Energy regulator Ofgem has said it will not investigate whether China is a suitable partner to help build Britain’s next generation of nuclear power stations. Two state-owned Chinese companies, China General Nuclear Power and China National Nuclear Corp, are lined up to become co-investors with France’s EDF on the £14 billion Hinkley Point C nuclear plant project in Somerset. Speaking to The Mail on Sunday, one senior Tory MP called the deal a ‘Faustian pact’ for Britain, given concerns over China’s record in foreign affairs, alleged cyber attacks on Western industry and human rights abuses. But Ofgem said it will not examine China’s involvement as long as its companies are minority investors with EDF as the main holder of the electricity generation licence.
This is Money 28th Dec 2013 read more »
Previously confidential government files from 1983, released on Friday in Belfast, confirm the secret dumping of radioactive waste in Belfast and Londonderry in the early 1980s. They also show that the issue of radioactive discharges, from the Windscale nuclear plant in Cumbria, generated concern among Northern Ireland Office (NIO) officials, 30 years ago. The issue first surfaced in a briefing note for a visit by an NIO minister to Down District Council in November 1983. In a note to officials, Miss A E V Kingsmill warned that “the question of radioactive pollution from Windscale and the associated cancer scare has raised a great deal of concern in certain coastal areas of the district, for example at Kilclief (County Down).” The NIO’s interest in Sellafield coincided with a Yorkshire Television programme in November 1983 about a possible increase in the incidence of cancer in the communities surrounding the reprocessing plant. In response to the impact of this programme in Northern Ireland, a memo in the file, dated 5 December 1982, revealed that solid radioactive waste had been buried at two local authority disposal sites during the period 1977-1982. These were at Duncrue Street in north Belfast and at Culmore Point, outside Derry. At Duncrue Street, the memo noted “a number of controlled burials of hospital/university waste of short half-life, together with small amounts of industrial waste were arranged.” The total activity disposed of was approximately 180 millicuries, of which the bulk comprised radioactive iodine with a half-life of less than two months. At Culmore Point, two consignments of hospital waste had been disposed of by controlled burial; the total activity amounted to 170 microcuries. The file noted that a number of hospitals, fertiliser plants and both of Northern Ireland universities had been authorised to dispose of radioactive waste by controlled burials at these sites.
BBC 28th Dec 2013 read more »
It is one of the most remarkable but little-known examples of post-Cold War co-operation between Russia and the US. But the “Megatons-to-Megawatts” programme – which has seen 20,000 decommissioned Russian nuclear warheads shipped to the US to generate nuclear energy for American homes – is now coming to an end, after the final consignment completed its four-week sail from St Petersburg to Baltimore. The final 160-tonne batch of low-enriched uranium marks the end of an unprecedented 20-year programme which has seen the US pay its old enemy of a total of $8bn (£5bn) for the unconventional fuel.
Independent 27th Dec 2013 read more »
Daily Mail 28th Dec 2013 read more »
The chief executive of one of the UK’s biggest power distributors admits its efforts to restore power to thousands of people should have been better, as the UK prepares for more rain and high winds. Basil Scarsella, chief executive of the UK Power Networks, told the Mail on Sunday the company was not prepared for the storm and too many staff were on holiday. “We could not have avoided the damage caused by the storm but we could have responded to it better,” Scarsella said. “A lot of our employees had gone away for holidays so it meant we had a level of depletion in our resources – and that caused problems with getting people’s power restored. “It’s difficult to justify saying the company has performed well when customers have been without power for five days, but once we had an idea of how bad it was we were able to mobilise as many engineers and office staff as possible.”
Guardian 29th Dec 2013 read more »
Grid – Scotland
NATIONAL Grid is in talks with Perth-based power group SSE over a special electricity supply contract as anxiety mounts about Scottish network capacity when Peterhead power station slashes output next year. The UK’s grid controller is understood to be concerned that Scotland could struggle to keep the lights on during a transition period of about 18 months starting next March, when SSE will cut capacity at Peterhead from 1180MW to 400MW. As previously reported in these pages, Peterhead will not be able to run at its new capacity until SSE has completed a £15 million upgrade scheduled to finish in autumn 2015. If it wants to run the station in the meantime it would have to buy permits to operate at higher capacity from National Grid (NG), which is only likely to be economical for the company during periods of peak UK electricity demand, when power prices reach their highest point. Outside these times, it is understood that NG is concerned there could be periods when having Peterhead offline could still mean that there is not enough power for Scotland. This follows the closure of Cockenzie power station in East Lothian earlier this year. Some of NG’s concerns are said to relate to the fact that a series of network upgrades currently taking place have made the system less flexible than usual. But the operator also foresees a situation where demand could sometimes exceed supply because there is either not enough wind to power Scotland’s wind turbines or too little rainfall for hydroelectricity.
Herald 29th Dec 2013 read more »
Fossil Fuels – Trade
Last week the second round of negotiations for an EU-US free trade agreement took place. Energy has not been making headlines in the context of these talks, but a TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership) will have far-reaching implications for the energy sector, e.g. with regard to oil sands, LNG and shale gas. NGO’s worry that the TTIP will give big business the chance to undermine Europe’s environmental legislation. Sonja van Renssen has the inside story from Brussels.
Oil Price 20th Nov 2013 read more »