News December 2007

31 December 2007

New nukes

The next generation of nuclear power stations is set to be given the go-ahead by the Government next week despite fierce opposition from environmentalists and MPs.

Telegraph 31st Dec 2007 more >>

Duff, 48, is chief executive of RWE npower, the German-owned British power company. Parent RWE operates nuclear power stations in Germany but he knows public opinion is divided in Britain, where the Government is expected to publish its White Paper on nuclear power next month. “My views on nuclear power are that it’s not certain yet that our population is convinced that it’s the right solution to our sustainability and environmental challenges,” he says carefully. “The question for us is whether we believe the known risks around nuclear are worth taking in order to give us time to deal with the potentially very substantial risks in relation to climate change and long-term energy security.

The Business 31st Dec 2007 more >>

Telegraph 31st Dec 2007 more >>

French power giant Electricite de France (EDF) looks favourite to build the first of a new wave of UK nuclear power stations after agreeing a partnership with British civil engineer Amec PLC, the Financial Mail on Sunday reported. EDF will work with French nuclear power group Areva as well as Amec on bids for contracts to build new nuclear power stations in southern England, the report said.

Interactive Investor 30th Dec 2007 more >>

Mail on Sunday 30th Dec 2007 more >>

Pakistan

M J Gohel, the head of the Asia-Pacific Foundation, a London-based security and intelligence think-tank, believes there is a strong possibility that parts of Pakistan’s nuclear technology could fall into the grip of militants. “It’s a very, very valid risk,” he said. “It’s only a matter of time before al-Qaeda or somebody sympathetic to them gets hold of nuclear weapons, and if al-Qaeda or its sympathisers are to get hold of them, then Pakistan is at this point the weakest link in the chain.” Nuclear materials controlled by Islamic fanatics is the White House’s worst nightmare but Bhutto’s death brings the possibility closer.

Scotland on Sunday 30th Dec 2007 more >>

US special forces snatch squads are on standby to seize or disable Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal in the event of a collapse of government authority or the outbreak of civil war following the assassination of Benazir Bhutto.

Herald 31st Dec 2007 more >>

Korea

North Korea showed no signs of meeting its deadline Monday for declaring all of its nuclear programs, a key component of its agreement to disarm in exchange for economic aid.

Guardian website 31st Dec 2007 more >>

BBC 31st Dec 2007 more >>

Reuters 30th Dec 2007 more >>

FT 31st Dec 2007 more >>

Iran

IRAN will begin operation of the country’s first nuclear power plant within months, the country’s foreign minister, Manouchehr Mottaki, said yesterday, two days after the arrival of a second delivery of nuclear fuel from Russia.

Scotsman 31st Dec 2007 more >>

Nuclear Testing

Letter: Rather than a dream being Chapman Pincher’s inspiration for his 1974 scoop about secret British nuclear tests in Nevada (report, December 28), I suspect his canny professionalism lay behind it. The story in the Washington Press Club was that he got motel operators near the nuclear testing grounds to let him know when a group of likely-looking men with British accents checked in. He then put two and two together and on this occasion, to Harold Wilson’s embarrassment, he got the right answer.

Telegraph 31st Dec 2007 more >>

Renewables

We have one of the lowest shares of renewable energy (about 2%) in the European Union, one tenth of the wind power and 1/250th of the solar power that the German firms have produced. The government’s response was to cut grants it was offering households to install renewable energy systems through its low-carbon buildings programme (LCBP). The result was entirely predictable – take-up of grants collapsed and installations of solar panels and micro-generators slowed right down. Renewables companies – employing about 25,000 – were forced to lay off staff. In Germany, 25,000 jobs were created in the industry this year. Not a high score for the government here, either. The Germans have a “feed-in tariff” (Fit) which guarantees generous payments to households that install micro-generation equipment and sell the surplus electricity to the grid. Electricity companies have to buy the power and share the cost among all their customers. The additional cost is not high and the Germans are building a huge new industry on the back of it.

Guardian 31st Dec 2007 more >>

Posted: 31 December 2007

30 December 2007

New nukes

Ministers are expected formally to back a new generation of nuclear power stations in Britain, in defiance of a fresh legal challenge from environmentalists and a damaging revolt from Labour backbenchers. Gordon Brown’s first cabinet meeting of the new year is due to nod through the decision next week, and John Hutton, Secretary of State for Business and Enterprise, is expected to confirm it to the House of Commons on 7 January when MPs return from their Christmas break. But Greenpeace, which overturned the Government’s last attempt to usher in a new atomic age when a judge ruled that the decision-making process had been flawed, is confident of repeating the successful tactic. And Britain’s top nuclear energy economist, Gordon Mackerron, who recently headed the committee on radioactive waste management, has demolished the case for the atom and lent his support to the legal action.

Independent on Sunday 30th Dec 2007 more >>

The government is bracing itself for another legal challenge from Greenpeace when it sanctions the construction of a new generation of nuclear reactors in the next few days. Ministers will reveal the results of their second consultation on nuclear power as early as 7 January. The publication of the long-awaited energy bill, which is supposed to frame the UK’s energy policy for the next 50 years, will follow shortly afterwards. But Greenpeace, which opposes nuclear power, is preparing to mount a second legal challenge to block the plans.

Observer 30th Dec 2007 more >>

BNFL Privatisation

The Treasury is in line for a £2bn windfall next year as the Government presses ahead with plans to sell its stake in Urenco, the uranium enricher. In an attempt to facilitate the sale, the Government is considering appointing new non-executives who would drum up interest and push for the highest possible price, nuclear industry insiders said. Britain jointly owns Urenco with Germany and Holland. Downing Street has been keen to privatise the Buckinghamshire-based company, one of the largest uranium enrichment companies in the world, for several years as part of its wider drive to sell Britain’s nuclear assets and take advantage of their high price on international markets thanks to the resurgence of nuclear power, but has so far been blocked by its partners. But sources said the Government planned to push ahead in 2008. On April 1 it will take direct control of the British stake from BNFL. The Government is lobbying its European partners to accept a sale of one third of the business.

Sunday Telegraph 30th Dec 2007 more >>

Oldbury

Campaigners have made further calls for a reactor at Oldbury nuclear power station to be shut down for good – a year before the entire plant is decommissioned.The site, near Thornbury, started supplying electricity to the national grid again in the summer after a series of problems meant it could not generate power for a long period.

Bristol Evening Post 29th Dec 2007 more >>

Nuclear Testing

A close relative of Gordon Brown’s wife Sarah died from cancer after witnessing a British nuclear explosion in the South Pacific.

Sunday Mirror 30th Dec 2007 more >>

Egypt

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has expressed his country’s willingness to assist Egypt’s nuclear program.

IHT 29th Dec 2007 more >>

Posted: 30 December 2007

29 December 2007

New nukes

As we stand at the threshold of the New Year and wonder what it will bring, there cannot be many safer predictions than that 2008 will see the rebirth of nuclear power. Hint after hint has been dropped by ministers that an announcement is imminent about new nuclear plants at existing sites, with Sizewell in Suffolk, Dungeness in Kent, Hinkley Point in Somerset and Bradwell in Essex firm favourites.

Telegraph 28th December 2007 more >>

British Energy

Corporate activity was thin on the ground as the market closed down on its last full session of the year. Yet one beleaguered energy stock rallied after a torrid few months as it received broker backing. British Energy Group has endured a volatile year, but rallied 1.32 per cent to 535.5p yesterday after Goldman Sachs reiterated its “conviction buy” status, based on recent higher oil prices. The company came off the rails in November after two reactors went down, and still hasn’t provided a timetable for their return to operation.

Independent 29th Dec 2007 more >>

Pakistan

Benazir Bhutto’s assassination not only threatens to exacerbate the volatile situation in Pakistan but also raises questions about the security of its nuclear arsenal. Pakistan is the only Islamic state with nuclear weapons. Its atomic arsenal, comprising 60-65 warheads according to experts, is controlled almost exclusively by an increasingly “Islamised” military.

Telegraph 29th December 2007 more >>

Security experts fear Pakistan’s nuclear materials could fall into the hands of Islamic militants as the country’s instability deepens in the wake of Benazir Bhutto’s assassination.

Reuters 28th Dec 2007 more >>

Pakistan’s nuclear weapons arsenal is secure despite political turmoil after the assassination of opposition leader Benazir Bhutto, the Pentagon said on Friday.

Reuters 28th Dec 2007 more >>

The Pentagon is working on a series of contingency plans to prevent Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal falling into the hands of Islamist radicals and insisted today that the arsenal was safe in spite of the upheaval in the aftermath of the assassination of Benazir Bhutto.

Guardian website 28th Dec 2007 more >>

Factbox on Pakistan’s Nuclear arsenal.

Reuters 28th Dec 2007 more >>

Nuclear Testing

The bizarre story of how a reporter’s dream reputedly led to the uncovering of a secret British nuclear test is contained in the records. Wilson, only told three Cabinet colleagues about a test to upgrade Polaris at a US underground facility in the Nevada desert. Eventually, Mr Wilson was forced to admit to the test in Parliament after a Daily Express reporter, Chapman Pincher, claimed to have imagined a British nuclear blast in a dream.

Telegraph 29th Dec 2007 more >>

Finland

The start-up of Finland’s fifth nuclear power reactor, seen as a test case for Europe’s nuclear future, has been pushed back and its operator said on Friday it now sees a commercial start in mid-2011. Start-up had originally been scheduled for 2009.

Reuters 28th Dec 2007 more >>

Iran

Russia has delivered a second consignment of nuclear fuel to Iran’s Bushehr power plant, the official news agency IRNA quoted the deputy head of the Iranian Atomic Energy Organisation as saying on Friday.

Middle East Online 28th Dec 2007 more >>

Reuters 28th Dec 2007 more >>

Scotland

The UK Government has been accused of failing to keep up-to-date safety records on nuclear power station closures. In the wake of recent temporary closures at Hunterston and Torness, Nationalists are calling for official records to be kept on all planned and unplanned shut downs.

ICScotland 28th Dec 2007 more >>

Renewables

The holy grail of renewable energy came a step closer yesterday as thousands of mass-produced wafer-thin solar cells printed on aluminium film rolled off a production line in California, heralding what British scientists called “a revolution” in generating electricity. The solar panels produced by a Silicon Valley start-up company, Nanosolar, are radically different from the kind that European consumers are increasingly buying to generate power from their own roofs. Printed like a newspaper directly on to aluminium foil, they are flexible, light and, if you believe the company, expected to make it as cheap to produce electricity from sunlight as from coal.

Guardian 29th Dec 2007 more >>

Posted: 29 December 2007

28 December 2007

Sellafield

The NDA is asking the four preferred bidders to submit their final bids for running Sellafield.

Whitehaven News 27th Dec 2007 more >>

Italy

Europe needs to increase substantially its nuclear power capacity to relieve its overdependence on gas, the chief executive of Edison has warned. Umberto Quadrino, head of Italy’s second-largest utility, said there was serious trouble looming in European power supply.

FT 28th Dec 2007 more >>

Iran

Britain entered into secret negotiations in 1977 to build 20 nuclear reactors for the Shah of Iran, a programme that would have dwarfed similar projects offered at the time by France and Germany. In negotiations with the head of the Iranian atomic energy programme, senior UK civil servants predicted that by the end of the 20th century Iran would have obtained the technology – from Britain itself – to build nuclear weapons.

FT 28th Dec 2007 more >>

Tony Benn, secretary of state for energy, encouraged Britain’s nuclear industry to export reactors to Middle Eastern countries. In a letter to the prime minister in early 1977 he explained: “Both Kuwait and Iran have expressed definite interest in buying from the UK and [I] have encouraged NPC (the Nuclear Power Company) to compete.

Guardian 28th Dec 2007 more >>

The spectre of war has lifted from the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang has embarked on nuclear disarmament and a rapprochement with the international community has begun. Advocates of nuclear non-proliferation have hailed the progress made on the North Korean nuclear crisis, and are asking whether the model used to resolve it might also be applicable to the Iranian dispute.

Middle East Online 27th Dec 2007 more >>

Nuclear Weapons

Underground testing of British nuclear warheads was kept secret from most cabinet ministers after the US administration was persuaded not to publicise the event, government files reveal. The Labour government’s internal debate on updating the United Kingdom’s arsenal of Polaris missiles during the mid-1970s involved only the prime minister and three other senior ministers, according to archive documents released today.

Guardian 28th Dec 2007 more >>

Energy

Letter from Kerr MacGregor: In the ongoing debate about nuclear or wind for Scotland’s energy future, there still seems to be confusion between energy and electricity. Electricity is not a source of energy. It is simply a convenient form of energy. Less than 20% of the energy we use is in the form of electricity. Therefore, the biggest challenge we face is to find replacements for the 80% of energy we use for heating and transport. As yet, the Scottish and UK governments have no targets or strategy for renewable heat and fuel.

Herald 27th Dec 2007 more >>

Sam Laidlaw, Chief Executive of Centrica:- Our planet is gradually but inexorably growing warmer under the blanket of carbon dioxide being pumped out by global industrialisation and modernisation. It is, therefore, even more vital that clear opportunities to try to halt this trend are seized before the consequences become irreversible. Time is short and the decisions that must be made by policymakers at both national and international level are becoming increasingly critical. The key to making companies and individuals reduce their output of highly damaging CO2 is to put a price on those emissions – and it needs to be a high enough one to change both consumer behaviour and future investment decisions. The polluter must be forced to pay.

Times 27th Dec 2007 more >>

Renewables

EVERY secondary school in Scotland should be given government funding to install a renewable power source, say teachers. The Scottish Secondary
Teachers’ Association says the move would allow schools to serve as examples to local communities.

Scotsman 27th Dec 2007 more >>

Posted: 28 December 2007

27 December 2007

Korea

International efforts to scrap North Korea’s nuclear programs are at a crossroads due mainly to disagreements over a suspected secret weapons project, South Korea’s foreign minister said Thursday.

AFX 27th Dec 2007 more >>

North Korea said it may slow down work to disable its nuclear plants because of what it called a delay in promised energy aid, Japanese media reported Thursday.

AFX 27th Dec 2007 more >>

Guardian website 26th Dec 2007 more >>

Japan does not expect North Korea to meet a year-end deadline to declare its nuclear programmes but wants a full accounting once it does, an official said Wednesday.

AFX 26th Dec 2007 more >>

Japan

Kansai Electric Power Co, Japan’s second-biggest utility, cut on Wednesday its 2007/08 group operating outlook by 20 percent, hit by the prolonged shutdown of a nuclear power unit and higher fuel prices.

Reuters 26th Dec 2007 more >>

Posted: 27 December 2007

26 December 2007

Korea

Japan does not expect North Korea to meet a year-end deadline to declare its nuclear programmes but wants a full accounting once it does, an official said Wednesday.

AFX 26th Dec 2007 more >>

Uranium

Japanese utility Kansai Electric Power Co and trading house Sumitomo Corp will join with state-owned Kazakh nuclear firm Kazatomprom to process uranium into nuclear fuel, the Nikkei business daily said on Wednesday.

Reuters 26th Dec 2007 more >>

Submarines

The most technologically advanced submarine built for the Royal Navy, which has a sonar capable of tracking ship movements across thousands of miles, is in the repair shop after its most basic part failed at the first test. One of the million components that make up HMS Astute, the first of a new generation of nuclear-powered hunter-killer submarines, stopped working and caused serious damage.

Times 26th Dec 2007 more >>

Energy

One million households face soaring heating bills as a result of the surging price of oil on the global markets. Many families will have to pay an extra £400 to heat their homes and fuel their cookers because of sharp hikes in the price of central heating oil. While most of Britain’s 23 million homes are linked up to the central gas mains, just over 1 million properties – mostly in rural areas – use oil to fire up their boilers or cookers, such as Agas.

Telegraph 26th Dec 2007 more >>

Posted: 26 December 2007

24 December 2007

Gulf States

Nicolas Sarkozy will next month step up his use of civil nuclear power as a diplomatic tool with a visit to the Gulf states during which he will pledge French help for them to acquire atomic energy. The offer of collaboration on civil nuclear energy and, over the longer term, of functioning nuclear power stations, has emerged as one of the French president’s preferred methods of projecting influence across the world, particularly in Muslim countries.

FT 24th Dec 2007 more >>

Posted: 24 December 2007

23 December 2007

Reprocessing Revival?

A plan by the nuclear industry to build a £1bn fuel processing plant at Sellafield is being backed by the government’s chief scientist. The plant would turn the UK’s 60,000 tonnes of high-level nuclear waste into reactor fuel that will provide 60 per cent of this country’s electricity until 2060, it is claimed. But the plan is controversial. A report by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, which operates the Cumbrian plant and backs the plan, acknowledges the move could have ‘downside’ economic costs, although it also stresses it has many benefits. In addition, green groups say the move would lead to the creation of ‘a plutonium economy’ in Britain that would see large quantities of nuclear fuel being transported across the country.

Observer 23rd Dec 2007 more >>

Trident

THE US nuclear-armed missile that the Westminster government is hoping will replace Trident may not actually fit into British submarines, creating a “major headache” for UK weapons designers. The Sunday Herald has seen evidence that US designers are contemplating new missiles too big to slot into the tubes that house Trident’s current D5 missiles.

Sunday Herald 23rd Dec 2007 more >>

Renewables

Scottish & Southern Energy, the utility giant, has emerged as a leading contender to buy Airtricity, one of the world’s leading renewable energy firms. Airtricity, which is based in Ireland and is developing a portfolio of onshore and offshore wind farms across Europe, is understood to have hired investment bank Credit Suisse to advise it on a potential sale of the company. The appointment came just weeks after Airtricity sold its US wind farms to German utility giant E.ON for €1bn (£730m). First- round offers for the remaining European assets were due on Thursday. Industry executives believe they could fetch up to €1bn.

Sunday Telegraph 23rd Dec 2007 more >>

Posted: 23 December 2007

22 December 2007

Korea

North Korea may not be able to permanently shut down its nuclear facilities by the end of the year as initially promised, but it appears committed to the process and to declaring all its nuclear programs, the main U.S. envoy to South Korea said Friday.

Guardian website 21st Dec 2007 more >>

Terror

A successful nuclear attack by terrorists would be catastrophic. Intense fears of nuclear terrorism have led to a search for a perfect defense: destroying all terrorist groups that threaten the United States, sealing U.S. borders against loose nukes, or locking up all existing nuclear weapons and materials. Yet none of these strategies is a silver bullet. It is fantasy to believe that terrorism can be eliminated or that thousands of miles of U.S. borders — not to mention the borders of U.S. allies — can be sealed. Initiatives to secure nuclear weapons and materials are vital, but they will always fall short, too.

Foreign Affairs Jan/Feb 2008 more >>

Low level waste

A final decision on whether a controversial nuclear decontamination centre can open at Lillyhall, near Workington, is due in January. Swedish firm Studsvik UK already has planning permission for the facility. But it still needs a nuclear-site licence from the Health and Safety Executive. HSE officers are studying the application and objections to it.

Pendle Today 21st Dec 2007 more >>

Germany

RWE AG expects block A of its Biblis nuclear reactor to come on line again between Jan 6 and Jan 8, the company said. The German utility previously planned to restart the reactor by the end of the year, but authorities did not approve. The blocks had to be taken off the grid in Oct 2006 after faulty screw anchors that held piping and other parts in place were detected. Block B was restarted in early December.

Forbes 21st Dec 2007 more >>

US

George Bush said if you are serious about tackling global warming you have to have nuclear power.

World Nuclear News 21st Dec 2007 more >>

Libya

The Russian foreign minister said he would discuss plans to offer nuclear assistance to Libya when he arrives in Tripoli this weekend.

Earth Times 21st Dec 2007 more >>

Climate

Coal-fired power stations, airport expansions and new road schemes could all be put on hold following a decision by Gordon Brown that ministers must in future take account of the true economic cost of climate change damage. Ministers have been instructed to factor into their calculations a notional “carbon price” when making all policy and investment decisions covering transport, construction, housing, planning and energy.

Guardian 22nd Dec 2007 more >>

Posted: 22 December 2007

21 December 2007

Sellafield

Engineers have successfully replaced vital elements of a nuclear reprocessing plant in Cumbria. A section of the roof of the Thorp facility at Sellafield was removed to allow four huge vessels to be lowered into position by a giant crane. Technical difficulties meant the operation, involving 20-tonne vessels used to process liquid waste, was put back 24 hours.

BBC 20th Dec 2007 more >>

THORP is expected to come back on full stream early in the new year permission from the NII is only weeks away.

Whitehaven News 20th Dec 2007 more >>

Nuclear Waste

A MULTI-million pound funding package is heading for Copeland as compensation for having the Drigg low-level nuclear waste repository in the borough. After campaigning by politicians, the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority has pledged £10 million plus an extra £1.5 million a year as long as the repository is operating, which will extend into the foreseeable future. The village of Drigg, with just 300 people on its electoral roll, will have £50,000 ‘ring-fenced’ each year just for the village. Observers expect the deal to be the precursor to a similar offer to the area for any highly radioactive nuclear waste repository should one be planned. The county council had delayed granting permission for an extension to Vault 9 at Drigg in November awaiting news on the funding. Copeland council’s executive this week had laid down its own warning in a report that stated: “The council adopted the policy that it would not want to see a further increase in activity at the repository until an appropriate recognition package was in place.” It now remains to be seen whether the repository will be the national low-level waste site. The Government has insisted that “the LLWR wilI provide a national solution to managing the UK’s low level waste.” It remains unclear whether Scottish waste will be destined for the site.

Whitehaven News 20th Dec 2007 more >>

NDA

Members of the public are being asked to share their views on the NDA’s three year business plan at a drop-in day on 3rd Jan.

Whitehaven News 20th Dec 2007 more >>

US

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology was cited for two violations at its nuclear research reactor after a worker was exposed to a surprisingly high dose of radiation, federal regulators said Thursday.

Guardian website 21st Dec 2007 more >>

Italy

Shipments of spent fuel from Italy to France began on 17th Dec, when 34 of 1243 remaining fuel rods left the closed Caorso nuclear reactor for reprocessing at La Hague.

World Nuclear News 20th Dec 2007 more >>

Bulgaria

Bulgaria’s state power utility NEK said on Thursday it had asked strategic investors to file improved offers to acquire a 49-percent stake in a planned new nuclear power plant by Jan. 9.

Reuters 20th Dec 2007 more >>

Iran

Russia dampened Thursday Iranian hopes of an imminent launch of the Bushehr nuclear power station Moscow is building in the Islamic republic, saying it would not be launched earlier than the end of 2008.

Middle East Online 20th Dec 2007 more >>

Channel 4 News 20th Dec 2007 more >>

Terror

An underreported attack on a South African nuclear facility last month demonstrates the high risk of theft of nuclear materials by terrorists or criminals. Such a crime could have grave national security implications for the United States or any of the dozens of countries where nuclear materials are held in various states of security. Shortly after midnight on Nov. 8, four armed men broke into the Pelindaba nuclear facility 18 miles west of Pretoria, a site where hundreds of kilograms of weapons-grade uranium are stored. According to the South African Nuclear Energy Corp., the state-owned entity that runs the Pelindaba facility, these four “technically sophisticated criminals” deactivated several layers of security, including a 10,000-volt electrical fence, suggesting insider knowledge of the system. Though their images were captured on closed-circuit television, they were not detected by security officers because nobody was monitoring the cameras at the time.

Washington Post 20th Dec 2007 more >>

Carbon Capture

Shell and StatoilHydro have scrapped plans to build a green power plant that would capture and store carbon dioxide because the project was found to be uneconomic. The decision to shelve the gas-fired power project, which was to be built at Tjeldbergodden in Norway, casts further doubt on the financial viability of power schemes that capture and safely store greenhouse gases. In the UK, BP was forced to scrap plans to build a carbon-capture and storage scheme at Peterhead in Aberdeenshire, citing inadequate assurances of financial support from the British Government.

Times 21st Dec 2007 more >>

Posted: 21 December 2007