News May 2013

21 May 2013

Nuclear Subsidy

In a report riddled with pro-nuclear fantasy hopes and statements, the Select Committee of MPs which scrutnises the Department of Energy and Climate Change has called upon the Government to give much better terms to nuclear power than will be offered to renewable energy. This mixture of pro-nuclear fantasy and preference for nuclear over renewables is highlighted when, on the one hand, the Committee calls for new nuclear build to be given no higher strike price than offshore wind, but then says that nuclear power should have its costs ‘guaranteed’ by the Treasury.

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Posted: 21 May 2013

20 May 2013

Nuclear Transport

Ro-ro Atlantic Cartier had on board more than 20 tons of radioactive material, when vessel suffered major fire in Hamburg port on May 2 13, reported vesseltracker.com. Cargo list of the vessel was made public on May 16. There were nine tons of uranium hexafluoride which is used for the production of fuel rods, also on board were about four tons of ammunition.

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Posted: 20 May 2013

19 May 2013

Energy Costs

Energy bills are rising so steeply that they could overtake mortgage repayments in parts of Britain in just five years’ time, the chief executive of supplier, First Utility, has claimed. Ian McCaig issued the stark warning as he said energy policies must be reviewed to minimise the impact on bills and said consumers should think about turning down their heating to reduce costs. Critics have said that the Government’s environmental policies on windfarms and energy efficiency schemes, for example, are adding unnecessarily to the cost of bills. There is widespread agreement that energy bills will rise significantly to pay for hundreds of billions of pounds of new power plants Britain needs, but estimates vary as to how much. Government figures suggest household energy bills will be about £76 higher by 2020. However, the official figures assume major reduction in energy consumption as a result of schemes such as the Green Deal scheme offering households loans to make homes more efficient.

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Posted: 19 May 2013

18 May 2013

New Nukes

The government has insisted it was still optimistic about plans to build a series of nuclear power stations despite expectations that EDF would delay its timetable for a new reactor at Hinkley Point and concerns that China was losing interest in being a co-investor. On Friday, the construction trade paper Building quoted industry sources as saying that EDF did not expect to take a final investment decision on Hinkley in Somerset until September at the earliest. The firm, 80% of which is owned by the French state, had originally talked about concluding negotiations by the end of 2012. That was later extended to the first quarter of 2013. Delays have traditionally dogged nuclear energy projects but are particularly worrisome in this case because Britain faces a potential energy capacity crisis within five years. EDF has been struggling with its own soaring £30bn debt levels and delays at its key project in France. The group opened talks with the Chinese as an alternative co-investor and earlier this month signed a formal co-operation deal with China Guangdong Nuclear Power Holding Company. But City sources working for the Chinese told the Guardian they thought it very unlikely they would participate.

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Posted: 18 May 2013

17 May 2013

Energy Costs

At 2013 prices, solar PV in mid-latitude countries is now cheaper than new nuclear. Put in the UK context, the proposed EdF power station at Hinkley is now more expensive per unit of electricity generated than solar farms in the south of England. The implications of this need a great deal more consideration than they are getting. We do know what EdF, the owner of the Hinkley site, thinks it needs to pay its capital providers. Press reports, not denied by the company, suggest that it believes that it needs a minimum price of £97 per megawatt hour in order to achieve a required 10% return on the capital used to build the plant. Rough calculations suggest that a ‘strike price’ of £97 for solar electricity would yield a return of 11.3% on the funds committed. This is more than the 10% return achieved by EdF on its proposed investment at Hinkley. Electricity from solar PV is therefore cheaper – in good locations – than nuclear.

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Posted: 17 May 2013

16 May 2013

New Nuclear

The rhetoric of ‘new nuclear’ is specifically designed to distinguish Generation III (and 3+) reactors from previous generation reactors, or ‘old nuclear’ for the sake of argument. However, closer examination shows that the roots of nuclear rhetoric in the present day can be traced as far back as 1901. As an industry it is constructed in the collective public mind as inherently futuristic and progressive: the energy of the future- today. The problem with such rhetoric (or its strength, depending on your point of view) is that it can gloss over current controversies, for example, the cost of nuclear, to focus on the prospect of future benefit. Davey’s rhetoric sits awkwardly with the continuing wrangling over subsidies for Hinkley Point C.

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Posted: 16 May 2013

15 May 2013

Nuclear Subsidy

Britain’s hopes for new nuclear power may at last be cleared by ministers, with a deal set to be struck within two weeks. Crucial talks between EDF, which wants to build two new generators at its Hinkley Point site in Somerset, and Government ministers have dragged on for months, with both sides threatening to walk away. But now sources close to the talks say ‘the mood music has changed’. It is now understood that this is likely to be set between £93 and £96 per mega-watt hour. While ministers wanted a lower rate, in the £80s, EDF said it could not build the reactors for that amount. To compensate for the higher price, sources say tough terms and conditions in the contract will prevent EDF from making ‘massive windfall profits’ from the venture – a key political concern because ministers do not want to be seen to be over-paying to the French state-backed firm. A clause is likely to be inserted that will allow the Government to claw back money from the company to pass back to consumers if this happens, it is understood.

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Posted: 15 May 2013

14 May 2013

New Nukes

Centrica has ratcheted up fears over Britain’s energy security by warning that its rival EDF will take twice as long as originally planned to build the first of a new generation of nuclear power stations. Sir Roger Carr, Centrica chairman, told its AGM on Monday that since it first considered the project the price had “rocketed hugely”, adding: “Nuclear is not a cheap option.” Sam Laidlaw, chief executive, said: “Not only had the cost increased but also the schedule had lengthened very considerably. So instead of taking four to five years to build, EDF were telling us that it was going to take nine to 10 years to build. That is a long time to be writing out a cheque for this project.”

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Posted: 14 May 2013

13 May 2013

New Nukes

Mr Marchant who retires this summer after a decade at the helm of SSE, has renewed calls for the Government not to agree a deal with rival EDF to build the UK’s first new nuclear plant in a generation at Hinkley Point in Somerset. The £14bn project depends on subsidies paid for by levies on consumer energy bills. Mr Marchant said the EDF deal was “the wrong technology at the wrong price from the wrong company”. New nuclear technologies being developed elsewhere were “easier and quicker to build”.

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Posted: 13 May 2013

12 May 2013

Energy Policy

From 2015, Britain is due to start shutting down its dirty coal-fired power stations. The country has taken a huge punt on nuclear power to plug the gap that will be left by the demise of coal. It is a gamble that already looks like backfiring. David Cameron and George Osborne have turned to Fallon, often called the “chancellor’s enforcer”, to fix it. Fallon is now the government’s point man on some of the most controversial and thorny subjects. He is piloting the Royal Mail’s planned £3bn privatisation, and the sale of Urenco, the uranium enrichment business valued at $13bn (£8.6bn). Both deals could happen this year. Fallon is also throwing himself into make-or-break negotiations with EDF, the French state-controlled power group, about the future of new nuclear plants in Britain. “We are inching closer,” said Fallon, “but these are very difficult negotiations. We can’t be sure at this stage whether we are going to succeed.”

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Posted: 12 May 2013