29 April 2016

Hinkley

True or false? A new nuclear power station in the south-west of the UK will be the most expensive object on Earth. That’s the claim about the proposed plant at Hinkley Point in Somerset – but has anything else ever cost so much to build? “Hinkley is set to be the most expensive object on Earth… best guesses say Hinkley could pass £24bn ($35bn),” said the environmental charity Greenpeace last month as it launched a petition against the project. This figure includes an estimate for paying interest on borrowed money, but the financing arrangements for Hinkley C are so opaque that it is impossible to calculate exactly what the final cost will be. Even if you stick with the expense of construction alone, though, the price is still high – the main contractor, EDF, puts it at £18bn ($26bn).

BBC 29th April 2016 read more »

The Force is with a Westcountry college, which has been one of the big winners in plans to build a new nuclear power station in Somerset. Bridgwater College is closely watching events, amid fears that the £18 billion project is close to collapse.

Plymouth Herald 28th April 2016 read more »

Public support for the construction of a new nuclear power station at Hinkley Point in Somerset has collapsed, according to research. Support for the project – a joint venture between the French electricity group EDF and Chinese state-owned developers – has fallen from 57 per cent in October 2013 to 33 per cent this month, according to polling conducted on behalf of a pro-nuclear organisation. The poll carried out by YouGov for New Nuclear Watch showed that 50 per cent of Britons believe French companies should not be allowed to build and operate a nuclear power station in the UK while 67 per cent are against the Chinese having a role. The growing level of public hostility to the £18 billion Hinkley project comes amid concern over its cost for UK consumers and a series of delays.

Times 29th April 2016 read more »

Moorside

NUCLEAR company NuGen is about to start offshore drilling as it steps up preparations to build a nuclear power plant at Moorside, Sellafield. It is due to give the go-ahead for plans for three Westinghouse AP1000 rectors in 2018, with construction starting two years later. Work to assess the site is gathering pace. NuGen began drilling at Moorside in December and will begin the first phase of off-shore drilling in the next few days. It says the results will inform the design and layout of Moorside, and support licensing, planning applications and other consents. The first phase involves drilling 11 boreholes into the seabed, and the collection and testing of geological samples. This should be completed over the summer, followed by a second phase of offshore drilling to begin in the spring or summer of 2017.

In Cumbria 28th April 2016 read more »

New Reactor Types

A think tank has urged the British government to spend money earmarked for nuclear R&D on ensuring that at least three advanced reactors including at least one small modular reactor (SMR) and a Generation IV design have completed regulatory assessment by the early 2020s. Weinberg Next Nuclear’s report, Next Steps for Nuclear Innovation in the UK, notes the value of clean, low-carbon nuclear energy in improving energy security and mitigating climate change, but says that existing reactor designs have high upfront capital costs and are not sufficiently flexible to provide back-up to more intermittent generating options such as wind and solar. Advanced designs could address these drawbacks, so the UK government should support small nuclear reactors as well as large plants, the report says.

World Nuclear News 28th April 2016 read more »

Plutonium

As well as dominating the news headlines, the delays to EDF’s Hinkley Point C are also creating waves over 300 miles to the north at Sellafield and the fate of its stockpile of 140 tonnes of separated plutonium recovered from decades of spent fuel reprocessing. A Government decision on how this stockpile is to be dealt which has been expected for some time has been put back for a decade – until around 2025 at the earliest. At a meeting on the 27th April of the Spent Fuel and Nuclear Materials Working Group (a sub-group of West Cumbria Sites Stakeholder Group WCSSG) the NDA outlined why it was now considered the UK Government was unlikely to come to a decision on the stockpile much before 2025. The reasoning behind the NDA’s projection is that the Government’s currently preferred option of re-using plutonium as Mixed Oxide (MOX) fuel envisages the fuel being used in UK’s fleet of new-build reactors. Given that the first of these would not realistically be in operation until 2025 at the earliest – and would then need to operate for up to 10 years to reach a ‘steady state’ burning conventional uranium fuel,- any decision by the operator in favour of using MOX was unlikely to be made until 2035. To contemplate building a new commercial MOX plant (last estimated at £5Bn-£6Bn by the NDA in 2011) before new-build reactors were up and running and a firm interest in using MOX fuel shown by their operators would represent poor business practice.

CORE 28th April 2016 read more »

Energy Supplies

With the recent closure of Longannet power station by Scottish Power, Scotland has become the first area of the UK to take a serious gamble with electricity supply. It will take not just good management but a serious amount of good luck for the fossil-fuel funeral wake not to be spoiled by flickering or failure of the lights. In short, we may be heading into dangerous territory. The UK needs to get a strategy together for building new gas-fired or coal-fired power, fitted with carbon capture and storage technology, before the situation deteriorates any further.

Scottish Energy News 29th April 2016 read more »

Chernobyl

In the past decade population biologists have made considerable progress in documenting how radioactivity affects plants, animals and microbes. My colleagues and I have analyzed these impacts at Chernobyl, Fukushima and naturally radioactive regions of the planet. Our studies provide new fundamental insights about consequences of chronic, multigenerational exposure to low-dose ionizing radiation. Most importantly, we have found that individual organisms are injured by radiation in a variety of ways. The cumulative effects of these injuries result in lower population sizes and reduced biodiversity in high-radiation areas.

The Conversation 25th April 2016 read more »

The lifestyle magazine, Cumbria Life, is not where you would expect to find a hard- hitting article on Chernobyl and the nuclear industry. But that is exactly what was published in this Cumbrian coffee table magazine in 1996.

Radiation Free Lakeland 28th April 2016 read more »

Late Lessons from Chernobyl, Early Warnings from Fukushima, 28th January 2016. Notes and presentations from a meeting at Westminster on 28th January 2016 organised by NFLA and the Nuclear Consulting Group (NCG).

NFLA 28th April 2016 read more »

Belgium

The entire population of Belgium is to be issued with a ration of iodine tablets, months after warnings about the threat of Isil building a dirty bomb. Iodine pills, which help reduce radiation build-up in the thyroid gland, had previously only been issued to people living within 20km (14 miles) of the Tihange and Doel nuclear plants. Maggie De Block, the Health Minister, said that would be extended to 100km, covering the whole country of 11 million people, following advice from an expert council. The pills will be sent to pharmacies, and the public would be ordered to collect their ration in the event of a meltdown. Children, pregnant women and those breast-feeding would be given priority. It emerged following last month’s terrorist attacks that an Isil cell may have been plotting to kidnap a nuclear expert in order to build a “dirty bomb”. Eleven nuclear workers had their passes revoked.

Telegraph 28th April 2016 read more »

Belgium’s creaking nuclear plants have been causing safety concerns for some time after a series of problems ranging from leaks to cracks. Last week Germany asked that the 40-year-old Tihange 2 and Doel 3 reactors be turned off until ‘the resolution of outstanding security issues’. The reactor pressure vessels at both sites have shown signs of metal degradation, raising fears about their safety. They were temporarily closed but resumed service last December.

Daily Mail 28th April 2016 read more »

Belgian officials have grown so worried about the country’s nuclear power plants that the government has been advised to let everyone living within a 100-kilometer radius of the plants be issued with iodine pills. This is basically the entire population. The recommendation was made by Health Minister Maggie De Block, who said the current legislation, which gives iodine pills to Belgians within a 20-kilometer radius, is inadequate and should be extended to 100 kilometers, according to La Libre daily.

Russia Today 28th April 2016 read more »

BBC 28th April 2016 read more »

Australia

The South Australian Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission (RC) will release its final report on May 6. It was established to investigate opportunities for SA to expand its role in the nuclear industry beyond uranium mining. Before his appointment as the Royal Commissioner, Rear Admiral Kevin Scarce said little about nuclear issues but what he did say should have excluded him from consideration. Speaking in November 2014 at a Flinders University guest lecture, Scarce acknowledged being an “an advocate for a nuclear industry”. Just four months later, after his appointment as the Royal Commissioner, he said the exact opposite: “I have not been an advocate and never have been an advocate of the nuclear industry.” Other than generalisations, and his acknowledgement that he is a nuclear advocate, Scarce’s only comment of substance on nuclear issues in his 2014 lecture was to claim that work is “well underway” on a compact fusion reactor “small enough to fit in a truck”, that it “may be less than a decade away” and could produce power “without the risk of Fukushima-style meltdowns.” Had he done just a little research, Scarce would have learnt that Lockheed Martin’s claims about its proposed compact fusion reactor were met with universal scepticism and ridicule by scientists and even by nuclear industry bodies.

Renew Economy 29th April 2016 read more »

South Australian cattle station that is part-owned by the state’s Liberal party director and next to an Indigenous Protected Area has been provisionally selected as the site of Australia’s first nuclear waste dump, outraging traditional owners.

Guardian 29th April 2016 read more »

Germany

Computer viruses have infected PCs used at a German nuclear power plant. The viruses were found on office computers and in a system used to model the movement of nuclear fuel rods. Power firm RWE said the infection posed no threat to the plant because its control systems were not linked to the internet, so the viruses could not activate. German federal cyber investigators are now analysing how the Gundremmingen plant became infected.

BBC 28th April 2016 read more »

Hydrogen

Hyrdogen energy company ITM Power has won a €5m EU grant to install a 1.5-MW electrolyser in Orkney for the BIG HIT (Building Innovative Green Hydrogen systems in an Isolated Territory) programme. The AIM-listed company is the electrolyser provider for BIG HIT and will get EUR 2.27 million over five years for the project. The Orkney Islands have over 50MW of installed wind, wave and tidal capacity, generating over 46GWhr per year of renewable power, and has been a net exporter of electricity since 2013. Energy used to produce the hydrogen for BIG HIT will be provided by the community-owned wind turbines on Shapinsay and Eday, two of the Orkney islands. BIG HIT will also enable the deployment of 10 electric vans, which will each be fitted with a hydrogen fuel cell range extender. A hydrogen refuelling station will be constructed in, or near to, Kirkwall.

Scottish Energy News 29th April 2016 read more »

Herald 29th April 2016 read more »

Renewables – onshore wind

SCOTLAND’S onshore wind sector accounted for more than half of the UK’s turnover in the field in 2014, according to new figures. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said Scotland generated £1.6 billion (55.9 per cent) compared to England (£905m), Northern Ireland (£189m) and Wales (£150m). However, although onshore wind turnover was higher in Scotland, the total number of full-time equivalent (FTE) jobs in the sector was lower than in England. This was mainly due to the high amount of electricity generation from onshore wind in Scotland, which has an infrastructure that needs fewer employees. Lang Banks, director of environmental charity WWF Scotland, told The National: “These figures underline the importance of onshore wind to Scotland, both in terms of our economy and in creating jobs. “However, if we are to enjoy all the benefits that would come from an entirely renewable power sector we need to see a clear energy strategy from [the] next Scottish Government that gets behind this inevitable transition away from thermal power. By adopting a strategy that majors on flexibility, demand reduction and storage, Scotland could become the EU’s first fully renewable electricity nation by 2030. “With opinion polling showing that over 70 per cent of people see clear economic benefits from renewable energy, it’s clear this is an approach that the public could get behind.”

The National 29th April 2016 read more »

Renewables

An anonymous $50,000 check marked the start of the notoriously private star’s donations to climate change and clean energy causes. Jones helped distribute Prince’s resources when he didn’t want the attention, including providing solar panels for families in Oakland. The families never knew who their benefactor was. He had a mind that let him see answers – musically, spiritually, even politically. Rather than argue about global warming, he said, ‘Let’s help kids put up solar panels.’”

Guardian 27th April 2016 read more »

100% Renewables

Kevin Faulconer, the mayor of San Diego, could therefore qualify as one of the most outlandish, as well as green-tinged, Republicans in the US. Faulconer has thrown his weight behind a binding plan to make San Diego run on 100% renewable power by 2035 – the largest American city to have such an ambition.

Guardian 26th April 2016 read more »

Energy Efficiency

In recent years across the UK, citizens, government, and the business community have all demonstrated a willingness to lead the world in the fight against climate change. So the mystery today is – why is the UK walking away from energy efficiency, the most effective and least-cost way of reducing carbon emissions? The introduction of the Green Deal and the reorientation of the Energy Company Obligation (ECO) resulted in a sharp drop in the installation rates of energy efficiency measures. By mid-2015 the average delivery rate for loft insulation had dropped by 90 percent, cavity wall insulation was down by 62 percent, and solid wall insulation had declined by 57 percent compared to 2012. It is now widely accepted that the Green Deal failed and the recent report by the National Audit Office confirms this view. The level of energy demand reduction is therefore expected to slow down in coming years

SPRU 28th April 2016 read more »

Fossil Fuels

POTENTIAL fracking activity in Scotland is unlikely to pose a pollution danger to public water supplies, according to new research. A key concern of those opposed to exploitation of unconventional gas in the UK is that fissures created by fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, could allow drilling fluids to contaminate underground freshwater aquifers. However, a leading academic from the University of Glasgow says evidence shows the controversial technique “would not pose a danger”. “There may be other reasons for opposing the use of indigenous gas resources, but aquifer pollution due to fracking at great depths is not one of them,” said Professor Paul Younger.

Scotsman 28th April 2016 read more »

Times 29th April 2016 read more »

Public support for fracking in the UK has fallen to a new low, according to government polling, at the same time as backing for renewable energy has hit a record high. The survey, which is repeated every few months, shows that public enthusiasm for the controversial energy extraction method has fallen steadily in the past two years while opposition to it has risen dramatically. The government has consistently advocated shale gas as a future home grown energy source – no commercial fracking wells are currently operating in the UK – while at the same time cutting subsidies for solar and wind power. Just 19% of people back exploration for shale gas in the latest edition of the Department of Energy and Climate Change’s long-running public attitudes tracker, down from a high of 29% two years ago. The percentage against has risen to a new high of 31%, while the proportion neither for or against has remained largely stable, at 46%. The Decc polling, published on Thursday, showed a jump in support for renewable power to a new high of 81%, with only 4% opposing it. Backing for renewables has remained steadily high at 75-80% in recent years. Juliet Davenport OBE, chief executive of green energy company Good Energy said: “The message from the British public is loud and clear. 81% of us back renewables for our energy – people want to see a transition to a renewable future here in the UK.”

Guardian 28th April 2016 read more »

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Published: 29 April 2016