In the port of Whitehaven, a homemade banner affixed to an industrial garage confronts those arriving by train: “Save services at West Cumberland Hospital. Do not arrive D.o.A at Carlisle.” The local hospital risks losing its major trauma and maternity units – with ambulances facing a 40-mile journey in unpredictable rural traffic. Just about every shop window in Whitehaven and beyond bears a poster urging action. For the Labour party, which trails dismally in national polls, a row involving the crisis-torn NHS should be a gift, especially before a crucial byelection in the area. But right now the party cannot buy a break. The sprawling Copeland constituency, in which Whitehaven sits, is part of Britain’s self-styled “energy coast” – home to Sellafield and the proposed site of Europe’s largest nuclear power plant at Moorside. Nuclear energy is the area’s major employer and, as the Conservative party have been quick to underline, Labour’s leader Jeremy Corbyn is no fan of nuclear power. The nuclear question could be crucial in determining a contest that Labour can scarcely afford to lose. The byelection, for which no date has yet been set, has been prompted by the resignation of local MP Jamie Reed, who has gone to work for Sellafield. The loss of a formerly safe Labour seat would deepen fears that – after being all but wiped off the map in Scotland – the party is on the verge of some kind of implosion in the north of England. Copeland has already shunned Labour once, ignoring the party line and voting to leave the EU by a margin of 62%. The Tories, who squeezed Labour’s majority to just 2,564 in 2015, have not held this seat since 1935; a victory in Copeland would make them the first government to make a byelection gain since 1982. Copeland’s mayor, plain-speaking independent Mike Starkie, says the area is in desperate need of fresh thinking from central government – and that a new approach to immigration that prioritises skilled workers could be the answer. “The general perception here would be that people in Westminster don’t care about places like this,” said Starkie, who voted for Brexit. “We’ve got to be able to attract bright people from all over. The nuclear industry in Copeland employs 10,000 people directly and supports thousands more jobs in the supply chain. “If Sellafield shut tomorrow – which it can’t – we might as well lock the gates on the town,” says Starkie. Labour must convince locals that their leader doesn’t want this to happen. The problem, says Whitehaven councillor Christine Wharrier, is that “people assume Corbyn is anti-nuclear everything. There is a distrust there. They know he’s anti-nuclear weapons, so regardless of what he says about nuclear power – and he never has said he’s anti-nuclear power – it’s easy for the Tories.” “Employment at Sellafield is not at risk in any way whatsoever – it’s a decommissioning plant and those jobs will be secure for half a century,” she said. “But the Tories are playing to people’s fears. We saw the same with Brexit. People want to look after themselves and their families – and that means they’ll sometimes accept myths as fact.” Other Labour campaigners echo her concerns. “You’d be hard-pressed to find an elected Labour person in Copeland who doesn’t have a link to the nuclear industry,” said Whitehaven councillor Bill Kirkbride. “We’d have no economy otherwise. But the general view on the doorstep regarding the leader is an issue without a doubt. If they bring up the issue of Jeremy’s attitude to nuclear, we have to tell them he doesn’t write party policy. He’s entitled to his private thoughts like any MP and councillor.” Down the coast in Seascale – the windswept village that is home to Sellafield – Corbyn looms large in Tory councillor David Moore’s sights. “Labour will campaign on the NHS because they’re desperate to stay away from nuclear. Jamie Reed resigned from the shadow cabinet on the grounds of nuclear when he was elected first time around. So even the current Labour MP doesn’t trust Corbyn on nuclear. Why should local people?”
Observer 7th Jan 2017 read more »
An investigation into the construction of a new reactor at the Flamanville nuclear power plant on the Normandy coast has been launched following safety concerns. Construction of a third reactor at the plant, which is about 30 miles from Jersey, started in 2007 and is being carried out by manufacturers Areva. The project has been dogged with problems, including concerns about potentially faulty components. In 2015, Areva warned Autorité de Sûreté Nucléaire – the French nuclear regulator –that anomalies had been detected in the steel covering the reactor. They also said that excessive quantities of carbon in the steel in the top and bottom of the reactor’s vessel, which forms a shell around it, could cause cracks in the structure.
Jersey Evening Post 7th Jan 2017 read more »
Dozens of armed police have lost their jobs for ‘slacking off’ while they were meant to be guarding Britain’s nuclear bomb factory. More than 30 Ministry of Defence Police (MDP) officers were either sacked or allowed to quit after bosses discovered they had not been patrolling the top-security site properly – possibly for years. The force uncovered ‘potentially systemic and long-running failures in duty and supervision by officers’ at Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) Burghfield, the 225-acre site in Berkshire where warheads for the Trident submarines are assembled.
Daily Mail 8th Jan 2017 read more »
A Chinese-born U.S. nuclear engineer has pleaded guilty to helping a state-controlled Chinese nuclear energy company build reactors in that country using U.S. technology. The U.S. Department of Justice said Friday that 66-year-old Szuhsiung “Allen” Ho pleaded guilty to conspiracy to illegally bypass U.S. regulations on production of nuclear materials outside the United States. Ho had dual citizenship in China, where he was employed with the China General Nuclear Power Company, and the U.S., where he was owner and president of Delaware-based Energy Technology International. Ho faces up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. He will be sentenced May 17 in U.S. District Court in Knoxville. Court documents say Ho consulted with the Department of Energy and was told his work fell outside the scope of regulation.
Asahi Shimbun 7th Jan 2017 read more »
A nuclear engineer pleaded guilty to violating the Atomic Energy Act by using United States information to improve China’s nuclear program. Szuhsiung Ho, also known as Allen Ho, 66, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to unlawfully engage or participate in the production or development of special nuclear material outside the United States, without the required authorization from the U.S. Department of Energy, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
UPI 7th Jan 2017 read more »
HIRONO, Fukushima Prefecture–The tragic death in a fire of its only full-time doctor at a hospital here has dealt another crisis to this tiny community, which is still struggling to rebuild from the Fukushima nuclear disaster. Hideo Takano, 81, director of Takano Hospital, died on Dec. 30, threatening the future of the hospital and possibly the community of 2,800 residents.
Asahi Shimbun 4th Jan 2017 read more »
Renewables – Floating Turbines
NEW jobs could be created at Scrabster to service a floating wind farm based off the north Caithness coast. Dounreay Trì Limited has agreed a deal with Scrabster Harbour for the port to become its service base for two floating turbines planned to be based nine km from the Dounreay coastline. If Scottish Ministers approve the project, it will create seven full time jobs at Scrabster and support many other jobs ranging from the harbour authority itself, through to fuel suppliers, cranage and other supply chain activities. Dounreay Trì Project operational and maintenance manager Simon Tuchewicz said, “Scrabster Harbour is an excellent facility, with great local infrastructure and support services that we believe can fully meet the operation and maintenance requirements over the 25-year Project life.”
John O Groat Journal 6th Jan 2017 read more »
Conservation body WWF Scotland has welcomed the prospect of new jobs for two Highland ports from a planned floating wind farm demonstrator project.
Press & Journal 7th Jan 2017 read more »
Renewables – solar
A new programme aimed at helping fuel poor households reduce energy bills is being trialled in London. Camden Council, Islington Council and Waltham Forest Council have joined forces for the ‘24/7 Solar’ project, part-funded by National Energy Action. It will test the potential benefits of storing daytime electricity generated by solar panels to supplement the household’s evening use. This will provide evidence as to whether the technologies can effectively reduce the energy bills of those householders in or at risk of fuel poverty. The solar panels, ranging from 1.62KW to 3.78KW are being tested with three different battery types to compare performance during the lifetime of the project. Data will be gathered and all three battery storage technologies – Maslow, Growatt, Sonnen – will be assessed on installation, reliability and savings generated.
Energy Live News 7th Jan 2017 read more »
Green Investment Bank
The Green Investment Bank (GIB) is set to be stripped of its prized assets once Australia’s Macquarie seizes control of the state-owned lender later this month. The Australian bank has already lined up suitors for some of the Green Investment Bank’s most valuable assets – even though it has yet to seal the £3.8bn takeover. The Edinburgh-based lender’s wind farm and biomass projects are understood to be on the block. Macquarie bankers have in recent weeks held talks with a number of potential buyers. The programme of sell-offs is likely to amplify concerns over the privatisation of GIB, which was created by former business secretary Sir Vince Cable in 2012 to kickstart the renewable energy industry.
Times 8th Jan 2017 read more »
It is hugely disquieting that the so-called vampire kangaroo is already seeking to make a fast buck on its latest British raid. As we report today, it is sounding out buyers for a large chunk of the assets that the Green Investment Bank has acquired since it was founded in 2012. These range from valuable wind farms to biomass projects. Even before it has signed on the dotted line, Macquarie is also planning heavy redundancies at the green lender, which was created to turbocharge low-carbon projects in Britain. There’s an unmistakeable whiff of asset-stripping. If the prospect of being short-changed weren’t bad enough, the hollowing out of the Green Investment Bank could endanger the development of Britain’s renewable energy industry.
Times 8th Jan 2017 read more »
Smart Energy GB, the official campaign to drive take-up of smart gas and electricity meters, has sparked industry debate over its tactics after commissioning a professionally-recorded song about the controversial £11bn scheme. The organisation, set up by the Government to raise household awareness and support for smart meters, is funded by levies on energy suppliers, which ultimately pass their costs on to consumers through higher bills. Ministers want suppliers to install the meters, which send automatic energy usage readings back to the companies, in every UK home and business by 2020. Last week, Smart Energy GB revealed it had spent three months training the “world’s first choir of smart meter experts” to sing a song about the roll-out, specially composed by celebrated choirmaster Tim Rhys Evans. “Changes”, which features lyrics such as “time for smarter choices”, was recorded at Rockfield Studios, famed for being used by the likes of Oasis and Queen, for release on YouTube and Spotify. While some in the industry supported the efforts – with staff from firms including British Gas, E.On and SSE taking part – it is understood some suppliers declined to participate amid concerns about whether it represented a worthwhile use of time and money.
Telegraph 7th Jan 2017 read more »