News May 2014

31 May 2014


The proposed Hinkley Point C nuclear power station has moved a step closer to joining the UK’s power network after the National Grid applied to build a 35-mile transmission connection. The National Grid has submitted a proposal to the Planning Inspectorate to link Bridgwater in Somerset to Seabank near Avonmouth in Bristol. It would incorporate five miles of underground cable through the Mendip Hills and 30 miles of overhead power lines carried on 141 pylons of between 35 and 47 metres in height.

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Posted: 31 May 2014

30 May 2014


The Planning Act regime for authorising nationally significant infrastructure projects was switched on for applications on 1 March 2010. It’s been something of a slow start, but as of yesterday the number of projects for which applications have been made has reached 50, with the application for the 60km long Hinkley Point C electricity connection arriving at the Planning Inspectorate in Bristol. It’s a big one, too, with over 60 boxes of documents and 2000 A1 plans. Time for a bit of analysis.

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Posted: 30 May 2014

29 May 2014


The Kier/Bam Nuttall joint venture expects to start phase two of site preparation at Hinkley Point C in June, Kier’s group finance director has told Construction News. EDF Energy appointed Kier and Bam Nuttall for site preparation works worth in excess of £100m in March 2011, with the contracts signed in February 2012. The main construction work on the UK’s first new nuclear project in a generation was originally due to commence in the summer of 2012, but was delayed due to negotiations between EDF and the Department of Energy and Climate Change over a strike price. Speaking to Construction News after Kier posted its interim management statement for the period from 31 December 2013 to 15 May 2015, Haydn Mursell said: “We should start on site [at Hinkley Point C] in a material way in June.” An EDF spokeswoman said the works starting next month will be phase two of the site preparation and include the “reversible” construction of roundabouts, temporary construction roads and drainage works, she added.

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Posted: 29 May 2014

28 May 2014


Plans to meet all Scottish energy needs through renewable sources by 2020 are challenging. Our expert panel discussed how it could be achieved. What is unique about the Scottish energy challenge, and can the Scottish government realistically achieve its target of securing 100% of its energy needs from renewable sources by 2020? That was tricky issue under discussion at the Guardian’s Glasgow debate on tackling the UK’s energy crisis. More than half (56%) of Scotland’s pensioners are affected by fuel poverty, compared with 24% in the south of England. As fuel poverty bites, it’s up to politicians to take the lead: our panel agreed that energy policy should be depoliticised and that politicians should listen to expert opinion and be willing to take unpopular decisions to achieve a secure energy source. The Scottish government continues to oppose nuclear energy. Is shale gas the answer? According to Younger, sourcing unconventional gas is “inevitable” because the government has effectively ruled out both nuclear energy and new coal. But he warned that shale gas is unlikely to be a “game changer” in Scotland due to its location under densely populated areas. One potential solution, he argued, would be to convert coal under the sea into gas – but this would prove controversial. Another idea would be to embrace geothermal district heating in cities such as Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen.

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Posted: 28 May 2014

27 May 2014


Britain’s nuclear watchdog faces what shocked industry insiders are calling “unbelievable” conflicts of interest, The Independent can reveal. The Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) is receiving technical advice from several of the very companies that it is supposed to be monitoring, including the US engineering conglomerate Jacobs and the Ftse 100 stalwart Amec. This has led to accusations that the advice cannot be viewed as independent. ONR inspects nuclear sites across the country, including the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) in Berkshire and Hinkley Point civil energy reactors in Somerset. It recently issued formal cautions to two workers on Cumbria’s Sellafield, one of the world’s most complicated decommissioning sites, for an incident that could have exposed themselves or their colleagues to heightened levels of radiation. But there are fears that ONR’s efforts to oversee these hazardous sites could be compromised by contracts it has dished out for technical support in its assessment work. In early April ONR handed Jacobs a five-year deal to help the watchdog in areas like assessing external hazards and decontamination in relation to its work on existing nuclear sites and future reactor designs. Amec gives advice on complicated issues such as reactor chemistry and radiation protection, while the consultancy Arup and building firm Sir Robert McAlpine help on civil engineering issues. All have extensive nuclear interests in the UK. Jacobs is part of the consortium that owns AWE, which builds and maintains the UK’s nuclear defence deterrent, Trident. Amec is in the consortium looking after the clean-up of Sellafield. Both of these huge firms are supporting Horizon Nuclear Power with engineering expertise on proposed plants at Wylfa on the Isle of Anglesey and Oldbury in south Gloucestershire. Arup worked for the operator RWE Npower on assessing potential sites for new nuclear power stations in Cumbria. Sir Robert McAlpine built 13 of Britain’s nuclear plants, such as Sizewell B in Suffolk.

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Posted: 27 May 2014

26 May 2014

Energy Policy

Leonie Greene: The government’s consultation on the rights of fracking companies to drill under your home was published the day after the local and European elections, hours after the polls closed. Perhaps that was a wise move given that public support for fracking seems to be falling. It hardly needs former Conservative energy secretary Lord Howell to warn that fracking “could prove extremely dangerous politically”. The careful timing on the latest announcement shows he may not be the only one who thinks so. The government’s enthusiasm for fracking sits in stark contrast to its erratic rhetoric and actions on solar energy. The solar industry has recently been ambushed by a fourth review in less than three years. Constant policy upheaval makes investment to reduce costs difficult, and the latest review is particularly ill considered. Usually governments offer a grace period to investors if they are going to change financial arrangements, but this one offers almost none – which means many emerging solar companies that invested in good faith are set for a financial hit. For all the rhetoric about a shift to rooftop solar, the government’s own policy framework actually limits this important market. What we need politicians to do is to champion good quality solar farms and to liberate the huge potential of the UK’s rooftop market. If the government can provide a steady framework, the solar industry can definitely be the cheapest low-carbon technology by around 2018, and ready to take on fossil fuels with no public subsidies at all soon after that. It is time politicians listened a lot less to big polluting international energy companies, and a lot more to British entrepreneurs who are creating real competition and delivering a clean energy revolution through this extraordinarily benign and accessible technology. They should also listen to the public. The Department of Energy and Climate Change’s own opinion poll tracker shows solar enjoys its highest approval ratings ever at 85%. It seems the country is firmly behind solar. Westminster must catch up.

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Posted: 26 May 2014

25 May 2014


A HIGH Court decision to refuse an appeal against Lydd Airport’s expansion plans will increase the risk of a nuclear incident say protestors. One of the country’s top judges rejected claims that expansion of an airport at Lydd could pose the threat of a nuclear disaster in the south east. Mr Justice Ousley dismissed a two pronged challenge at London’s High Court to plans to expand the Lydd operation.

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Posted: 25 May 2014

24 May 2014

Nuclear Safety

After the 2011 Fukushima disaster, which exposed the collusion and incompetence among the regulators and regulated, you’d expect that more transparent, accountable governance regimes for important issues such as nuclear safety could not be in question. Not so in the EU Council of Ministers which until a few months ago still refused to reveal which delegations were adopting what positions during negotiations on new framework laws. Not any more. Thanks to a key legal victory last year by Access Info Europe, the Council must not systematically withhold such important information.

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Posted: 24 May 2014

23 May 2014


EDF’s Managing Director of Nuclear New Build told a conference on nuclear energy in London on Tuesday that he expects the project will be compliant with EU regulations. Humphrey Cadoux-Hudson told the Westminster Energy, Environment and Transport Forum that he is “confident that the robust steps the company is taking will ensure Hinkley Point C is compatible with EU state aid rules” and also noted that “a number of other countries are also interested in the process we are going through. “

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Posted: 23 May 2014

22 May 2014


A proposed housing development could churn up radioactive waste from a nearby quarry, a campaigner has warned. Patrick Cooke, of Crich, says the site chosen for 113 new homes off Roes Lane, Crich, abuts Hilts Quarry, which was used for a number of years by Rolls Royce for dumping low–level nuclear waste. The 70–year–old said: “They are proposing to put 113 houses to the side of an ex nuclear tip.” Patrick, a former retained firefighter, was awarded in the Mercury’s New Year Honours in 2004 for his efforts as chairman of the Crich and District Environment Action Group to stop the firm filling the quarry with the nuclear waste.

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Posted: 22 May 2014