Mark Lynas: Finally the Government is seeing sense about nuclear power. Last week, Energy Secretary (and former nuclear sceptic) Chris Huhne made a spectacular U-turn and backed a new generation of nuclear power stations. Far from being a failed technology (as he once described it), he said Britain needs nuclear electricity generation to get off the oil hook and now reforms will be introduced to encourage businesses to invest in it. As an environmental campaigner who has also performed a radical about-face on the issue of nuclear power, I believe Huhne is absolutely right. Greenpeace routinely inflates the death toll for the 1986 Chernobyl disaster by a factor of 1,000 (the true total is likely to have been less than 50) in order to stoke fears about atomic energy. Had the Green movement of the Seventies and Eighties supported nuclear power instead of violently opposing plans for greater use of atomic energy, a move that led to more coal power plants being built we would not be facing the climate crisis we are today.
Daily Mail 4th July 2011 more >>
New proposals to ease traffic flow in Somerset when thousands of workers descend to build the proposed new Hinkley C nuclear power station have been revealed by developer EDF Energy. The new nuclear power station could generate around 5,000 construction jobs alone and residents in nearby villages have campaigned for a new road to be built so workers would bypass Bridgwater and villages. EDF say the plans include an alternative location for the park and ride site near Junction 24 of the M5 which was originally proposed for a greenfield location.
Western Daily Press 3rd July 2011 more >>
POWER station bosses stressed the need to push ahead with plans for a dry nuclear fuel store at Sizewell in the wake of the Fukushima disaster, newly-released documents have revealed. In documents released under the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act, EDF said the events in Japan had reinforced its commitment to proceed with the project, which it said was critically important to keeping the Sizewell B reactor working past 2015. It said it feared that a delay in the Goverment granting approval for the project of two to three months would start to put this timescale at risk.
East Anglian Daily Times 2nd July 2011 more >>
Electricity Market Reform
Greater transparency is needed to ensure procurement contracts for new nuclear plants under the proposed electricity market reforms do not leave the public bearing construction cost risks, says an independent report. The report, by Stephen Thomas, professor of energy policy at the University of Greenwich, follows criticisms from the House of Commons Energy and Climate Change Committee that the reforms are skewed in nuclears favour. The contract-for-difference (CFD) is a central element of the reforms, aimed at securing low carbon capacity by reducing the commercial risks associated with nuclears long pay-back periods. The arrangement between the procurer and the developer would guarantee a fixed income from generation for up to 25 years via a strike price. If electricity sales revenue fell below this, the government would provide the difference. Professor Thomas says CFDs should not allow developers to transfer construction cost overruns to the public after a strike price is agreed, given government pledges that it will not specifically subsidise new nuclear. He adds that while the energy and climate change department (DECC) sees new nuclear as a proven low cost option, this is impossible to gauge without full transparency on CFDs, including any provisions made for construction risk and plant reliability guarantees.
ENDS Report 29th June 2011 more >>
One of the nation’s major energy suppliers, Npower, may be sold by the German giant RWE, reports over the weekend suggested, in a deal worth £5bn. RWE is said to be thinking about the move because it needs to relieve itself of debts, and to pay for a strategic commitment for it to invest in a new generation of “green” power stations but also because of “dissatisfaction” with British energy policy, say sources. Spanish power group Iberdrola is a likely buyer for Npower.
Independent 4th July 2011 more >>
Britain’s desire to boost investment and competition in the energy sector will be threatened if German utility group RWE presses ahead with a £5bn sale of npower, MPs have warned. Tim Yeo, the MP and chairman of the Energy and Climate Change Select Committee, said the potential sale is “worrying”. “In the work my committee has done this year we have seen a problem in how we will attract the investment needed into this industry,” he stated. “We will not get it if companies can see better returns elsewhere in countries with more sympathetic regulations and policies”. Mr Yeo said there has been a “lack of predictability” in Government policies toward the industry on issues such as low carbon, planning, and the controversial North Sea oil tax in the Budget.
Telegraph 4th July 2011 more >>
RWE has launched a strategic review of its utilities empire that could lead to its British division, npower, being spun off. The German company, whose credit rating was slashed by Standard & Poors last month, is reported to have hired Goldman Sachs to advise it on its future. This year RWE held tentative merger discussions with Iberdrola, of Spain, which has been struggling to appease its hostile shareholder ACS, the construction group. The talks were dropped and the Iberdrola chief executive Ignacio Galán has since said that he has no big deals in the pipeline.
Times 4th July 2011 more >>
It is too early to say what long-term impact the Fukushima disaster in Japan will have on plans for new nuclear power plants. But so far the effect has not been as dramatic as might have been anticipated. Of 570 units planned before Fukushima, only 37 have been axed or put on hold since the crisis, according to Arthur D. Little, a consultancy.
FT 4th July 2011 more >>
In May, Wakamono Manifest Sakutei Iinkai, a policy research group dedicated to issues relevant to people under 40, posted results of a survey in which members were asked who they wanted to lead Japan. There was no consensus, but the individual who received the most votes was Liberal Democratic Party lawmaker Taro Kono. Kono, the son of former foreign minister Yohei Kono, is often referred to as an LDP heretic because of his opposition to Japan’s nuclear energy policy, which predated the March 11 disaster.
Japan Times 3rd July 2011 more >>
A leading contender to replace Naoto Kan as Japans prime minister has called for the country to phase out nuclear power over the next two decades. Seiji Maehara, one of the most popular figures in the ruling Democratic party, told the Financial Times in an interview that construction of new nuclear reactors should basically be stopped following the crisis at the tsunami-crippled Fukushima Daiichi atomic plant.
FT 3rd July 2011 more >>
In a nation plagued by weak political leadership, it has fallen to the local governor of an obscure southern prefecture to make a crucial decision that could help determine the future of nuclear power in Japan after Fukushima. The governor, Yasushi Furukawa of Saga Prefecture, must decide in coming days whether to support a request by Prime Minister Naoto Kan to restart two reactors at a local nuclear plant that have been shut down since last winter for regular maintenance. There are growing warnings here that if he decides no, and other governors follow his lead, every nuclear reactor in Japan could end up idled in less than a year.
New York Times 2nd July 2011 more >>
The German government eventually wants to replace nuclear power which produces about a quarter of the countrys electricity with renewable energy sources. But it knows it will have to rely on new coal and gas-fired plants for a few years until it has enough green generating capacity. As chancellor Angela Merkels energy switch plan points out, fossil fuel-burning power stations due to come into service in the next few years could replace about half of the 20,000 megawatts of nuclear capacity that will be taken out by 2022. But the government says it will need another 10,000MW in capacity to make sure Germany does not suffer power outages or have to resort to importing electricity from, say, French nuclear plants.
FT 3rd July 2011 more >>