Directors at a management consultant advising the government on the Hinkley Point nuclear power project were paid by a related company working for EDF, The Times has learnt. Half of the board of directors at Leigh Fisher were remunerated by Jacobs, according to accounts for the consultant. Leigh Fisher worked as an adviser to the Department of Energy and Climate Change on a 35-year deal with EDF to build the £18 billion facility in Somerset, under which consumers will pay well above the present market rate for electricity. The Times reported last week that Leigh Fisher had been awarded contracts worth a combined £1.2 million, despite the British division of Jacobs Engineering Group, an American company that also owns Leigh Fisher, working for EDF on the Hinkley Point project. The potential conflicts of interest have raised concerns about whether advice given by Leigh Fisher was impartial. Iain Wright, chairman of the business, energy and industrial select committee, said that he would investigate further. Leigh Fisher was awarded government work after disclosing several potential conflicts, including that Jacobs provided engineering services and project and construction management resources for EDF and had seconded staff. Leigh Fisher also used consultants from Jacobs in its work for the department. It told officials when bidding for a second contract last summer that those experts would not have worked on Hinkley Point with EDF and that Leigh Fisher was independently managed and operated. Paul Flynn, the Labour MP for Newport West who has campaigned against Hinkley Point, said “it stinks like a rotten fish”.
Times 28th Nov 2016 read more »
When she brewed up her company’s strategy a decade ago, Anne Lauvergeon liked to describe Areva’s business model as being “like Nespresso”. France’s state-owned nuclear reactor vendor would be the world’s first integrated nuclear group, mining and enriching uranium, manufacturing fuel rods, building reactors and recycling spent fuel. While reactors (like Nespresso machines) would be sold to Areva’s customers at a knockdown price, the company would earn big bucks supplying the nuclear fuel (the coffee, in other words) to captive customers and handling and disposing nuclear waste. It didn’t work out that way. This month, as France’s nuclear industry grapples with a crisis that has prompted the shutdown of 12 of the country’s 58 reactors, amid safety fears over Areva-made components, the Nespresso machine appears to be smashed beyond repair. But what next? Areva’s collapse poses big questions for the future of the nuclear industry, not only in France. In Finland, an unfinished EPR lies stranded at the end of a remote forest peninsula on the Gulf of Bothnia. TVO, its Finnish developer, fears that the project, where costs have trebled to 9 billion, may run out of cash even before it can be completed. EDF has refused to accept liabilities and a huge legal battle looms. Meanwhile, at Flamanville in Normandy, a simmering dispute over the quality of steel used in another Areva reactor has prompted fears that the project may have to be abandoned, or at least forced to operate with restricted output.
Times 28th Nov 2016 read more »
Moorside: Toshiba-Engie AP1000 Nuclear Power Station Endangers the UK and Europe – Comment Deadline Looms (Wednesday, 30 November).
Mining Awareness 27th Nov 2016 read more »
WORKERS at Britain’s nuclear weapons factories are to stage a second 24-hour strike in defence of their pensions, their union announced yesterday. Six hundred members of the Unite union will walk out next Tuesday, December 6, at the Aldermaston and Burghfield Atomic Weapons Establishment sites in Berkshire. Bosses want to shut down the workers’ final-salary pension scheme and replace it with an inferior alternative. The first strike took place on November 14. Next Tuesday, the workers will also lobby the Houses of Parliament and meet their local MPs. Talks with management have broken down.
Morning Star 28th Nov 2016 read more »
More small energy providers are at risk of collapse this winter, consumers have been warned, after GB Energy Supply said its business had become untenable because of rising energy prices. Ofgem, the power market regulator, said it would switch GB Energy’s 160,000 customers to a new supplier after the company ceased trading on Saturday. GB Energy is the first independent electricity and gas supplier to fail since energy prices, which have been low for the past two years, began to rise in recent months, exacerbated by the depreciation in the pound since the UK’s vote to leave the EU. Industry executives and analysts said more bankruptcies were possible among the dozens of small companies competing in the UK retail energy market.
FT 27th Nov 2016 read more »
Compensation costs from Japan’s 2011 Fukushima nuclear plant disaster will be almost twice the levels previously anticipated, the country’s trade ministry has revealed. At the end of 2013, the government department estimated compensation costs of ¥5.4 trillion (£40bn). However, updated ministry predictions have leapt to ¥8 trillion.
City AM 28th Nov 2016 read more »
Reuters 28th Nov 2016 read more »
Finnish nuclear power operator Teollisuuden Voima (TVO) said in a statement released today that it is seeking detailed information about the restructuring of French nuclear group Areva and its potential impact on the Olkiluoto-3 EPR project in Finland. TVO said it “urgently requires this information” with a view to securing assurances that all necessary financial and other resources, particularly related to the EPR technology, will be allocated to the completion and long-term operation of Olkiluoto-3. “This information from the plant supplier and commitment of the technology vendor is a prerequisite for TVO’s consent for the changes impacting the project,” the statement said, without specifying what changes it was referring to. Earlier this month, French state-controlled power utility EDF signed an agreement to buy Areva’s nuclear reactor unit as part of a rescue package for Areva agreed earlier this year. TVO said: “Stripped of its nuclear plant technology-related operations and knowhow, Areva may not be adequately funded and resourced when its technical expertise and vital human resources are being transferred to the so-called ‘New Areva NP’, which is expected to be bought by EDF.”
Nucnet 24th Nov 2016 read more »
People in Switzerland voting in a referendum have rejected a proposal to introduce a strict timetable for phasing out nuclear power. A projection for SRF public television showed the initiative failing by 55% to 45%. A majority of cantons (Swiss states) voted against the initiative. The plan, backed by the Green Party, would have meant closing three of Switzerland’s five nuclear plants next year, with the last shutting in 2029. The five plants currently generate almost 40% of Switzerland’s electricity. After the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan, the Swiss government said it would gradually move the country towards renewable energy by 2050.
BBC 27th Nov 2016 read more »
Reuters 27th Nov 2016 read more »
City AM 27th Nov 2016 read more »
As the world’s fastest-growing economic region, Southeast Asia’s energy demand will increase to drive this growth. While Vietnam’s push towards nuclear energy may have started a regional race to develop nuclear power, this may slow down somewhat now that Hanoi has decided to freeze it. ASEAN should shift its focus to developing renewable energy.
Eurasia Review 25th Nov 2016 read more »
It is one of the biggest energy policy challenges facing the UK: how can we heat our homes without burning natural gas? The fossil fuel currently provides 85pc of our domestic heating needs – yet if we are to meet climate change targets we must drastically curtail its use within a few decades. According to National Grid, at least part of the answer could be found in a surprising location: your dustbin. Last week, the FTSE 100 utility giant announced a £6.3m investment in the world’s first commercially-operating plant to produce “green” gas from black bag rubbish. The new £25m plant developed by Advanced Plasma Power (APP) in Swindon will take household and commercial waste – from dirty nappies to unrecyclable packaging – and process it into gas pure enough to be used in your existing gas boiler or hob. And, Na tional Grid claims, enough gas could one day be made this way to heat a third of UK homes. On a sprawling industrial estate on the outskirts of the Wiltshire town, a £5m pilot plant completed this summer with funding from energy regulator Ofgem has already proven that it is technically possible.
Telegraph 27th Nov 2016 read more »
Edie 25th Nov 2016 read more »
A remote tropical island has catapulted itself headlong into the future by ditching diesel and powering all homes and businesses with the scorching South Pacific sun. Using more than 5,000 solar panels and 60 Tesla power packs the tiny island of Ta’u in American Samoa is now entirely self-sufficient for its electricity supply – though the process of converting has been tough and pitted with delays. Located 4,000 miles from the west coast of the United States, Ta’u has depended on over 100,000 gallons of diesel shipped in from the main island of Tutuila to survive, using it to power homes, government buildings and – crucially – water pumps.
Guardian 28th Nov 2016 read more »
Renewables – tidal
Scotland’s fastest tidal races act like a sushi bar for seals, raising fears wildlife is on a deadly collision course with marine energy projects, a study suggests. Harbour seals feed over a wide area, spending days miles offshore. Experts at the University of St Andrew’s Sea Mammal Research Unit (SMRU) and the Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS) found a huge number of harbour seals in the Kyle Rhea channel between Skye and the mainland. They believe the mammals have learnt that the currents in the channel, which was once earmarked for a tidal scheme, act like a sushi bar conveyor belt by shunting mackerel through. Gordon Hastie, lead author at SMRU, warned that if the fast currents attracted “high numbers” of seals there was potential for fatal collisions with fast-moving rotating blades.
Times 28th Nov 2016 read more »
Ministers have backed away from threats to break up National Grid, the FTSE 100 power group, which instead will be ordered to put in place stricter Chinese walls to prevent conflicts of interest in its role operating Britain’s electricity system. New independent directors will be appointed to a separate board overseeing system operations under a compromise deal to be announced in coming weeks, according to officials briefed on the matter. However, the operating unit, which has responsibility for balancing supply and demand in the UK electricity network, will remain part of National Grid in defiance of calls from MPs for a split. A report by the Commons energy committee warned in June that conflicts between the company’s roles as owner and operator of the network were “intractable and growing”. MPs said National Grid could be influenced by its own commercial interests when deciding where to source power or when advising the government on investment in new energy infrastructure. But the company has persuaded ministers and Ofgem, the energy regulator, that it would be a mistake to remove its operating role at a time of upheaval in the electricity system, as coal-fired power is replaced with cleaner technologies.
FT 27th Nov 2016 read more »
Few companies can claim to be as central to British life as National Grid, the power system operator whose cables and pipes keep homes heated, kettles boiling and factories humming. To some critics, its monopoly position is too powerful; the Commons energy committee called earlier this summer for a break-up of its roles as owner and operator of some of the UK’s most critical national infrastructure. For now, that threat appears to have been headed off as the government prepares to announce a compromise that will allow National Grid to keep its operator role with added protection against conflicts of interest. For John Pettigrew, who took over as chief executive in April, this will be the first of two big structural questions expected to be resolved in coming weeks. The other is disposal of National Grid’s UK gas distribution business, valued at up to £13bn, which the company is selling to refocus on faster-growing parts of the business. Proceeds will be returned to shareholders.
FT 27th Nov 2016 read more »