31 January 2017

Moorside

The future of a new Cumbrian power plant is in doubt, after one of the key players admitted it is reviewing its involvement. A spokesman for Toshiba – which holds a 60 per cent stake in Moorside developer NuGen, alongside ENGIE of France – said it is re-examining all of its nuclear projects outside Japan. This includes the proposed nuclear new build at Moorside, near Sellafield. Last month Toshiba announced its US subsidiary, Westinghouse Electric, may have overpaid – by several billion dollars – for another nuclear construction and services business. Following this, its shares fell dramatically. Toshiba confirmed yesterday it is now reviewing its involvement in all other overseas projects as a way of dealing with this situation. It also plans to sell its semiconductor business.

Whitehaven News 31st Jan 2017 read more »

Carlisle News & Star 31st Jan 2017 read more »

Labour’s deputy leader has backed its Copeland by-election candidate’s “100 per cent commitment to the nuclear industry”. Tom Watson visited West Cumbria today to join Gillian Troughton’s campaign trail, pledging to back the industry and tackle “government raids on workers’ pensions”. The duo visited the Atkins Global office at Westlakes Science Park, meeting those in the Sellafield supply chain, in addition to union officials from the site itself.

Whitehaven News 30th Jan 2017 read more »

Toshiba

Westinghouse is “unlikely to carry out actual construction work for the future nuclear power plant projects to eliminate risk.” Satoshi Tsunakawa, President and CEO of Toshiba, the Japanese company that owns Westinghouse and its CB&I Stone Webster subsidiary, made that statement during a recent press conference. The event, held on January 27, was called to provide a status report for restructuring actions first announced on December 27, 2016. The restructuring is required as a result of the growing realization that the value of Westinghouse’s CB&I Stone and Webster subsidiary is probably several hundred billion yen (several billion dollars) less than its current book value. Adjusting the company’s stated value with its real value will require taking a write off of “goodwill.” Though there is plenty of blame to go around for the cost overruns, several major regulatory changes have been significant drivers. Some of those decisions are so far in the past that they have been largely forgotten. One of those changes happened more than a decade ago, soon after the contracts were signed for the four AP1000 units currently under construction. The NRC determined that all reactors whose construction had not already started would be required to meet the newly issued Aircraft Impact Rule. That decision, which regulators apparently justified based on a belief that design changes before construction actually starts are cheap, inserted an unexpectedly large uncertainty into the project. The contract terms, pricing and schedule were based on the design that had received NRC certification in May 2006. The design revisions required to meet the Aircraft Rule changes involved at least three more design revisions that did not get final approval until Jan 2012. Completely different construction techniques needed to be invented, tested, litigated and approved. No reasonable and experienced construction estimator would fail to recognize the impact on project costs and schedules resulting from such a major change. Unfortunately, there were apparently few such people involved in the high-level contract negotiations, corporate strategic decisions and in the public communications effort.

Forbes 29th Jan 2017 read more »

Japanese electronics conglomerate Toshiba Corp – owner of Westinghouse and its CB&I Stone & Webster subsidiary – is to review its nuclear reactor construction business outside of Japan, the company’s president and CEO has said.

World Nuclear News 30th Jan 2017 read more »

Sizewell

A branch of the rotary club was among the latest groups to hear about plans for a third nuclear power plant to be built on the Suffolk coast. The talk included information about layout, accommodation for workers, rail links, sea transport, park-and-ride sites, lorry movement, and the proposed development of the A12 and B1122. Mr Elliott also provided details of construction, and environmental considerations for the main site.

East Anglian Daily Times 30th Jan 2017 read more »

New Reactors

Building reactors is not an easy business proposition. Two recent additions to the world’s nuclear fleet, in Argentina and the United States, took 33 and 44 years to erect. Moreover, neither of the two technologies that were supposed to revolutionise the supply of nuclear energy—the European Pressurised Reactor (EPR) and the AP1000 from America’s Westinghouse—has yet been installed, despite being conceived early this century. According to the Global Nuclear Power database, almost two-thirds of the 55 plants currently under construction are behind schedule. In Finland, France and China, all of the EPRs in progress are years behind planners′ expectations. Delays in construction of the AP1000s in America are likely to cost Toshiba, their owner, billions of dollars. On January 27th Toshiba said it was scaling back its nuclear ambitions. Nonetheless, relative upstarts in South Korea and China show that large reactor projects are still viable. South Korea’s Korea Electric Power (KEPCO) is building four plants in the United Arab Emirates. The first reactor at the Barakah plant in Abu Dhabi is set to go online within months, on time and possibly on budget. If it succeeds, the reason is likely to be consistency. KEPCO always works with the same suppliers and construction firms hailing from Korea Inc. By contrast, both the EPR and AP1000, first-of-a-kind technologies with teething problems, have suffered from being contracted out to global engineering firms. South Korean capital costs have remained fairly stable in the past 20 years; such costs have almost tripled in France and America. Even if construction never reaches the dizzy heights of the 1970s, long-suffering backers of nuclear power do have something to pin their hopes on.

Economist 30th Jan 2017 read more »

Nuclear Safety

Tom Greatrex: Your correspondents are correct to highlight that the scope of co-operation agreements under the auspices of the Euratom treaty vary and that some are likely to require to be replicated in bilateral arrangements. However Paul Dorfman, quoted in the report, is incorrect to suggest that the UK leaving Euratom results in the industry being less safe. The UK has a robust and well-established domestic civil nuclear regulator and safety regime, enshrined in UK legislation. International standards on nuclear safety as agreed by the International Atomic Energy Agency are applied, and that will continue to be the case. The UK nuclear industry has been very clear about the importance of the provisions of the Euratom treaty, and that transitional arrangements may be required to enable bilateral agreements to be concluded when the UK ceases to be a member of Euratom, and other provisions replicated domestically. We will continue to ensure government is fully informed on these issues, and press for the appropriate arrangements to be in place in a timely manner.

FT 31st Jan 2017 read more »

Euratom

The SNP has criticised the UK government for going ahead with a “baseless Brexit” as the government confirmed it will exit from Euratom – the regulator responsible for nuclear safety and security across the EU – in parallel with British Independence from the EU-bloc. The Euratom Treaty is not part of the 1957 Treaty of Rome, and as later amended, but co-exists alongside the EU treaties. The exit from Euratom was pushed in the explanatory footnotes of the UK government’s five paragraph bill for the triggering of Article 50. The SNP has repeatedly pressed the UK government to publish a White Paper on their Brexit plans before the legislation reaches ‘Committee Stage’, to allow proper scrutiny of the government’s position on key policy issues, including nuclear energy. MP Hannah Bardell, the SNP spokesman in the Westminster parliament on Small Business, Enterprise & Innovation, commented: “The Nuclear Industry Association has already stressed that the preferred position is to maintain UK membership of Euratom. “”This government seeks to put nuclear energy at the heart of its energy strategy. Yet, leaving the agency will be of significant concern to the security of markets, businesses and workers in that sector.” Leading legal and nuclear energy experts have warned that quitting the Euratom treaty could lead to costly delays in EDF (which owns and operates the two Scottish nuclear power stations) actually building the £18bn new nuclear power station at Hinkley Point because of the need to re-negotiate similar terms for the UK outwith the EU-bloc. Councillor Ernie Galsworthy, Chairman of the pan-UK Nuclear-Free Local Authority association, commented: “The decision for the UK Government to withdraw from the Euratom Treaty is not a surprising one given the Brexit vote but it has huge implications not just for new nuclear build, but nuclear safety, regulation and security.

Scottish Energy News 31st Jan 2017 read more »

Antony Froggatt: The UK government’s European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill is short, extremely short, at just 137 words, but will nevertheless have huge ramifications. Tucked away in the “Commentary on provisions of Bill” is the long-awaited clarification that Brexit will also mean Brexatom, with the UK leaving the Euratom Treaty. The existence of such a treaty may come as surprise to many people. Euratom was in fact one of the three founding treaties of what is now the European Union, and in 1957 established the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom) to support the development of nuclear energy. Since then it has remained largely unreformed, and exists as a legal entity separate from the EU. There was therefore some legal ambiguity as to whether the UK could remain with the Euratom after it left the European Union. This has now been clarified: the UK is leaving anyway. There will also be technical and institutional challenges to replace the functions carried out by Euratom safeguards inspectors. Chapter VII of the Euratom Treaty establishes a nuclear material control system, giving the European Commission responsibility for “satisfying itself” through physical inspections at nuclear facilities that material is not being diverted for military purposes.

The Conversation 30th Jan 2017 read more »

LOCAL MP Dr Sarah Wollaston has spoken out as the Government states it will leave Euratom, the EU’s framework for nuclear energy safety and development.

Kingsbridge & Salcombe Gazette 30th Jan 2017 read more »

The government intends to leave a Europe-wide nuclear co-operation body as part of Brexit.

Ministers said that would happen after the UK leaves the EU in a bill published to trigger Article 50. The European Atomic Energy Community or Euratom aims to pursue nuclear research and training activities with an emphasis on continually improving safety, security and radiation protection. The Euratom Programme also aims to develop nuclear skills and competence, enabling Europe to maintain world leadership in nuclear safety and waste management.

Energy Live News 30th Jan 2017 read more »

Britain’s first nuclear power station in two decades will be delayed by a government decision to quit Europe’s atomic power treaty, experts have warned. Ministers revealed on Thursday that Brexit would involve the UK leaving Euratom, which promotes research into nuclear power and uniform safety standards. The news poses problems for the Hinkley Point C station in Somerset, while raising questions over safety inspection regimes and the UK’s future participation in nuclear fusion research.

Business Green 30th Jan 2017 read more »

The Nuclear Free Local Authorities (NFLA) notes with interest the UK Government’s announcement that it will pull out of the Euratom Treaty. This is part of the international agreements it has decided to withdraw from after the decision of the electorate to vote to leave the European Union (EU) (often known as ‘Brexit’). NFLA believes this decision has a direct impact on plans to develop new nuclear power stations in England and Wales, and all such developments should now be put on hold while greater clarity is found over what the UK Government will now do when it leaves the Euratom arrangements.

NFLA 30th Jan 2017 read more »

Utilities

Energy companies will be forced to tell their customers about cheaper deals from rival suppliers under plans outlined by the regulator Ofgem. A trial involving several thousand households will run over the summer and could be implemented nationally if Ofgem concludes it is a good way of encouraging customers to shop around. About two thirds of UK households are still on the standard variable tariffs of the so-called Big Six energy suppliers, even though they are often hundreds of pounds a year more expensive than the best deals on the market. The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) concluded last year that households were collectively paying up to £2 billion a year too much and recommended Ofgem try new ways of prompting them to shop around. Ofgem said yesterday that it would force energy companies to take part in a number of trials, including one in which suppliers will tell customers about the cheapest deals across the whole market, not just their own products as at present. In another trial expensive standard variable tariffs will be rebranded as “out-of-contract” tariffs.

Times 31st Jan 2017 read more »

Environmental Regulation

LOUISE GIBSON, Senior Associate Solicitor at MacRoberts LLP considers the forthcoming overhaul of Scottish environment licensing legislation. The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) and the Scottish Government have launched a joint consultation on proposals to overhaul the current system for environmental permitting in Scotland in a continuation of their reform agenda and SEPA’s new statutory purpose under the Regulatory Reform (Scotland) Act 2014. It is proposed to integrate the existing four permitting regimes into a single regime, akin to (but not identical to) the single permitting regime in England. Much of what is proposed is not new and as the consultation paper states, should mostly be recognisable to operators already regulated under an existing regime. Operators of regulated activities should, however, familiarise themselves with the specifics proposed, which could impact the obtaining of authorisations and future operations under the new framework.

Scottish Energy News 31st Jan 2017  read more »

Fukushima

Hopes have been raised for a breakthrough in the decommissioning of the wrecked Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant after its operator said it may have discovered melted fuel beneath a reactor, almost six years after the plant suffered a triple meltdown. Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco) said on Monday that a remote camera appeared to have found the debris beneath the badly damaged No 2 reactor, where radiation levels remain dangerously high. Locating the fuel is the first step towards removing it.

Guardian 30th Jan 2017 read more »

Chernobyl

The Ukrainian government wants to turn part of the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone into a solar farm. Could the site of the world’s worst nuclear accident get a new lease of life?

BBC 30th Jan 2017 read more »

US

The premature shutdown of America’s nuclear power plants is nothing short of a national catastrophe, writes Jarret Adams. The agreement to close prematurely the Indian Point Energy Center north of New York City felt like a gut punch. The latest in a string of closure announcements, Indian Point hurts so deeply because of its high-profile and proximity to the world’s leading financial centre. As many as two-thirds of America’s 99 reactors could shut down by 2030. Today we are building four. The only way to change this trajectory in the near term is to convince more Americans that nuclear energy makes sense. But we are not doing enough to earn more supporters and remain too focused on finding technical solutions.

World Nuclear News 30th Jan 2017 read more »

Fossil Fuels

Scottish ministers bowed to pressure from communities and environmentalists and imposed a moratorium on drilling for unconventional oil and gas back in January 2015. The ban, which outlaws the process of fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, for shale oil and gas and coalbed methane, was put in place to allow evidence to be gathered on the potential impacts on health, the environment, local communities and the economy. Fracking involves injecting a mixture of water, sand and chemicals at high-pressure into rock fissures deep underground to release gas trapped inside. It is known to have caused earthquakes and there have been reports from other countries of various adverse effects. A moratorium is also in place in Wales, but the technique is permitted in England, where horizontal drilling has been given the go-ahead for the first time – despite concern s raised during the UK’s first ever venture into shale gas, near Blackpool in Lancashire. Operations there in 2011 triggered two minor earthquakes, which prompted activities to be suspended. Nearly 2,000 square kilometres of land across the central belt has been earmarked as suitable for potential exploitation of unconventional oil and gas. Scotland’s key reserves are found in the Midland Valley, though quantities have been described by the British Geological Survey as “modest” – an estimated six billion barrels of shale oil and 80 trillion cubic feet of shale gas. Shale gas is still at the exploratory stage in the UK, but supporters say it is an important energy source that could become a major new industry for Scotland. They say home-grown supplies would help guarantee fuel supplies, reduce dependency on foreign oil, and provide jobs. Critics claim fracking poses a serious risk to people and the planet through effects such as toxic air pollution, contaminati on of water, and seismic events. It has also been blamed for reduced house prices. A vote in the Scottish Parliament last summer came out narrowly in favour of a full ban on fracking. SNP members abstained but the Scottish Greens, Liberal Democrats and Labour joined forces to defeat the Tories. The information gathered about fracking has been presented in the form of six reports, though these are not exactly conclusive. The health impact assessment found the evidence available was “inadequate” a s a basis to determine whether the practise would pose a risk to Scots. The economic study was not much clearer. Researchers found allowing shale gas extraction could generate up to £3.9 billion in tax revenues, create more than 3,000 jobs and produce the equivalent of 18 years of Scottish gas consumption. It also warned that low oil and gas prices would make it uneconomic. Today, almost exactly two years since the ban was enacted, a consultation is being launched to garner public opinion on whether or not fracking should have a part in Scotland’s future. Politicians have said they are seeking the “widest possible range of voices” to take part. So this is the chance to speak out and make sure you get your say in this important decision.

Scotsman 31st Jan 2017 read more »

CCS

Our energy systems appear to be changing in ways that are broadly on track with limiting global temperature rise to 2C, a new study says, but will soon lose ground without rapid deployment of new technologies. In the study, just published in Nature Climate Change, researchers measure the collective progress towards the goals of the Paris Agreement. There is a mix of good and bad news, the researchers find, with some particular successes – such as the “extraordinary growth rates” of wind and solar in recent years. But the continued lack of investment in carbon carbon and storage (CCS) technologies puts the 2C limit in doubt, the researchers say.

Carbon Brief 30th Jan 2017 read more »

Climate Change

The Government is facing legal action over its failure to come up with a plan to dramatically reduce the use of fossil fuels in order to meet the UK’s international commitments in the fight against climate change. Britain has agreed to cut emissions by 57 per cent by 2032 but is currently nowhere near meeting that goal. The latest expert report predicted the target would be missed by 100 million tonnes of carbon dioxide – the equivalent of all the greenhouse gases currently produced by industry.

Independent 28th Jan 2017 read more »

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Published: 31 January 2017
Last updated: 1 February 2017