News August 2014

31 August 2014

Chinese Nuclear Investment

CHINA’S nuclear giants are poised to hire new advisers as talks over plans to build a Beijing-designed atomic reactor in Britain reach a critical stage. Last year the UK government struck a deal with France’s EDF and two Chinese developers, China General Nuclear Power Corporation (CGNPC) and China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC), to underwrite a pair of reactors at Hinkley Point in Somerset with decades in guaranteed subsidies. The £16bn project hinged on two conditions: approval from Brussels that the agreement doesn’t violate state-aid rules; and permission for the Chinese to build their own plant on UK soil. The Chinese have pledged to buy up to 40% of Hinkley. Negotiations on both points have reached a critical stage. It is understood that the Chinese are close to appointing Rothschild, the investment bank, to nail down the final details. Sources close to the talks are confident that Brussels will give the green light [to the Hinkley deal] by October, which would pave the way for a final investment decision before the end of the year. In parallel, the Chinese are negotiating with EDF to buy one of the sites designated by the government for new atomic stations. Just one reactor design, the French EPR, has won approval. Beijing wants to get its own approved but the process would take several years.

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Posted: 31 August 2014

30 August 2014

ONR

Following concerns raised earlier this year about the direction currently being taken by the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR), the announcement this week in the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority’s E-Bulletin of 27th August that the Office for Nuclear Regulation has joined the newly convened ‘N-Group’raises major doubts about the Regulator’s independence from the industry it is tasked with policing. According to the E-Bulletin announcement, the N-Group sees the NDA joining together with other industry voices which include the National Nuclear Laboratory (NNL), the Nuclear Industry Association (NIA), the Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (NAMRC) and the Nuclear Institute (Ni) as well as ONR. The NDA describes the idea of the new Group as creating ‘a dialogue between the member organisations to identify shared priorities and areas where we can collaborate for mutual benefit and for the benefit of the industry (emphasis added) and the UK as a whole’. CORE’s spokesman Martin Forwood commented today: ‘In terms of regulating the safety of nuclear facilities without fear or favour, it is beyond belief that ONR should think it suitable or sensible for a supposedly independent regulator to sit on this newly formed Group whose dialogue is for the benefit of the nuclear industry. If ONR is to retain any shred of public confidence in its ability to independently perform its vital safety and security role, it must abandon its membership of this overtly pro-nuclear N Group immediately’.

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Posted: 30 August 2014

29 August 2014

Hinkley

The Stop Hinkley Campaign has called on EDF Energy to give up its nuclear ambitions following a report from giant multinational investment bank, UBS, which declares that it is time to join the [solar] revolution”. UBS says large centralised power stations, like the proposed £16 billion Hinkley Point C nuclear power station could be obsolete with 10 to 20 years. Large power stations will soon become extinct because they are too big and inflexible, and are “not relevant” for future electricity generation, according to the bank. And yet, if the European Commission gives the deal between the UK Government and EDF Energy the go-ahead consumers could be paying for these redundant reactors until around 2060.

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Posted: 29 August 2014

Large Power Stations will be Obsolete

The Stop Hinkley Campaign has called on EDF Energy to give up its nuclear ambitions following a report from giant multinational investment bank, UBS, which declares that it is “time to join the [solar] revolution”. (1)

UBS says large centralised power stations, like the proposed £16 billion Hinkley Point C nuclear power station could be obsolete with 10 to 20 years. Large power stations will soon become extinct because they are too big and inflexible, and are “not relevant” for future electricity generation, according to the bank.

And yet, if the European Commission gives the deal between the UK Government and EDF Energy the go-ahead consumers could be paying for these redundant reactors until around 2060.

Instead UBS says solar energy costs have fallen rapidly and the technology is now on the verge of being competitive without subsidies. Battery costs are declining fast and electric vehicles will soon cost the same as conventional cars. The Bank expects home solar systems, small-scale home battery technology and an electric car to be a sensible investment for consumers in much of Europe by 2020.

The UBS report follows similar analysis by other large financial institutions and energy experts who expect new solar and renewable technologies to drive rapid change in large scale utility companies. (2)

Stop Hinkley spokesperson Roy Pumfrey said:

EDF Energy needs to give up now before it wastes any more of the £16 billion cost of building Hinkley Point C. At the rapid rate of change in small-scale renewable energy technologies the nuclear reactors will be obsolete before they are built or very soon after, but consumers will be forced to keep paying for these redundant white elephants

(1) Will Solar, batteries and electric cars re-shape the electricity system? UBS 20th August 2014
A summary of the report is published in The Guardian 27th August 2014 
(2) Including Goldman Sachs, Barclays, Bloomberg and Citigroup. See Safe Energy 27th August 2014

Posted: 28 August 2014

28 August 2014

Radwaste

A new process to find a site for an underground repository for high-level nuclear waste in Cumbria is lacking detail, it has been claimed. Elaine Woodburn, leader of Copeland council, has expressed concern about the White Paper published last month, saying the process is “a kick in the teeth” for the community. She feels the council’s views put forward after the previous failed search procedure were ignored. At Copeland council’s executive meeting, she said: “They seem to have come up with a process that I’m not convinced that they will deliver.” Ms Woodburn said there were numerous questions to further clarify including which level of local authority has the final say, and what form a test of public support would be. The council will now write to the Department of Energy and Climate Change to raise these fresh concerns. She added: “I feel that this community has had a bit of a kick in the teeth in the process. I’m not sure if this process stays as it is that we would want to participate in it. It means for four years Copeland will be in limbo. Ultimately that will be someone else’s decision in four years’ time.” Further concern was raised about the timescale that the process may take and when a community can exercise its right of withdrawal. Formal discussions involving communities will not begin until 2016. The Government is set to form a community representation working group to lay out how the process will be taken forward, including the specifics of how communities volunteer. The construction of the disposal facility would guarantee around 570 jobs for decades to come and around 1,000 jobs during the construction phase – but it might not be ready until 2050 at the earliest.

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Posted: 28 August 2014

27 August 2014

New Nukes

On the face of it, the UK government’s obsession with nuclear power defies reason. It’s very expensive, inflexible, creates ‘existential’ threats and imposes enormous ‘long tail’ liabilities tens of thousands of years into the future. But there is a simple explanation: it’s all to maintain the UK’s status as a nuclear WMD state.

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Posted: 27 August 2014

26 August 2014

Nuclear Industry

The World Nuclear Industry Status Report provides an account of an industry in decline, writes Jonathon Porritt – with rising operating costs and an ever-shrinking share of world energy production, while the sector loses the race for investment and new generating capacity to fast growing renewable energy technologies. Every year, the World Nuclear Industry Status Report reminds me why those in the Green movement who think nuclear has a major role to play in securing a low-carbon world are completely, dangerously off their collective trollies. The Status Report is not an anti-nuclear polemic. Over the years, its authors (Mycle Schneider and Antony Froggatt) have assiduously built its reputation for dispassionate reporting on the state of the industry, presented as objectively and non-judgmentally as possible. It uses a wide range of sources (academic, industry, avowedly pro-nuclear and avowedly anti-nuclear) to maintain longitudinal datasets going back over decades to tell it as it is – in contrast to all the froth of partisan propaganda. On both sides. The Report digs down deep into the situation in Japan (as troubling as ever, whatever the self-justifying protestations of George Monbiot – the man who, mystifyingly, ‘fell in love’ with nuclear power because of Fukushima – and others), in China, at Hinkley Point, and in the context of a whole range of “potential newcomer countries”. As I worked my way through all this, page by page, it’s all but impossible for me to understand how any thoughtful, intelligent environmentalist could possibly suppose either that: a so-called nuclear renaissance is ever going to happen; or even in the improbable circumstances that it did, how it could possibly deliver the kind of safe, secure, low-carbon energy the world needs so desperately. And the longer they hang on to these fantasies, the more damage they do, sowing confusion and doubt, distracting attention from the business of driving forward with the renewables-efficiency-storage alternative.

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Posted: 26 August 2014

25 August 2014

Bradwell

Chinese nuclear power giants are reportedly zoning in on Bradwell as the site for a new atomic plant. The Sunday Times reports today that the area on the Dengie coast, currently home to the decommissioned Magnox nuclear power station, has been picked as a favourite. China General Nuclear Power Corporation and China National Nuclear Corporation agreed to help finance Britain’s first new atomic power plant, for nearly 20 years, about two years ago. Bosses shortlisted other sites in Lancashire, Hartlepool, Wales and Gloucestershire – but the national newspaper says Essex is the preferred option following talks this month.

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Posted: 25 August 2014

24 August 2014

Bradwell

CHINA’S nuclear power giants are in early talks about building an atomic reactor on the Essex coast at Bradwell. The site, home to a partly decommissioned Magnox power plant, has emerged as the favourite for a new Chinese-built and designed plant, industry sources said. China General Nuclear Power Corporation and China National Nuclear Corporation have already agreed to help finance Britain’s first new atomic power plant for nearly 20 years. It will be built by the French utility company EDF at the cost of £16bn at Hinkley Point in Somerset. China General and China National will have up to a 40% stake in the EDF project, but they also pushed for permission to build their own plant in Britain. In June, David Cameron signed an agreement with the Chinese premier Li Keqiang that paved the way for such a plant. Industry sources said that an EDF development site adjacent to the current plant at Bradwell, near Chelmsford, had emerged as the leading contender in early talks because it had sufficient land for the Chinese designs. The two types of reactor under discussion are derivatives of western designs. It is understood that there have been preliminary talks between the Chinese and Britain’s National Nuclear Laboratory about submitting one of the two designs for approval by the Office for Nuclear Regulation.

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Posted: 24 August 2014

23 August 2014

Heysham

Mo Kelly: As a resident living within six miles of Heysham 1 and 2, I am profoundly concerned about the decisions being taken by EDF to insist upon the continued extended operation of out-of-date AGR reactors. It appears that no-one dares to face, let alone speak publicly, of the imminent and realistic next stage in the responsible management of nuclear power – its decommissioning. We, the trusting public, must act responsibly in calling Government and EDF to account. No more changing of safety standards in order to keep increasingly failing nuclear reactors in service.

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Posted: 23 August 2014