27 June 2015

Bradwell

A campaign group is seeking talks with Chinese developers over the future of a new Bradwell nuclear site. Blackwater Against New Nuclear Group has taken the unusual step of seeking direct discussions with the Chinese state-owned nuclear companies who are considering developing their own nuclear power station at the Bradwell site on land owned by EDF Energy. BANNG’s Chair, Professor Andy Blowers, has written to the heads of the China National Nuclear Corporation and the China General Nuclear Power Group pointing out the “formidable obstacles” that would have to be overcome before new nuclear power could be brought to Bradwell.

Harwich & Manningtree Standard 25th June 2015 read more »

Hinkley

Following an 11-month investigation into UK support for the Hinkley Point C nuclear project, the Commission approved a modified UK support package on 8 October 2014. Austria announced yesterday that it will launch its appeal on Monday 29 June challenging the Commission’s clearance decision before the General Court of the European Union. Luxembourg has stated that it will join Austria’s appeal. Germany has announced that, following a thorough analysis of the Commission’s State aid decision, it will not join the appeal. State aid appeals can last six years or more. During this period the Commission’s decision would be presumed to be lawful. At this stage the appeal appears unlikely to succeed. Even if the appeal is successful, the Commission could conduct another investigation (lasting at least six months) and reach a substantively identical decision. In the unlikely event that the Commission, after an appeal and second investigation, concludes that the aid is illegal, the relevant aid would need to be returned to the UK Government with significant ramifications for investors and financiers of Hinkley Point C.

Shearman & Sterling 25th June 2015 read more »

Austria is lining up a legal complaint against the UK over its portrayal of nuclear power as a “modern, sustainable” energy source, when it is to be supported by state subsidies. The complaint is “symbolic,” Vienna said. “We cannot accept that a technology such as this being portrayed through subsidies as being modern, sustainable and future-oriented,” Chancellor Werner Faymann said after a cabinet meeting on Tuesday. “This is a further important step in our anti-nuclear policy, which aims to make Europe nuclear-free in the long run,” Faymann said. “Subsidies should support new and modern technologies, which is not the case with nuclear energy,” he said. The complaint, which was to be be filed on Monday at the European Court of Justice, “is also of symbolic value against nuclear power,” the center-left Faymann said.

Deutsche Welle 23rd June 2015 read more »

Capenhurst

Capenhurst Nuclear Services (CNS) has selected Cavendish Nuclear to support its legacy cylinder facility (LCF) near Chester in England, UK. The LCF will transfer nuclear materials from legacy cylinders into suitable vessels. It is planned to be commissioned by 2020. Under the new contract, Cavendish Nuclear and CNS will work together to on reference design for the LCF, and ensure that the project objectives are met in a cost-effective, and environmental-friendly manner.

Energy Business Review 26th June 2015 read more »

Politics

The former shadow energy minister Tom Greatrex has warned that the Energy and Climate Change select committee risks losing credibility under its new Scottish National Party chair. In an exclusive column for Utility Week the former Labour MP said that the “rigour and balance” seen in the previous committee under Tim Yeo’s leadership could be lost due to the relative inexperience of the SNP’s Angus MacNeil. “A respected and knowledgeable committee chair can make a real difference to how policy is developed, implemented and adjusted – as the last parliament showed. Having asked just two written questions of [the Department of Energy and Climate Change] in the last five years, MacNeil’s focus has self-evidently been elsewhere,” Greatrex said.

Utility Week 26th June 2015 read more »

Tom Greatrex: In a recent report, the Institute of Government highlighted the increasing importance and prominence of select committees in the last parliament. While inquiries on phone hacking and tax avoidance caught the headlines, the energy committee chaired by Tim Yeo was widely respected as major policy changes were introduced. The detailed approach to scrutiny apparent in almost all of its reports meant they were taken seriously. As a member for a few months in 2010, and then as an observer as a shadow minister for much longer, I saw how the committee brought a degree of rigour and balance to a range of complex issues all too easily misrepresented in partisan debate. A respected and knowledgeable committee chair can make a real difference to how policy is developed, implemented and adjusted – as the last parliament showed. Having asked just two written questions of Decc in the past five years, MacNeill’s focus has self-evidently been elsewhere. He needs to demonstrate early a resistance to pursuing party interests first, and that the committee will focus on evidence. With some of the expertise likely to be present among other members, that should be possible. Without it, the credibility of an important source of analysis could be undermined precisely when the wider energy debate needs authoritative scrutiny of government policy.

Utility Week 26th June 2015 read more »

Energy Supplies – Scotland

How does Scotland satisfy its climate change commitments and keep the lights on? Lewis Macdonald: The Economy, Energy and Tourism Committee is asking precisely that question in its inquiry into Security of Supply, and hearing from a wide range of expert witnesses. It held a very similar inquiry in the last Parliament. I was a member of the committee then too, and it is striking how some of the detail has moved on but the fundamental challenges have not really changed. We need to find ways to reduce unnecessary energy use and increase energy security, while recognising that decarbonising heat and transport are likely to result in increasing our reliance on electricity. Callum McCaig: Scotland’s renewable energy has the potential to make a huge contribution in achieving carbon reduction targets both here in Scotland and across the UK. We also have huge potential in terms of pumped storage, which if developed, will ensure that electricity from renewable sources can be accessed at any time. Likewise, investment in interconnection will ensure that the lights are kept on. Over and above that, where new thermal generation is required to meet Scotland’s energy demand there is ample opportunity to explore t he enormous potential of carbon capture and storage ensuring carbon emissions are kept to a minimum. Is there a place for nuclear in Scotland’s energy mix? Macdonald: Nuclear power plays a big part in Scotland’s energy mix at the moment, and that will increase after the closure of the coal-fired power station at Longannet. As a low-carbon source of electricity, it can play a big role in future too, although like other low-carbon sources it is more expensive than simply burning coal. Current Scottish Government strategies seem to rely on importing electricity from nuclear power stations in other countries, as well as continuing power production from Scottish nuclear plants as long as possible. It would be more honest to remove the presumption against new nuclear, and then support whichever low-carbon technologies succeed in driving down costs in the 2020s. McCaig: There is a place for the current nuclear power plants as they wind down, but in terms of new nuclear, no. The proposed new plant at Hinkley is hugely expensive and will require a subsidy of around £1bn a year over 35 years. The events at Fukushima show how devastating nuclear accidents can be. There are many cheaper and safer alternatives that we should be exploring.

Holyrood 25th June 2015 read more »

DECC

The government’s household energy efficiency programme is veering off track, according to a review of major projects run by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC). The government’s domestic energy efficiency initiative aims to fit green improvements to one million homes by March this year, through the Green Deal and Energy Company Obligation (ECO) programmes. The report echoes widely held concerns across the energy efficiency sector that the Green Deal is struggling to deliver large scale improvements and the ECO scheme has been effectively watered down and is close to being completed. The new report, published yesterday, also raises concerns about a number of other key DECC programmes, handing out an ‘Amber’ alert to the programme of electricity market reforms, the £1bn Carbon Capture and Storage commercialisation competition, the Renewable Heat Incentive, the planned nationwide rollout of smart meters, and the search for a nuclear waste storage site. A further nuclear programme is seen as slightly ahead of schedule, while all data relating to the new nuclear plant at Hinkley Point was withheld, meaning it was not given a score on the report’s sliding scale.

Business Green 26th June 2015 read more »

Radhealth

After the Chernobyl disaster in 1986, a solution of potassium iodide (KI) was applied to over 10 million children and 7 million adults, as a preventative measure to prevent accumulation of radioactive iodine-131 in the thyroid. The main objective was to block accumulation of radioactive iodine, which is a carcinogenic present in the material released from the nuclear reactor. Results show people living in affected areas that did not receive the potassium iodine injection are at a much higher rate of thyroid cancer and other related diseases. In contrast, in populations that received the injection, levels of these conditions are within normal levels. Chernobyl also elucidated the fact that even as far away as 500 km, cases of thyroid cancer have increased significantly since the accident, and treatment with potassium iodine would have been advisable.

The Chemical Blog 26th June 2015 read more »

Terror

It would not take much highly enriched uranium to kill hundreds of thousands of people: as little as what could fit in a five-pound bag of sugar. That it has not happened so far does not mean it may never happen, especially when one considers that there are more than 2,000 metric tons of dangerous nuclear materials in hundreds of sites scattered across the globe. And that there have been more than 2,300 cases of theft or loss of nuclear or radioactive material since the early 1990s. Consequently, one of the greatest dangers facing the global community is the risk of terrorists getting enough uranium or plutonium to build a working, crude nuclear bomb, or to spike a conventional bomb with enough radioactive material to create a so-called “dirty bomb”—one which disperses harmful radioactive material over a wide area. The latter in particular is quite a plausible scenario; just think how the public would react if such a device exploded in a major urban center.

Bulletin of Atomic Scientists 26th June 2015 read more »

Europe

Europe will likely get more than half of its electricity from renewable sources by the end of the next decade if EU countries meet their climate pledges, according to a draft commission paper. A planned overhaul of the continent’s electricity grids will now need to be sped up, says the leaked text, seen by the Guardian. “Reaching the European Union 2030 energy and climate objectives means the share of renewables is likely to reach 50% of installed electricity capacity,” says the consultation paper, due to be published on 15 July. “This means that changes to the electricity system in favour of decarbonisation will have to come even faster.” The EU has set itself a goal of cutting emissions 40% on 1990 levels by 2030, and an aspiration for a 27% share for renewables across Europe’s full energy mix, which includes sectors such as transport, agriculture and buildings that do not necessarily rely on electricity. Around a quarter of Europe’s electricity currently comes from renewable sources.

Guardian 26th June 2015 read more »

Canada

A review panel decision in favour of a plan to bury dangerous nuclear waste near Lake Huron was illegal and unreasonable, a citizen’s group argues in a new Federal Court application. In asking the court to set aside the decision, the group says the panel that approved the Ontario Power Generation proposal failed to consider Canada’s international obligations, was biased, and violated the Canadian environmental rules.

Cumbria Trust 27th June 2015 read more »

Iran

John Kerry will seek to discover on Saturday whether Tehran’s “red lines” have sabotaged the chances of a final nuclear agreement when he meets his Iranian counterpart in Vienna.

Telegraph 27th June 2015 read more »

Reuters 26th June 2015 read more »

Reuters 26th June 2015 read more »

Renewables

Bill Gates has announced he will invest $2bn (£1.3bn) in renewable technologies initiatives, but rejected calls to divest from the fossil fuel companies that are burning carbon at a rate that ignores international agreements to limit global warming.

Guardian 26th June 2015 read more »

Renewables – offshore wind

A report by the UK Carbon Trust finds that floating wind projects could deliver energy for as low as £85/MWh (€119/MWh) by 2020, if the market reaches commercial scale and technology advances are consolidated.

Wind Power Monthly 25th June 2015 read more »

Renewables – onshore wind

AS yet more predictions emerge of a crisis hitting Scotland’s onshore wind power industry, an emergency summit is to be held in Glasgow early next month to discuss the impact of the UK Government’s decision to end wind farm subsidies. Energy Minister Fergus Ewing has called for the meeting with key players in the renewables sector to hear the concerns of the industry after the Westminster Government decided to end subsidies for onshore wind a year early. According to renewables industry sources, the decision to call an early halt to the Renewables Obligation scheme could cost Scotland thousands of jobs and millions of pounds in investment. Two top academic experts on energy yesterday joined the condemnation of the UK Government saying it will leave Scotland the “worst affected”. Professor Peter Strachan of Robert Gordon University and Aberdeen University’s Dr David Toke warned of the consequences for Scotland’s onshore wind industry including a threat to thousands of jobs. In an article for Energy Voice, they said the UK Government’s decision to cut subsidies for onshore wind and future prospects for the onshore wind industry across the UK and particularly in Scotland “appear dire”. Commenting, SNP Energy and Climate Change spokesperson Callum McCaig MP said: “The Tory government are being reckless with Scotland’s onshore wind industry.

The National 27th June 2015 read more »

100% Renewables

Belize commits to 100 per cent clean energy with Carbon War Room. Caribbean nation is the latest to sign up to the NGO’s Ten Island Challenge. Belize currently sources 60 per cent of its electricity from local hydro and biomass resources, and the remaining 40 per cent is from imported fossil fuel resources. The challenge, set by Richard Branson’s environmental NGO and supported by the Rocky Mountain Institute and the Clinton Climate Initiative, has already been adopted by seven other Caribbean nations, including Grenada, St. Lucia and the Bahamas.

Business Green 26th June 2015 read more »

While we keep burning harmful fossil fuels on an unimaginable scale, there’s also a number of good news: A growing number of communities around the world set themselves a goal of 100% renewables. What we need most are thus visionaries and political will, argues Stefan Schurig. Across the world today we are observing a movement among local governments, nations, islands, businesses, communities and citizens towards 100% renewable energy (RE). In fact, the City of Vancouver has just joined this movement, proving again that political will can catalyze change. At a hugely inspiring Forum last week in Vancouver the mayor himself showed strong commitment to reach this target. Copenhagen, San Francisco, Sydney, Frankfurt and many more places have already proven that the necessary technologies and knowledge exist. Frankfurt for example is well on track to shifting to 100% renewable electricity by 2015.

Energy Transition 25th June 2015 read more »

Fusion

The inventors believe they are on the verge of what they call the “Wright brothers” moment for nuclear fusion power. If they are right, the potential for cleaner, more efficient energy is immense. When Britain’s Royal Society opens the door next week to its summer science exhibition, the country’s leading showcase for new research, one of the exhibitors will demonstrate a prototype nuclear fusion reactor and proclaim that within a decade it will make electricity from fusion – the reaction that powers the sun and stars. Most observers have previously estimated that such a shift was at least 20 years away. The bold ambition of start-up Tokamak Energy, a spin-off from the UK government’s Culham Laboratory, is a compelling example of how companies and academic groups are developing new forms of carbon-free energy. This field was highlighted this week when the multi-billionaire philant hropist Bill Gates told the Financial Times he planned to double his personal investment in green technology, from nuclear and wind to batteries and synthetic photosynthesis, to $2bn over the next five years. He is also calling for a tripling of public support for renewables research, to help fight climate change, from the present level of about $6bn a year worldwide. Some of this funding could come from diverting the money now used to subsidise the deployment of existing renewable sources (mainly solar and wind), says Mr Gates. But Jim Watson, research director of the UK Energy Research Centre, urges caution. “Of course I am not averse to putting more money into energy research but I would have a problem about shifting public funding to research from the deployment of technologies such as solar photovoltaics [which generate electricity from sunlight] and offshore wind,” he says. “People forget how much innovation comes from the deployment itself.”

FT 26th June 2015 read more »

Fossil Fuel

An application to carry out exploratory fracking in the UK for the first time in four years has been refused by Lancashire County Council’s planning committee. The decision to refuse fracking firm Cuadrilla’s plans for Roseacre Wood near Blackpool is “very significant” and a “test case” for the UK’s nascent shale gas industry, says the BBC. A government moratorium on fracking was imposed in 2011 after Cuadrilla caused earth tremors at another nearby site. The council’s decision is the first since that ban was lifted in 2012.

Carbon Brief 26th June 2015 read more »

Labour called for a moratorium and, if proved safe, local referendums before developments went ahead. Industry body UK Onshore Oil and Gas (UKOOG) reacted angrily, saying a moratorium would “achieve nothing”. Ineos, with more than 700 square miles of fracking exploration licences across Scotland, a few days later issued a stark warning that delays risked the collapse of UK manufacturing. Later that week, SNP Energy Minister Fergus Ewing was on his feet at Holyrood, announcing his own moratorium while a public consultation and research was carried out, nipping the Labour attacks designed to appeal to left-leaning voters in the bud. So far, so predictable. Environmentalists welcomed the move, and journalists waited for Ineos and UKOOG, so outraged at the prospect just days ago, to issue angry reaction. It never came. Instead, both Ineos and UKOOG (of which Ineos is a member) welcomed the moratorium. What we didn’t know then, and what Mr Ewing did not think to mention in his 3000 word contribution at Holyrood that day, was that Nicola Sturgeon was – at the same time – meeting with billionaire Ineos boss Jim Ratcliffe. That information was dragged out of St Andrew’s House using Freedom of Information laws. Sources close to the FM said the clash was an innocent coincidence. Fine. So what did they talk about? The Government won’t tell us. An account of the meeting has been heavily redacted, citing commercial sensitivity. Ineos warned it would be relying less on gas supplies from the north sea, and told the First Minister it considers “the exploitation of unconventional resources in Scotland/UK are vital for both energy supplies and feedstocks.” What she said, remains secret. Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald, on February 18, submitted a series if parliamentary questions. He asked whether the moratorium would cover testing and preparatory drilling, when new studies promised would be carried out, and whether Underground Coal Gasification (UCG), a technique many consider more dangerous than fracking that is technically offshore but requires onshore infrastructure, was covered. The consultation meanwhile, initially promised within a few months , is not expected to begin until the winter. It means that a decision on whether to allow fracking will probably not have to be made until after the next Holyrood election. How convenient.

Herald 27th June 2015 read more »

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Published: 27 June 2015