31 March 2016

Hinkley

The cost of building a new nuclear power station at Hinkley Point in Somerset could rise by nearly £2 billion, piling more pressure on the over-stretched finances of the French energy giant EDF, according to a report seen by The Times. An independent analysis of the £18 billion project claims that Areva, the French company that developed the EPR reactor earmarked for Hinkley, is repricing the technology before a final investment decision, which it expects to be signed by EDF and its Chinese partners in May. Michel Degryck, managing partner of the Paris-based corporate finance company Capitalmind and an expert on EDF who produced the report, said that Areva had in recent weeks been asking suppliers to resubmit detailed offers for key components of the Hinkley station. Mr Degryck said: “We understand that a number of costs were probably underesti mated when they did their last pricing [of the reactor] in 2013. They will have to take into account new costs . . . The cost of the project could rise by 10 per cent.” The updated price of the station could be as high as 25.3 billion euros (£19.8 billion), according to the research. The development casts further doubt on the future of the project, under which two new reactors to be built at Hinkley are set to generate 7 per cent of UK electricity once operational, probably in the late 2020s.

Times 31st March 2016 read more »

An EDF board member has called for the £18bn Hinkley Point C nuclear power station to be postponed, in the latest sign of discord at the top of the French energy company over the troubled project. Christian Taxil said a raft of changes to the Somerset reactor scheme agreed over the past three years significantly raised the risk for EDF, while a promise to commission the plant within 72 months of concrete being poured was “not credible”. Taxil, the first EDF board member to go public with his concerns, added: “Today I can only say that the conditions do not exist for me to give a positive opinion if such a project was submitted to me.” EDF dismissed the latest rows, saying that it was well known that the unions, who only hold six out of the 18 places on the board, are opposed to Hinkley, while the criticism from the engineers was contained in a paper that was not taken to the board. “The date for the first operation of Hinkley Point C has not changed. It will be 2025.”

Guardian 30th March 2016 read more »

FT 30th March 2016 read more »

BBC 30th March 2016 read more »

Daily Mail 30th March 2016 read more »

Herald 30th March 2016 read more »

EDF has insisted that its plans to complete the £18bn Hinkley Point C nuclear power station in Somerset by 2025 remain on track, despite reports that some of its engineers had called for a two-year delay and a redesign. It came as an EDF board member representing senior staff said in a letter to employees that he would vote against the controversial project. Christian Taxil, who represents the managers’ union CFE-CGC, is the first board member to go public with doubts about the project.

Guardian 30th March 2016 read more »

When did a major investment decision last go ahead successfully against the explicit advice of a company’s engineers? Politicians can dream up and try to force through projects, economists can put in place assumptions that make them look attractive, but in the end it is engineers who have to deliver. Their voice is decisive. That is the point we have reached in the tortuous saga of Hinkley Point. The latest judgment from EDF’s engineers is not surprising. Internal opposition to the project to build another reactor to the same design as those under construction in Flamanville in northern France and Olkiluoto in Finland has always been strong. If those projects have not been completed, why take on all the risks of another? Hinkley has never had the support of a majority of the EDF board. The difference now is that the doubts are out in public and can hardly be dismissed as co ming from anti-nuclear campaigners or people hostile to all things French. The simple fact is that serious professional engineers do not believe that Hinkley can be built to the present design. The logic now is for a long delay until at least one of the other reactors is on stream and until all the lessons of the technical problems and cost overruns can be learnt. Delay rather than abandonment makes sense because EDF will not be forced to crystallise its losses, a step that would weaken an already weak balance sheet. Delay will allow the company to consider other options for the Hinkley site, including the development of smaller, simpler reactors. For EDF, the biggest problem will be explaining to the Chinese who were due to fund part of the project why they have been kept in the dark for so long.

FT 31st March 2016 read more »

Letter Vincent de Rivaz: Your front page report “EDF dissidents urge delay to Hinkley Point nuclear project” (March 30) refers to an alleged document which you say is unsigned, so your readers cannot judge whether or not it has any credibility. However, I am happy to state the facts clearly and on the record. EDF has already delivered, over many years, a remarkable set of achievements which are the foundations for the project. In 2012, the UK nuclear regulator approved the design of the European Pressurised Reactor; in the same year, HPC was granted a nuclear site licence; in 2013, we were given planning consent and the contract for difference was agreed with the UK government. This contract was scrutinised and approved by the European Union in 2014; we signed a strategic investment partnership with our Chinese partners in 2015. EDF has recently been through a thorough risk review which is a normal process for any industrial project of this magnitude. EDF is therefore ready to go ahead with the next phase of this huge undertaking as soon as the final investment decision triggers it. As I said categorically at the energy and climate change select committee hearing last week, this project will go ahead and the investment decision will be made very soon. EDF is fully confident that it will deliver this project on time and on budget, thanks to the intense preparation of our committed and accountable engineering teams, the involvement of our supply chain, the experience gained from other projects and the unwavering engagement of many stakeholders, locally and nationally. Hinkley Point C will be operational in 2025. EDF has no plan whatsoever to change this date. HPC will provide low-carbon, reliable and competitive electricity at the very time the country needs it and will play a decisive role in Britain’s low-carbon energy mix for generations to come.

FT 31st March 2016 read more »

Nuclear Transports

The UK will make the world’s largest shipment of weapons-grade uranium as it steps up attempts to clear nuclear material from Scotland. Under a deal with the Obama administration, Britain will ship 700kg of highly enriched uranium from the Dounreay nuclear facilities in Scotland to the US, where it will be processed for medical use and returned to Europe. The deal comes as Barack Obama gives a final push towards improving the security of nuclear materials, which he signalled in 2009 would be an important strand of his administration. It will be announced at the president’s final nuclear security summit on Thursday in Washington, which will be attended by heads of government including the UK’s David Cameron. “It is an opportunity for us to show some leadership to the rest of the world,” said a British official. The UK has a n undisclosed quantity of highly enriched uranium stored at Sellafield in Cumbria and in Dounreay in the Scottish Highlands. Dounreay is due to be closed by 2030, enabling the wider area to be cleaned up. Under the deal to be announced on Thursday, the US will not charge for processing the waste. It will return uranium in a different form, together with some of its own nuclear waste, to the European Atomic Energy Community’s facilities in France, where it will be available for medical use by EU countries.

FT 31st March 2016 read more »

David Cameron is to announce plans for the largest ever shipment of nuclear waste from the UK to the United States. In return, the US will send highly enriched uranium to Europe where it will be used to help diagnose cancer. The prime minister will make the announcement in Washington at a summit on civil nuclear security. The BBC’s James Landale said the PM’s aim was to show that it is possible to think differently about how to dispose of nuclear waste. One British official, he added, described the agreement as a landmark win-win deal. Mr Cameron will tell world leaders in Washington that Britain will transport 700 kilograms of highly enriched uranium to the US. Officials said this would be the largest ever such movement of nuclear waste, which the US has more capacity to store and process. In return, a different form of used uranium will be transported from America to the European Atomic Energy agency (Euratom) where it will be turned into radio isotopes that are used to detect and diagnose cancer. At the fourth Nuclear Security summit, to be chaired by US President Barack Obama, Mr Cameron will also announce Britain and the US are to hold a joint exercise to test both countries’ ability to prevent cyber attacks on their nuclear stations and waste facilities.

BBC 31st March 2016 read more »

Independent 31st March 2016 read more »

Areva

French authorities have charged the husband of French nuclear giant Areva’s former boss Anne Lauvergeon with insider trading as part of a probe into its 2007 purchase of a Canadian uranium mining firm, a legal source said Wednesday. The charges against Fric are part of a wider probe into the $2.5 billion (1.8 billion euros at the time) purchase by Areva of Uramin at a height of demand for enriched uranium. Areva was later forced to revalue its Uramin uranium mines to only 410 million euros.

Times of India 30th March 2016 read more »

Nuclear Security

WORLD leaders will gather in Washington to discuss how to prevent terrorists getting hold of radioactive material, with the UK set to play a leading role in protecting nuclear facilities from cyber attack. The UK and United States will take part in a joint exercise next year to prepare for any online attack against nuclear power plants and waste storage facilities, such as those at Hinkley, Somerset.

Bridgwater Mercury 31st March 2016 read more »

Top secret security arrangements for nuclear plants like Sizewell B will be examined by world leaders as they discuss how to prevent terrorists getting hold of radioactive material.

Ipswich Star 31st March 2016 read more »

Might terrorists soon build a dirty bomb? The terrorist attacks in Brussels last week, in which 32 people died, reminded states of the importance of tackling the threat of nuclear and radiological terrorism. Investigations into the bombings revealed that Islamic State, who claimed responsibility for the attacks, were actively monitoring workers at Belgian nuclear facilities. In response to this discovery, at two Belgian nuclear plants all non-essential staff were sent home within hours of the attacks, as a precautionary measure. Though IS didn’t manage to access nuclear material in the end, this indicates they may have been interested in acquiring material usable in a radiological weapon, or “dirty bomb.”

Prospect 31st March 2016 read more »

Britain braced for ISIS cyber attacks on nuclear power plants as Cameron flies for talks with Obama on how to stop jihadis seizing radioactive material.

Daily Mail 31st March 2016 read more »

UK preparing for ISIS Dirty Bomb amid fears hackers could target UK nuclear plant.

Express 31st March 2016 read more »

When some of the world’s major nuclear powers meet in Washington DC next Friday, they will be shadowed by the rising terrorist attacks– largely in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. The 2016 Nuclear Security Summit, which will take place 31 March-April 1, will the fourth and final conference in a series initiated by US President Barack Obama in 2009 to address one key issue: nuclear terrorism as an extreme threat to global security. According to the US State Department, the overarching theme of the summit meeting, to be attended by the world’s nuclear leaders, is “the risk of nuclear or radiological terrorism and how nations can mitigate this threat.” Dr Rebecca Johnson, a London-based expert on non-proliferation and multilateral security agreements, told IPS the terrorist attacks that ripped through Brussels “tragically remind us that President Obama’s key objective in setting up the Nuclear Security Summits was to prevent nuclear materials getting into the hands of anyone wishing to use them for nuclear or radiological weapons.” “As well as strengthening intelligence and transnational cooperation, I hope they won’t forget that the risks start with the nuclear weapons in the arsenals of the nine nuclear-armed states”.

IPS 25th March 2016 read more »

Britain and the US will stage a war-game later this year, simulating a cyber attack on a nuclear power plant, to test the readiness of the government and utility firms. As David Cameron prepares to fly to Washington to attend a nuclear security summit, convened by Barack Obama, government sources said the two countries plan to cooperate on exploring the resilience of nuclear infrastructure to a terrorist attack. Government sources said the exercise was not triggered by any credible intelligence about the threat of such an attack, but that it was “prudent planning,” adding: “It gives us the ability to test these systems, and make sure that we learn any lessons.”

Guardian 31st March 2016 read more »

World leaders can make progress in preventing nuclear terrorism and simultaneously support the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement if they can connect the dots between the carbon-free world that we need and the strengthened nuclear security regime that is required to support it. These interconnected issues need to be the focus at the upcoming and final Nuclear Security Summit in Washington on April 1. There is little doubt that if terrorists acquire nuclear material they will use it. Al Qaeda long ago pledged to obtain a nuclear device. ISIS recently shadowed a nuclear official in Belgium, a country with fissionable nuclear material. High intensity radioactive sources used for medical and industrial purposes – and the key component of a dirty bomb – go missing with regularity. There are no binding international standards for countries with regard to securing dangerous nuclear and other radioactive material. There is no mandatory process of assessing whether a country has secured its nuclear material. There is no mechanism for the timely review and updating of nuclear security requirements as technologies and threats evolve.

Huffington Post 29th March 2016 read more »

As President Obama gathers world leaders in Washington this week for his last Nuclear Security Summit, tons of materials that terrorists could use to make small nuclear devices or dirty bombs remain deeply vulnerable to theft. Still, Mr. Obama’s six-year effort to rid the world of loose nuclear material has succeeded in pulling bomb-grade fuel out of countries from Ukraine to Chile, and has firmly put nuclear security on the global agenda. But despite the progress, several countries are balking at safeguards promoted by the United States or are building new stockpiles. President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, where some of the largest stockpiles of civilian nuclear material remain, has decided to boycott the summit meeting, which begins Thursday night. Mr. Putin has made it clear he will not engage in nuclear cleanup efforts dominated by the United States.

New York Times 30th March 2016 read more »

Energy Supplies

The former boss of one of Britain’s biggest energy suppliers has warned that the safety buffer separating Britain from power cuts will be uncomfortably slim for up to four years. Experts had already warned this winter that Britain was at its highest risk of blackouts in more than a decade before the announcement of a succession of closures of coal-fired power stations. Paul Massara, a former chief executive of npower, warned yesterday that the tight supply would last for up to four winters, in contrast with rosier forecasts from the regulator that the safety buffer between capacity and peak electricity demand would begin to improve from 2017 onwards. The Longannet coal plant in Scotland and Ferrybridge in West Yorkshire ceased operations last week. Low electricity prices and the shift to cleaner sources of power have challenged the economics of coal generation, which last year represented a quarter of electricity generated in Britain.

Times 31st March 2016 read more »

The government will be forced to come up with another mechanism to get new gas power stations built as the capacity market “isn’t working,” the former chief executive of RWE Npower has said.

Utility Week 30th March 2016 read more »

A £2.8bn government scheme funded by energy bill payers which aims to keep the lights on in Britain has been condemned as wasteful, expensive and “unfit for purpose” in a damning report. The claims from the Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR) comes on the day that one of the UK’s biggest coal-fired power stations, Ferrybridge, formally closes, with several others threatening to follow. There was also a new warning from a leading academic and adviser to energy regulator Ofgem that Britain’s electricity supply is facing “crunch time” this coming winter. Under the Capacity Market scheme, more than £370m alone has been paid to coal plants that are simultaneously being hit by a higher carbon price floor, ensuring “consumers are hit by a double whammy, paying for two subsidies,” warns the IPPR. “The government rightly wants to secure the country’s power supply. But its primary mechanism for doing so is failing to meet any of the government’s own objectives. It is absurd that consumers are paying for subsidies to the most polluting forms of generation such as diesel and coal while in a separate policy also paying to discourage them,” said Byron Orme, IPPR research fellow and author of the report. Doug Parr, chief scientist for Greenpeace UK, said the ministers needed a rethink. “The UK government has taken the right approach by announcing a coal phase-out, but they forgot about the other half of the job. What Britain badly needs are clear, robust policies to drive more investment in clean energy and power-saving technologies. “What we have instead is a random collection of pet projects, like the Hinkley nuclear reactor and fracking, that are going nowhere, with highly polluting diesel farms thrown in to plug the gap.”

Guardian 31st March 2016 read more »

Fiddler’s Ferry coal plant, which was earmarked for closure, has had an unexpected reprieve after securing a new contract to provide “ancillary services” to the National Grid. The plant in Widnes, Cheshire, which is owned by energy firm SSE, will now remain open until March 2017, safeguarding 213 jobs. The one-year contract will use just one of the four available units at the power station but two further units will now be entered into market auctions, SSE said.

Telegraph 30th March 2016 read more »

UK prepares to lose 8GW of generating capacity by end of the month as coal plants shut down, prompting experts to bemoan a ‘lack of long-term strategy’ and tight margins ahead. Tomorrow two more of the country’s remaining coal-fired power stations, Eggborough in Yorkshire and Fiddlers Ferry plant in Cheshire, will close their doors.

Business Green 30th March 2016 read more »

Fukushima

An unprecedented refrigeration structure resembling giant ice lollies has been approved by Japanese regulators to help create a frozen underground barrier around the Fukushima nuclear reactor buildings and contain contaminated water. The Japanese nuclear regulation authority said the structure, which was completed last month, can now be activated. The plant’s operator, Tokyo Electric Power, plans to turn on the ice wall on Thursday in an attempt to minimise the risk of contaminated water escaping. Nearly 800,000 tonnes of water already stored in 1,000 huge industrial tanks at the plant has been hampering the decontamination of the nuclear facility since the 2011 quake and tsunami.

Energy Voice 30th March 2016 read more »

Grid Connections

The European Investment Bank is to provide a £500m loan to support the construction of a major new power link for the north of Scotland. The project includes a 100 mile-long subsea cable between Spittal in Caithness and Blackhillock in Moray. The new transmission link could add up to 1.2 gigawatts of new renewable energy capacity to the grid. It is being built by SSE subsidiary Scottish Hydro Electricity (SHE) Transmission. The company is investing more than £1.1bn in the project, which is due for completion in 2018.

BBC 30th March 2016 read more »

Herald 31st March 2016 read more »

Renewables – US

Stillwater power plant, the first triple hybrid facility in the world, combining geothermal, photovoltaic and solar thermal power generation, was inaugurated in Nevada. The ribbon-cutting ceremony of the world’s first triple hybrid power plant featuring Nevada’s governor and Italy’s Prime Minister took place yesterday in Fallon, Nevada.

Renew Economy 31st March 2016 read more »

Community Renewables

A community energy project near Stratford-upon-Avon is seeking a £5 million investment from members of the public for a 5 per cent annual return. Stratford Community Energy is coordinating the project which consists of a large solar farm installed on former DEFRA land. It will generate 4,696 MW hours of electricity annually and reduce the region’s carbon emissions by up to 1,800 tonnes per year. The community solar farm is only the second project in the country to benefit from a battery storage unit with a 1000 kW energy storage system to be installed on the site.

Utility Week 30th March 2016 read more »

Renewable Investment

Strathclyde Pension Fund – one of the biggest of its sort in Britain – has invested another €50 million in a Dublin-based renewable energy fund.

Scottish Energy News 31st March 2016 read more »

100% Renewables

Sri Lanka is an island nation situated south of India with a population of 21.3 million inhabitants. The country´s Sustainable Energy Authority in consultation with the Ministry of Power & Energy has set the target to use 100% renewable energy by 2030 in the electricity sector. In 2013, the primary energy supply mainly consisted of 43% of biomass and 13% of hydro power.

100% Renewables 1st March 2016 read more »

Renewables – solar

The scale of the surge in solar farm development that has occurred ahead of the government’s controversial move to end Renewable Obligation Certificate (ROC) subsidy support for new projects from the end of this month will be underlined today, as leading developer Solarcentury reveals it will deliver 140MWp of large-scale solar farm sites during ROC year 2015/16. Some of these systems are already connected to the grid, and the remainder will be connected by the end of the month, the company said.

Business Green 30th March 2016 read more »

Fossil Fuels

Energy companies can keep building new coal and gas power stations for only one more year if the world is to avoid dangerous levels of global warming, Oxford university researchers have found. The startling finding dashes the widely-held assumption that climate change is a distant problem that today’s governments can safely leave to their successors. It even shocked some of the Oxford academics who produced it. “I was surprised,” said economist Cameron Hepburn, co-author of a peer-reviewed paper on the findings to be published in the Applied Energy journal.

FT 31st March 2016 read more »

Old coal plants are increasingly lying dormant, yet new ones keep getting built, according to a new report. The analysis by CoalSwarm, which includes researchers from Greenpeace and the Sierra Club, looks at the state of global coal over the last year. Their findings highlight a disconnect between the recent reductions in demand for coal, and the hundreds of gigawatts of new capacity that developers want to build in the future.

Carbon Brief 30th March 2016 read more »

Negotiations are underway to move at least £1m away from fossil fuels and into clean energy, as more than 400 churches across the UK begin to switch to renewable energy providers. The Big Church Switch – launched at the beginning of Lent – has seen 424 churches begin negotiations to switch to renewable energy providers that will cater for their energy needs using clean energy. The initiative, which is being run by charities Christian Aid and Tearfund, has received backing from the Bishop of Manchester, who described the move as a ‘practical’ way to battle climate change.

Edie 30th March 2016 read more »

Climate

Sea levels could rise far more rapidly than expected in coming decades, according to new research that reveals Antarctica’s vast ice cap is less stable than previously thought. The UN’s climate science body had predicted up to a metre of sea level rise this century – but it did not anticipate any significant contribution from Antarctica, where increasing snowfall was expected to keep the ice sheet in balance. According a study, published in the journal Nature, collapsing Antarctic ice sheets are expected to double sea-level rise to two metres by 2100, if carbon emissions are not cut. Previously, only the passive melting of Antarctic ice by warmer air and seawater was considered but the new work added active processes, such as the disintegration of huge ice cliffs.

Guardian 30th March 2016 read more »

British health systems are unprepared for the “devastating” effects of climate change, leading health bodies have warned. As extreme weather events such as flooding or heatwaves become more common, the UK Health Alliance on Climate Change urged ministers not to “wait for disaster” before acting. The new alliance, made up of leading health bodies including royal colleges, medical faculties, medical publications and doctors’ organisations, called on the government to be “properly prepared”. The group, launched on Wednesday, said the health service is ill-prepared for dealing with the effects of climate change such as the extreme weather seen this winter.

Guardian 30th March 2016 read more »

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Published: 31 March 2016