News March 2013

4 March 2013

New Nukes

The government needs a “plan B” on nuclear power, because of the danger that new reactors will not be built in time to avoid energy shortages and possible blackouts, an influential committee of MPs has warned. The warning follows concerns raised by Alistair Buchanan, the outgoing chief executive of the energy regulator, Ofgem, that the decommissioning of many of the UK’s ageing fleet of power stations could sharply increase the risk of shortages within a few years. EDF Energy, the French national energy company that will lead the building of the first plant, is in a stand-off with ministers over demands for higher prices for its energy, and work on the first potential reactor is likely to face further opposition, endangering the government’s timetable for new plants. Any power shortages are unlikely to result in blackouts for consumers in the short term, but could affect businesses that are on contracts, forcing them to close if there is an imbalance between supply and demand, and this could be expensive. Tim Yeo, chairman of the energy and climate change select committee, said: “The government seems to be crossing its fingers that private companies will deliver a fleet of new nuclear power stations on time and on budget. Ministers need to urgently come up with a contingency plan in case the nuclear industry does not deliver the new power stations we need.”

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Posted: 4 March 2013

3 March 2013

Magnox Decommissioning

Consortia vying for the contract to decommission £7bn of nuclear waste are spending as much as £1m a month on bidding. In a sign that government procurement costs remain eye-wateringly high, sources said the four bidders had spent “well into the teens of millions” on working up their proposals in a process that began 18 months ago. The contract, formally launched last summer, will see the clean-up of 12 nuclear sites including obsolete magnox stations in Gloucestershire and Essex. “There are so many different workforces, cultures and projects on these sites that you have to come up with different plans for each of them,” added one of the sources. The sites are also at different stages of decommissioning, with one, in Anglesey, still producing electricity. The bidders include a pairing of listed British engineers Amec and Atkins, while the remaining three teams are led by US giants Bechtel, CH2M Hill and Fluor. A fifth team, led by another US group in URS, recently withdrew from the auction. The contract will run for 14 years.

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Posted: 3 March 2013

2 March 2013

Sellafield (Moorside)

Toshiba is expected to buy an empty reactor site at Sellafield, in a move that the Government hopes will kick-start Britain’s faltering programme. Toshiba, the owner of Westinghouse, has approached Iberdrola, co-owner of the Nugen project, to build a reactor on the Cumbria site. The Japanese group recently appointed PwC to advise on investing in nuclear projects in Britain. Iberdrola, which has always denied that it wants to leave the Nugen project, is close to appointing an investment bank to advise on its exit. The debt-laden Spanish group is keen to secure a quick sale of its 50 per cent stake, which could be worth £100 million. The lease on the Sellafield land will expire next April unless its present — or new — owners rapidly accelerate work to prepare the site for construction. If progress is not made, the site could be auctioned off again next year. Toshiba is expected to seek additional funding from cash-rich Chinese state-owned nuclear groups that want to gain expertise in building new reactors in countries such as Britain. Ministers hope that a change in ownership will revive the flagging project, which has made little progress since the Nugen consortium paid £70 million to lease the 190-hectare plot in 2009. SSE, a partner in the consortium, left in 2011 to invest instead in wind farms. The two remaining partners, Iberdrola and GDF Suez, of France, have little appetite or ability to make the multibillion-pound investment required. CGNPG, of China, has held discussions with EDF Energy about becoming a partner in Hinkley Point but there are doubts if that would be politically acceptable Britain. A Japanese rival, Hitachi, unexpectedly outbid Toshiba last October to buy a separate project called Horizon to build up to six reactors in Britain on two sites from the German groups E.ON and RWE for £700 million. Ministers are keen to have the Nugen project up and running in case the other two falter. They hope to have a new fleet of reactors built by the 2020s to keep the lights on and meet ambitious emissions targets.

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Posted: 2 March 2013

1 March 2013


People in the area worst affected by Japan’s Fukushima nuclear accident two years ago have a slightly higher risk of developing certain cancers, the World Health Organization said on Thursday.

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Posted: 1 March 2013