25 September 2015

Hinkley

It is the costliest white elephant in history. No power station, perhaps no building, so expensive has ever been built anywhere. In a modest meadow overlooking the Bristol Channel is to rise a structure that will outstrip in extravagance the Three Gorges dam, St Peter’s Basilica, the Taj Mahal and probably the pyramid of Cheops. It is to be built – you guessed it – by the British taxpayer. You can accuse George Osborne of many things but not of austerity. Hinkley Point C marks a new high watermark in public sector extravagance. As for nuclear plants, the 2010 coalition agreement was explicit. In view of Liberal Democrat opposition, nuclear stations would be built only “provided there was no public subsidy”. It took two Lib Dem energy secretaries, Chris Huhne and Ed Davey, no time to renege on that as the nuclear construction lobbyists got to work on them. The hapless new energy secretary, Amber Rudd, has been forced to describe Hinkley Point as “value for money”. She must be speaking Chinese. Osborne is not just chancellor but energy secretary, aid secretary, foreign secretary and – whisper it not – really prime minister. This week he has been in China, where like Genghis Khan he burns mountains of precious jewels to show off to his hosts. No one dares call him to account. These are dangerous times for the public finances.

Guardian 23rd Sept 2015 read more »

Investors don’t want to put their money into the proposed £24.5bn Hinkley Point nuclear plant because they fear it will suffer cost overruns and delays, the boss of EDF has admitted. The troubled European Pressurised Reactor (EPR) technology that is due to be used at Hinkley is to be ditched by EDF for future projects in France in favour of a cheaper and better model the company is now developing, Jean-Bernard Levy, the French energy giant’s chief executive disclosed.

Telegraph 23rd Sept 2015 read more »

Letter: Have we gone totally mad? Not only are we proposing to subsidise Hinkley Point by paying double the going rate for electricity, we are also guaranteeing the subsidy for 30 years and now underwriting its financing to the tune of £2bn. Why is EDF ‘struggling’ to find investors? There are problems with the two projects under way and many countries, such as Germany, are turning their backs on the technology, and renewables are cheaper. The Eden Project is selling green technology to China.

Western Morning News 23rd Sept 2015 read more »

Engineering firm Rolls-Royce will take a big share of £100m worth of contracts to supply the new nuclear power plant at Hinkley Point. EDF, the French firm in charge of the project, has selected Rolls-Royce to supply heat exchangers worth £25m. In partnership with Nuvia, Rolls-Royce will also supply systems to treat nuclear waste in a contract worth £75m.

BBC 24th Sept 2015 read more »

The owner of the Hinkley Point nuclear power station has defended the plan to build a new plant at the Somerset site. Vincent de Rivaz, chief executive of France’s EDF Energy, told the BBC the project was not too expensive. He said power from nuclear plants would cut bills compared with low carbon without nuclear power.

BBC 24th Sept 2015 read more »

Vincent de Rivaz, the UK chief executive of EDF, told me that new nuclear plants were essential for the UK and Hinkley C would be delivered “in time, not too late, not too early”. Relying on gas – even via new lower-carbon plants – would leave the UK dependant on energy imports and vulnerable to volatile global energy prices, he said. And renewables – wind and solar – can only be relied on intermittently. A low carbon energy future will need nuclear power to provide the “base load”, Mr de Rivaz argued. “The reality is that we have to replace our old polluting power plants – and our nuclear power plants won’t last forever,” he said.

BBC 24th Sept 2015 read more »

Already the £24.5 billion project to build a nuclear power station called Hinkley Point C in Somerset is expected to finish over-budget and beyond the projected start date of 2023, if it ever starts at all. But on September 21st, after unveiling in Beijing a £2 billion inducement to China to help finance Britain’s first reactor in 20 years, he exposed himself to further criticism. The country should lead the way on nuclear power as it did in the 1950s, he said. But the implication was, it could only do it with China’s help. Critics say this reveals a whiff of desperation about the government’s bet on a nuclear renaissance, however sensible it may be to secure a zero-carbon, stable source of energy to replace old power plants. Analysts say Mr Osborne is engaged in a complex manoeuvre to ensure that two Chinese firms help finance EDF. The £2 billion guarantee is one inducement. Another is an offer for China to build a reactor of its own at Bradwell in Essex. That has set off further alarm bells, though. Not only would it test confidence in Britain’s Office for Nuclear Regulation, it would also put a critical part of the nuclear industry and the national grid into Chinese hands. Roland Vetter of CF Partners, an energy trader, doubts a go-ahead for the China project will come soon; licensing new nuclear technology in Britain takes years. It could be a strategic gambit, though. EDF’s boss in Britain, Vincent de Rivaz, notes that British and French companies are keen to help China, which has an ambitious programme of its own to build nuclear power plants. Mr Osborne may also calculate that Hinkley Point will create numerous jobs and building opportunities, the economic benefits of which would accrue quickly. The costs, meanwhile, would not become apparent until the plant is completed and bills rise. Future governments would reap the fallout, not this one.

Economist 26th Sept 2015 read more »

Mr Osborne promised a £2bn taxpayer guarantee if Mr Xi puts Chinese cash into a new nuclear power plant in southern England. He also offered Britain as a test bed for China’s own nuclear technology. Whitehall officials think that the nuclear project has been rendered uneconomic by shale oil and gas and by changing patterns of energy use. The chancellor will have none of it. It is rare for the Treasury to set the direction of foreign policy; the most powerful department in Whitehall has long shown institutional disdain for foreigners. Officials keep it quiet if they happen to speak a foreign language. So the outreach to Beijing is very much the chancellor’s personal project. Some say he has been dazzled by China’s rise. He seems to think China will supplant the US during the 21st century in much the same way as the US pushed aside Britain in the 20th. There has also been an element of pragmatism. He needs Chinese money to take some of the edge off domestic austerity. What is curious is the British assumption that a healthy economic relationship demands a submissive stance on everything else — whether human rights or China’s contested territorial claims in the western Pacific. US President Barack Obama will feel no such compunction during his meetings with Mr Xi this week. Those who know China well say there is no evidence anyway that kowtowing, as such self-abasement used to be called, wins favourable treatment. To the contrary, Beijing tends to disdain those it perceives to be supplicants. There is nothing easy about balancing beneficial economic engagement with China with the safeguarding of Britain’s security. Nor should Britain necessarily always agree with the US. But there is more to Britain’s national interest than a few billions of Chinese investment in a dodgy nuclear energy programme.

FT 24th Sept 2015 read more »

France’s finance minister has defended EDF from criticism over the reputation of its nuclear reactor programme, amid growing concern about rising costs and delays for the technology earmarked for construction at Hinkley Point in Somerset. Emmanuel Macron, the economy minister, told The Times that a trebling of costs and a six-year delay for a project to build EDF’s European Pressurised Reactor at Flamanville in northern France were part of a painful process to ensure the technology’s credibility. French regulators are demanding that EDF, the French state-controlled energy group that is building the new stations at Flamanville and in Somerset using the same technology, be held to the highest standards possible for safety reasons, he said. Final talks are underway between Paris and Beijing to secure financing before an expected announcement next month during a visit by China’s President Xi to Britain.

Times 25th Sept 2015 read more »

Bradwell

An Essex MP has claimed the proposed nuclear power station at Bradwell would cause “significant damage” to the marine environment. Harwich and North Essex MP Bernard Jenkin expressed concern over the impact the site would have on the region’s fishing industries and ecology. His intervention comes days after Chancellor George Osborne indicated a £2 billion Government guarantee for Chinese investment in the proposed Hinkley Point C nuclear power plant in Somerset could pave the way for further deals, including a majority Chinese-owned nuclear generation facility at Bradwell. Mr Jenkin said: “There should be no new nuclear at Bradwell, unless the concerns about damage to the estuary and storage of nuclear waste on site can both be unequivocally resolved. “There seems no way that a new nuclear power station would avoid significant damage to the marine environment in the estuary. “When the Magnox station was decommissioned, there was explosive recovery in the marine environment. I have been informed that a new power station would take six times more flow of water than its predecessor. “The estuary cannot supply the volume of cooling water without severely damaging the natural life-cycle of organisms in it. This jeopardises the ecology, our local fishing industries and goes against the aim of the Marine Conservation Zone.” He added: “It is also a significant concern… that high level nuclear waste would have to be secured and stored on the site for some decades after a new facility has reached the end of its operating life, before it can be safely transported.

East Anglian Daily Times 25th Sept 2015 read more »

Hunterston

A total of 22 jobs are going at Hunterston ‘A’ decommissioning station this year, it was confirmed at a site stakeholder’s group meeting. Due to decommissioning, the plant is downsizing its operation, in keeping with other sites being decommissioned around the UK, with Hunterston ‘A’ seeing an 8.1% reduction to its overall staff. These figures are lower than the norm around Britain, with higher percentages at other sites. A total of 1,600 staff around the UK are being made redundant. With new nuclear buildings being built south of the border, and other stations set to go into decommissioning north of the border in future years, questions were asked about a ‘skills shortage’ by Stuart McGhie, trade unions representative.

Largs & Millport Weekly News 24th Sept 2015 read more »

Dounreay

An Aberdeen firm best known for its photographic work on offshore installations and at crime scenes is to carry out a technical survey as part of the decommissioning of the Dounreay nuclear plant in Caithness. Return To Scene (R2S) will use its visual asset management (VAM) system to produce images of part of the complex, which will in turn be used in support of dismantling and restoration work at the site. The R2S team is already on location and project delivery is anticipated by mid-October.

Energy Voice 25th Sept 2015 read more »

Politics

Former US Vice-President and environment campaigner Al Gore has joined the growing chorus of concern at the UK Government’s decision to cut support for onshore renewable energy projects. Speaking at a climate change conference of business leaders in London, Gore said he was “puzzled” by the Tory government’s decision to roll back support for renewable energy and called on the UK government to instead show leadership on climate change. The intervention from Al Gore follows mounting criticism from business leaders, environmental NGOs, and renewable energy companies, including Banks Renewables and the CBI. MP Callum McCaig, the SNP spokesperson on Energy and Climate Change at Westminster, said; “The SNP share Al Gore’s serious concern at the UK government’s inexplicable decision to cut support for onshore renewable energy projects.

Scottish Energy News 24th May 2015 read more »

Terror

ISLAMIC State nutcases are planning a ‘nuclear tsunami’ to wipe hundreds of millions from the face of the earth in the biggest religious holocaust the world has ever seen. Journalist Jürgen Todenhöfer says the genocidal killers have major ambitions to secure atomic weapons and compares them to a “nuclear tsunami preparing the largest religious cleansing in history.”

Express 25th Sept 2015 read more »

Japan – Fukushima

The recently released IAEA Fukushima Daiichi Accident Report on Japan’s on-going nuclear disaster in the wake of the 2011 triple reactor core meltdowns and catastrophic containment building failure reads more like nuclear industry propaganda than the so-called authoritative and balanced scientific assessment the agency attempts to claim it is. The report draws conclusions when it should be highlighting major uncertainties and a lack of data surrounding the Fukushima disaster. It downplays the ongoing environmental and health effects of the disaster and misrepresents the current radiological crisis in the Fukushima region. It’s clear that the IAEA is putting the interests of the nuclear industry before those of the disaster’s many victims. Its report does not accurately reflect the utter failure of the nuclear industry, and most nuclear regulators globally, to learn and implement the lessons of the Fukushima disaster. Not only that, it glosses over the seriously flawed nature of nuclear safety regulation in Japan right now. And so Greenpeace Japan, together with Japanese civil society organisations, has sent a letter to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Yukiya Amano, challenging the conclusions of the IAEA’s Fukushima report as inadequate and flawed.

Greenpeace International 24th May 2015 read more »

India

The Uranium Film Festival 2013 Award winning film High Power received a Yellow Oscar in 2013. “Darkness spreads in the town that provides power to the country, and this time it seems to be here to stay. Tarapur Nuclear Power Station, the first nuclear power plant in India, was set up 40 years ago with much fanfare, displacing villages near the town named Tarapur. The town that gives its name to the plant,Tarapur, is however, miles away from the dream it had promised to be. What really happened in Tarapur in these 40 long years is an awakening the whole world needs to arrive at, before it is too late.

South West Against Nuclear 24th Sept 2015 read more »

Mexico

Mexico is studying the possibility of adding two new reactors to the country’s only nuclear power plant and could decide next year whether to seek permits to build them, a top energy ministry official said.

Reuters 24th Sept 2015 read more »

Renewables

RenewableUK is highlighting new statistics which show the increasingly fundamental role that renewable energy is playing in generating electricity for British homes, offices and factories – despite mixed messages from Government on whether it supports clean energy. The Department of Energy and Climate Change has just published statistics covering the second quarter of 2015, showing that from April to June renewables generated 25.3% of UK electricity. 42% of this came from onshore and offshore wind. Wind generated 10.7% of the country’s needs. For the first time in a quarterly period, renewables beat coal which generated 20.5%. Renewables also outperformed nuclear which provided 21.5%. DECC said this was due to higher wind speeds and increased capacity, with generation increasing by 61.5% onshore and 70.4% offshore compared to Q2 2014. Overall renewable electricity generation increased by 51.4% compared to the same quarter last year. Gas provided 30%.

Renewable UK 24th Sept 2015 read more »

Farming UK 24th Sept 2015 read more »

Something significant is happening to the UK’s energy mix. New government figures released today reveal the renewable energy industry is not only continuing to break records on an increasingly frequent basis, but has also for the first time met more than a quarter of the UK’s power demand across a quarter. Official data shows renewables and low carbon power broke market share records during the second quarter of this year, thanks to a surge in new solar and wind generation and the closure of several coal powered plants. As a result, renewable power provided more power than either the coal or nuclear sector, making it the second biggest source of power in the UK after gas.

Business Green 24th Sept 2015 read more »

Renewable energy has for the first time surpassed coal in supplying the UK’s electricity for a whole quarter, according to government statistics released on Thursday. The revelation of the surge in wind, solar and bioenergy to a record 25% comes in a week when the government has been heavily criticised by business leaders and Al Gore for cutting support for clean energy.

Guardian 24th Sept 2015 read more »

Telegraph 24th Sept 2015 read more »

Daily Record 24th Sept 2015 read more »

Mirror 24th Sept 2015 read more »

The UK Government is putting plans to decarbonise Scotland’s energy system at risk, according to Scottish Government energy minister Fergus Ewing. While new figures show a record amount of Scotland’s electricity was generated from renewables in the first half of the year – with a rise of 13.5 per cent compared with 2014 – Ewing warned the Department of Energy and Climate Change’s (DECC) decision to end the Renewable Obligation for onshore wind jeopardised future progress. The figures demonstrate Scotland generated 4,832 GWh of renewable electricity in Q2 2015, a 37.3 per cent increase in renewable electricity from the same quarter in 2014.

Holyrood 24th Sept 2015 read more »

A record amount of Scotland’s electricity was generated from renewables in the first half of 2015. However, Scottish Energy Minister Fergus Ewing warned that progress towards decarbonising electricity generation is being put at risk by the recent plans from the UK to remove support from renewable generation earlier than previously planned. New statistics, published by the Department of Energy and Climate Change, show a 13.5% increase in renewable electricity generation compared to the first half of 2014.

Scottish Energy News 24th Sept 2015 read more »

An energy watchdog has blasted the International Energy Agency (IEA) for “holding back the global energy transition”, concluding that its annual World Energy Outlook (WEO) reports were published with misleading projections. According to a new study from the Energy Watch Group and Lappeenranta University of Technology, the WEO reports – which are approved by OECD governments – have assumed no annual growth of solar photovoltaics and wind energy installations, leading to a “lack of willing investors” in the sector. Energy Watch Group president and former German MP Hans-Josef Fell said: “The IEA has been holding back the global energy transition for years. The false WEO predictions lead to high investments in fossil and nuclear sector, hinder global development of renewable energy and undermine the global fight against climate change.”

Edie 24th Sept 2015 read more »

Renewables – Tidal

Another major milestone in the MeyGen project to install the world’s largest tidal turbine generator array in the Pentland Firth has been achieved. The Edinburgh-based company – majority owned by Atlantis Resources – has completed the laying of four subsea cables which run from the Caithness foreshore into the Inner Sound of the Pentland Firth and down to the seabed. The four cables are housed in individual bore holes of approximately 0.5km each, drilled earlier this year. From the exit of the borehole, the cables then run along the seabed to the offshore project site, where four 1.5 MW tidal turbines will be deployed next year.

Scottish Energy News 25th Sept 2015 read more »

BBC 24th Sept 2015 read more »

Fuel Poverty

The official figures, published by the Scottish Government in the Scottish House Conditions Survey (SHCS Key Findings Report, 2013) show there are 940,000 fuel poor Scottish households (39.1 per cent). This is calculated under the definition that they need to use more than 10 per cent of income on fuel expenditure.

Scotsman 24th Sept 2015 read more »

Fossil Fuels

The end is nigh for Cockenzie power station in East Lothian. At 12 noon on Saturday, the distinctive twin chimneys will buckle and fall; a second explosion will bring down the steel turbine hall. Nothing can save them now: all that’s left to do is make our lament and find a good spot to watch the spectacle. It is not often that an entire landscape changes with the press of a button, but when the dust finally settles over Port Seton, the view east from Edinburgh will reveal an even horizon.

Guardian 24th Sept 2015 read more »

THOUSANDS of Scotland’s teachers, social workers and other council employees could be at risk of losing their pension pots due to massive investments in “dirty energy”, according to environmental campaigners. New data reveals Scottish local government pensions investments plough £1.7 billion into oil, coal and gas companies. The cash is part of £14 billion that is invested in fossil fuels by 4.6 million local government workers across the UK through their pension schemes.

Scotsman 24th Sept 2015 read more »

CCS

A £1bn green energy plan backed by the Government has been dealt a major blow after one of the UK’s top power companies pulled out of the project. Drax blamed cuts in support for renewable energy for its decision not to build a carbon capture and storage facility next to its North Yorkshire power station.

Telegraph 25th Sept 2015 read more »

Times 25th Sept 2015 read more »

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Published: 25 September 2015