28 January 2017

Euratom

Britain’s first nuclear power station in two decades will be delayed by a government decision to quit Europe’s atomic power treaty, experts have warned. Ministers revealed on Thursday that Brexit would involve the UK leaving Euratom, which promotes research into nuclear power and uniform safety standards. The news poses problems for the Hinkley Point C station in Somerset, while raising questions over safety inspection regimes and the UK’s future participation in nuclear fusion research. EDF warned that restrictions on the movement of people because of Brexit could delay delivery of new energy infrastructure. Vince Zabielski, a nuclear energy specialist at the law firm Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman, said: “If the UK leaves Euratom before new standalone nuclear cooperation treaties are negotiated with France and the US, current new build projects will be placed on hold while those standalone treaties are negotiated.” Other lawyers questioned why the government had decided to quit Euratom and in the manner it had done so, in the explanatory notes accompany the article 50 bill.

Guardian 27th Jan 2017 read more »

Scientists are shocked and angry at the UK government’s sudden confirmation on 26 January that it wants to pull out of the European Union’s nuclear agency Euratom, as part of its arrangements for Brexit. Depending upon whether and how the UK negotiates a way back in to the organization, the move could endanger British participation in the world’s largest fusion experiment, the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) in Cadarache, France. It could also curtail operations at the Joint European Torus (JET), a nuclear-fusion facility based in Culham, UK. The facility is a half-sized version of ITER and acts as a test-bed for it; it currently receives around €56 million ($60 million) annually from Euratom. “It is simply bonkers to leave Euratom,” says Steven Cowley, a nuclear fusion researcher who until last year was director of the Culham Centre for Fusion Energy, which hosts JET.

Nature 27th Jan 2017 read more »

Scientific American 27th Jan 2017 read more »

LEAVING the EU could derail the UK’s planned new nuclear power station programme and even threaten research into the development of fusion energy which is widely hailed as crucial to tackling the global energy crisis.

Express 27th Jan 2017 read more »

British plans to leave the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom) when it exits the European Union could raise costs, delay new nuclear power projects and complicate research and international cooperation agreements, experts said on Friday. On Thursday, Britain published the legislation it will use to seek parliamentary approval for triggering the process for leaving the European Union, saying the Prime Minister has the power to notify the European Council of withdrawal. That includes withdrawal from Euratom, an accompanying document to the bill said. Britain plans to build new nuclear reactors as it faces an electricity supply gap in the coming decade, the biggest of which is the $24 billion Hinkley Point C project being built by French utility EDF. “Clearly this is something which could impact the industry’s complex supply chain and it may well have an impact on Hinkley Point,” said Anthony Froggart, senior research fellow at thinktank Chatham House.

Reuters 27th Jan 2017 read more »

David Lowry: Brexit Britain could become a nuclear rogue state. Your energy correspondent’s important report rightly raises an aspect of Brexit that has eluded the political discussion of Brexit complexities to date. You report an anonymous government spokeswoman as asserting that the UK wanted to see a continuity of cooperation and standards. “We remain absolutely committed to the highest standards of nuclear safety, safeguards and support for the industry. Our aim is clear – we want to maintain our mutually successful civil nuclear cooperation with the EU.” But nuclear technology consultant John Large is more accurate in pointing out “The main burden of the UK leaving Euratom will be the need for it to cover its nuclear non-proliferation safeguards commitment and for this it will have to either set up a separate, independent agency or bring these treaty responsibilities into the Office for Nuclear Regulation.” Indeed, this issue was raised by Green Party co-leader, Caroline Lucas MP in a written question shortly after the Brexit referendum, when she asked the business and energy secretary “what steps would be needed to replace EU Atomic Energy Community safeguards inspectors with International Atomic Energy Agency Inspectors to implement safeguards provisions on (a) UKnuclear installations and (b) nuclear material used and created at UK nuclearsites under treaties to which the UK is a party?” She was told by energy minister, Jesse Norman, who responded with following evasive reply: “Until the UK leaves the EU, it is expected to remain a full member with all relevant rights and obligations. The Department for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy will continue to work closely with stakeholders and the rest of Government during our negotiations to exit the EU to deliver energy which is secure, affordable and clean.” What Mr Norman did not address is the fact that currently international inspection of UK nuclear plants and nuclear explosive materials to ensure the UK pledge not to divert these plants or materials to military misuse is verified, to recall Mrs May’s phrase in Philadelphia by the EU;s Euratom agency on behalf of the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna, under a treaty signed in September 1978 between the UK, Euratom and the IAEA. It is now time energy and foreign ministers and their advisors turn their attention to what they are going to do to ensure nuclear safeguards continuity in the UK post Brexit to avoid the UK becoming a nuclear rogue state.

Dr David Lowry 27th Jan 2017 read more »

Toshiba

Toshiba is scaling back ambitions for its nuclear business, highlighting the depths of the company’s financial crisis and the failing economics of nuclear construction. The move, which was announced by the company’s president on Friday in Tokyo and could see Toshiba ruling itself out of future nuclear construction bids around the world, follows an emergency board meeting earlier in the day to discuss the survival of one of Japan’s best known industrial conglomerates. Toshiba’s nuclear climbdown deals a blow to Japan’s broader ambitions of bidding for nuclear construction projects around the world — a key aim of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s “Abenomics” economic revival programme and a driving force behind his unprecedented global diplomatic push.

FT 27th Jan 2017 read more »

Toshiba Corp said it will sell a minority stake in its memory chip business as it urgently seeks funds to offset an imminent multi-billion dollar writedown, adding that its overseas nuclear division – the cause of its woes – was now under review. The drastic measures are set to be just some of the tough choices the Japanese conglomerate will have to take as proceeds from the sale are likely to only cover part of a charge that domestic media has put at $6 billion. Still battered by a 2015 accounting scandal, Toshiba was plunged back into crisis when it emerged late last year that it had to account for huge cost overruns at a U.S. power plant construction business recently acquired by its Westinghouse division.

Reuters 27th Jan 2017 read more »

Moorside

Plans for a new nuclear power station in Cumbria are at risk from the financial crisis engulfing the developer, Toshiba, after the Japanese company announced that it was putting its entire overseas nuclear business under review. Toshiba owns 60 per cent of Nugen, the venture working on plans for a plant at Moorside, near Sellafield. The project would involve three AP1000 reactors designed by Westinghouse, the US company that Toshiba bought in 2006. However, Toshiba is now in turmoil. Nugen has said it wants to take a final investment decision by the end of 2018 in order to generate the first power in about 2025. However, it already faces an uphill battle to secure financing in time. Toshiba and France’s Engie, which owns the remaining 40 per cent of NuGen, have been in talks for months with South Korea’s Kepco and are also understood to be talking to the UK and Japanese governments about potential financial support. Toshiba’s review of its nuclear business, announced yesterday alongside plans to sell a minority stake in its profitable memory chip business, casts further doubt on the timescales of the project. Engie has also sounded increasingly lukewarm about Nugen, with Isabelle Kocher, chief executive, saying last year that there was “a place for nuclear new-build in the world, but less than before”. US nuclear firms can only deal with overseas companies if the countries have a nuclear co-operation agreement. The US holds such an agreement with Euratom but not with the UK, raising the possibility that Westinghouse could be unable to continue working on the project once Britain leaves Euratom until a new bilateral deal is signed.

Times 28th Jan 2017 read more »

Hinkley

“Hinkley Point C and other new nuclear power stations in Britain will be delayed by a decision by the UK to quit Europe’s atomic power treaty,” industry experts told The Guardian. Buried in the explanatory notes to the government’s eight-line Brexit bill is an admission that the UK will also leave Euratom, which has regulated European nuclear energy since 1957.

The Week 27th Jan 2017 read more »

Politics Homes 28th Jan 2017 read more »

A LOCAL councillor has said that the well-being of Bridgwater people “needs to come before EDF Energy lorries” on the second day of traffic chaos in the town. There have been countless comments of frustration and anger by people on social media about the traffic hold-ups in the roadworks around The Drove, Wylds Road and Bristol Road area which started on Tuesday (January 24, 2017) – made worse by problems in St John’s Street due to a burst water pipe. But Cllr Leigh Redman, who represents Bridgwater at Somerset County Council, said the issues would still be bad regardless of the St John’s Street situation. And he has now said that unless the situation improves he believes the roadworks should be put on hold to find a better solution.

Bridgwater Press 25th Jan 2017 read more »

Dounreay

Trade unions have warned that the Dounreay nuclear site could be shutdown within months because of a pay dispute. Members of the GMB, Unite and Prospect unions rejected an offer from Dounreay Site Restoration Limited (DSRL) of a 1% increase in pay in October last year. The unions said “crisis talks” with DSRL on Thursday ended without a resolution and a timetable for a ballot on industrial action was “imminent”.

BBC 27th Jan 2017 read more »

Times 28th Jan 2017 read more »

Prospect 26th Jan 2017 read more »

Nuclear R&D

The House of Lords Science and Technology Committee is inviting contributions to its new inquiry into priorities for nuclear research and technologies. In 2011 the Committee investigated whether the UK’s research and development (R&D) capabilities were sufficient to meet the country’s nuclear energy needs in the future, ensuring a safe and secure supply of nuclear energy up to 2050. This inquiry, announced today, will now “revisit” some of the conclusions and recommendations of that report and investigate whether the government’s actions in response have improved the UK’s nuclear R&D capabilities, the Committee said. It will also explore “what more needs to be done” to ensure the UK can meet its future nuclear energy requirements. The Committee will look specifically at the upcoming decision by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy on a small modular reactor (SMR) design for the UK; whether the roles and remit of the National Nuclear Laboratory (NNL) are “appropriate”; and if the Nuclear Innovation and Research Advisory Board (Nirab) was successful.

World Nuclear News 26th Jan 2017 read more »

Radwaste

For a billion years the bedrock beneath Olkiluoto Island has remained stable. It has stayed intact for the reign of the dinosaurs, been untroubled by the comet impact that killed them and kept its structure through the rise of the intelligent mammals that followed. No longer. For the first time since complex life arrived, one of those intelligent mammals is disturbing it. Here on the Finnish coast, engineers are drilling a vast catacomb to store nuclear waste, confident that some of the most stable rock in the world will contain it for 100,000 years. It is a stunning feat but what will impress the nuclear authorities in Britain is the political achievement, rather than the engineering one. Because with their deep geological storage programme the Finns have achieved something that has eluded Britain, even though the construction of Hinkley Point C is technically predicated on it. They have solved their nuclear waste problem. A thousand miles away, on another picturesque coast, the situation is rather different. In Cumbria, and further north in Dounreay, entombed in concrete, 60 years of nuclear waste sits decaying, awaiting its eventual fate. Everyone knows what that fate should be, indeed it was a condition of the white paper outlining the building of nuclear plants that a “credible strategy” was in place to deal with the waste. That credible strategy is what is known by some as the Finnish model. On paper it looks good. Councils are offered cash inducements to volunteer themselves as radioactive storage sites, then after a public consultation and a geological survey, the best candidate is offered the privilege of hosting the waste. The problem is a total lack of volunteers. Worse, the only ones that have come even close to volunteering are in Cumbria, where some geologists think the rock is too fractured to take a storage facility safely. Jean McSorley, an environmental consultant in Cumbria, says that this means the government’s nuclear strategy is fatally flawed. “The problem is the wording. They say, ‘We will have a plan’, and that means they can go ahead. This implies that somehow a plan in and of itself means implementation without any hitches. Everybody knows from house extension to massive infrastructure projects, let alone controversial ones, that having a plan can mean nothing,” she says. For now, one thing is clear, the Finnish model on nuclear waste has not yet brought us closer to a UK answer. And even as they begin to bury their waste, in the Lake District, piles of warm radioactive sludge gently continue to decay above ground.

Times 28th Jan 2017 read more »

US – Yucca Mountain

Will Yucca Mountain rise again? The answer may be more political than technical. And the topic of long-term nuclear waste storage is just one of dozens facing Energy Secretary-designate Rick Perry, should he be confirmed by the Senate.

IEEE Spectrum 27th Jan 2017 read more »

Trident

This week’s revelation that a missile from a British submarine malfunctioned last year during a test flight off the coast of Florida has raised concerns about our ageing Trident missile system. Is it safe?

Guardian 27th Jan 2017 read more »

Renewables – offshore wind

The company behind the first offshore wind farm in North America won approval Wednesday from New York state to build the country’s biggest seaward turbines yet. The Long Island Power Authority, a state-run utility company, gave Deepwater Wind the green light to begin construction on the South Fork Wind Farm, a 90-megawatt, 15-turbine development 30 miles southeast of Montauk. The move comes as the nascent U.S. offshore wind industry finally begins to gain steam. In November, Deepwater Wind completed construction on the Block Island Wind Farm, the five-turbine, 30-megawatt project that became the country’s first commercial wind farm located in the water. Last month, Statoil, Norway’s state-owned oil and gas giant, won a $42.5 million bid to lease 79,350 acres of federal waters located 14 miles off Long Island’s southwest coast. It’s unclear how many turbines would go up, but the company plans to build a wind farm producing at least 600 megawatts.

Huffington Post 26th Jan 2017 read more »

Fossil Fuels

Analysis by Carbon Brief shows that, for the first time, the BP Energy Outlook is forecasting a peak in global coal demand. It has trimmed 239 million tonnes of oil equivalent (Mtoe), or 6%, from its 2035 outlook for coal, which it now expects to be below demand in 2030.

Carbon Brief 27th Jan 2017 read more »

Ireland has voted to be the world’s first country to fully divest public money from fossil fuels. The Irish Parliament passed the historic legislation in a 90 to 53 vote in favour of dropping coal, oil and gas investments from the €8bn (£6.8bn) Ireland Strategic Investment Fund, part of the Republic’s National Treasury Management Agency. The bill, introduced by Deputy Thomas Pringle, is likely to pass into law in the next few months after it is reviewed by the financial committee.

Independent 27th Jan 2017 read more »

Share

Published: 28 January 2017