26 June 2015

Hinkley

The Austrian government is to file a legal challenge against the EU next week over its recent decision to allow the UK to fund a new nuclear plant using state aid. Austria believes the EU has breached its own rules on fair competition in the marketplace in making the decision, giving nuclear an unfair advantage over renewable energy technologies struggling for investment. Such a legal move will likely delay the UK government’s plans for a ‘nuclear renaissance’ by up to two years. The construction of a new reactor at Hinkley Point in Somerset, a joint venture between the UK government and French energy giant EDF, is set to be the first such undertaking in the country since 1988. This renewed interest in nuclear energy stems from the previous UK coalition government’s proposal to reform the electricity market in order to accommodate nuclear plant construction. The reform package includes a controversial investment plan called contracts for difference (CfD), first introduced in 2012.

Chemistry World 25th June 2015 read more »

New Nukes

Andrea Leadsom, Minister of State for Energy and Climate Change: The Government fully support the expansion of nuclear generation. My hon. Friend might be interested to know that nuclear already supplies 19% of our electricity in the UK, which is broadly equivalent to the amount provided by renewables. It is therefore a key part of our base energy supply, and I am delighted that industry has plans to develop approximately 16 GW of new nuclear power, across five sites. The Government and EDF are working together to finalise the Hinkley project documentation. EDF anticipates Hinkley Point C beginning production in 2023 … we are committed to the next wave of new nuclear projects, and we hope to be able to meet 35% of UK power needs from nuclear by 2028.

House of Commons Hansard 25 June 2015 read more »

More than 85% of sustainability professionals and green experts currently support the continued subsidisation of nuclear power in the UK, a new edie poll has found. More than 350 edie readers have so far responded to a question asking whether the UK Government should continue to support and subsidise nuclear power. Exactly 85.8% answered “Yes – it is a low-carbon form of energy and displaces coal and gas capacity”, while 14.2% answered “No – it is expensive and dangerous and requires funding that could be used to subsidise truly ‘clean’ energy”. The results differ drastically from the Government’s survey of public opinion in April, where 39% supported the use of nuclear energy, 21% opposed it and 36% were indifferent. Circular Ecology’s Craig Jones, who recently wrote about the controversial Hinkley nuclear plant for edie suggested the disparity could be the result of an educated pragmatism from sustainability professionals.

Edie 25th June 2015 read more »

Moorside

North Cumbria CND, Cumbria and Lancashire Area CND and Radiation Free Lakeland are holding a series of events to protest against the building of nuclear reactors in Cumbria. These events are timed to run alongside and inform the NuGen Moorside Consultation.

Radiation Free Lakeland 25th June 2015 read more »

Radwaste

A video recording of the meeting between the Independent Review Panel (IRP) and RWM held in public is now available on YouTube.

RWM 25th June 2015 read more »

An Independent Review Panel (IRP) has been set up by the Geological Society of London on behalf of the Department of Energy and Climate Change to assess draft national geological screening guidance developed by RWM. Independent expert review of the guidance is a key step in building public confidence in national geological screening. “The guidance will provide an approach for bringing together geological information, compiled from existing national data sets, that is relevant to the safety of a geological disposal facility (GDF). Screening is not designed to rule areas ‘in’ or ‘out’, but will provide high level and authoritative information for 13 regions of England, Wales and Northern Ireland. This will be used in RWM’s discussions with communities from 2017 onwards, when the formal engagement and siting process begins.”

Cumbria Trust 26th June 2015 read more »

Sellafield

Sellafield Ltd, the company responsible for delivering decommissioning of the UK’s nuclear legacy has announced that Metalcraft has been awarded a contract potentially valued at £50 million, for the provision of high-integrity stainless steel storage containers for nuclear waste. Metalcraft was chosen not just because of the quality and value for money it could offer to fulfil the contract to the standards required to store nuclear waste, but in particular the socio-economic commitments it made to deliver a package which includes new jobs, apprenticeships and training development to advance the capability of manufacturing skills. In addition Metalcraft has committed to a new facility in West Cumbria for the finishing of boxes for the Phase 2 contract, subject to successful sanction to proceed.

Engineer Live 23rd June 2015 read more »

Uranium

Demand for new nuclear reactors is beginning to stir back to life after the Fukushima disaster, but the uranium mines needed to feed them are still years away, according to a report. Japan is scheduled in August to restart its first nuclear reactor since the 2011 tragedy, while about 65 new reactors are under construction, according to the report from KPMG, the accountancy firm. However, uranium prices are languishing at about half the level needed to convince mining companies to invest in new production. In Britain, there are concerns that EDF’s development of a new plant at Hinkley Point will be held up by safety issues relating to a reactor at the Flamanville plant in France, the same model to be used at Hinkley.

Times 26th June 2015 read more »

Energy Research

Governments should invest in research into renewable energy on the same scale as the Manhattan Project and the Apollo moon missions, Bill Gates has said as he revealed he planned to double his own investment in green technologies to nearly £1.3bn. The world’s richest man told the Financial Times that he had invested $1bn (about £650m) in companies involved in carbon capture technologies, next-generation nuclear, new kinds of batteries and other types of research in the field. And he said: “Over the next five years, there’s a good chance that will double.” Mr Gates, the founder of Microsoft, said “great innovation” was still needed to make energy in a way that would reduce carbon dioxide emissions significantly. And this would only be achieved if governments spent tens of billions of dollars on research and development into new renewables, he said. Mr Gates has invested several hundred million dollar in “nuclear recycling”, which sees reactors powered by waste uranium from existing power plants as well as their own waste. “Nuclear technology today is failing on cost, safety, proliferation, waste and fuel shortage, and so any technology that comes in has to have some answer to all of those things,” he said.

Independent 26th June 2015 read more »

Among the technology Mr Gates said was the most promising was “nuclear recycling”, where he has invested several hundred million dollars. His biggest single commitment was in a US-based company called TerraPower. Nuclear technology today is failing on cost, safety, proliferation, waste and fuel shortage, and so any technology that comes in has to have some answer to all of those things.” TerraPower’s reactors would be powered not by enriched uranium, used by traditional reactors, but by depleted uranium, the waste from today’s plants. Depleted uranium is widely available as a raw material to be turned into energy. The plants using this spent fuel, so-called Travelling Wave Reactors, could be one solution to how to dispose of nuclear waste. A small amount of enriched uranium is needed to get them started, but they would run on waste, making and consuming their own supply.

FT 25th June 2015 read more »

Germany

Germany’s 33 year-old Grafenrheinfeld nuclear reactor will be shut down permanently on June 27th as the country’s phase out of nuclear power continues. It’s the first reactor to close since Germany passed its Atomic Energy Act in July 2011 which requires the closure of all commercial nuclear reactors by the end of 2022. The reactor is being shutdown seven months early as the disastrous economics of nuclear power and Germany’s drive for clean and sustainable energy have made it impossible for its owner E.ON to operate the reactor and make a profit. EON and other large nuclear utilities only have themselves to blame. They failed to anticipate the growth of renewable energy and so they failed to invest in it. At the same time, electricity prices have fallen making their nuclear power plants even less profitable. That said, even E.ON is waking up to the new energy future of Germany. “The transformation of Europe’s energy system continues to offer us attractive growth opportunities in renewables and distributed energy,” said the company in a report from March this year.

Greenpeace 25th June 2015 read more »

Iran

As foreign ministers are about to converge on Vienna for a last round of nuclear talks with Iran, two experts discuss one of the last obstacles to a deal – resolving suspicions of past Iranian experimentation with weapons design.

Guardian 25th June 2015 read more »

Saudi Arabia

France announced yesterday that it will look into building two European pressurised reactors (EPR) in Saudi Arabia as part of a nearly $12 million deal signed with the Gulf state. French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said that under the terms of one of the deals French Airbus will sell 23 H-145 multipurpose helicopters to Saudi Arabia for €500 million ($560 million) as well as launch a feasibility study into building the reactors.

Middle East Monitor 25th June 2015 read more »

U.S. President Obama is actively pushing for a deal with Iran that would allow it to maintain a limited nuclear programme. America’s allies in the Middle East, particularly Saudi Arabia, are concerned this would pave the way to an Iranian nuclear bomb. Riyadh has vowed to match any nuclear capabilities Teheran might acquire, sparking fears of a nuclear arms race.

Global Risk Insights 25th June 2015 read more »

Nuclear Weapons

A senior Pentagon official has warned that Russia is “playing with fire” by suggesting it would threaten the use of nuclear weapons in international disputes, and added that Russia is attempting an intimidation campaign against Nato. Robert Work, the US Deputy Secretary of Defence, told a House Armed Services subcommittee that Russia was trying to control the escalation of tensions by invoking the threat of nuclear weapons.

Independent 26th June 2015 read more »

Renewables

Contrary to recent press reports, the UK met its interim renewable energy target for 2013/14, according to a report issued earlier this morning. The news came as ministers for the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) defended their approach in parliament, fending off questions about the decision to end support for onshore wind early despite it being the cheapest form of renewable power. The UK remains well short of its target under the EU Renewable Energy Directive. The UK must source 15% of its energy for heat, transport and power from renewable sources by 2020. As of 2013, the UK was further behind its 2020 goal than any other EU member state. Last week, the Guardian reported on progress towards the EU 2020 renewables goals under the headline, “UK misses interim renewable energy target”. The headline was later amended. ENDS Report also said the UK had missed its target. Business Green and other publications said a European Commission report found the UK was at risk of missing its 2020 goal. Today, a new update from DECC says the UK actually surpassed its interim target for 2013/14. Renewables supplied 7.0% of UK energy needs in 2014, it says, up from the previously reported figure for 2013 of 5.1%. That means the UK got 6.3% of its energy from renewables averaged over 2013/14, easily passing its interim goal of 5.4%.

Carbon Brief 25th June 2015 read more »

Renewables – offshore wind

Onshore wind is often more expensive than it needs to be in this country. Sure, some onshore wind in Britain is not only the cheapest renewable there is, it’s the cheapest electricity we’ve got from any source, once insurance, pollution and all the other costs are factored in. However quite a few planned UK onshore windfarms are more expensive than this. Bids to develop onshore wind came in at around £80 per MWh (8p per KWh) in the February 2015 round of CfD allocations, a bidding process meant to reveal the lowest available supply costs. That’s about the same price as some proposed solar parks. Onshore wind is cheaper in other countries such as Germany (between €0.05 and €0.11/kWh). That price premium for onshore wind in Britain seems to be back-to-front, given the UK’s powerful wind resource. Both Denmark and Germany have strong wind supply chains, and Britain’s is still nascent. Not only does that mean new turbines typically have to be shipped to the UK from factories overseas, it adds currency risk, and means that less of the money invested stays within the country.

The Conversation 22nd June 2015 read more »

Renewables – Scotland

Consultation on proposals for expanding the range of situations in which non-domestic solar panels and domestic air source heat pumps can be installed without first requiring planning permission to be applied for.

Scottish Government 22nd June 2015 read more »

Scottish wind farms power almost a million homes in record first quarter. First three months of 2015 saw wind farms produce enough electricity to power 960,000 Scottish households for a year, but subsidy cuts threaten potential, minister warns.

Business Green 25th June 2015 read more »

Renewables – offshore wind

Amber Rudd has sought to reassure the offshore wind industry it can continue to rely on government support in the wake of the controversial decision to end subsidy support for new onshore wind farms. Speaking on the first day of the annual RenewableUK Offshore Wind Conference, Rudd insisted the government regards the offshore wind sector as a “significant economic opportunity for the UK” and as such will continue to support it so long as it can deliver on its cost-reduction targets. Rudd was speaking following criticism from across the industry over the government’s decision to bring an early end to subsidy support for onshore wind farms, a move she admitted earlier this week could see plans for up to 250 wind farms shelved. Industry groups, including RenewableUK, warned the decision to end support for one of the most cost-effective forms of clean energy would undermine investor confidence across the renewables sector. But Rudd yesterday defended the decision and insisted the offshore wind industry could continue to rely on supportive government policies.

Business Green 25th June 2015 read more »

Floating wind turbines could provide the “next big opportunity” for Scotland’s burgeoning renewables industry, Scottish Energy Minister Fergus Ewing will claim today. Ewing is to speak at the launch of a major new report from the Carbon Trust which investigates the feasibility of the prospective technology and concludes it could play a crucial role in pushing down the cost of offshore wind technologies.

Business Green 24th June 2015 read more »

Green Investment Bank

Senior “green Tories” – Conservative supporters who want the party to act on environmental issues – have attacked the government’s decision to sell a majority stake in the Green Investment Bank (GIB). Bright Blue, an influential thinktank focused on the Conservative party and numbering senior Tories among its backers, said the sell-off was “the last thing we need” and criticised the move as putting public sector capital in competition with the private sector. Ben Goldsmith, brother of MP Zac Goldsmith and chairman of the Conservative Environment Network, which numbers prominent Tory supporters and MPs among its members, also blasted the privatisation. He said: “The Green Investment Bank was one of the Coalition government’s few great, green achievements. Why the new Conservative government is considering undoing that achievement by privatising this exciting new institution is beyond me. Let’s hope they see sense.”

Guardian 25th June 2015 read more »

Fossil Fuels

Cuadrilla’s plans for the UK’s first full scale fracking projects were dealt a blow today, after Lancashire County Council rejected one of two proposed projects in the area. Following the advice of planning officers earlier this month, the planning committee today unanimously voted against Cuadrilla’s plans to drill at Roseacre Wood, over concerns that works would have an unacceptable impact on traffic.

Business Green 25th June 2015 read more »

Lancashire Evening Post 25th June 2015 read more »

Climate

Thousands of people have been killed by extreme weather so far this year amid fears that climate change is leading to more deadly heatwaves, floods, hurricanes and tornadoes. More than 1,000 people have died in Pakistan this week of heatstroke and dehydration as temperatures soared far above 40oC and power cuts crippled Karachi. India is currently recovering from the second deadliest heatwave in the country’s history, which had killed 2,500 people by the start of this month.

Independent 25th June 2015 read more »

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Published: 26 June 2015