27 December 2015

Plutonium

BRITAIN faces a real terror threat over its huge stockpile of plutonium – the biggest in the world – but ministers still have no clear plan for disposing of the nuclear material, a leading expert has warned. According to official figures more than 126 tonnes of civil plutonium was being held in the UK as of December 2014, with just 3-4 kg of the substance needed to power a nuclear weapon. The world’s largest store of the radioactive substance is held in Britain after successive governments accumulated plutonium from the 1950s onwards when it was widely believed to be a miracle replacement energy source for oil, coal and gas. But attempts to use plutonium – among the world’s most toxic substances – as a fuel have routinely been abandoned with Britain’s experimental nuclear power plants now closed following a lack of success. With terror groups such as the brutal Islamic State (ISIS) jihadists showing an increasing appetite for getting their hands on a nuclear weapon, or radioactive material for use in a ‘dirty’ bomb, an expert has warned the UK’s plutonium stockpile “absolutely” presents a terror threat to Britain. Independent nuclear consultant John Large told Express.co.uk: “The Government still has no definite option for actually dissipating or getting rid of plutonium other than storing it and eventually putting it in a deep hole. “At the moment it stores it in what it claims to be a secure location in Sellafield and that is apparently guarded but it still certainly doesn’t have a programme in place. “We haven’t really solved the problem of what to do with it so at the moment the storage of plutonium is open to some doubt and the question of malicious terrorist attack.”

Express 26th Dec 2015 read more »

Dounreay

Letter Tor Justad: Your front-page story referred to a secret plan by the UK Government and the nuclear industry to transport weapons-grade uranium from Dounreay to the US by sea. As a campaigning group formed in 2013, HANT (Highlands Against Nuclear Transport) has been calling for greater transparency and openness from the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) in relation to transport of nuclear materials from Dounreay by rail, sea, road and air. The mantra response of the NDA and DSRL (Dounreay Site Restoration Ltd) is that all transport meets strict regulatory requirements and details cannot be divulged on security grounds. HANT has consistently argued that all communities along the routes being used should be informed of the risks and be fully briefed on emergency plans in place to deal with accidents. In early meetings with senior NDA staff, HANT was informed that communities are not informed because “then everyone would be against the transports”! The near disaster in the Moray Firth caused by a fire of the MV Parida in October 2014 carrying nuclear waste from Scrabster to Antwerp by sea should have been a wake-up call resulting in a stop to all movements of nuclear waste. The safest way to deal with the large amounts of highly radioactive materials remaining at Dounreay is to leave them on site under constant monitoring and security, which would retain and create local employment. HANT is supported in this position by UK and Scottish politicians, local authorities, NFLA (Nuclear Free Local Authorities) and all the main environmental organisations. In the light of this latest example of a blatant disregard for public concern and safety, this position is the only responsible way to deal with the toxic legacy of the nuclear industry.

Herald 27th Dec 2015 read more »

France

France’s nuclear safety watchdog is to distribute iodine tablets to people living near the country’s 19 nuclear power stations, warning that an accident is possible but not probable. France relies on nuclear power for a large part of its energy needs. In the fifth such distribution campaign since they began in 1997, the Nuclear Security Authority (ASN) will make iodine tablets available to 400,000 households and 2,000 establishments, such as schools, businesses and local government offices, in a radius of 10 kilometres of a nuclear power station. They will be distributed through pharmacies or sent to those who fail to collect them.

RFI 26th Dec 2015 read more »

Belgium

Belgian power utility Electrabel said Saturday it has restarted a nuclear reactor at its aging Tihange plant, just days after being forced to shut it down following a fire in the electricity supply system. An Electrabel spokesman said the Tihange 1 reactor was put back on line as scheduled and will be running at full power in due course. The recent shutdown of the reactor was “normal procedure” after such a fire, the company said previously. Tihange 1 is the oldest of three reactors at the plant, about an hour’s drive southwest of Brussels, and began service in 1975.

Japan Times 27th Dec 2015 read more »

Japan

An injunction had been taken out by residents of Takahama against the Kansai Electric Power company, after concerns that the reactors were not able to withstand a powerful earthquake. Kansai Electric has said that it plans to have the reactors back online by the end of January 2016. Since the nationwide shutdown of its nuclear power capability, nuclear energy is supplying less than 5% of Japan’s total nuclear power capacity, which when running at normal levels, provides around a third of the country’s power.

News on News 27th Dec 2015 read more »

Fusion

Professor Steve Cowley, who runs the UK’s national laboratory for fusion research – a technology that could produce 20 per cent of the world’s electricity by the end of the century – said that long-term projects such as his would not be possible outside the EU.“At this point, we have the greatest capability for fusion in the world,” he said. “[And] that capability is supported largely by European money. Where the science gets closer to market, then access becomes harder and harder for people outside the EU.

Independent 23rd Dec 2015 read more »

Renewables – Small wind

Scotland’s wind energy sector has hit out at last week’s UK government tariff review for small scale energy generators saying that that a newly imposed cap on the number of wind turbines that will qualify for Feed-in Tariff (FiT) subsidies could restrict the building of new wind turbines to as few as one a month across the UK. Trade body Scottish Renewables says that, although the new reduced rates for small wind turbines are not too bad, a new quarterly deployment cap hidden away in the 115-page document could lead to the “ridiculous” situation that, dependent on the size of the turbine, just one turbine a month could be built. Senior Policy Manager at Scottish Renewables Joss Blamire told the Sunday Herald: “While the UK government listened to the industry in relation to FiT rat e cuts for solar, the devil is very much in the detail for onshore wind.” Caps imposed on turbines between 50kW and 100kW mean only one machine a month will be supported across the whole UK. “With at least a dozen companies producing and installing turbines at this scale, these caps clearly do not provide room for the continued development of their projects, many of which would have been owned by local communities and rural businesses.”

Herald 27th Dec 2015 read more »

Renewable Subsidies

Letter Allan Wilson: IT’S not been a good year for the renewable energy sector in Scotland as Peter Swindon’s expose of the Scottish Government’s curtailment of the Renewable Energy Generation Relief Scheme demonstrates. The UK Government at least heralded their proposed abandonment of onshore wind in their manifesto even if it didn’t include the premature end of the Renewables Obligation (RO) therein. The Scottish Government has no such excuse. While criticising UK Government Ministers and maintaining the pretence of support it has first either given away powers to set a separate Scottish RO as previous Scottish Governments did – or bluntly opted not to exercise them – and now seeks to impose this additional obstacle to renewables growth in Scotland under its very own budget proposals. Having failed to act in support of the sector on Scottish Renewables Obligation Certificates it has now decided to add its own penalty on top of the UK Government’s. Fortunately the House of Lords has forced the UK Government to reappraise its plans for the premature end of the RO – due in no small part to the actions of Scottish Lords Foulkes and Wallace- by removing Clause 66 from the Energy Bill and we can only hope Scottish opposition parties can now force a similar rethink by Scottish ministers of this damaging proposal in the SNP budget.

Herald 27th Dec 2015 read more »

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Published: 27 December 2015