26 September 2015

Hinkley

Nuclear power returned to the top of the political agenda this week when George Osborne used his visit to China to underline the government’s determination to push through the Hinkley Point C power station project. There are expectations that the energy company behind the proposed plant, EDF of France, will announce a final investment decision on the £24.5bn scheme during the visit of Chinese premier Xi Jinping to London next month. Beijing holds the key to Hinkley because state-controlled EDF wants two of China’s nuclear companies to commit as investors before it gives the green light. But even as governments in Britain, France and China push for a commitment from EDF, there is a growing army of critics who want to halt what they argue is the most expensive power station ever planned. Industrialists and City analysts have joined traditional opponents Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth in saying the scheme is a white elephant. Firstly, EDF supporters argue it is misleading to compare a £92.50 guaranteed price for nuclear with current wholesale power prices because the latter are artificially low due to the depressed value of coal. They make the point that wholesale power prices were £80 per MW hour in 2008 – double their current level – and could return to this level when Britain’s coal-fired power stations are phased out due to old age and greenhouse gas regulations. Friends of atomic power also claim renewables such as wind and solar are also unable to guarantee constant energy production, unlike nuclear, while noting that gas is a fossil fuel which exacerbates global warming. And they insist that some wind projects backed by the government under a scheme running till 2021 could cost £137 per MWh. Vincent de Rivaz, the chief executive of EDF, told the BBC on Thursday that nuclear energy is worth the investment because it provides “baseload” power which is available round-the-clock.

Guardian 25th Sept 2015 read more »

The UK’s Hinkley Point nuclear power station has major backing from China. But why does the government need their help? “Nuclear power plants are astonishingly expensive,” says Stephen Thomas, energy policy expert and a retired professor from the University of Greenwich Business School. The cost of construction alone at Hinkley Point is estimated at a massive £24bn. Few private companies are able to afford that kind of money. It’s also difficult to put a price tag on projects because of the uncertainties in how long construction will take, explains David Toke, energy politics reader at the University of Aberdeen. “You don’t really know what the costs are going to be before you start building,” he says. There are also technology risks. “Most of the time it doesn’t get built on time, it doesn’t get built to cost and it doesn’t always work as well as it should do,” explains Thomas. Hinkley in particular is going to use a reactor design that has raised a few eyebrows among its critics. It will use European Pressurised Reactors (EPR). “The two [plants] of this design that are being built in Europe are badly behind schedule and over budget,” says Richard Green, professor of sustainable energy business at Imperial College London. These issues are not reassuring for a potential investor or for a bank considering a loan to a developer. Some people argue that the government could avoid this by investing straight into Hinkley, using its ability to borrow long-term funds at a low rate. “I believe that if the UK government has confidence in the project it could and should invest directly – it would be cheaper to do that than paying to borrow money from the Chinese,” argues Nick Butler, an economist and visiting professor at Kings College London. But the UK is unlikely to want to be seen to be borrowing vast sums of money, says Green. Involving the private sector avoids the risk of the government having to pay a big sum up-front. It’s a similar logic to that behind Private Finance Initiatives (PFI). A PFI is a way of funding a large public infrastructure project such as a new hospital through private sector companies who will build it, operate it and then lease it back.

BBC 25th Sept 2015 read more »

A nuclear dawn could be breaking. After decades without a new nuclear generator anywhere in the UK, Britain is just weeks away from signing on the dotted line for a fleet of reactors. Nuclear power is expected to play a huge part in the future of Britain’s electricity system. There are two reasons for this. First, the UK’s current crop of plants, which have been pumping out power round the clock for decades, are coming to the end of their life. Almost all of them will close within the next ten years. Second Britain’s energy sources are changing. Government policy, partly due to edicts handed down from Brussels, is to close ageing coal plants that are seen as dirty and polluting, and replace them with cleaner alternatives such as wind or nuclear. Offshore wind, as well as being expensive, is intermittent. Nuclear, however, is never off, making it more attractive if funding can be agreed.

Daily Mail 25th Sept 2015 read more »

Nuclear Research

China and the UK will work together to co-fund a £50 million ($78 million) nuclear research centre, to be headquartered in the UK. Chinese vice premier Ma Kai and British chancellor George Osborne announced the plan on 21 September during the 7th UK-China Economic and Financial Dialogue summit in Beijing.

World Nuclear News 25th Sept 2015 read more »

Bradwell

MALDON MP John Whittingdale has said a proposed nuclear site in Bradwell would benefit people in the district. Chancellor George Osborne has said a £2 billion state guarantee for Hinkley Point in Somerset “opens the door to majority Chinese ownership of a subsequent nuclear project in Bradwell”.

Maldon Standard 24th 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. The Largs and Millport Weekly News report 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.

Glasgow Evening Times 24th Sept 2015 read more »

New Reactors

Economic analysis shows that the cost of new reactors is far above that of other low-carbon alternatives. The most recent of many proofs is Dominion Resources’ midsummer acknowledgement that the cost estimate for its proposed North Anna 3 unit in Virginia now exceeds $19 billion, or about 19 cents per kilowatt-hour—at least three times current US power market prices, which would make the project even more expensive than Britain’s proposed Hinkley Point reactors.

Bulletin of Atomic Scientists 24th Sept 2015 read more »

Plutonium

From Savannah River Site Watch: “The incident that caused the partial site shutdown occurred on September 3 and involved transfer in the HB-Line – sits atop the H-Canyon reprocessing plant – of 400 grams of weapon-grade plutonium from a single “3013” plutonium storage can into 3 sample cans. Criticality control procedures were violated by personnel in how the cans were handled, resulting in not only closure of H-Canyon but many other site activities managed by Savannah River Nuclear Solutions (SRNL).

Mining Awareness 24th Sept 2015 read more »

Toshiba

This month’s round-the-world tour of fraud also takes in Toshiba. The nuclear-to-semiconductor conglomerate was hit by a record fine from Japan’s stock exchange and ordered to improve its governance and internal controls, in the wake of a $2bn accounting scandal.

FT 25th Sept 2015 read more »

Politics

George Osborne has been praised by Chinese state media for not mentioning human rights during his visit, which one campaigner called “an appalling new low” in unwillingness to confront the issue. The chancellor was praised by government-run The Global Times, which said he was “The first Western official in recent years who focused on business potential rather than raising a magnifying glass to the ‘human rights issue,” according to the BBC. Amnesty International has said China’s human rights campaigners “risked harassment and arbitrary detention” by authorities which “severely restrict the right to freedom of expression”. Its latest report on the country noted “torture and other ill-treatment remained widespread and access to justice was elusive for many”. Ethnic minorities, including the Muslim Uighur population in the country’s west, have been subjected to “security clampdowns” and campaigners had urged Osborne to raise this. Kate Allen, Amnesty International’s UK Director, said: “Mr Osborne might have won praise from Chinese state media for his ‘modest manner’ over his criticism of human rights in the country, but what of the victims of China’s human rights crackdown? I am sure they won’t be so quick to praise how restrained he has been. “What of the 245 lawyers and activists targeted in an unprecedented nationwide campaign to silence criticism this year? “At least 30 of the lawyers rounded up, remain ‘missing’ or are in police custody facing lengthy sentences. “Those lawyers were targeted because they dared to challenge the state, the least they can expect is for senior visiting politicians to do the same, on their behalf.”

Huffington Post 25th September 2015 read more »

Natalie Bennett: When it comes to standing against planned nuclear plants from Hinkley to Anglesey to Hartlepool, when it comes to resisting the power of the oil and gas lobby that keeps supporting this government’s fracking, underground coal gasification and coal bed methane fantasies from Blackpool to Middlesborough to Warwickshire; when it comes to resisting the concreting over of the greenbelt for expensive, poor quality homes by mass builders out for a quick pound, communities know that it’s the Green Party that consistently backs them. Here in Bournemouth, we’ve been consistently supporting the proposed wind turbines of the Navitus Bay offshore wind farm, sadly only the latest victim of this government’s disastrous energy policies. Of course this government’s had to grapple with a difficult concept: the wind turbines are big, but are far away. But the Navitus Bay developers can subject this arbitrary decision to judicial review, as I hope they will, just as we can use not just democratic, but legal mechanisms, international mechanisms, to hold this government to account. The rotten politics, the old politics, is in its last throes.

Business Green 25th Sept 2015 read more »

Shares in Drax ticked up on Friday morning after the country’s biggest power station pulled the plug on a carbon capture project at the heart of UK efforts to combat climate change. But that was a rare piece of good news on a day that saw investors, business groups and unions round on the government for what they said were the raft of “incoherent” and ill-considered green energy policy U-turns contributing to Drax’s decision. “The government is scrapping all regulatory and price support mechanisms for green industries, seemingly without anything new, and better, to replace them,” said Ben Goldsmith, a renewable energy investor, and brother of Conservative MP, Zac Goldsmith. “I hope they’ve got something cooking, because otherwise it’s pure idiocy to be killing off these fast-growing, exciting new industries just as they are reachin g the point at which they are viable without any kind of support.”

FT 25th Sept 2015 read more »

Levy Control Framework

Former energy secretary Ed Davey has accused the Conservative government of raising “disingenuous” concerns over its funding pot for renewable energy in order to justify its recent subsidy cuts. “I’m not suggesting it won’t be tight,” Davey added, explaining that a carefully controlled budget is a key part of the LCF mechanism’s design. “[But] only at the end of the [LCF] period do we get anywhere near the cap – and the headroom,” he emphasised. In one of his first public speaking appearances since losing his position in parliament Davey lashed out at Chancellor George Osborne’s lack of support for renewable energy. “He’s motivated by wanting to be the next leader of the party,” he said, adding that the Treasury is “way behind the curve in understanding the energy market – shockingly”. Davey said the Treasury department viewed the Department of Energy and Climate Change as a group of “provincial hippies who don’t know anything”. “We were able to win arguments using evidence – but the difference now is that he doesn’t need to debate his decisions.”

Utility Week 24th Sept 2015 read more »

Japan

Tokyo Electric Power Co. turned down requests in 2009 by the nuclear safety agency to consider concrete steps against tsunami waves at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, which suffered a tsunami-triggered disaster two years later, government documents showed Friday.

Japan Times 26th Sept 2015 read more »

Iran

Iran is stepping up efforts to implement a landmark nuclear deal by January so as to benefit from sanctions relief, with European companies lining up for what one investor described as the most attractive opportunity in frontier markets globally. President Hassan Rouhani, who is visiting New York to speak at the UN general assembly next week, said at a meeting with journalists and media executives on Friday that “conditions were ripe” for his administration to start implementing the agreement, struck in Vienna in July, by the end of the year.

Guardian 25th Sept 2015 read more »

Russia

A DRONE has revealed haunting footage of an abandoned Soviet nuclear power plant in Crimea. The aerial camera flew over the abandoned site which is still too dangerous for humans to visit. The footage reveals rare images of the nuclear power plant abandoned for more than 25 years.

Express 25th Sept 2015 read more »

Trident

The Labour Party will work with the Scottish nationalists to try to block the renewal of Britain’s Trident nuclear deterrent in a parliamentary vote due next year, Labour’s new leader, Jeremy Corbyn, said on Friday.

Reuters 25th Sept 2015 read more »

Microgeneration

This wee’s Micro Power News: A new joint campaign is being launched today by RenewableUK and the Solar Trade Association opposing the Government’s plans to cut financial support to small-scale renewables, including wind turbines and solar panels. The campaign, entitled People Power, is calling for members of the public, as well as the thousands of renewable energy employees, to petition the Government to provide more stable support to these maturing sectors by writing to their local MP and harnessing the power of social media.

Microgenscotland.org.uk 25th September 2015 read more »

Renewables

Figures from the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) show that renewables generated more electricity in the last quarter than coal or nuclear plants. According to DECC, of electricity generated in the second quarter of 2015, gas accounted for 30.2%, coal 20.5%, nuclear 21.5%, and renewables 25.3%. A total of 42% of this came from onshore and offshore wind, with wind generating 10.7% of the country’s needs.

The Engineer 25th Sept 2015 read more »

Two major renewables industry bodies today joined forces for a major push to oppose government plans for cutting financial support for small-scale renewable energy projects, such as solar panels and wind turbines. Launched by the Solar Trade Association and RenewableUK, the trade body for UK wind and marine energy, the new People Power campaign calls for members of the public and renewable energy employees to write to their local MPs and petition the government via social media to give more stable support for wind turbines and solar panels.

Business Green 25th Sept 2015 read more »

MACKIE’S of Scotland has taken a big step forward in its drive to become self-sufficient in renewable energy by investing millions of pounds in a solar energy farm. The ice-cream, crisps and chocolate producer, which introduced its first wind turbine a decade ago, has installed nearly 7,000 of solar PV (photovoltaic) panels on the family’s land in Aberdeenshire. The solar farm, which goes “live” on Wednesday, has the capacity to generate 1.8MW (megawatts) of renewable energy – enough to make four million litres of ice-cream. Mackie’s has also installed a fourth, 500kW (kilowatts) wind turbine and a bio-mass energy plant for heating and water as part of an investment worth around £4 million. The investment, funded by a term loan from Bank of Scotland, is the latest in a series of steps Mack ie’s has taken to meet its energy needs from renewable technology on its land. The family firm, headed by managing director Mac Mackie, has already got 175kw of solar panels installed on farm building roofs, and three other wind turbines. Between them, the four turbines have a total capacity of 3MW.

Herald 26th Sept 2015 read more »

Energy Efficiency

Cities across the world should follow Glasgow and switch to LED for street lights in the next decade to save huge amounts of energy, money and carbon emissions, it has been urged. The Climate Group, which works with business and governments on moving to a low-carbon economy, has urged every city and utility globally to schedule the switch to low-energy LED technology for street lighting by 2025. The move could deliver energy savings of 50-70 per cent on current lighting, the group said. The organisation, which is hosting Climate Week in New York, is also launching a global campaign “LED = Lower Emissions Delivered”, urging local governments, cities and utilities to take advantage of the cost and carbon benefits of LEDs. The Climate Group pointed to Los Angeles, which has installed 140,000 LED street lights, with energy savings of more than 60 per cent and financial savings of $8.7 million (£5.7 million) a year. Switching all outdoor and indoor lighting to LEDs could cut global electricity demand for lighting by more than a half and avoid 735 million tonnes of CO2 a year, the equivalent of the entire emissions of the UK and Spain.

Scotsman 26th Sept 2015 read more »

Fuel Poverty

Letter Cllr Bill Butler: I read with real alarm your story that fuel poverty in Scotland has reached new heights: 940,000 Scottish households in fuel poverty, or two in every five homes across the country. It is a truly shocking statistic and of real concern as the cold nights approach. Elizabeth Gore’s informative article also showed that it was not just the single pensioner, but young families with children who are struggling to pay for fuel bills, putting their health and well-being at risk. She is exactly right to say energy efficiency schemes, often led by councils, are critical to reduce fuel poverty. Yet we see the UK Government diluting the fuel poverty statistics and not stepping up to the mark to fund energy efficiency programmes either. It is incumbent on the Scottish Government to do all it can to put pressure on the UK Government to focus more resources on tackling fuel poverty. It must do all it can as well to find new resources itself to reduce this problem, given it is a statutory responsibility. Politicians of all political parties in Scotland need to work together as well to challenge energy policy changes at Westminster, including an obsession with spending billions on new nuclear power stations. These policy changes are fundamentally letting down the most vulnerable people in our society, often having to choose between a warm meal or putting the heating on. Our councils are doing what they can to support them, but with such severe cuts to their budgets, cannot do it without more government support. In 2015 such levels of fuel poverty are scandalous. As politicians we are duty-bound to find solutions to sort this complicated problem out, as I really fear what a cold winter could bring to many people in Scotland.

Scotsman 26th Sept 2015 read more »

Climate

Britain’s reputation on the environment has suffered so badly under the new Conservative government that it could undermine the global fight against climate change, leading figures in the green movement have warned. Since taking office in May, the Tories have drastically cut subsidies for wind and solar power and ended support for energy efficiency in homes. The policy changes may also discourage other countries from becoming greener, Craig Bennett, head of Friends of the Earth, and Caroline Lucas, the Green Party MP, told The Independent. This would make it even harder for world leaders to agree effective action to limit global warming at a crucial United Nations climate change conference in Paris, in December. The spokesman for the bloc of developing countries including China and India has described the current status of the pre-summit negotiations as “ominous”. Mr Bennett told The Independent: “We cannot underestimate the appalling impact that David Cameron’s Government has had on the dynamic of these negotiations over the past few months.

Independent 25th Sept 2015 read more »

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Published: 26 September 2015