EDF is facing questions over the health of its fleet of French nuclear plants after an investigation which has left the country with the lowest level of nuclear power for 10 years and the prospect of power cuts during a cold snap. Thirteen of EDF’s 58 atomic plants are offline, some due to planned maintenance, but most for safety checks ordered by the regulator over anomalies discovered in reactor parts. The outages have prompted warnings of potential planned power cuts and pushed up wholesale power prices, boosting coal and gas operators but squeezing small energy suppliers. Carbon emissions will possibly rise too as France, which last year forged a historic climate change deal in Paris, has to import more fossil fuel power. The problems stem from a fault identified last year by the Nuclear Safety Authority (ASN) in the as-yet-unfinished reactor at north-western France’s Flamanville plant – the same design approved for Hinkley Point C in the UK. Pierre-Franck Chevet, president of the ASN, told Le Figaro the situation was “very worrying” and the discovery had led to “unprecedented” checks at all the country’s nuclear plants, which provide 75% of France’s electricity and normally help it export power to other countries. The issue is higher than expected carbon concentrations in steel reactor components, which could make them vulnerable to cracking. “The longer than expected outages at some of EDF’s nuclear plants place additional pressure on the company at a time that it is already under significant financial stress,” said Jim Watson, research director at the UK Energy Research Centre. “It has already taken a big risk in pursuing the Hinkley C project in the UK because other reactors using that design [in Finland and France] have suffered from delays and large cost overruns.” Peter Atherton, associate at analysts Cornwall Energy, said the failure of earlier inspections to pick up on problems was “a very serious thing, a bit of a stain on the whole French programme”.
Guardian 2nd Dec 2016 read more »
With the final investment decision to build the Hinkley Point C nuclear power plant in Somerset, together with progress in other planned new nuclear projects, 2016 has been a “momentous” year for the UK, delegates at the Nuclear Industry Association’s Nuclear2016 conference in London heard yesterday. Opening the conference, NIA chairman John Hutton said: “If you look at the industry here in the UK, if you look at current and existing operations, if you look at decommissioning and if you look now at the tremendously exciting opportunities of nuclear new build, I think that the word ‘momentous’ is fully justified.” He added: “The one thing that has lit the tinder – the fuse of excitement across the industry – is of course the progress that we are making on new build. He described EDF Energy’s final investment decision on 28 July to go ahead with the £18 billion ($21.8 billion) project to construct two EPR reactors at Hinkley Point as “a huge milestone” for the UK nuclear industry. “If there ever was a vote of confidence on the ability and capability of the nuclear industry in the UK, that is it,” Hutton said.
World Nuclear News 2nd Dec 2016 read more »
Tom Samson intrigued the conference floor when he suggested NuGen were looking for £20bn worth of finance for the Moorside project. He said they were in conversation with many potential partners and did not rule out a level of Government equity funding in the project.
Politics Home 2nd Dec 2016 read more »
Magnox has applied to dissolve spent nuclear fuel canisters and release the liquid into the sea near Bradwell nuclear power station in Essex, writes Chris Busby. This will wash radioactivity onto mudflats in a populated area already suffering from excess cancers, however the publicly available documents ignore this key fact. We must make sure this dangerous application is refused.
Ecologist 2nd Dec 2016 read more »
If you look at a satellite map of Cumbria it is obvious to all but the most wilfully nuclear blind that Sellafield is the biggest single solid concrete mass. This week’s Podium piece in the Westmorland Gazette written by John Woodcock MP for Furness invokes the Jodi Mitchell song “Big Yellow Taxi.” The famous “pave paradise” lyrics are spoken by John Woodcock to divert attention away from the growing concrete nuclear mass which he supports and to divert attention to the pylons. What a brass neck – and the Westmorland Gazette are only too happy to hand him the brasso while ignoring the main event. The Furness MP fails to mention that should Moorside be allowed to happen the most important role of the various transmission lines of pylons, would be their role in taking electricity TO the proposed Moorside nuclear reactors. I’m not sure that Joni Mitchell will be too thrilled to be called upon as a diversion from what is at the end of the pylons. Namely three reactors and associated sprawl that many including the Nuclear Free Local Authorities are saying have “significant and alarming problems …that could lead to catastrophic damage..” Incredibly this has not been reported in the Westmorland Gazette and John Woodcock MP is certainly not going to draw attention to the growing horror at what would lie at the end of the pylons.
Radiation Free Lakeland 2nd Dec 2016 read more »
Small power plant developers seeking Government subsidies to help keep the lights on have been warned they face losing a large chunk of their income that could render them uneconomic. In a move that is likely to boost the chances of big new gas power plants securing subsidies and getting built instead, energy regulator Ofgem has published an open letter warning it may remove lucrative benefits that small power plants currently enjoy. The Government is preparing to hold a “capacity market” auction next week to award subsidies to power plants that can guarantee to generate when needed in winter 2020-21. It hopes this will support companies to build big new gas plants. However, in previous years it has found that such projects have lost out to smaller plants like diesel and gas engines. They are able to undercut their bigger rivals because they also enjoy a significant separate revenue stream under the complicated system of network charging set by Ofgem. The regulator has been considering reforms to cut such revenues after concluding the small plants may be getting an unfair advantage.
Telegraph 2nd Dec 2016 read more »
Philip Johnstone, Benjamin K. Sovacool, Gordon MacKerron, Andy Stirling: It’s unclear why SMRs should have Government support. There is no commercially operating SMR anywhere in the world. The cost is unknown and public acceptability untested. Pouring resources into “innovative” nuclear technology could be a damaging distraction. We must give balanced consideration to a full range of low carbon alternatives rather than focus uncritically on nuclear energy/
Science 2nd Dec 2016 read more »
Japan – plutonium
Japan is caught between a rock and a hard place when it comes to pressing ahead with its dream of a perpetual energy source through nuclear fuel recycling. Having poured hundreds of billions of yen into the failed Monju prototype fast-breeder reactor project, it is belatedly considering decommissioning the facility. But it is still left with a huge stockpile of plutonium, and no way of reducing the amount in the coming years. Having come this far, Japan is simply not able to abandon the problem-plagued, money-guzzling technology, hence its Nov. 30 plan to build a demonstration fast reactor to replace Monju. Unlike Monju, which uses and generates plutonium, a fast reactor only burns plutonium.
Asahi Shimbun 1st Dec 2016 read more »
US – plutonium
In early October, the Kremlin decided to suspend its implementation of the Plutonium Management and Disposition Agreement, which called for the bilateral elimination of American and Russian excess plutonium stocks. Key among the reasons cited by Russian President Vladimir Putin and his administration [link in Russian] for Russia’s unilateral suspension of the agreement, was the allegation that the United States had long ago violated the terms of the agreement by undertaking a plutonium disposition method not authorized by the agreement—a method that makes the disposed plutonium easily accessible for future weaponization. In other words, the United States chose to nix the agreement; Russia was simply making it official. The bilateral agreement thus became another victim in what has become an increasingly confrontational Russo-American relationship. Technically speaking, Moscow is not wrong. The United States was well on its way to breaching the agreement, if not already in violation, because the plutonium disposition method that the Obama administration decided to adopt is far from proliferation-proof. Yet while this may be enough to satisfy the Kremlin’s narrative of Washington’s obstinate refusal to cooperate on critical security issues, the accusations hold little weight when placed in the larger context of plutonium disposition methods, and of Russo-American relations more generally. For this reason, it is worth taking apart the Kremlin’s allegations, to both test their validity from a technological perspective, and to draw lessons for the future of similar bilateral frameworks and for the future of US-Russia relations under a new administration in Washington.
Bulletin of Atomic Scientists 1st Dec 2016 read more »
A two-year trial of what is thought to be the UK’s largest grid-scale battery has successfully shown that power storage has the potential to be both technically and commercially viable, according to the designer of the project. Launched in 2014, the pilot saw the £19m ‘Big Battery’ installed at a sub-station in Leighton Buzzard, Bedfordshire, with the aim of storing energy when electricity demand is low, before releasing that energy for use at peak times.
Business Green 2nd Dec 2016 read more »