The Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) and the Environment Agency have closed 12 more ‘issues’ with the generic design of a nuclear reactor proposed for construction in the UK. In December 2011, the regulators identified 31 issues on EDF Energy and Areva’s EPR that must be addressed as a prerequisite to issuing final acceptance of the design. The closure of the additional 12 issues, confirmed today through the publication of our letters to EDF Energy and Areva, brings the total number closed to 30, and leaves one outstanding.
ONR 5th Dec 2012 more »
It has been a mildly pleasant surprise for me to read the details of the Energy Bill proposals that were finally published last week and to realise that this effort represents, for the renewables lobby at least, a distinct improvement on the awfulness that preceded it. Three changes essentially contribute to this change. First, the income stream from the so-called Contract-for-Differences (CfD) ‘feed-in tariff’ will be guaranteed by the Government. Second, the Bill proposes reserve powers to be given to the Secretary of State to alter the licenses of electricity suppleirs to make them give power purchase agreements (PPAs) to independent generators. Third, developers of renewable projects have the prospect of being able to take up CfDs or PPAs when they need them and can set up their projects.
Dave Toke’s Green Energy Blog 5th Dec 2012 more »
Eon and RWE’s sale of Horizon Nuclear Power to Hitachi flowed from German energy policy, explains Simon Jones. Hitachi plans to build up to six nuclear plants in Britain following its purchase of Horizon Nuclear Power from joint owners Eon and RWE. With Japan set to phase out atomic power by 2040, the £690 million deal secures Hitachi much-needed design investments abroad. The Japanese engineering group has even moved beyond contract plant-building work with this acquisition to become in time a full-blown nuclear operator. Heavily indebted Eon and RWE blamed their UK nuclear retreat on huge building costs and falling power prices. But the disposal is also an acknowledgement that Germany’s utility giants cannot buck the new energy priorities set by Berlin.
Utility Week 5th Dec 2012 more »
EDF Energy today announed it wants to operate its nuclear power stations Hinkley Point B in Somerset and Hunterston B in North Ayrshire until 2023. The Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) is in the process of examining EDF Energy Nuclear Generation Ltd (NGL) ’Lifetime Management Programme’ for the extension of the operational lifetime of its existing fleet of nuclear power reactors. Our work has included reviews of the plants to establish where improvements could be made in monitoring plant and material performance and identifying where further work is necessary on the impact of ageing. As a part of ONR’s intervention on lifetime management, we reviewed NGL’s proposals for Hinkley Point B and Hunterston B and are broadly content with NGL’s proposals. ONR will continue to regulate further operation by the normal arrangements made under the nuclear site licence. ONR is content for the plants to continue to operate subject to: satisfactory Periodic Safety Reviews (PSRs) being carried out (the next PSR for Hinkley Point B and Hunterston B is due to be submitted to ONR in 2015); and the results from routine maintenance, inspection and testing continue to support the agreed plant safety case. Following each triennial statutory outage NGL requires ONR’s permission to return to service. If at any time ONR was not content with the safety of the plant we would not permit continued operation. Background information on this subject in general was published in May this year.
HSE 4th Dec 2012 more »
HSE 22nd May 2012 more »
Letter Colin McInnes: YOUR editorial comment rightly highlights that we should welcome the extension to the operating life of the Hunterston B nuclear plant. By prohibiting new nuclear build in Scotland, the Government has therefore put two prime locations for new nuclear plants permanently off limits and tied the hands of those who advocate the development of clean energy. For a Government which brought forward robust climate change legislation this is very much a sin of omission.
Letter Bob Hamilton: YOUR excellent leader on the retention of Hunterston B nuclear power station highlights several shortcomings in the energy policies emanating from Holyrood. Indeed you pose questions that remain unanswered; one can search dozens of documents from Holyrood (and Westminster) and fail to find any detailed planning regarding the proposed energy mix that will take care of the intermittency of wind, tide and wave generators by 2020 or beyond. The conclusion has to be that no such viable answer exists.
Letter Allan Wilson: I’m delighted that the SNP appears to have overcome its anti-nuclear prejudice to support this decision, even if it places a question mark over the credibility of its position.
Herald 6th Dec 2012 more »
Energy bosses have promised an ageing Westcountry nuclear power station is safe after it was given a seven-year life extension. Hinkley Point B near Bridgwater, West Somerset, started generation in 1976 and was due to be decommissioned in 2016. After making the announcement yesterday, French-owned energy giant EDF Energy said the decision to keep it running until 2023 was made following a “thorough review of safety”. Anti-nuclear campaigners have condemned the announcement, however, claiming it “mirrors mistakes” made at Japan’s tsunami-hit Fukushima power station that was also given an extension.
Western Morning News 5th Dec 2012 more »
World Energy Council
The most sustainable national power systems in the world combine nuclear with hydro for mass low-carbon generation, a World Energy Council study shows. WEC’s Energy Sustainability index compared 90 countries in terms of the so-called trilemma that every government faces in setting its energy policy: balancing the needs for energy supply to be reliable, socially equitable and environmentally acceptable.
World Nuclear News 5th Dec 2012 more »
GDF Suez, the French power generator, warned profits in 2013 and 2014 will fall because of harsh conditions in its traditional European markets as it unveiled plans to cut costs, reduce debt and step up its focus on growing markets. GDF Suez is shifting its focus in Europe, where it has been hampered by difficult economic and regulatory conditions, towards renewable energy production and energy efficiency.
FT 5th Dec 2012 more »
Wind is now cheaper than new nuclear in France. Liberation reports that for the second time in a little more than a year the cost of a new reactor under construction at Flamanville, France has risen dramatically. Originally scheduled to be completed this year for a cost of €3.3 billion, the cost of the European Pressurized Reactor (EPR) doubled in 2011 to €6 billion and completion was delayed until 2016. Constructors Areva and Electricité de France (EDF) have announced the cost has again risen, now to €8.5 billion ($10.6 billion) for the 1,650 MW reactor.
Wind Works 4th Dec 2012 more »
Italy’s power company ENEL is ending its nuclear energy cooperation with France’s Electricité de France (EDF), the group announced in a statement issued after stock markets closed on Tuesday. Construction costs of the Flamanville plant were too high after growing from the 3.3 billion euros originally planned to the 8.5 billion announced two days ago by EDF. The Italian group, the country’s biggest utility by market value, said it was terminating its participation in the European Pressurized Reactor (EPR) project to build a third-generation reactor in Flamanville, in north-west France, and another five power plants to be built in France. After the termination of the accord, the two companies said in separate statements, EDF will reimburse ENEL with 613 million euros, its investment in the project plus accrued interests, but ‘will recuperate the integrity of its rights on the project, including all revenues from the commercialization of electricity’.
Ansamed 5th Dec 2012 more »
Surprise, surprise: the cost of building a new nuclear reactor at Flamanville in France has more than doubled to €8.5 billion from 3.3 billion! But this is not really a surprise, is it? It is simply further evidence that the costs of the nuclear “renaissance” are out of control.
Greenpeace 5th Dec 2012 more »
The “nuclear village” is the term commonly used in Japan to refer to the institutional and individual pro-nuclear advocates who comprise the utilities, nuclear vendors, bureaucracy, Diet (Japan’s parliament), financial sector, media and academia. This is a village without boundaries or residence cards, an imagined collective bound by solidarity over promoting nuclear energy. If it had a coat of arms the motto would be “Safe, Cheap and Reliable”. There is considerable overlap with the so-called ‘Iron Triangle’ of big business, the bureaucracy and Liberal Democratic Party that called the shots in Japan from the mid-1950s, and the evocative moniker ‘Japan, Inc.’, a reference to cooperative ties between the government and private sector. The nuclear village is convenient shorthand to describe a powerful interest group with a specific agenda, one that it has effectively and profitably promoted since the 1950s. The Village’s perimeter defenses may have been breached, but the ramparts remain well defended. Japan’s new national energy strategy 2012 may call for phasing out nuclear power, or significant downsizing, but there will be opportunities for the Village to reverse this reversal. It has the resources and resilience to overcome its opposition and has much riding on the outcome. Just as the 2010 strategy was scrapped due to an unanticipated nuclear accident, some shock such as an energy supply disrupting war in the Middle East or a financial crisis could derail phasing out of nuclear energy.
Asia-Pacific Journal (accessed) 6th Dec 2012 more »
Kristen Iverson grew up next to one of the world’s most notorious nuclear bomb factories, Rocky Flats in Colorado. Shrouded in secrecy when it opened in 1953 at the height of the Cold War, many residents living nearby initially thought the plant was making household cleaning supplies. In fact, workers were building plutonium triggers for nuclear bombs. In her book “Full Body Burden: Growing up in the nuclear shadow of Rocky Flats”, Iverson describes how her community was divided by the controversial work going on. She also catalogues the series of environmental safety breaches at Rocky Flats over four decades which ultimately led to the FBI raiding the plant in 1989. Weapons production ceased a year later. A huge clean-up operation is still in place at Rocky Flats and research is continuing into the long-term environmental and health effects of contamination from the complex.
BBC 6th Dec 2012 more »
A nuclear-armed Iran would cause a regional arms race and make Tehran more isolated and vulnerable, according to a former Iranian negotiator who argues that the Islamic state is not seeking to build nuclear bombs.
Reuters 5th Dec 2012 more »
George Osborne has come under heavy criticism from green businesses and NGOs, after unveiling a raft of measures to stimulate investment in up to 37GW of new gas capacity alongside today’s Autumn Statement.
Business Green 5th Dec 2012 more »
Coming hard on the heels of last week’s Energy Bill, which set out new stimulus for renewable energy, and news the week before of new investment in embryonic carbon capture and storage technologies, we’re told today that in his (heroically misnamed) Autumn Statement, the Chancellor is to announce new tax breaks for shale gas exploration and plans for the building of up to 40 new gas-burning power stations. It’s very tricky to see how this squares with the UK’s binding commitment to cutting carbon dioxide emissions by 80 per cent of 1990 levels by 2050, which implies that electricity generation will have to be effectively decarbonised.
Engineer 5th Dec 2012 more »
George Osborne on Wednesday fired the starting gun on a new “dash for gas” that will partly use tax breaks for shale production, though the government admitted it did not know whether future gas prices would rise or fall. The chancellor used the autumn statement on the country’s finances to unveil a long-awaited but highly controversial gas generation strategy that critics believe will lock Britain in to a high-carbon future.
Guardian 5th Dec 2012 more »
In attempting to whip the UK economy into action, George Osborne has donned flame-retardant blinkers and backed a fiery dash for gas and rush for roads whilst looking the gift horse of the fast-growing green economy in the mouth.”We don’t want British families and businesses to be left behind as gas prices tumble on the other side of the Atlantic,” said Osborne, referring to the impact shale gas has had on the US energy market. But no serious analyst predicts the same fracking revolution for Europe or the UK. Instead, in the race to lead the global green market for low-carbon goods and services, currently worth £3.3 trillion a year, the chancellor wants to flog the dead horse of fossil fuels and leave the UK languishing at the back of the field.
Guardian 5th Dec 2012 more »
Fracking, the controversial technology for releasing underground shale gas, is likely to get the go-ahead next week as part of a major new strategy for maximising the use of gas as a low-cost fuel.
This is bitterly criticised by environmentalists, who highlight the risks of fracking and claim that the renewed emphasis on a fossil fuel, instead of renewable energy, for electricity generation puts a major question mark against Britain’s ability to meet targets for cutting carbon emissions.
Independent 5th Dec 2012 more »
In a gas strategy published alongside the Autumn Statement, the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) said gas will play “a major role in our electricity mix” for decades to come. However, the Government was warned that there were no guarantees the new gas plants would actually be built, as investors wait for details of incentives. Up to 26 gigawatts of new gas capacity could be needed by 2030 to help keep the lights on – up from previous estimates of between 10GW and 20GW.
Telegraph 6th Dec 2012 more »
Shale gas could make a “substantial contribution” to UK gas supplies from the 2020s and its development will be overseen by a dedicated Office for Unconventional Gas and Oil, it was revealed on Wednesday.
Telegraph 5th Dec 2012 more »
Ministers plan to offer energy companies payments to guarantee they can have gas power plants available when needed, through a so-called “capacity market”. It will also offer payments for other kinds of power plants and for companies that can guarantee to cut power use when needed. The plan is likely to result in an increase of bills of around £14 a year, which the Government said was “effectively an insurance premium against the risk of blackouts”.
Telegraph 5th Dec 2012 more »
Proposals by the Chancellor to build 37 gigawatts of new gas power stations would break the government’s own laws on carbon emissions, the Liberal Democrat energy and climate secretary has suggested.
Times 5th Dec 2012 more »
The UK will significantly weaken its efforts to tackle climate change if the EU continues on its current trajectory for tackling emissions – according to the government’s gas strategy. The plan, to be adopted in the 2014 review of the carbon budgets, would allow 37GW of new gas power by 2030, around 35-40 new plants. The proposals claim the reduction would be consistent with an ’emissions intensity’ target of 200g/kwh for the UK power sector. That target would be four times higher than that recommended by the government’s climate advisors, the Committee on Climate Change (CCC). Even if the EU improves its trajectory the plan proposes a central scenario which would involve building 26GW of new plants in a scenario the government suggests is compatible with an intensity of 100g/kwh, double the recommended level. The document says that if the government were to stick to the 50g/kwh limit the CCC says is necessary to meet our climate targets it would be able to build 19GW of new plants, still a significant amount. But the claim is based on an assumption that the new plants would run just 15% of the time (see table 2B, page 22) and appears to assume the closure and re-building of 2/3 of our current gas capacity.
Energy Desk 5th Dec 2012 more »
Deconstructing the numbers behind the dash for gas.
Energy Desk 5th Dec 2012 more »
Simple chemical pathways open up proliferation possibilities for the proposed nuclear ‘wonder fuel’, warn Stephen F. Ashley and colleagues.
Nature 5th Dec 2012 more »
Writing in a Comment piece in the new issue of the journal, Nature, nuclear energy specialists from four British universities suggest that, although thorium has been promoted as a superior fuel for future nuclear energy generation, it should not be regarded as inherently proliferation resistant. The piece highlights ways in which small quantities of uranium-233, a material useable in nuclear weapons, could be produced covertly from thorium, by chemically separating another isotope, protactinium-233, during its formation. The chemical processes that are needed for protactinium separation could possibly be undertaken using standard lab equipment, potentially allowing it to happen in secret, and beyond the oversight of organisations such as the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the paper says.
Phys Org 5th Dec 2012 more »
It sounded bizarre, says Sorensen. Every reactor he had ever heard of used some form of solid uranium fuel — starting with the ‘light-water’ reactors that currently dominate the nuclear-power industry. But the book explained that the molten-salt technology had been demonstrated some three decades earlier at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee — and that the fluid uranium- or thorium-containing fuel offered major advantages. Molten-salt reactors would be impervious to catastrophic meltdown, for example, and instead of producing nuclear waste laced with plutonium and other long-lived radioisotopes, they could destroy those isotopes almost completely.
Nature 5th Dec 2012 more »