28 January 2014

GE Hitachi

With the ongoing specter of the triple reactor core meltdowns and exploded containment buildings of the GE-designed Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactors nearing its third year, nuclear safety should be of upmost importance. Both nuclear suppliers and operators should be held liable for risks they create. Yet, on 23 January 2014, the DOJ announced it accepted $2.7 million dollars to settle the government’s lawsuit against GE Hitachi for false statements to both the U.S. Department of Energy and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for their new design, the Economic Simplified Boiling Water Reactor (ESBWR). GE Hitachi says the allegations haven’t been proven and that it settled to resolve the matter. The U.S. government accused GE Hitachi of, “conceal[ing] known flaws in its steam dryer analysis and falsely represented that it had properly analyzed the steam dryer in accordance with applicable standards and had verified the accuracy of its modeling using reliable data.” This analysis specifically related to demonstrating that vibrations of the steam dryer wouldn’t cause damage to the nuclear reactor.

Greenpeace 27th Jan 2014 read more »

Energy Supplies

Soaring electricity demand for air-conditioning, iPads and increasingly cars, combined with a growing population and inadequate investment in creaking power networks, is pushing the world towards frequent blackouts, academics warn. China, Brazil and Italy have all had significant power failures in the past decade but these are just “dress rehearsals for the future” in which the lights will go out with increasing frequency and severity, predicts a new paper, Blackouts: a sociology of electrical power failure. The authors, Hugh Byrd of Lincoln University in the UK and Steve Matthewman of Auckland University in New Zealand, argue that the west needs to abandon the idea of uninterrupted electricity supply. “Supply will become ever more precarious because of peak oil, political instability, infrastructural neglect, global warming and the shift to renewable energy resources. Demand will become stronger because of population growth, rising levels of affluence and the consumer addictions which accompany this,” they argue.

Guardian 26th Jan 2014 read more »

Fast Reactors

Letter Scientific Alliance: Current UK reactors use less than 1 per cent of supplied uranium. Fast breeder reactors now being constructed in various parts of the world are more expensive to build, use 99 per cent of the uranium and consequently access 100-fold more energy. The radioactivity in the remaining waste decays in 100 years. Thorium is three times more abundant than uranium on land, and thorium reactors likewise use 99 per cent of their material with a similar short half-life of waste. I estimate at least 60,000 years of energy available in known thorium resources alone.

Scotsman 27th Jan 2014 read more »

Europe

While last week’s announcement was criticised by some observers as a retreat on clean energy (and praised by some businesses for the same alleged reason), it was no retreat at all. The EU maintains its global leadership in pointing the way out of the climate-energy morass. The new goals are sound but will require considerable diligence to implement. The EU remains the only region of the world to take seriously the world’s commitment to keep global temperatures from rising more than 2C. The 2C target implies a steep decline in carbon-dioxide emissions, and hence a fundamental transformation of the world’s energy system by the middle of the 21st century. The European Commission’s Energy Roadmap 2050 framework adopted in 2011 stands out as a unique contribution to that goal.

FT 28th Jan 2014 read more »

Utilities

The new chief executive of BG Group has been accused of falling asleep at the wheel after it issued its fourth profit warning in less than 18 months. Analysts said that Chris Finlayson should have anticipated many of the problems that yesterday forced the FTSE 100-listed oil and gas company to slash its production forecasts and issue a $2.4 billion writedown. The warning, which sent BG Group’s shares tumbling by 14 per cent, was triggered by instability in Egypt, the country that accounts for about a fifth of the company’s gas production. However, the City was shocked, too, by production delays and rising costs at other projects, which further undermined the credibility of a company that has missed targets repeatedly.

Times 28th Jan 2014 read more »

Japan

Washington has been pressing Tokyo to return over 300 kg of mostly weapons-grade plutonium given to Japan for research purposes during the Cold War era, Japanese and U.S. government sources said Sunday. President Barack Obama’s administration, which is keen to ensure nuclear security, wants Japan to return the plutonium supplied for use as nuclear fuel in a fast critical assembly in Tokai, Ibaraki Prefecture, the sources said. The highly concentrated plutonium could be used to produce 40 to 50 nuclear weapons. Japan has strongly resisted returning the plutonium, which it says is needed for researching fast reactors. But it has finally given in to repeated U.S. demands, the sources said.

Japan Times 27th Jan 2014 read more »

Japan has unveiled its worst annual trade deficit on record, underlining the impact of the total shutdown of nuclear power and putting the often heated debate over the currency-weakening effects of “Abenomics” in a new light. Since the Fukushima nuclear disaster of March 2011, the energy-poor nation has had to increase imports of fossil fuels as a substitute, scrambling for supplies on spot markets to supplement longstanding contracts with the Middle East, Malaysia, Indonesia and Australia.

FT 27th Jan 2014 read more »

Hungary

Hungary’s development minister said on Sunday the government should soon complete talks with Russia on a multi-billion dollar sovereign loan that would enable it to start work on two new nuclear reactors. Russian President Vladimir Putin and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban signed an agreement earlier this month on a project to add 2.4 gigawatts of nuclear generation capacity at the Paks nuclear plant, more than doubling Hungary’s current level.

Reuters 26th Jan 2014 read more »

Iran

The opening round of talks between Iran and six world powers on a long-term deal for Tehran to curb parts of its nuclear program in exchange for a gradual end to sanctions is expected to take place next month in New York, a U.S. official said on Monday.

Reuters 27th Jan 2014 read more »

Trident

Letter: A big proportion of Britain’s defence spending is unnecessarily consumed by Trident. There are much cheaper solutions to Britain’s deterrent needs.

Telegraph 27th Jan 2014 read more »

Nuclear Weapons

On Monday morning, four days short of her 84th birthday, Sister Megan Rice ate a hearty breakfast of pancakes and oatmeal at the ungodly hour of 4.30am in Knox county jail, Knoxville, Tennessee. Rice, a white-haired Catholic nun and anti-nuclear activist, was in fine spirits, giving a broad smile and a thumbs-up sign through the glass partition that separates her from visitors to the jail where she is awaiting sentence, according to her good friend, Pat McSweeney. McSweeney took Rice letters of support from the anti-nuclear community to bolster her spirits. “Don’t worry about me, I’m fine,” Rice told her. Rice was charged with federal sabotage, along with co-defendants Greg Boertje-Obed, 57, a carpenter, and Michael Walli, 64, a Vietnam veteran, for breaking into the Y-12 nuclear facility in Oak Ridge, and they will learn their fate on Tuesday when they appear before Judge Amul Thapar in a federal court in Knoxville, to be sentenced.

Guardian 27th Jan 2014 read more »

Renewables – solar

A new study suggests that wind and solar plants are already competing with fossil fuel costs in Europe. Soon, even household rooftop solar PV systems will generate electricity cheaper than coal. And it won’t have the delivery costs. The study from Germany’s Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems says the cost of rooftop solar in the southern parts of Germany is already as cheap as €0.08c/kWh ($A12c/kWh). Even in northern Germany, where there is little sun, solar can be generated at €0.14c/kWh, half the cost of grid-based electricity. By 2030, the study says, the levellised cost of energy (LCOE) from rooftop solar PV will have fallen to around €0.06c/kWh. In sunnier countries, such as Australia, the Middle East, southern Europe and western US, not to mention Africa and Latin America, the cost of solar will be lower still, at around €0.043c/kWh.

Renew Economy 28th Jan 2014 read more »

Renewables – offshore wind

The SNP administration’s hopes of hitting its ambitious green energy target have been dented by research showing that investment in offshore wind has more than halved in just 12 months. The “worrying” dip in investment was reported last night by Scottish Renewables, the industry body representing 330 companies in the sector. Lindsay Leask, senior policy manager for the organisation, said the industry had been “left in limbo” by growing financial uncertainty. The Scottish government has determined that all of the country’s electricity should be generated from renewable sources by 2020, a target that some industry analysts have questioned. The latest research appears to show hopes receding for ministers’ long-term plans. A total of £28.9 million was spent on offshore wind in 2013 compared with £63.6 million in 2012, a drop of 55 per cent, according to figures obtained from developers in Scottish waters. “Uncertainty throughout the industry is growing as none of the major projects planned for Scottish waters have had their planning applications determined yet, and the details around accessing market incentives are still unclear,” Ms Leask said.

Times 28th Jan 2014 read more »

Scotsman 28th Jan 2014 read more »

Herald 28th Jan 2014 read more »

BBC 27th Jan 2014 read more »

Given the need for a fairly rapid expansion of offshore wind generation in order to meet climate change targets, and to realise the economic boost which should accompany such growth, it seems odd that ministers are apparently happy to preside over a planning regime which is inhibiting growth. These delays could also have a damaging effect on the prospects for the deployment of wave and tidal energy technologies. The promotors of these, which are likely to have bigger impacts on the marine environment than the installation of seabed towers for wind turbines, cannot have been given much confidence by this slowdown. As offshore energy is likely to be the real future for renewables, ministers should find out what is causing the delays, eliminate them, and get on with approvals.

Scotsman 27th Jan 2014 read more »

Crown Estate: This week, 600 offshore wind professionals gather in Aberdeen to celebrate progress and discuss what is needed to capitalise on the great resource that lies out at sea. We have seen remarkable progress, and that is attracting global investment. From two turbines in 2000, there are now over 1,000 operating in UK seas. In Scotland, 4.8 GW is in planning, enough to power 3.8 million homes. Last year, Samsung came to Fife with their £70 million investment to test the world’s largest turbine, and Statoil is progressing a site off Aberdeenshire that could see Europe’s largest floating wind farm. Maintaining Scotland’s strong position requires, first and foremost, a large-scale collaborative effort with private, public and third sectors working in sync.

Scotsman 28th Jan 2014 read more »

Renewables – community benefit

Wind and solar farm developers would be forced to offer local communities the opportunity to share the profits from schemes built near their homes, under a government plan to help to overcome opposition to turbines and solar panels. Developers will also be required to record the payments on a public register. This will strengthen the hand of people negotiating with developers because they will see what has been agreed elsewhere.

Times 28th Jan 2014 read more »

Energy Efficiency

The Green Building Council (GBC) has launched a blistering attack on prime minister David Cameron over his commitment today to slash environmental regulations over the course of this parliament.

Business Green 27th Jan 2014 read more »

No 10 insists that slashing 80,000 pages of regulation and guidance will not compromise environmental protection. With your help, Karl Mathiesen investigates if David Cameron can have his cuts and green government too.

Guardian 27th Jan 2014 read more »

Fossil Fuels

True greens should embrace fracking for shale gas in order to combat climate change, the energy minister has said. Greg Barker said ideological convictions rather than sound science motivated anti-fracking campaigners, and urged an expansion of fracking in the UK. “If you are really against climate change, then to be anti-fracking is incredibly dangerous,” he said. This was because coal-fired power generation could be replaced with gas, which burns with lower carbon dioxide emissions. “The knee-jerk reactions to fracking is [based on] ideology, it’s not science-based.”

Guardian 27th Jan 2014 read more »

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Published: 28 January 2014