News June 2013

3 June 2013

Nuclear Subsidy

As the FT reported on Friday, negotiations on the terms for new nuclear have advanced and there is increasing optimism that a deal can be done. The meeting between David Cameron and Francois Hollande in Paris two weeks ago amounted to a declaration of agreement in principle. Just three issues remain to be resolved. Can the project be financed? Can the terms survive full scrutiny and be judged fair to other suppliers? And can the project be delivered on time and on budget? These are not small issues and many in Whitehall want to ensure that they are clearly resolved before an announcement in made. So far that caution is being overruled by the political will to do a deal. Mr Cameron wants a success. Taking the three issues in turn. The simple fact is that EDF cannot finance the deal from its own already stretched balance sheet without jeopardising its overall credit rating. The question of whether EDF is being over-protected will come down to the detailed terms of the agreement. The strike price gets the headlines but the real issue is the distribution of risk – who pays if costs overrun or if there are radical changes in the market which leave nuclear unneeded. Those terms will inspected forensically by other suppliers and by bodies such as the Public Accounts Committee – a degree of scrutiny to which EDF is not always accustomed in France. I would not be surprised to see the government forcing a last minute concession on the strike price – down to £80 per MwH – to convince the sceptics that they have negotiated a tough deal. The third point is the one on which, contrary to the conventional wisdom, I think there is the greatest cause for optimism. EDF in the UK knows that the construction of Hinkley will be a global test of its ability to build new nuclear on time and on budget.

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Posted: 3 June 2013

2 June 2013

Energy Bill

Investment in green energy in the UK has plummeted to its lowest level in seven years, according to new figures from Bloomberg, with campaigners claiming that much of the blame can be pinned on the Government’s failure to set a target date for cleaning up the power sector. As the Government prepares to put its Energy Bill before MPs this week, the Bloomberg figures show clean energy investment has fallen from £7.2bn in 2009 to under £3bn last year – and is heading below £1.9bn in 2013. Critics claim the analysis fatally undermines the coalition’s claim to be “the greenest government ever” and raises concerns over the UK’s chances of slashing carbon emissions in line with international treaties.The Social Liberal Forum, an internal Lib Dem pressure group, will send a letter to the party’s backbench MPs today urging them to “vote for the inclusion of a clear decarbonisation target”. The shadow Energy Secretary, Caroline Flint, has also contacted all Liberal Democrat MPs urging them to defy their leadership and support the amendment.

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Posted: 2 June 2013

1 June 2013

Hinkley

Environmentalists have launched a legal challenge to plans to build the first of a planned new generation of UK nuclear power plants in the West Country. Greenpeace is challenging the decision to grant planning permission on the grounds that the Government has yet to secure a site to store the plant’s nuclear waste. If the application for a judicial review is granted, the huge project could be hit by months, if not years, of legal wrangling as the case is heard in court. This will delay an expected £100 million-a-year investment into the local economy at the peak of the eight-year construction project, disappointing supporters, who include Somerset County Council. Legal papers reveal that the eco-group is claiming Mr Davey glossed over the facts in his planning consent. Leila Deen, Greenpeace energy campaigner, said the Government “appears to have proceeded on the basis of ‘optimism’ that a waste facility can be found”. But she added: “With Cumbria Council having refused to host one, and no other candidate site on the table, there is absolutely no basis for that optimism.” The Government’s defence, filed at the High Court, said there was “no sustainable basis” for the judicial review and it should be dismissed.

Western Daily Press 31st May 2013 read more »

Radwaste

The Office for Nuclear Regulation and the Environment Agency have published the latest summary of their ongoing scrutiny of the work of the NDA’s Radioactive Waste Management Directorate (RWMD). The summary covers the period April 2010 to March 2012. Both regulatory bodies scrutinise, and advise on, the work of RWMD relating to the implementation of geological disposal, including the work undertaken by RWMD to provide advice to nuclear site operators on the packaging of higher activity waste for disposal. In the report, the regulators set out the areas of RWMD’s work they have examined and the key messages provided to RWMD.

NDA Press Release 29th May 2013 read more »

Annual Review April 2010 to March 2012 read more »

Env Agency (accesssed) 31st May 2013 read more »

DECC

The announcement that the Department of Energy and Climate Change – along with half a dozen other Whitehall ministries – has accepted another reduction in its budget under the latest spending review will be celebrated only by the energy companies and their lobbyists. A weak department has been weakened further with its negotiating capability undermined at a critical moment. Most of DECC’s £3bn budget goes to meet its statutory obligations – including nuclear decommissioning costs. Those obligations can’t be cut so the burden falls on the “discretionary” areas of policy making which include negotiations around the vexed issue of Electricity Market Reform. Cuts and natural wastage, which leaves a significant number of posts unfilled, mean that the department is now seriously understaffed for these negotiations. There is big money at stake and for the companies no expense on staff and lobbyists is too great. The secretary of state has been supine in accepting the cuts without challenge.

FT 31st May 2013 read more »

France

French plans to build a nuclear-waste repository were set back when two public meetings were postponed by local opposition. A debate scheduled for tomorrow in Saint Didier, northeastern France, and another in the nearby town of Joinville on June 6 have been pushed back, organizers said in a statement yesterday. The new dates are yet to be determined. France is looking to store radioactive waste from Electricite de France SA’s 58 reactors, as well as from Areva SA (AREVA) and atomic-research organization CEA, at a site near Bure, which straddles the Meuse and Haute-Marne regions. The plans have already faced opposition as protests last week forced the cancellation of the first in a series of public consultations.

Business Week 29th May 2013 read more »

Japan

The evacuation of tens of thousands of people helped prevent rising cancer rates and other health problems after Japan’s Fukushima nuclear disaster, the world’s worst in 25 years, U.N. scientists said on Friday.Radiation exposure following the reactor meltdowns more than two years ago did not cause any immediate health effects, the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR) said after its annual meeting. Actions to protect inhabitants in the area, including evacuation and sheltering, significantly reduced the exposure to radioactive substances, the scientific body said after the session to prepare a report for the U.N. General Assembly.”These measures reduced the potential exposure by up to a factor of 10,” said senior UNSCEAR member Wolfgang Weiss.”If that had not been the case, we might have seen the cancer rates rising and other health problems emerging over the next several decades,” he said in a statement. Weiss, who chairs work on UNSCEAR’s Fukushima report, told reporters that dose levels were “so low that we don’t expect to see any increase in cancer in the future in the population”. UNSCEAR’s findings appeared to differ somewhat from a World Health Organisation (WHO) report published in February which said people in the area worst affected have a slightly higher risk of developing certain cancers.

Reuters 31st May 2013 read more »

Independent 31st May 2013 read more »

Dozens of crabs, three small sharks and scores of fish thump on the slippery deck of the fishing boat True Prosperity as captain Shohei Yaoita lands his latest haul, another catch headed not for the dinner table but for radioactive testing.Japan’s government banned commercial fishing in this area, some 200 km (125 miles) northeast of Tokyo, after a devastating 2011 tsunami and the reactor meltdowns and explosions that followed at the nearby Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant.The plant’s operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co, or Tepco, has battled since then to keep radioactive water used to cool the crippled reactor from leaking into the ground and the sea.

Reuters 31st May 2013 read more »

Carbon

In a recent blog, (Financial Times, May 23rd 2013) Nick Butler bemoaned the collapse of the European carbon price. It was, he said, ‘a serious indicator of the loss of interest in the issue of climate policy among top policy makers.’ Butler’s FT blog is one of the better informed and well judged commentaries on British energy policy. I am less persuaded by his take on climate policy. There certainly has been a widely commented upon recent loss of interest in climate change by ‘top policy makers’. But the collapse of the carbon price is an indicator of something rather more fundamental. It is really an indicator of the vulnerability of climate policy to industrial lobbying. The EU emissions trading system has had little impact on carbon emissions since its inception for the very simple reason the European governments caved into industry lobbying. As was pointed out at the time, the initial allocations of permits were far too high to generate a carbon price that would significantly alter capital intense energy investments.

Tom Burke 29th May 2013 read more »

Beyond its raw facts about emissions, this book (The Burning Question) great contribution to the debate is to point out that the markets are gambling trillions of dollars on a bet that governments will never seriously curb carbon emissions. How do they know this? Because to address climate change would mean leaving most of the remaining fossil carbon in the earth. But that would entail the future value of the fossil-fuel energy companies falling to a fraction of their present valuation: current share prices declare that no climate mitigation will happen. However, sudden action may be forced on governments by a period of catastrophic climate damage and food shortages. This would cause a global collapse of the energy industry greater than the crash of 2007-08. Something will have to give. If the markets are playing their usual game – we know a bubble will burst but that’s OK because we’ll get out in time – they are gambling with the lives of hundreds of thousands of people and the livelihoods of billions.

Guardian 31st May 2013 read more »

Posted: 1 June 2013