Campaign Update

Nuclear Industry’s Dead Cat Bounce

We urgently need a Plan B for UK Energy Policy, says Nick Butler in the Financial Times. With Toshiba and Engie likely to withdraw from the Moorside project the UK’s plans to make new nuclear the core of future energy supply has a serious problem. Hinkley Point and Sizewell are both still in doubt because a new French government after elections in May could decide that subsidies to EDF are unsustainable. EDF is deeply indebted and its finances have continued to deteriorate since its finance director, Thomas Piquemal, resigned last spring. A recapitalisation of the company is essential and for that to succeed drastic change is necessary. And questions around the technical integrity of the EPR reactor and the ability of the company to complete a construction project remain unresolved. Delays to the nuclear programme now look almost certain and these will be compounded by Britain’s decision to leave Euratom.

Butler says Hitachi, which wants to build an ABWR at Wylfa, looks to be in better shape, and the technology is simpler. But the financing of the construction remains an open question. But, as we discuss in the latest edition of nuClear News (No.92) Hitachi Ltd. is set to lose tens of billions of yen this financial year after withdrawing from a uranium enrichment joint venture in the US. Although Hitachi says it plans to proceed with Wylfa by “ensuring costs are thoroughly managed” a healthy amount of scepticism remains in order.

Jim Green, writing in the Ecologist, says the ripple-effects of Toshiba’s latest problems will be many and varied. Japan’s ambitions to develop a large nuclear export business are in tatters. It’s not just Toshiba. Other nuclear utilities around the world are also in deep trouble. Their problems were summarised in the July 2016 World Nuclear Industry Status Report:

Many of the traditional nuclear and fossil fuel based utilities are struggling with a dramatic plunge in wholesale power prices, a shrinking client base, declining power consumption, high debt loads, increasing production costs at aging facilities, and stiff competition, especially from renewables.”

Green says the nuclear renaissance is turning out to be more of a dead cat bounce than a renaissance.

Posted: 6 February 2017

Hinkley Point C: A Story of Good vs Evil for the Pantomime Season

Solar power is expected to be the cheapest form of energy (not just electricity) everywhere in the world by around 2030.Yet the UK Government and the French nuclear industry continue to struggle on with failed nuclear technology. The Stop Hinkley Campaign says it’s a real story of good versus evil for the pantomime season.

Good solar and renewable energy will triumph in the end. (oh yes it will!) All and sundry – from investment bankers to energy experts – keep telling the Government that for nuclear power ‘it’s behind you!’Unfortunately, if Government doesn’t come to its senses soon, electricity consumers could be left with rather a large bill”, according to Stop Hinkley spokesperson, Roy Pumfrey.

Vincent de Rivaz, the chief executive of EDF Energy has assured Parliament that Hinkley Point C will be built by 2025 on time and within budget (oh no it won’t!). But then EDF predicted in 2008 that electricity from Hinkley Point C would cost just £45/MWh – less than half the £92.50 consumers are going to have to pay for it. (1) And de Rivaz himself predicted in 2007 that Hinkley electricity would be cooking our turkeys by Christmas 2017 (oh no it won’t!). (2) At the same time, FOI requests have revealed that just one Government Department has blown over £20million of taxpayers’ money (oh yes it has!) on pointless consultancy on the shockingly bad deal struck with EDF. (3)

The French nuclear industry is in a state of chaos (oh yes it is!), and no-one is quite sure where it will end up. Last week EDF’s offices in Paris were raided by French competition authorities amid allegations that it was exploiting its position as a former state monopoly to keep rivals out of the market in France. (4) The day before Greenpeace filed a lawsuit against the Company, alleging that it was guilty of false accounting deliberately underestimating the cost of its nuclear reactors.

Meanwhile the problem, first discovered in 2014 at Flamanville (the reactor being built in Normandy which is the same type as the two proposed for Hinkley Point – the EPR) has escalated beyond EDF’s worst fears. The discovery that the steel used for the cap on the reactor pressure vessel had carbon levels above permitted limits led to an internal investigation at Le Creusot – the French reactor builder, Areva’s metal forge. This in turn led to the discovery of yet more anomalies. Areva is now reported to be reviewing all 9,000 manufacturing records at the forge dating back as far as 1943, including files from more than 6,000 nuclear components. It has also been discovered that some components forged in Japan by JCFC, a subcontractor for Areva have the same problem.

As a result, 12 of France’s 58 nuclear reactors have been shut-down, but potentially more than half of them could be affected by the “carbon segregation” problem. Excessive levels of carbon in steel could make safety critical components more brittle and subject to sudden fracture or tearing under sustained high pressure, which is obviously unacceptable in a nuclear reactor. In addition, some quality control reports about these safety critical components have been falsified or are incomplete. (5)

From Hinkley Point’s perspective, the main impact of all this will be on the financial viability of EDF. It has already been forced to reduce its 2016 generation targets and lower estimates for nuclear output in 2017. The Company already faces a seemingly impossible financial equation. It has a colossal debt of €37 billion; it must deal with the complex €2.5 billion takeover of Areva; and it has to find the money to extend the life of its 58 reactors at an estimated cost of between €60 and €100 billion by 2030. (6)

Added to these woes, EDF has been accused by Greenpeace France of failing to disclose the true cost of running its fleet of reactors in France while financing two new ones in the UK. If it disclosed the true figures, the Company would be declared bankrupt. Greenpeace commissioned an audit by AlphaValue, the equity research company. The report said that EDF would need to find a further €165 billion during the next decade to finance projects such as Hinkley Point and to fix its ailing reactors in France. (7)

Stop Hinkley spokesperson Roy Pumfrey said: “It seems that the French nuclear fleet is getting very close to its sell-by date and it has deficient safety-critical components spread throughout. At the same time, the finances of EDF are in such a deplorable state that the company could soon be joining Areva in bankruptcy. The idea that we should pay £92.50 per MWh to these pantomime villains to build two of its failed reactors in Somerset is completely crazy.”

Meanwhile, as researchers at global investment banks discuss the possibility that paying for energy could soon become a thing of the past, it is becoming increasingly obvious that the future is renewable. (8) Cheap solar panels and advances in storage technology are about to transform the world. By 2030 or 2040 solar will be the cheapest way to generate electricity, indeed any form of energy EVERYWHERE. At the rate of growth that we are seeing at the moment of 35-45% per year solar will grow from providing 2% of global electricity to at least 50% by 2030. We can see the cost of batteries coming down in price dramatically. Turning surplus solar electricity generating during the summer into something we can put into natural gas networks is what we should be looking at in the UK. Generating hydrogen from water and, using microbes, combining it with carbon dioxide to form methane is the simplest way to do this. (9)

Swedish utility Vattenfall has agreed to build a giant offshore wind farm in Denmark that would sell power for €49.50 per MWh. Vattenfall has broken its own previous record of €60 per MWh. Once the cost of transmission is included this works out at around £75.50/MWh compared with £100.50/MWh for Hinkley Point C (once inflation has been added to the £92.50 at 2012 prices). (10)

The Government knows that solar and wind will be cheaper by the time Hinkley is generating” (11) says Roy Pumfrey. “It is blindingly obvious that solar and wind will win through in the end, but if the Government doesn’t come to its senses soon electricity consumers will be paying EDF through their noses for nuclear electricity we don’t need.

(1) Guardian 1st Nov 2016
(2) Guardian 15th September 2016
(3) BBC 21st November 2016
(4) Times 26th November 2016 
(5) Les Echos 22nd Nov 2016  and Power Mag 1st Nov 2016
(6) Affairs Today 21st Oct 2016 
(7) Times 18th Nov 2016
(8) Independent 4th Aug 2016 
(9) See The Switch and Walking on Sunshine: the unstoppable rise of solar power, Mega October 2016
(10) Energydesk 15th Nov 2016
(11) Guardian 11th August 2016 

Posted: 1 December 2016

Local Authorities and Energy: Building a Fairer Low Carbon Energy System

Our latest report looks at a range of innovative local energy initiatives which show how Britain’s towns and cities are transforming efforts to create a cleaner, smarter and more affordable energy system, providing an alternative to the big utilities, and boosting their local economies in the process. We look at a range of different energy initiatives being carried out by local authorities around the country. The list – in alphabetic order – is not meant to be exhaustive, but hopefully it will inspire others to set up projects of their own. If local authorities can learn from each other, rather than starting from scratch, it will avoid common pitfalls and speed up progress towards a low carbon local renewable energy revolution.

We can learn for instance from Aberdeen’s pioneering district heating scheme and Portsmouth City Council’s plans to continue installing solar panels on public building despite cuts in feed-in tariffs, or Peterborough’s scheme to install solar panels free of charge on homes in the City. Every Authority should know about Wolverhampton’s highly efficient new schools which require hardly any energy to heat, about Shetland Island Council’s plans to extract heat from the North Sea or Islington’s plan to extract heat from the London Underground and how Nottingham City Council managed to set up its own energy company which can sell electricity more cheaply than any other company in the East Midlands. Surely every councillor will want to hear about Oxford’s project to provide low income households with solar electricity and batteries to store any surplus, Edinburgh’s work with a local community energy co-operative to install solar panels on schools and leisure centres across the City, and Fife Council’s project to fuel council refuse collection vehicles with wind generated hydrogen.

Local Authorities and Energy

Posted: 24 October 2016

Bradwell site unsuitable & unsustainable

Professor Andy Blowers writes: With all the attention fixated for so long on Hinkley Point C (HPC) developments at other sites have tended to slip into the background a bit. It’s now clear that the Government not only backs HPC but a whole raft of future possibilities leading up to the ludicrous total of 18GW nuclear power. We’ve unequivocally established why that is economic madness but the other arguments against new nuclear have been somewhat subdued. That is where the proposal for Bradwell now comes into full sunlight.

Perhaps unnoticed by those following the meta-narrative of nuclear power, there has been a campaign focused on Bradwell continuing over the past eight and more years. It has been run by Blackwater Against New Nuclear Group (BANNG) which I founded and have chaired ever since. A tour of the website Banng.info will reveal the extent and depth of the issues and concerns. In brief they are:

  1. The site is quite unsuitable and unsustainable in the long run. It is at sea level on a coast highly vulnerable to storm surges, coastal processes and sea level rise.
  1. The Blackwater estuary is very shallow making it very difficult to supply cooling water without damage to the environment. Alternatives – sea cooling, cooling towers – provide serious technical and environmental challenges.
  1. It is intended to store spent fuel on the site. Even if a repository becomes available it would not be possible to transfer Bradwell’s waste until well into the next century if at all.
  1. The estuary is highly ‘protected’ by national and international designations including the recent declaration of a Marine Conservation Area status. No doubt the idea of Imperative Reasons of Overriding Public Interest (IROPI) will somehow be invoked to enable the Chinese to trash the area.
  1. Within an approximate range of 30km are 300,000 people. It will be difficult, if not impossible, to implement emergency planning measures in the event of a serious incident. The nearest large settlement is within 3km, an island cut off completely during certain high tides and with only one access.
  1. The proposed power station is essentially a Chinese experiment using the so-called tough British regulatory system to legitimate the untried Hualong 1 reactor and showcase it for global markets. This raises unprecedented security issues offering British sensitive infrastructure to a foreign, hostile power.

Furthermore, the Chinese have been typically reticent about their intentions despite being invited to meet with BANNG. Openness and transparency is quite alien to them it seems, despite protestations to the contrary. Thus, we have no idea how many reactors, what cooling system is proposed, how they intend to deal with environmental constraints or what they will do with the spent fuel and other wastes.

The predictable sell of jobs and investment has begun to beguile a gullible local population on one side of the estuary while opposition is strong on the other. It is worth noting this is not an active site – the former power station shut in 2002 and the site is shortly to enter a care and maintenance phase. However, this has been delayed as Magnox discharge dissolved Fuel Element Debris into the estuary and have recently got agreement for the import of ILW from Dungeness and Sizewell.  All this has proved deeply controversial and been fought step by step by BANNG.

So, after all these years the nuclear sun refuses to set on the Blackwater with the prospect of a new dawn the harbinger of the ‘golden relationship’.

Over the years we have campaigned vigorously, including demonstrations, a 10,000 face-to-face petition taken up to Whitehall, lobbying and research.  The fruits can be found in the cornucopia of consultation papers on our website. I draw attention especially to papers 4 and 9 especially which give the case against Bradwell comprehensively.

Now that the Hinkley battle has been lost (though not perhaps entirely) attention needs to turn to the other sites. The arguments on economics and security are powerful and need constant repetition.  To these must be added problems with siting and especially the problem of nuclear waste that cannot be wished away and confers on future generations a burden they have no part in creating and do not deserve.

It’s hardly surprising Bradwell has received relatively little attention at national level. After all it only came into prominence last year when it was put forward as a vanity project for Osborne and his erstwhile Chinese collaborators. It has received continuing coverage in the regional and local press and media.  Now it’s necessary to get a more national focus to stop it dead in the water so to speak. I hope you’ll all get behind the campaign in the coming months.

Posted: 4 October 2016

Stop Hinkley Campaign Letter to Greg Clark

Dear Mr Clark,

Congratulations on your appointment as Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. We understand that you will now take charge of energy policy. We are writing to you to ask you to make the most of this opportunity to stamp your own mark on Government energy policy by ditching proposals for a new nuclear power station at Hinkley Point C (HPC) in Somerset.

Over the last few months HPC has been described as a white elephant; a deal whose flaws have become increasingly apparent; verging on insanity; alarm bells should be ringing deafeningly loudly; too expensive and unproven; will kill British manufacturing; bad for consumers, the taxpayer, business and potentially the environment; beyond any commercial logic; and a total waste of money. (1)

Even the Financial Times has called this project “a laughing stock”. It is at least eight years behind schedule and billions over budget, and cost estimates seem to rise every month, just as the date for a final investment decision disappears into the future. (2)

A recent devastating report from the Government’s spending watchdog – the National Audit Office (NAO) should provide you with a perfect excuse to ditch HPC. The NAO estimates that energy consumers could end up paying £29.7bn in top-up payments rather than £6.1bn estimated in October 2013 when the strike-price for the 35-year contract was originally agreed. The increase is due to the fact that wholesale energy prices are now expected to be much lower. (3) The Government itself estimated this figure could be even higher at £37bn. (4)

In May 2012 Charles Hendry MP, Minister of State, for Energy and Climate Change at the time told the House of Commons Select Committee that “We do not have five years. We need to get moving on [building new reactors] now to make up for the failure of investment and new plant over previous decades.” (5)

The five years is almost up but almost nothing has happened. Renewable energy and energy efficiency projects could be implemented very quickly and much more cheaply. Britain’s solar industry said three years ago it could install the same capacity as HPC in 24 months and at comparable cost. (6)

Other recent developments include:

• Solar energy has been advancing considerably faster than anyone expected just a few years ago. The American website, Climate Progress, says you’ll never believe how cheap solar energy is – in some parts of the world it costs less than 2p/kWh without subsidies. Because the cost of renewable energy has been falling so quickly “almost everything you know about climate change solutions is probably outdated,” (7)

• Offshore Wind Farms in the North Sea off the coast of the Netherlands are now expected to cost €87/MWh (£73/MWh) compared with £100/MWh for Hinkley Point C. (8)

• A crash programme to replace all the lights in the UK with LEDs could cut electricity bills, and cut peak electricity demand by about 8GW, a saving of about 15% of all power consumption. (9)

• Tidal Lagoon Power says the lifetime cost to consumers of its proposed Swansea Bay tidal lagoon would be the same as the Hinkley Point C. (10)

• Research by Forum for the Future, Farmers Weekly and Nottingham Trent University estimates that it would be relatively simple to get 20 GW onto the grid from farm-based solar and wind and some anaerobic digestion by 2020. (11)

• Domestic energy efficiency alone could save 40TWh/yr by 2030 and help eliminate fuel poverty into the bargain. (12)

• There are around 100 TWh of electricity savings detailed in a report for the Government by McKinsey for which there are currently no plans to capture. (13)

• Plans for alternatives to HPC have been published by Molly Scott Cato, the Green MEP for South West England (14); the Intergenerational Foundation (15); the E3G Think Tank (16); and Green Hedge – a leading developer and operator of low carbon electricity generation and storage projects. (17) The Green Hedge plan says transforming weather-dependent solar and wind into a stable generator is possible with energy storage and backup gas generators.

• Writing on The Independent website Keith Barnham, Emeritus Professor of Physics at Imperial College says six bio-electricity technologies, all capable of continuous power operation, could provide ten times 3.2 GW before 2025. (18)

Ditching EDF’s plans for HPC would provide us with a wonderful opportunity to turn Somerset into a sustainable energy hub for England. We urge you to get on with it as soon as possible.

Yours faithfully,

Stop Hinkley Co-ordinating Team

(1) See http://www.stophinkley.org/PressReleases/pr160415.pdf for a full list
(2) FT 18th July 2016 http://blogs.ft.com/nick-butler/2016/07/18/energy-policy-under-a-new-government-a-chance-to-think-again/
(3) Guardian 13th July 2016 https://www.theguardian.com/business/nils-pratley-on-finance/2016/jul/13/poundlands-bid-decision-is-fine-but-please-dont-use-brexit-as-the-excuse
(4) Business Green 8th July 2016 http://www.businessgreen.com/bg/news/2464269/hinkley-cost-estimate-rises-to-gbp37bn
(5) See page Ev 17 “Building New Nuclear: the Challenges Ahead”, Energy and Climate Change Committee, Volume 1, 4th March 2013 http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201213/cmselect/cmenergy/117/117.pdf
(6) Click Green 24th October 2013 http://reskin-cg.class-media.co.uk/opinion/opinion/123982-renewable-energy-boss-tells-pm-solar-power-could-match-hinkley-in-2-years.html
(7) Climate Progress 18th July 2016 http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2016/07/18/3797907/solar-energy-miracle-charts/
(8) Renew Economy 7th July 2016 http://reneweconomy.com.au/2016/dong-energy-build-700-mw-offshore-wind-farms-e72-70mwh-22550 See also Climate News Network 18th July 2016 http://climatenewsnetwork.net/offshore-wind-powers-ahead-in-europe/
(9) Ecologist 8th June 2016 http://www.theecologist.org/blogs_and_comments/commentators/2987760/the_urgent_case_for_an_mass_s witch_to_led_lighting.html
(10) ReNews 11th July 2016 http://renews.biz/103387/lagoon-cost-same-as-hinkley
(11) Farm Power: Exploring the size of the prize, Forum for the Future, November 2014 http://www.forumforthefuture.org/sites/default/files/Farm%20Power_Size%20of%20the%20Prize%20report_Nov-2014.pdf
(12) Energy Efficiency: Fighting to keep Bills Down Permanently, ACE November 201 http://ukace.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/ACE-November-2013-Energy-efficiency-fighting-to-keep-bills-down-permanently.pdf (See table 16, page 54)
(13) McKinsey, 2012 Capturing the full electricity efficiency potential of the U.K Draft report. http://www.decc.gov.uk/assets/decc/11/cutting-emissions/5776-capturing-the-full-electricity-efficiency-potentia.pdf
(14) The Power to Transform the South West, http://mollymep.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/The-power-to-transform-the-South-West_FINAL1.pdf
(15) Toxic Times Capsule by Andrew Simms, Intergenerational Foundation, April 2016 http://www.newweather.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/Toxic-Time-Capsule.pdf
(16) Guardian 18th Mar 2016 http://www.theguardian.com/environment/damian-carrington-blog/2016/mar/18/five-ways-to-power-the-uk-that-are-far-better-than-hinkley-point
(17) Regen SW 22nd April 2016 https://www.regensw.co.uk/blog/2016/04/hinkley-point-through-the-looking-glass/
(18) Independent 11th May 2016 http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/the-government-should-scrap-its-costly-hinkley-point-deal-and-accept-renewables-can-keep-the-lights-a7021196.html

Posted: 27 July 2016

Stop Hinkley Campaign calls for a renewables Plan B for Hinkley

According to Nick Butler writing in the Financial Times on 14th May “the UK government is preparing a plan B, while continuing to claim that Hinkley will still go ahead. Mr Osborne wanted [N.B. past tense] Hinkley but he is the ultimate realist.” (1)

Former Conservative MP, Tim Yeo, described as the highest-profile pro-nuclear lobbyist, has also called for a Plan B – a nuclear Plan B – to make sure that other nuclear power plants planned after Hinkley Point receive the right backing. (2) There has also been speculation, since denied, that EDF’s Chinese partners are planning a Plan B which might involve building Chinese reactors at Hinkley Point. (3)

Stop Hinkley Spokesperson Roy Pumfrey said:

The fact of the matter is that we don’t need to put Somerset at risk (4) and add another 80% to the UK’s radioactive waste stockpile that we have no idea what to do with. (5) It would be perfectly feasible to come up with a Plan B, Plan C and Plan D based on renewable energy and energy efficiency, all of which would be cheaper and better for the environment and the economy.”

In recent months plans have been published by Molly Scott Cato, the Green MEP for South West England (6); the Intergenerational Foundation (7); the E3G Think Tank (8); and Green Hedge – a leading developer and operator of low carbon electricity generation and storage projects. (9)

The 3.2GW (Gigawatt) Hinkley Point C is expected to produce, at a very optimistic 90% load factor, 25TWh (terawatt hours) (billion kWh) every year. Some examples of alternatives to Hinkley include:

• Research by Forum for the Future, Farmers Weekly and Nottingham Trent University looked at the potential for rolling out different renewable technologies on UK farms – principally solar and wind, and some anaerobic digestion. Their report estimates that it would be relatively simple to get 20 GW onto the grid from farm-based solar and wind by 2020. (10)
• Domestic energy efficiency alone could save 40TWh/yr by 2030 and help eliminate fuel poverty into the bargain. (11)
• There are around 100 TWh of electricity savings detailed in a report for the Government by McKinsey for which there are currently no plans to capture. (12)
• Britain’s solar industry says it could install the same capacity as Hinkley in 24 months and at comparable cost. (13)
• Friends of the Earth’s Energy Pathway estimates that offshore wind could provide 155TWh more than currently planned by 2030. (14) Offshore wind being developed in Denmark is now much cheaper than Hinkley Point C. (15)

The Green Hedge plan says transforming weather-dependent solar and wind into a stable generator is possible with energy storage and backup gas generators. Writing on The Independent website Keith Barnham, Emeritus Professor of Physics at Imperial College says six bio-electricity technologies, all capable of continuous power operation, could provide ten times 3.2 GW before 2025. (16)

Roy Pumfrey said: “The ongoing collapse of EDF’s plans for Hinkley Point C provides us with a wonderful opportunity to turn Somerset into a sustainable energy hub for England. What on earth are we waiting for? Let’s get on with it.

N.B. Moody’s credit rating agency has just downgraded EDF’s debt from A1 to ‘A2 outlook negative’. This will make it all the harder and more expensive for it to raise the cash it needs to build Hinkley Point C. (17) And French energy minister, Segolene Royal has said that the company may have been “carried away” by its enthusiasm for the project highlighting divisions in the French government over whether to back the project. (18)

(1) FT 14th May 2016
(2) FT 13th May 2016
(3) Ecologist 13th May 2016
(4) See for instance “England couldn’t cope with a nuclear accident at Hinkley Point, Spectator, 11th May 2016
(5) Stop Hinkley Briefing 25th January 2016
(6) The Power to Transform the South West.
(7) Toxic Times Capsule Toxic Times Capsule by Andrew Simms, Intergenerational Foundation, April 2016
(8) Guardian 18th Mar 2016
(9) Regen SW 22nd April 2016
(10) Farm Power: Exploring the size of the prizeFarm Power: Exploring the size of the prize, Forum for the Future, November 2014
(11) Energy Efficiency: Fighting to keep Bills Down PermanentlyEnergy Efficiency: Fighting to keep Bills Down Permanently, ACE November 201 (See table 16, page 54)
(12) McKinsey, 2012 Capturing the full electricity efficiency potential of the U.KCapturing the full electricity efficiency potential of the U.K Draft report.
(13) Click Green 24th October 2013
(14) A Plan for Clean British EnergyA Plan for Clean British Energy, Friends of the Earth September 2012
(15) Energy Post 3rd March 2015Energy Post 3rd March 2015  “if just 10% of the Kattegat region were developed for offshore wind, it would deliver 40% more power than the proposed Hinkley nuclear power station at a lower cost”.
(16) Independent 11th May 2016
(17) Ecologist 13th May 2016
(18) FT 14th May 2016

Posted: 17 May 2016

New reactors would quadruple waste stockpile

The Stop Hinkley Campaign has published a new briefing on the huge impact a new reactor programme would have on the UK’s radioactive waste stockpile.

The proposed Hinkley Point C nuclear power station alone would produce radioactive wastes and spent fuel with a radioactivity inventory equal to roughly 80% of the radioactivity in all of the UK’s existing radioactive wastes put together.

The Stop Hinkley Campaign uses figures from Radioactive Waste Management (RWM) Ltd which show that the UK’s proposed 16GW new reactor programme will altogether increase the UK waste inventory in terms of radioactivity four-fold. And if the industry ever finds a site to put this dangerous waste deep underground the amount of space required underground would almost triple.

As the Stop Hinkley Campaign notes it is morally reprehensible and totally irresponsible to go ahead with building new reactors when we still have no idea what we are going to do with the waste we have already created.

 The Impact of a New Reactor Programme on the UK Radioactive Waste Stockpile

 

 

 

 

 

Posted: 25 January 2016

EDF’s survival threatened by Hinkley Point C

According to the French newspaper, Le Figaro, EDF could make a final decision on the proposed construction of Hinkley Point C at its Board of Directors meeting on 27th January 2016. (1)

Stop Hinkley spokesperson Roy Pumfrey said:

I’ll believe it when I see it. This is the ninth time EDF has said a final investment decision is imminent. Just last October the chairman of EDF, Jean-Bernard Levy, said work would be starting before the end of 2015. It would be completely reckless of the Board to give the go-ahead to this £25 billion project when the Company is in such a parlous state”

The Company has already announced that it is considering selling assets worth more than 6 billion euros (£4.5 billion) including a stake in its eight British nuclear plants, of which Hinkley Point B is one, to fund Hinkley Point C. But it could only sell a 29% share if it wants to retain a controlling 51% stake, so this would only raise around 2.6 billion euros. (2)

The company also needs 55 billion euros to upgrade its ageing nuclear plants in France. EDF has also agreed to buy between 51 and 75% of the struggling French reactor builder Areva NP which is valued at 2.7 billion euros. So it will have to find at least 1.4 billion euros for that.

EDF is also considering disposing of its 49.99% stake in five American reactors. But this sale would be complicated. At least two of the reactors are at risk of closure due to economic pressures, and EDF’s partner, Exelon, is unlikely to be willing to take on more liability.

Another possibility is that EDF will sell 50% of its holding in the French power transmission business RTE. It cannot sell more than half because 50% is allocated to its decommissioning fund, which is segregated. There is of course a risk in selling half because if it turns out to be worth less than EDF has claimed it is worth for the decommissioning fund, EDF would have to top up the decommissioning fund by the shortfall.

EDF has already launched the sale of its Polish coal-fired heating and power plants but that will raise less than 0.5 billion euros. (3)

Another problem for EDF which emerged this week causing its share price to drop to an all-time low is that estimates on the cost of a proposed French nuclear waste dump have increased. The French waste agency Andra estimates that the cost of its deep geological disposal project could be as high as 30 billion euros rather than the 20 billion euros estimated by EDF. (4)

Roy Pumfrey said:

Is it really sensible for EDF to commit to building two EPRs at Hinkley Point C when the Company is in such a precarious position and there are still no EPRs operating anywhere in the world – it has just been announced that even the Chinese EPRs are about four years late. We know there is considerable unease amongst employee shareholders about Hinkley Point C, which some fear could sink the company altogether. (5) As one commentator put it the debate now is not about whether Hinkley Point C will go-ahead, but whether EDF itself can survive. (6)”

  1. Le Figaro 14th January 2016 http://www.lefigaro.fr/conjoncture/2016/01/13/20002-20160113ARTFIG00333-le-nucleaire-francais-confirme-son-grand-projet-anglais.php
  2. Reuters 6th Jan 2016 http://af.reuters.com/article/commoditiesNews/idAFL8N14Q1LP20160106?sp=true & Les Echos 6th Jan 2016 http://www.lesechos.fr/industrie-services/energie-environnement/021594340218-edf-envisage-de-ceder-plus-de-6-milliards-deuros-dactifs-en-2016-1189865.php
  3. Reuters 13th Jan 2016 http://af.reuters.com/article/commoditiesNews/idAFL8N14X0QS20160113
  4. Power Engineering International 13th Jan 2016 http://www.powerengineeringint.com/articles/2016/01/edf-disputes-french-nuclear-waste-agency-estimates-on-costs.html
  5. Guardian 13th November 2015 http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/nov/13/hinkley-point-nuclear-plan-puts-survival-edf-at-risk-say-employee-shareholders
  6. See http://realfeed-intariffs.blogspot.co.uk/2016/01/more-daishan-epr-delays-as-edf-ponder.html

Posted: 15 January 2016

Nuclear Champions go into Overdrive

Pro-nuclear lobbyists and nuclear industry champions have been in overdrive during the Paris Climate Conference.

They seem to be making a desperate last-ditch effort to convince us all that nuclear power is an important part of the answer to the climate crisis with blatant attacks on those who envisage a future based on renewable energy without nuclear. (1) But the truth is that nuclear power is a dangerous distraction from what we really need to be doing. Because every pound spent on nuclear power could have been spent more effectively, making greater reductions in carbon emissions, nuclear is actually damaging efforts to tackle climate change.

NASA scientist James Hansen was in Paris to berate climate campaigners for failing to support nuclear power. But Hansen ignores renewables and energy efficiency, setting up a false choice between fossil fuels and nuclear. (2) Hansen doesn’t just want more nuclear power, but he wants next-generation nuclear power stations fuelled with weapons-useable plutonium, extracted from spent fuel in reprocessing plants like Sellafield, which runs the risk of more weapons proliferation problems in future. (3)

A big part of the pro-nuclear argument seems to be based on the idea that renewable energy currently provides only a tiny part of global electricity supply and cannot scale up rapidly enough to replace fossil fuels. Nuclear power, on the other hand, the argument goes, could do so. Hansen wants 115 new reactors to be built every year – yet the world has never built more than 40 a year. (4) Fortunately the concept of a world powered by 100% renewable energy is no longer seen as a pipedream but as a necessary and, more importantly, achievable goal at every level–from individuals to large corporations, and from small communities to large cities. (5)

Bill Gates also made headlines with his “Breakthrough Energy Coalition” fund to come up with new energy solutions, including “advanced” nuclear reactors. It’s not that innovation is unwelcome, but the climate can’t afford to hang around whilst we wait for “Energy Miracles”. As investment bank Goldman Sachs has pointed out we already have cost-effective and climate-effective technology available. What the climate really needs right now is the large-scale deployment of these existing technologies. Gates and his billionaires’ club should be distributing funds to empower communities, and incentivize the massive deployment of energy efficiency and existing renewable technology now rather waiting for miracles which might never happen, or will happen too late to make a difference. (6)

Even under EDF’s most optimistic scenario we will have to wait another decade for Hinkley Point C to contribute anything to reducing carbon emissions. And even then its effectiveness will be limited because of the vast amount of fossil fuels used to extract uranium from the ground. One recent study showed the nuclear life-cycle producing six times the carbon dioxide produced by wind and double what is produced by solar. (7) Ian Fairlie, Paul Dorfman, David Lowry and Jonathon Porritt pointed out in a letter to The Guardian this week that “nuclear power is a poor method of reducing carbon emissions: its uranium ore and fuel processes have heavy carbon footprints. Indeed, of the ways to reduce carbon emissions in the energy sphere, nuclear is by far the most expensive in terms of pound per tonne of carbon saved.” (8)

Meanwhile the UK Government seems intent on demonstrating to the rest of the world that nuclear power is too expensive to play a part in tackling climate change and leads to the slashing of budgets for faster and much more effective ways of reducing carbon emissions.

  1. See Green World 30th Nov 2015 http://safeenergy.org/2015/11/30/when-a-campaign-strikes-a-nerve/
  2. Ecologist 20th Nov 2015 http://www.theecologist.org/News/news_analysis/2986335/dont_nuke_the_climate_james_hansens_nuclear_fantasies_exposed.html
  3. Guardian 3rd Dec 2015 http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/dec/03/nuclear-power-paves-the-only-viable-path-forward-on-climate-change
  4. Green World 7th Dec 2015 http://safeenergy.org/2015/12/07/the-nuclear-industrys-cop-21-dilemma/
  5. Ecologist 5th Nov 2015 http://www.theecologist.org/essays/2986169/a_clean_green_energy_future_beckons.html and Scientific American 19th Nov 2015 http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/139-countries-could-get-all-of-their-power-from-renewable-sources1/ and Sierra Club 4th Dec 2015 http://www.sierraclub.org/compass/2015/12/ready-100-percent-clean-energy
  6. Inside Philanthropy 4th Dec 2015 http://www.insidephilanthropy.com/home/2015/12/4/sorry-bill-gates-but-billions-for-energy-research-is-not-how.html
  7. Sovacool, B Valuing the greenhouse gas emissions from nuclear power: A critical survey, Energy Policy 36 (2008) 2950– 2963.
  8. Guardian 6th December 2015 http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/dec/06/nuclear-is-not-the-answer-to-the-climate-crisis

 

Posted: 11 December 2015

UK Government energy policy goes backwards

The Government’s recent energy policy re-set shows it plans to rely mostly on imported and fracked gas and nuclear power for UK energy supplies, (1) just as Scientific American publishes a study showing we could use renewables for all our energy needs by 2050. (2)

Meanwhile, the Hinkley Point C project looks more and more financially toxic. Now even the association of employee-shareholders says it could spell doom for EDF as a company. (3) Mounting losses accrued by AREVA and EDF on the EPRs being built elsewhere have already put the future of the company in jeopardy. Investment bank Investec, Moody’s and Standard and Poor have all advised clients to sell shares in EDF. (4)

Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change Amber Rudd has been busy slashing support for renewables since she came to office because she says she is concerned about energy bills. And yet she has attacked two of the lowest cost energy sources (wind and solar) just as they are making progress towards being competitive with gas, whilst subsidising one of the most expensive sources of electricity – nuclear power. Britain could have six times the power-generation capacity for the same money by investing in wind turbines instead of Hinkley Point C according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance (NEF). (5) And the Solar Trade Association has shown that solar PV could provide the same amount of electricity for half the subsidy cost of Hinkley Point C. (6) The future for solar and wind in the rest of the world looks bright and now the Lazard investment bank is predicting the cost of energy storage will be competitive in five year’s time. (7)

While innovation and enterprise bloom in the renewables industry Stop Hinkley Spokesperson Roy Pumfrey says: “The Government, on the other hand, seems to have invented special glasses to help it look backwards.”

Environmentalist and Writer, Jonathon Porritt, campaigner, author and Founder Director of Forum for the Future, and now a Patron of the Stop Hinkley Campaign, says:

“The Government’s ‘energy trilemma’ – tackling climate change at the same time as providing energy that is affordable and secure – can be solved primarily with renewables and energy efficiency but it seems determined to ignore the answer staring us in the face. Instead of making a risky 35-year bet on the most expensive electricity power generation station ever proposed, it should be supporting the creation of a world-leading renewables industry that already has widespread public support.”

In the run-up to the Paris Climate Talks at the end of this week, South West Green MEP, Dr Scott Cato, and also a new Stop Hinkley Campaign Patron says:

“We need to see a transformation to the way our economy works and we need to see it quickly. 100% renewable energy by 2050 is possible, and the report I commissioned on the South-west region demonstrated just that. (8) This transformation could create 122,000 new quality jobs in the process and add £14bn to the regional economy. Yet this Government seems to be doing everything it can to kill off any chance of achieving this.”

1. Amber Rudd’s speech on a new direction for UK energy policy 18th November 2015
2. 139 Countries Could Get All of their Power from Renewable Sources Scientific American 19th Nov 2015  Plan for the UK
3. Telegraph 12th November 2015
4. Dave Toke’s Blog 27th October 2015
5. Bloomberg 21st Oct 2015
6. Politics 20th Oct 2015
7. FT 17th November 2015
8. See Molly Scott Cato’s website

Posted: 24 November 2015