News March 2013

12 March 2013

Nuclear Liability

Antony Froggatt: Maximum liability is £140m in the UK, but Fukushima clean-up and compensation costs are running to tens of billions – and the state is footing the bill. 27 years after Chernobyl and two years after Fukushima, the proposed changes to the liability regimes are still to be adopted by the signatories of the international conventions. Consequently, in the UK, the current maximum that a nuclear operator is liable is still only £140m. The government is seeking to revise the maximum limit, but is waiting on the post-Chernobyl revisions to be adopted by other countries. If it is introduced, it will raised the operator’s liability ultimately to £1bn. As of October 2012, approximately £9.4bn (1,335 bn yen) had been paid out in compensation as a result of the Fukushima accident and this is expected to double in the next year. At this stage the final cost can only be roughly estimated, but the utility company, Tepco, has suggested that cost for compensation and decontamination maybe in the order of £70bn (10 trillion yen).

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Posted: 12 March 2013

11 March 2013

Nuclear Subsidies

EDF and the government remain locked in talks over price subsidies that are seen as crucial for the energy firm’s proposed nuclear power plant at Hinkley Point. The French firm said that negotiations have “taken longer than expected” but that it is working to finalise a deal by the end of the month. Both EDF and the Department for Energy and Climate Change refused to comment on reports over the weekend that an agreement was imminent. The company is expected to win planning permission for the country’s first new nuclear plant in a generation on 19 March. EDF has said it will be making cost cuts that will affect jobs at the site “until there’s greater clarity around its negotiations with the government”.

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Posted: 11 March 2013

10 March 2013

Nuclear Subsidy

The Government is understood to have agreed a 35-year subsidy to French energy group EDF to build the first in a new wave of nuclear power stations. Although there are still risks that talks could break down – EDF even warned in a recent internal memo that the deal was not guaranteed to go through – this is one of a series of advancements in the nuclear programme. On 19 March, the day before the Budget, the Environment Secretary, Ed Davey, will grant planning permission for EDF’s power plant in Hinkley Point, Somerset, paving the way for the first nuclear power station to be built in Britain since 1995. Industry sources said that the strike price being discussed is around £96-£97 per megawatt hour, towards the bottom end of the anticipated £95-£99.50 range. However, in exchange for receiving a relatively low price, EDF demanded the guarantee be in place for 40 years. This was double the initial proposal and has been a sticking point delaying the deal. It is thought an announcement will not be ready for the Budget, but EDF is determined that talks will finish by the end of the month.

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Posted: 10 March 2013

9 March 2013

Sellafield

Friends of the Earth reveals today a catalogue of safety failures over nuclear waste at Sellafield and £millions wasted. A new FoE Briefing ‘Towards a safer Cumbria’ shows how regulators have lowered safety standards and the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority has created yet more waste instead of ‘focusing squarely on the nuclear legacy’, its original mission. Mike Childs, Head of Research & Policy at Friends of the Earth said: ‘Sellafield is making a pig’s ear out of clearing up the mess from their costly reprocessing activities. Successive governments have failed to get a grip, with the result that the people of Cumbria continue to face intolerable risks. We need a firm commitment from government that sorting out this mess is a top priority with a firm deadline for making the waste safe’

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Posted: 9 March 2013

8 March 2013

Towards a Safer Cumbria

Friends of the Earth has published a report which catalogues saftey failures over nuclear waste at Sellafield and £millions wasted. A new FoE Briefing ‘Towards a safer Cumbria’ shows how regulators have lowered safety standards and the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority has created yet more waste instead of ‘focusing squarely on the nuclear legacy’, its original mission.

Mike Childs, Head of Research & Policy at Friends of the Earth said:

“Sellafield is making a pig’s ear out of clearing up the mess from their costly reprocessing activities. Successive governments have failed to get a grip, with the result that the people of Cumbria continue to face intolerable risks. We need a firm commitment from government that sorting out this mess is a top priority with a firm deadline for making the waste safe”

The Brieifing analyses the performance of the THORP Plutonium Separation Plant, the High-level Waste Treatment Facilities, and the treatment of solid wastes. It says that in 2008 the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate said Liquid high Level Waste Storage tanks needed replacement ‘with the utmost urgency’, but now the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) says these tanks ‘may no longer represent the ‘as low as reasonably practicable’ position with regard to hazard reduction activities on the site’. The report says:

“Failure by the NDA and its private partner bodies has been responded to by the ONR changing its recommendations, rather than using its regulatory powers to ensure action. ONR seems to be sanctioning  cost-cutting exercise rather than insisting on maximum safety.”

The poor performance of reprocessing at Sellafield lies at the heart of the problems, causing build-up of dangerous waste and cost over-runs. The report concludes: “Sellafield and the NDA have been carrying out an expensive and dangerous balancing act in order to complete its reprocessing contracts … Because the nuclear regulator refuses to countenance ordering an end to reprocessing we remain at risk.”

FoE calls on the NDA to halt reprocessing as soon as possible, even if this requires contracts to be broken.

Towards a Safer Cumbria (March2013)

Posted: 8 March 2013

8 March 2013

Hinkley

Austria could be badly contaminated by radioactive pollution from a serious accident at the new nuclear power station proposed for Hinkley Point in Someset, the country’s environment agency has warned. The Austrian government’s Umweltbundesamt has lodged a formal objection to the application to build the station by the French power company, EDF Energy. The dangers of a worst-case accident should be assessed before the plant is given the go-ahead, it says. The Vienna agency’s 39-page submission concludes that the environmental impact assessment of the proposed Hinkley reactors “does not permit a meaningful assessment of the effects of conceivable accidents”. EDF’s claim that the risk of a large release of radioactivity has been practically eliminated “is not sufficiently demonstrated”, it says.

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Posted: 8 March 2013

7 March 2013

New Nukes

“Intense” was the word Henri Proglio, chief executive of EDF, chose last month to describe the company’s talks with the British government over building the UK’s first nuclear power plant in a generation. The French energy giant had just been dealt a body blow by HM Treasury: an offer of a subsidy far below the level EDF felt necessary to spend £14bn building reactors at Hinkley Point in Somerset. Yesterday, however, an internal EDF memo emerged showing the talks had reached a new level of “critical”. So challenging are the negotiations that EDF has now begun laying off staff from the Hinkley Point project because of the real possibility the talks may fail. Some in the industry suggest the Treasury has become seduced by the possibility of cheap shale gas and is prepared to let EDF’s project fail. Others still believe the Government remains committed to nuclear and the Treasury is merely engaging in brinkmanship because it believes it can still extract a better deal from EDF. The truth is likely to become much clearer in the next few weeks.

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Posted: 7 March 2013

6 March 2013

Hinkley

THERE is growing tension surrounding the Hinkley C project amid reports talks between EDF Energy and the Government over the price to be paid for the energy generated have reached “crisis point”. A planning decision on Hinkley C will be announced before March 19, with Energy Secretary Ed Davey firmly expected to give the thumbs-up.

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Posted: 6 March 2013

A dead parrot?

This March the nuclear renaissance has a whiff of dead parrot about it. Negotiations over the guaranteed price EDF hopes to receive for Hinkley seem to have hit the buffers. The Telegraph says talks are at “crisis point” and heading for failure. The BBC’s Robert Peston says the dispute seems “more serious than the Treasury’s habitual battles with the private sector” over subsidies. EDF is scaling back spending on Hinkley “until there is greater clarity around its negotiations with the Government”.

Apparently EDF wants a 10% rate of return but the Treasury fears that means it would make excessive profits. EDF says future reactors should be cheaper. And Hitachi has warned that if the deal with EDF collapses, Ministers could not count on Hitachi to step into the breach. Peston says rejection of the nuclear option now looks a very real prospect.

Even if the Treasury and EDF do come to an agreement, the European Commission might take up to two years to decide on whether the proposals constitute illegal State Aid. EDF Energy’s proliferating demands for financial support will force the EC to deliberate until 2015 at least.

The Energy and Climate Change Committee has called for a Plan B, in case nuclear investment doesn’t happen. At no2nuclearpower we think that an alternative strategy based on energy efficiency and renewables is essential anyway. As former Labour MP, Alan Simpson, points out: “…hundreds of thousands of the fuel poor will die in this decade …. Millions more will face rising fuel bills for energy set to become less and less affordable, while better choices slide off the table. This is not a programme, it’s a road crash. The only sources of energy with genuinely falling cost curves are all being sidelined.”

For less than the cost of a single new nuclear power station, Britain could take seven million households out of fuel poverty. For less than the cost of the bribes that we will pay for reopening mothballed gas power stations we could have a renewable energy programme that would deliver sustainability, and a decentralised system of generation, and distribution that would turn a cartel into an energy democracy.

5th March 2013

Posted: 5 March 2013

5 March 2013

Nuclear Subsidies

Talks between EDF Energy and the Government over building Britain’s first new nuclear plant in a generation are at “crisis point” and could fail within weeks because of deadlock over subsidies for the project. Tim Yeo MP, chairman of the Energy Select Committee, warned of the problems as EDF said it was scaling back spending on its £14bn project for reactors at Hinkley Point in Somerset “until there is greater clarity around its negotiations with the Government”. This would “have an impact on recruitment and jobs”, EDF said, understood to mean the loss of 150 jobs – about one-fifth of the project’s workforce. the Treasury, which is heavily involved in the negotiations, has taken a tough line over the returns EDF should be allowed. “The talks have reached a critical stage,” Mr Yeo told The Daily Telegraph, adding he believed they were likely to conclude either way “in the next fortnight”.

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Posted: 5 March 2013