30 January 2016

Hinkley

The spectacle of the disastrous attempts to build a new generation of nuclear reactor – the European Pressurised Reactors (EPRs) – and EDF’s apparent desire to carry on despite the increasing likelihood that the financial losses from this will destroy EDF as a going business (see my earlier blog posts on this) raise the question: If this is true, then why do they carry on with this apparent financial suicide? The answer can be analysed through something well known in political science: rational choice theory. This says that actors will pursue their self interest so that they can achieve the best outcome in a given set of circumstances that define their dilemmas. This can often lead to outcomes that are worse for everyone, despite people apparently pursuing their ‘rational’ self interest (eg see ‘prisoners dilemma’).The set of choices facing the leaders of EDF appear to them as follows: a) abandon Hinkley C and effectively end EDF’s visions as being leaders of a world (or even French) nuclear resurgence. Ok, why not? Well, the leaders believe they would have to resign! b) carry on spending money on Hinkley C and hope that not only the French Government will bail them out of any further difficulties (mounting up now, with the french and Finnish reactors going pear shaped) but that somehow the British project will come right. But what seems more likely is that the French Government will end up pouring billions into the project, as well as needing to salvage the Finnish and French EPRs still being built. Now choice a) involves, to them, the certainty of loss of face and resignation. choice b) involves a probability of disaster (and eventual resignation), but the faint hope that they still might win out (and regardless they remain in power for a while longer). Of course the interests of the French state are clearly to avoid losing billions of euros, so rationally, of the two, option a) would be better.

Dave Toke’s Blog 29th Jan 2016 read more »

In case you hadn’t heard, EDF, the French energy company with that suspiciously-shaped orange blob of a mascot, is fighting valiantly against the odds to build a nuclear power plant hardly anybody seems to want. The French utility says everyone has the wrong idea about the Hinkley, the crisis-stricken nuclear plant to be built in Somerset with help from the Chinese state. EDF, you see, has values. And it wrote them all the down in a presentation handed out to attendees of an all-party parliamentary group this January.

Energy Desk 29th Jan 2016 read more »

French utility EDF told contractors to begin work on the Hinkley Point C project despite not finalizing financing. EDF reportedly told contractors to start “unconstrained” spending on the project, meaning to move forward as if a final decision had been made, according to The Guardian. Work on the project was halted in April. EDF was set to make a final financing decision Wednesday but pushed it back. China’s state nuclear firm CGN owns a 33.5 percent stake in the project, and EDF has said it wants to bring in other investors to bring its remaining share of Hinkley Point C down from 66.5 percent to 50 percent.

Power Engineering 29th Jan 2016 read more »

City AM 29th Jan 2016 read more »

Penn Energy 29th Jan 2016 read more »

Almost half the steel for Britain’s new £18 billion nuclear power station will be imported from overseas – when it could be forged here in the UK. Hapless Tory ministers are allowing French energy giant EDF to import 40 per cent of the parts for the massive Hinkley Point project. EDF claims the forged steel components cannot be produced in Britain. But furious bosses at steel giant Sheffield Forgemasters have told the Mirror, which is campaigning to Save Our Steel, they could produce the vast majority of the parts at their plant in South Yorkshire.

Mirror 29th Jan 2016 read more »

Sheffield Forgemasters says that it could make most of the key parts for Britain’s new nuclear power station, even though the cash-strapped company has been cut out of the supply chain by the French builder of Hinkley Point C. The claim comes as the business minister overseeing the steel industry was accused of misleading MPs over why Forgemasters has not been commissioned to produce components for the first new nuclear station in 20 years. Anna Soubry, the industry minister, has repeatedly supported the decision by EDF, the French energy group, not to use specialist producers based in Britain for the complex, high-value work at Hinkley Point and to use French and Japanese suppliers instead. Challenged as to why she had not intervened on behalf of British steel producers, Ms Soubry told MPs on the business select committee that only very few companies in the world could make the largest nuclear casings and components. In a letter to Iain Wright, chairman of the committee, the minister said: “It is widely understood and accepted in the nuclear and steel industries that the UK does not have this capacity.” The chief executive of Sheffield Forgemasters, which casts steel for Britain’s nuclear submarine fleet, told The Times that this was wrong and that his company was capable of producing four fifths of Hinkley Point’s components.

Times 30th Jan 2016 read more »

Energy giant EDF has leased offices to provide a base for a large part of the project team working on the Hinkley Point C nuclear power station. The announcement came amid recent speculation of a delay in the so-called final investment decision for the £18 billion project. The French company has said a decision will be made “soon”, with mid-February now a possible date.

Western Daily Press 29th Jan 2016 read more »

When it opens, Hinkley Point C will be the first new nuclear power station in the UK for a generation; the last, Sizewell B, became operational in 1995. For structural engineers like Steven Betts, 29, who joined Atkins in 2010, projects like this represent the chance of a lifetime to work on something of significance, which demands world-class capabilities and technical knowhow.

Telegraph 29th Jan 2016 read more »

Taishan

Construction on EDF’s two nuclear reactors in Taishan, China – intended as models for the planned new power plant at Hinkley – has been delayed, again, amidst new safety fears. The latest delay to the flagship project, announced by China’s nuclear regulator, comes as the French state-owned utility again put back making a decision on its investment in the UK. The UK project, at Hinkley point in Somerset, is due to use the same reactor design and be built by the same Franco-Chinese partnership as the Taishan plant.

Energydesk 29th Jan 2016 read more »

Areva

Fifteen years after its creation, Areva is in disarray. Victim of the adventures by “Atomic Anne” Lauvergeon, it has lost more than 8 billion euros. Areva rout is a new Credit Lyonnais. A quasi-public company bankruptcy forcing the taxpayer to a massive bailout. In the past five years, the nuclear group has accumulated more than 8 billion euros in losses and recorded more than 9.5 billion euros of provisions and impairment. The bill will still get heavier with the 2015 accounts and perhaps even then, because of the disastrous contract for construction of the EPR reactor at Olkiluoto in Finland. The company will be subject to a restructuring plan affecting 6,000 employees including about 3500 in France, and will soon be dismantled.

Les Echos 27th Jan 2016 read more »

Sellafield

Four delivery partners have been selected to carry out a £500 million decommissioning of the Sellafield nuclear power plant site in Cumbria. Made up of 12 firms, the contracted teams will deliver the ten-year contract via the Decommissioning Delivery Partnership (DDP) framework.

Construction News 28th Jan 2016 read more »

SMRs

Developers and potential customers of small modular reactors (SMRs) on 27 January signed a memorandum of understanding to set up the SMR Smart consortium to advance the commercialization of SMR reactor designs. Initial members of the consortium include BWX Technologies Inc, Duke Energy, Energy Northwest, Holtec, NuScale, PSEG Nuclear, Southern Co, SCANA and Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA). The organization will represent the companies in interactions with the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), Congress and the executive branch on small reactor issues. US industry body the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) is assisting in the formation of the consortium, and is to work closely with the organization on policies and priorities relating to small reactor technology.

World Nuclear News 29th Jan 2016 read more »

Energy Costs

Late on Friday afternoon, the Department of Energy and Climate Change released a document detailing how the government has done to keep consumers bills down. The article, aside from appearing as self-congratulatory piece to promote the department as a pro-active force for good, listed five ways in which this has been achieved. It confirmed there was now increased competition in the supplier market, that switching supplier was now easier, that the energy sector was now fairer than it had been and a raft of policies had been enact to control the cost of public subsidies. It also highlighted future changes, most notably the rollout of smart meters. But has the government even been that successful in driving bills down? As ever with things steeped in political procedure, it’s not quite as crystal clear an there are just as many things the government has done to drive bills up. 1 – Hand energy intensive industries an exemption from renewables subsidies; 2 – Chucked money at diesel generators to fulfil needed capacity under the Capacity Market; 3 – Reducing the Merit Order Effect by slashing renewables support; 4 – Handing exorbitant generation contracts to nuclear reactors; 5 – Undermining the potential for self-consumption.

Solar Portal 25th Jan 2016 read more »

Wind energy will be chaper than gas by 2020. Onshore wind generation will be cheaper than gas in Northern Ireland by the end of the decade. That’s according to the Northern Ireland Renewable Industry Group (NIRIG), which claims that will be possible “with the appropriate policy and regulatory conditions”. Its new report reveals wind energy represented a fifth of the country’s total electricity generation in 2015, witnessing a new peak record of 583MW in June. The renewable source provided nearly half (48%) of its power production on the first of the month, enough electricity for nearly 379,000 homes.

Energy Live News 27th Jan 2016 read more »

Solar power costs are tumbling so fast the technology is likely to fast outstrip mainstream energy forecasts. That is the conclusion of Oxford University researchers, based on a new forecasting model published in Research Policy. Since the 1980s, panels to generate electricity from sunshine have got 10% cheaper each year. That is likely to continue, the study said, putting solar on course to meet 20% of global energy needs by 2027. By contrast, even in its “high renewable” scenario, the International Energy Agency assumes solar panels will generate just 16% of electricity in 2050. Its widely cited future energy scenarios in previous years failed to predict solar’s rapid growth. Mathematics professor Doyne Farmer, who co-wrote the paper, said the research could help to shape clean energy policy. “Sceptics have claimed that solar PV cannot be ramped up quickly enough to play a significant role in combatting global warming,” he said. “In a context where limited resources for technology investment constrain policy makers to focus on a few technologies… the ability to have improved forecasts and know how accurate they are should prove particularly useful.”

Guardian 26th Jan 2016 read more »

Energy Policy

Pressure on the Department of Energy and Climate Change has increased substantially in recent days after a number of reports poked holes in the government’s energy strategy, or lack thereof. A hastily-drafted press release sought to respond to scrutiny from the likes of the Confederation of British Industry and the Institution of Mechanical Engineers yesterday, but without a more open dialogue, the industry will continue to draw the conclusion that DECC’s energy strategy for the future looks non-existent.

Solar Portal 27th Jan 2016 read more »

The government has this morning confirmed a £250 million ‘rescue package’ for the North Sea oil and gas industry, but appears to have left nothing similar on the table for the UK’s trimmed solar industry.

Solar Portal 28th Jan 2016 read more »

The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) has written to energy secretary Amber Rudd to reiterate the need for new plans and policies following December’s climate agreement in Paris. In a letter signed by the CCC board, the advisory body has said that while the aims established at COP21 are “more ambitious than the basis of the UK’s statutory target for 2050”, there is no revision necessary of the fifth carbon budget. The letter does however heap more importance onto the recommended measures. It states that the fifth carbon budget represents the “minimum level of UK ambition necessary” to meet its targets and that new plans and policies would be required within this parliament. Central to this is an extension of the Levy Control Framework beyond 2020 and the continual award of contracts to low carbon generators. While the Department of Energy and Climate Change is on record as saying that the LCF will continue, there is some confusion over which technologies will be supported.

Solar Portal 28th Jan 2016 read more »

The Confederation of British Industry has led calls from some of the UK’s largest businesses for the government to embrace the transition to renewable power, rather than stymie it. An open letter, published today, has urged the government to build on the climate agreement reached at COP21 and produce a clear, long-term framework that will trigger the required investment into the UK’s energy infrastructure. Led by CBI director-general Carolyn Fairbairn and signed by prominent CEOs and chairmen such as Aviva’s Sir Adrian Montague, Tata Steel’s Karl Koehler, Lloyds Banking Group’s Tim Hinton and Carillion’s Richard Howson, the letter states that the country’s transition to low-carbon power is being led by businesses.

Solar Portal 26th Jan 2016 read more »

The UK would be plunged into an energy crisis if the government perseveres with plans to close all remaining coal plants by 2025, a new report by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IME) has claimed. The report states that coupled with the shuttering of retired nuclear generators, closing coal plants as energy secretary Amber Rudd has promised would create an energy shortfall of 55% by 2025. However the IME has stated that instead of putting off the coal shutdown – as the government could propose in its forthcoming consultation – it should instead resolve the shortfall by incentivising demand reduction and invest in renewables and storage.

Solar Portal 26th Jan 2016 read more »

Chernobyl/Fukushima

2011 disaster survivors urge UK to ditch atomic plans: “Don’t consider Fukushima as something that could never never happen to you. It could.” Under worst case scenarios, the fallout could affect 50 million citizens – and envelop the capital – specialists informed the leader. “Only a great world war would have had the same impact,” Kan, now an opposition lawmaker, told an anti-nuclear event in the UK Parliament on Thursday. “My thoughts on nuclear power changed 180 degrees. The country would go down in ruin,” said Kan, a youthful man despite his 69 years. Six months later he had resigned, public support for atomic energy bombed, and Japan resorted to ramping up fossil fuel imports as its 54 reactors were shut down. It was an impassioned first hand account of the dangers of nuclear from a man who presided over the country’s worst national event since the bombing of Nagasaki in 1945. His speech as part of a panel on Thursday was timely. March 13 will mark the fifth anniversary of the accident, which some scientists say is the most catastrophic nuclear disaster in history. Only Chernobyl – which will mark 30 years on April 26 – shares the maximum level-7 rating on a sliding scale. Mikhail Gorbachev – Russia’s leader at the time of the disaster – was also due to give his account, but cancelled due to health concerns. The event was a bid to instruct UK energy policy as it plans to builds its first nuclear station for a generation. Nuclear is touted as a lower carbon source of reliable baseload power. Interest in the implications of a renewed nuclear power programme here is high. Forty MPs were registered to attend the event, said organisers. The economics might still defeat the case for the £18bn ($26bn) Hinkley Point C reactor in Somerset, but do not underestimate the risks, the panel which included a Japanese policy researcher, a manager of a Fukushima evacuees centre and a UK academic, said.

Climate Home 29th Jan 2016 read more »

Remember Fukushima Saturday 12th March 2016.

Remember Fukushima 29th Jan 2016 read more »

Cybersecurity

Nuclear power plants need to improve security systems to safeguard against non-traditional terrorist attacks, but that’s challenging for developing countries, experts said Thursday.

UPI 28th Jan 2016 read more »

China

China’s nuclear programme isn’t immune to the woes ailing the global nuclear sector, write Mycle Schneider and Antony Froggatt. This week, the board of French state-controlled utility EDF postponed a vote on what would be the largest nuclear project in Europe in decades. A thumbs-up from the directors would have prompted EDF to deepen cooperation with Chinese counterpart CGN in the Hinkley Point C project, a plan to build two enhanced pressure reactors (EPR) in Somerset, England. The estimated cost is £24.5 billion. The delayed decision, along with the huge cost of the project and major doubts about the reactor design, has increased expectations that the power station will not go ahead. The saga of the French project in the UK is symptomatic of the state of the world nuclear industry—one step forward, two steps back. Is it now less certain that China is the exception to the rule? In a surprise move the Chinese government just stopped the construction of two EPRs in Guangdong province due to safety concerns. Fabrication faults have been identified in the reactor pressure vessel of the EPR built at Flamanville in France. The same fabrication process has been used for the Taishan vessels. The French nuclear safety authorities said they will take until the end of the year to decide whether the material used in the reactor pressure vessel—which are clearly below technical specifications—is acceptable from a safety point of view. The Chinese authorities’ attitude towards this issue will be under close international scrutiny.

China Dialogue 29th Jan 2016 read more »

A prototype fuel assembly for use in China’s Hualong One reactor design has completed the first fuel cycle irradiation test. Construction of three Hualong One units has already begun in China. The China Fuel 3 (CF3) fuel assembly completed the first irradiation test on 28 January, China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) announced today. The assembly had been loaded into the core of unit 2 of CNNC’s Qinshan nuclear power plant in China’s Zhejiang province.

World Nuclear News 29th Jan 2016 read more »

China plans to develop floating nuclear power plants in an effort to double its atomic energy capacity by 2020.

Energy Business Review 28th Jan 2016 read more »

Germany – radwaste

Half a kilometre beneath the forests of northern Germany, in an old salt mine, a nightmare is playing out. A scheme to dig up previously buried nuclear waste is threatening to wreck public support for Germany’s efforts to make a safe transition to a non-nuclear future. Enough plutonium-bearing radioactive waste is stored here to fill 20 Olympic swimming pools. When engineers backfilled the chambers containing 126,000 drums in the 1970s, they thought they had put it out of harm’s way forever. But now, the walls of the Asse mine are collapsing and cracks forming, thanks to pressure from surrounding rocks. So the race is on to dig it all up before radioactive residues are flushed to the surface. It could take decades to resolve. In the meantime, excavations needed to extract the drums could cause new collapses and make the problem worse.

New Scientist 29th Jan 2016 read more »

Japan – reactor restarts

Japan on Friday restarted a nuclear reactor that uses riskier plutonium-based MOX fuel, the first of that type to resume operations under stricter safety rules introduced after the 2011 Fukushima disaster. Japan’s large stockpile of plutonium has raised international nuclear security concerns, and the government has come up with the idea of burning it in reactors to reduce the amount. The No. 3 reactor at Takahama nuclear plant in western Japan, operated by Kansai Electric Power Co., went back online Friday. Dozens of people protested outside the plant in Fukui prefecture, where preparations for a restart of another reactor, No. 4, are also underway.

ABC News 29th Jan 2016 read more »

Despite the majority of Japanese opposing a restart of the nation’s nuclear reactors, the government continues to press for a full resumption of nuclear power. Energy expert Tetsunari Iida tells DW the reasons behind it. Public opposition to nuclear energy remains steadfast, as the disaster continues to loom in the Japanese psyche and many harbor safety concerns in the earthquake-prone country. Kansai Electric Power Co. announced on January 28 plans to restart the nation’s third nuclear reactor, after it cleared new post-Fukushima safety regulations. In a DW interview, sustainable energy policy expert Tetsunari Iida says the nuclear lobby in Japan has not only economic interests, but also a strong conviction in the conservative energy policy concept, which gives nuclear power a major role in the energy policy mix. Japan can afford to completely give up nuclear power. In fact, sticking to nuclear represents an old-fashioned economy, whereas renewable energy is a symbol of a new industrial revolution.

Deutsche Well 29th Jan 2016 read more »

Kansai Electric Power Company today restarted unit 3 of its Takahama nuclear power plant in Fukui prefecture. The company soon plans to start loading fuel into unit 4 at the plant ahead of its restart. Takahama 3 was restarted at 5.00pm today, Kansai said, adding that it expects the 870 MWe pressurized water reactor to reach criticality tomorrow. The unit’s output will gradually be increased while tests are conducted and, following a final inspection by the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA), it is expected to re-enter commercial operation by the end of February. However, Kansai said this schedule may change “depending on the result of the ongoing inspection by the NRA”.

World Nuclear News 29th Jan 2016 read more »

Bulgaria

Russian and Bulgarian companies have signed a contract to extend the operating life of unit 6 of the Kozloduy nuclear power plant to 60 years. The agreement – between Kozloduy Nuclear Power Plant plc and a consortium of Russia’s Rusatom Services and Bulgaria’s Risk Engineering Ltd – was signed during a meeting of the Bulgarian-Russian intergovernmental commission on economic and scientific-technical cooperation in Sofia yesterday, by Evgeny Sal’kov, general director of Rusatom Services, and Dimitar Angelov, executive director of Kozloduy NPP plc.

World Nuclear News 29th Jan 2016 read more »

Nuclear Weapons

In his book Atomic Accidents (Pegasus, 2014), James Mahaffey reports that the US has lost, destroyed or damaged nuclear weapons 65 times between 1945 and 1989. Jan. 24 was the anniversary of a B-52 crash in N. Carolina where two 6,500-lb hydrogen bombs fell from the plane and nearly detonated when the bomber broke up in the air. Two recent accidents highlight the dangers today’s weapons still pose to the people who pay for them.

Counterpunch 29th Jan 2016 read more »

The tiny Marshall Islands will seek to persuade the UN’s highest court to take up a lawsuit against India, Pakistan and Britain, which it accuses of failing to halt the nuclear arms race. The international court of justice – founded in 1945 to rule on legal disputes between nations – announced late on Friday dates for separate hearings for the three cases between March 7 and March 16. In the cases brought against India and Pakistan, the court will examine whether the tribunal based in The Hague is competent to hear the lawsuits. The hearing involving Britain will be devoted to “preliminary objections” raised by London.

Guardian 30th Jan 2016 read more »

Renewables – solar

Northumbria University has become the second UK university to complete the installation of a new solar array in time to beat the government’s subsidy cuts, it revealed yesterday. The new 438 panel rooftop array, which is expected to generate 95,000 kWh of clean energy each year, was installed in time for the higher subsidy tariff rate. The installation is set to save over £9,000 in electricity costs and 40 tonnes of CO2 emissions each year, while the university also expects to generate an additional income of £8,500 per year by selling surplus electricity from the panels back to the National Grid.

Business Green 29th Jan 2016 read more »

Microgeneration

This week’s micro power news: Community and Farm Energy still viable; gas to grid energy expanding; soilar cost tumbling.

Microgen Scotland 29th Jan 2016 read more »

Energy Storage

A campaign is being launched to get the UK Government to legislate to set up a special license for electricity storage facilities. – A license to store! At the moment the fast-developing battery storage industry, which can help power the renewable energy revolution, is being stymied by regulatory confusion. Establishing a license for storage would set up storage as a distinctive technology where that can be assigned its own place in the system alongside generation and consumption. The problem is that storage sometimes supplies energy, but it also consumes energy to charge the batteries. As a result storage operators are double charged for taxes when they consume and supply the energy, and uncertainty reigns about how much they should be charged to connect to, and use, the electricity distribution network. So please try and write to your MP to support efforts to license storage of electricity. Of course the grid can ‘balance’ a lot more renewable energy than is being generated at the moment without much difficulty, but the point is that storage offers an increasingly cheap method of balancing the grid for whatever purpose (including managing variable renewables of course). But the system is regulated for generation or consumption, leaving storage in a sort of transgender ‘limbo’. Now, supporters of electricity storage, including the Electricity Storage Network, want the Government to solve the problem. Otherwise companies and investors will be put off investing in storage projects because of the higher charges and uncertainty that surrounds the ‘gender’ identity of storage.

Dave Toke’s Blog 29th Jan 2016 read more »

Renewable Energy Focus 28th Jan 2016 read more »

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Published: 30 January 2016