June 2013 read more »

Energy Efficiency

Official figures to be released on Thursday, confirming whether or not initial adoption of flagship energy efficiency scheme has disappointed. The government has faced a fresh flurry of criticism over its flagship Green Deal scheme, ahead of the publication on Thursday of the latest figures for take-up of energy efficiency initiative. Speculation is mounting that the figures, which for the first time will show both the number of households undertaking Green Deal assessments and the number that have taken up Green Deal financing packages, will confirm the scheme has faced low levels of adoption during its first few months, particularly for the energy efficiency loans.

Business Green 24th June 2013 read more »

Green deal in danger of becoming a middle class subsidy. Has the Green Deal, the UK government’s flagship energy efficiency policy, ended up providing a labyrinthine solution to barriers that don’t in fact exist? We will get an inkling on Thursday, when the first proper statistics are released, but the signs so far are worrying. Everyone agrees the UK’s ageing homes are horribly leaky and, with tough climate change targets to meet and energy bills soaring, there’s a huge incentive to tackle the problem. But what are the right incentives to persuade homeowners to let the workmen in? It’s a tricky question, given that some previous attempts to give loft insulation away for free have failed to attract sufficient takers. It is early days for the Green deal, with many of the big players still to enter the market, and I – like all those concerned about energy bills and climate change – hope it achieves its goal of retrofitting over half of the UK’s 26m homes. But so far it looks like throwing money – £125m of taxpayers money has been pledged for the cashback scheme – is the only part of the policy that is working. What happens when that pot runs out?

Guardian 25th June 2013 read more »

The Government is said to be aiming to transform the energy use of 10,000 homes this year but officials believe that the number signing up so far is only in the hundreds. Since the scheme was launched in January, it has faced criticism that few householders have signed up. The Department for Energy and Climate Change denied that only two homes had completed contracts under the initiative, insisting that the numbers were expected to be in the hundreds.

Telegraph 24th June 2013 read more »

Fossil Fuels

Last week’s episode of the BBC’s Horizon set about making the case for fracking – investigating ‘what we in Britain can learn from the American experience’. If the programme is to be believed, we seem to be able to look forward to all of the benefits, with none of the draw-backs that come with investment in fracking. Call me cynical, but I’m not entirely convinced.

IGov 25th June 2013 read more »

Month by month, the consequences of the shale gas revolution in the United States are working their way through the international energy market. There has been much discussion of whether the US will permit shale gas exports in any quantity. But even before that is decided the growth of shale gas production in the US is already having an impact. The reduced need for US gas imports leaves supplies from Trinidad, North Africa and elsewhere to find a new home. That means that gas prices in Europe and Asia will fall. And even more important, shale gas is displacing coal from the US power generation sector. In response, US coal producers are exporting mainly to Europe where utilities continue to burn coal despite all the rhetoric about climate change and emissions targets. Coal is cheap. Coal use across the European Union was up last year not least in the UK and Germany, the two countries where climate issu es are most clearly entrenched.

FT 24th June 2013 read more »

Households within a kilometre of shale gas fracking wells could be at higher risk of having their drinking water contaminated by flammable gases, a study suggests.

Telegraph 24th June 2013 read more »

Transport

Europe will gain up to a million new jobs and reduce its dependence on foreign oil by supporting “green” technologies for cars and vans, and then building its own fleets of high efficiency, hybrid and electric vehicles, says a new report. Far from it being too costly to embark on developing low-carbon vehicle options during an economic crisis, a consortium of companies contends that adopting the new technologies can only increase jobs, economic activity and wealth − as well as improving air quality and health. The report, Fuelling Europe’s Future, was produced by Cambridge Econometrics − along with other independent energy and climate change consultancies − following a research project commissioned by the European Climate Foundation to assess the economic impact of decarbonising cars and vans.

Climate News Network 24th June 2013 read more »

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Published: 25 June 2013