27 May 2015

Nuclear Supplies

It’s odd how often the contribution of nuclear energy is overstated, writes Neil Crumpton, by mixing up ‘energy’ and ‘electricity’, while a similar trick to understates the importance of renewables like wind and solar. Even odder is how the mistake always seems to go the same way, to make nuclear look bigger than it really is, and renewables smaller. Welcome to the nuclear ‘X factor’! In April the proposers of a new nuclear power station at Moorside near Sellafield, put out an advertorial in all Cumbrian newspapers stating that the station would provide about “7% of the UK’s energy requirement”. In fact the Moorside leviathan would probably supply around 7% (in the 2030’s) of the UK’s post-2030 rising electricity demand. However, the station would supply about 2% of future UK energy demand. This electricity-energy percentage mixup is far from an isolated incident. As an energy campaigner since the 1990s I have noticed this very error reoccuring in the media and in other information sources with alarming if not chilling frequency. The Moorside advertorial is the latest incidence of a wording mixup that has been highly advantageous to the nuclear industry. It is possible that PM Tony Blair or brain-faded officials were caught out by this electricity-energy mix-up at an EU Summit in March 2007. The PM had signed the UK up to the EU’s 20% renewable energy by 2020 agreement possibly by mistake according to speculation by then Chief Scientific Advisor Sir David King. That was my first thought on hearing the news not least because the 2003 UK Energy White Paper had a 20% renewable electricity by 2020 target. Following subsequent negotiations (damage limitation) by civil servants and ministers the UK agreed to a still quite stretching share of 15% renewable energy by 2020 (15% of final energy demand implied over 30% renewable electricity). Some civil servants may well have been trying to get out of that commitment ever since. In 2006 I worked out UK nuclear output as a percentage of final energy demand, 3.6% in 2005, had it confirmed by the Government’s ‘DUKES’ energy-statistics team, and had set about raising media awareness at every opportunity. By July 2006 the Guardian was mentioning nuclear’s 3.6% energy contribution. Yet, the May 2007 Energy White Paper stated that ‘Nuclear power currently accounts for approximately 18% of our electricity generation and 7.5% of total UK energy supplies.’ The 7.5% figure was explained as a ‘primary energy’ comparison and it was followed by a comparison of nuclear output to final energy of, wait for it, 3.5%. So, nuclear power’s contribution to UK final energy demand was just 3.8% in 2013. France, the world-leading nuclear examplar, is generating 23% of its final energy from nuclear power – not 80% as many may have read or heard. Even the UK’s planned 16 GW new-build programme would only generate about 9% (120 TWh/y) of future energy demand (eg 1,300 TWh/y in 2030). A 3.3 GW Chinese project at Bradwell, linked to any Hinkley C deal, would add 2%. The same 11% of energy could be generated, with no uranium imports, by about 39 GW of fixed and floating offshore wind turbines on or beyond the hazy horizon. The UK’s practical offshore wind resource is estimated at around 1,500 TWh/y for floating structures and 400 TWh/y for fixed structures, which is probably higher than any future UK energy need.

Ecologist 26th May 2015 read more »

Bradwell

Workers at Bradwell nuclear station could be at risk after energy operator Magnox announced plans for upto 1,600 job losses across the UK by September next year. A dozen Magnox sites are likely to be affected by the cuts, including Bradwell, which is currently for its care and maintenance phase of the decommissioning process.

Essex Chronicle 25th May 2015 read more »

Energy Supplies

The shock announcement of the early closure of one of Britain’s biggest power stations, at Ferrybridge in West Yorkshire – seven years before it needed to be closed – has come as a body blow to Britain’s energy security. It comes just two months after Scotland’s biggest power plant similarly announced it would close next year due to policies, introduced by the Coalition, which had rendered the plant uneconomic. Ferrybridge, near Castleford, started generating electricity in 1966. It was one of the biggest coal-fired power stati ons in the country, generating over 2,000 megawatts of power for the National Grid. In 2014, half of the plant stopped operating, as it had not been updated to meet strict new EU emissions rules. But capacity for a crucial 1,000MW – enough power to supply electricity to around a million homes – was expensively updated to run for almost another decade. So why has the power station closed early, citing soaring running costs, when coal prices are at an eight-year low and when it was modernised to stay open until 2023? The Carbon Price Floor is arguably one of the most hidden and unknown but ultimately damaging pieces of modern industrial taxation. To use a shorter and more descriptive title, this carbon tax is slowly forcing the premature closure of the backbone of our electricity generating base. It comes at a time when electricity generating margins, according to National Grid, have never been tighter. Earlier this year ScottishPower announced the closure of th e largest power station in Scotland, at Longannet in Fife. Longannet is a huge 2,400MW plant; the company had hoped this plant would be generating well into the 2020s and had recently invested significant capital. These closures together will combine to reduce Britain’s peakload electricity generating capacity by 6pc.

Telegraph 26th May 2015 read more »

Energy Supplies – Scotland

MPs on Holyrood’s Energy Committee have received dozens of learned and details submissions to its ongoing investigation into the issue of security of supply of Scotland’s electricity. These range from submissions from supporters of full-on fracking and unconventional gas to equally full-on submissions in support of the status quo and the current environmental/ energy and planning regulation landscape, as well as those in favour of a Scottish nuclear ingredient in the energy supply mix. The MPs on the Scottish Parliament Energy Committee are investigating Scotland’s energy needs in a changing UK electricity market – focussing on the security of supply and four themes in particular: supply, demand, the transmission network and market functioning. The inquiry was set up following the recent announcement of the now almost-inevitable near-future closure of Longannet coal-fired power station and the longer-term shutdown of the Scottish nuclear power plants at Hunterston and Torness as they near the end of their working lives.

Scottish Energy News 27th May 2015 read more »

Radwaste

A controversial plan to build over 100 new homes in Crich has re-emerged, which residents say will over-develop the small town and pose serious health risks. Developers have fought back against Amber Valley Borough Council’s decision to deny a new plan on lands off Roes Lane in Crich last July, due to concerns of potential radiological contamination from the former toxic landfill at Hilts Quarry, which used ot be used by Rolls Royce to dump low-level radioactive waste.

Matlock Mercury 26th May 2015 read more »

NPT

Curbing the proliferation of atomic weapons is the duty of the entire world in handing over our planet to future generations. The 2015 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) wound up its latest meeting at U.N. headquarters in New York without delivering any results. The review meeting is held every five years. The failure to reach a consensus on the final document, which would have spelled out an agreement by all signatory states, has put a big question mark over the sustainability of the NPT arrangement. The global community should have a serious sense of alarm over this development. Countries need to step up their efforts in the coming years to mend and repair the NPT regime.

Asahi Shimbun 25th May 2015 read more »

Nuclear weapons

The serious failings revealed by William McNeilly on the UK’s nuclear-armed submarines are indicators of a deeper malaise, writes Paul Ingram. With no realistic threat requiring a nuclear response, the whole exercise lacks meaning and purpose, so no wonder standards slip. But as they do so, they endanger us all.

Ecologist 26th May 2015 read more »

Japan – radwaste

The government has changed its basic policy on the disposal of radioactive waste produced during the processing of spent nuclear fuel from nuclear power plants. This was an invitation-based approach whereby it waited for local governments to volunteer to host a final disposal site for nuclear waste. That policy was pursued for seven years. Now the government will switch to taking the initiative in selecting candidate sites. A law that took effect in 2000 created the current program to build a facility to deal with high-level radioactive waste from nuclear power plants. But no local government has offered to host a disposal site except for Toyo, a town in Kochi Prefecture, which later withdrew its application due to fierce opposition from residents.

Asahi Shimbun 26th May 2015 read more »

South Africa

Steve Thomas: THE government has announced the opening of a process that will lead, in less than a year, to the selection of a nuclear reactor supplier and completion of the first of six new reactors by 2023. Is this a welcome sign that it has in place long-term measures to solve the power shortage, or yet another grandiose scheme that will fail to produce anything? Since last September, there has been a series of beauty parades of all the world’s nuclear reactor vendors, apparently desperate to sell their reactors to SA. It is not the first time that the government launched a policy to expand nuclear generation. WHAT evidence is there things will go better this time? None. Reactor prices have continued to increase with the UK agreeing in 2013 to pay about $13bn plus finance each for the two reactors it plans, but obtaining finance has become an even bigger problem. There are two issues with financing a nuclear project: the scale of loans, with the real cost of a reactor now several-fold what it was 30-40 years ago; and risk to financiers because without rock-solid guarantees that costs can be passed to consumers or loans fully covered by sovereign loan guarantees, they will regard the loans as too risky.

BD Live 25th May 2015 read more »

China

China’s plans for a rapid expansion of nuclear power plants are “insane”, a leading scientist is warning. Physicist He Zuoxiu says that Beijing is not investing enough in safety controls as it seeks to become the world’s leading producer of nuclear energy.

The Week 26th May 2015 read more »

Renewables – solar

Edinburgh Council has confirmed plans to install community-owned solar panels on 25 public buildings across the city. The initiative, in partnership with the Edinburgh Community Solar Co-operative (ECSC), is reported to be the largest community-owned urban renewables project in the UK. Buildings that are chosen to participate – such as schools, leisure centres and community centres – will benefit from cheaper electricity from the solar panels, with surplus energy sold to the National Grid. The cumulative carbon emissions savings could reach 855 tonnes a year.

Edie 26th May 2015 read more »

Solar Power Portal 26th May 2015 read more »

Clean Technica 26th May 2015 read more »

Click Green 25th May 2015 read more »

Renew Economy 27th May 2015 read more »

Scottish Energy News 27th May 2015 read more »

Renewables – wave

The commercialisation of marine energy generation in the UK has been made clearer with the development of a ‘renewables roadmap’ for the Cornish peninsula region. The Marine Renewable Energy (MRE) Roadmap sets out how the public and private sector can work together to deliver the next steps to establish ‘commercial-scale’ wave energy projects off the coast of Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, by the year 2025. According to the Roadmap, more than 100 new businesses and 700 ‘high-value’ jobs would be created by the development of such projects, but up to £40m worth of additional funding will be needed to consolidate the previous £100m invested in the south west region’s marine energy sector.

Edie 26th May 2015 read more »

Energy Efficiency

Local authorities facing deep spending cuts over the course of this parliament should embrace smart building technologies, such as LED lighting, if they are to reduce budgets while increasing productivity. That is the view of Agostino Renna, president and chief executive of GE Lighting Europe, Middle East and Africa, as a new report today shows that two thirds of local authorities want to deploy new technologies but feel “locked in” by the lack of funding.

Business Green 25th May 2015 read more »

Energy Storage

The recent announcement by Tesla of Powerwall, its new lithium-ion (Li-ion) based residential battery storage system, has caused quite a stir. It even raises the possibility of going off-the-grid, relying upon solar panels to generate electricity, and storing it with their own battery and using it on demand. Yet the lithium-ion technology used by Tesla isn’t the only one on offer. In fact, each of the various battery technologies has its own strengths and weaknesses, and some might even be superior to lithium-ion for home installations. Here is a quick survey of current battery technologies, and some that are in development.

Renew Economy 27th May 2015 read more »

Climate

World governments must sign a clear new agreement on greenhouse gas emissions at a crunch conference in Paris this December, leaders of the world’s energy industry have urged. The World Energy Council (WEC) said policy uncertainty, and the lack of clear long-term goals on the climate, had hampered the industry’s ability to invest in low-carbon growth. The organisation, representing major energy companies around the world, including those dependent on fossil fuels, said that $48tn (£31tn) to $53tn of investment would be needed, and could be delivered, if the world is to avoid da ngerous climate change. The Council called for clear emissions targets to be set at Paris, and for a “flexible approach” to the needs of different countries.

Guardian 27th May 2015 read more »

Fossil Fuels

Edinburgh University is to fully divest from three of the world’s biggest fossil fuel producers within the next six months. The decision has been taken by the university’s investment committee, which met earlier. It follows the end of a 10-day student occupation of one of its buildings in Chambers Street.

BBC 26th May 2015 read more »

Guardian 26th May 2015 read more »

Herald 27th May 2015 read more »

Times 27th May 2015 read more »

Scottish Energy News 27th May 2015 read more »

Students say University must go further.

Holyrood 26th May 2015 read more »

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Published: 27 May 2015