News November 2014

30 November 2014

Hinkley

The Government has refused to confirm that it it will sign a contract with EDF allowing Hinkley C to be built before April 2015, which is only a few weeks before the General Election. This can be seen in the text below which contains an answer to a Parliamentary Question tabled by Caroline Lucas. This evasive response underlines the shaky status of the Hinkley C nuclear project. The project was supposed to be backed by investments from AREVA and also Chinese state owned nuclear companies, but investment from both of these sources (around half of the total equity capital) is now under question. AREVA, the state-owned French nuclear constructor and parent of the failing EPR reactor design, is going bust and cannot afford the Hinkley C investment on its current balance sheet. The Chinese nuclear companies apparently want a greater share of the work on the project than EDF is willing to give. This underlines the core of the surviving French interest in the project – the interest of powerful nationalised French corporations to preserve their jobs in a declining industry. They have the power of the state at their disposal, ranged against the political inclinations of the Hollande Presidency to try to stop the nuclear dinosaur that controls the French state from eating up so much of its resources.

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Posted: 30 November 2014

29 November 2014

Hinkley

The Hinkley Point C nuclear power development is one of the largest and most complicated undertaken in the UK in the last decade. In our new special report, Insider takes a look at the ambition, investment and skills needed to get such an impressive project off the ground, and the supply chain and business opportunities it will create.

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Posted: 29 November 2014

28 November 2014

Hinkley

Qatar’s energy minister has said the gas-rich Persian Gulf sheikhdom would consider investing in the £25bn Hinkley Point nuclear project in Somerset. Speaking to The Telegraph ahead of today’s Opec meeting in Vienna, Mohammed bin Saleh Al-Sada said: “We are looking at making further energy investments in Europe and the UK” adding that backing the construction of Britain’s first atomic plant in over 25 years was one of the options under review. News of the potential investment in the project from Qatar comes as the consortium behind the project led by EDF Energy and fellow French state-owned Areva seek additional funding from investors.

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Posted: 28 November 2014

27 November 2014

Hinkley

Jonathon Porritt: A new report shows that the UK’s farms can easily generate as much power as the proposed Hinkley C nuclear plant, writes Jonathan Porritt. Not only would it all be renewable, but if could all be in place by 2020. Here he offers some friendly – but strictly confidential – advice for Energy Secretary Ed Davey. We’ve pretty much put all our low-carbon eggs into EDF’s all-encompassing nuclear basket – to the tune of £24 billion, or even £37 billion by some estimates! I’m sorry to have to tell you, Secretary of State, that there’s no way of saving face here. You’re already an object of scorn for some environmentalists, and if you now flip back again, having so assertively flopped into the nuclear camp, many people (even outside the Treasury) might start to question your judgement. However, I don’t think we need panic here. The Hinkley Point deal with EDF probably won’t come unstuck until after the next General Election, and in the meantime, you have a wonderful opportunity to buff up your residual green credentials by pressing the start button on Farm Power UK right now. And the overall cost of renewable electricity from our farms is likely to be much lower than that from nuclear power stations, while also creating much needed rural employment. Moreover the power will begin to flow pretty much immediately – reducing the chances of electricity shortages in time for winter 2015 – never mind waiting until 2023 (if we’re lucky) before a single watt is produced.

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Posted: 27 November 2014

26 November 2014

Chapelcross – submarine waste

An MSP has warned a Scottish site could become a “nuclear graveyard” if it is chosen to store radioactive waste from redundant Royal Navy submarines. Chapelcross, near Annan, is one of five possible locations across the UK. South of Scotland Lib Dem MSP Jim Hume said he hoped people would get involved in consultation and reject any plans to use Chapelcross. The UK government has pledged that public opinion will be taken into account in deciding the final location. Public meetings on the issue will get under way in the Dumfries and Galloway town this weekend. The other sites being considered are Capenhurst in Cheshire, Sellafield in west Cumbria and Aldermaston and Burghfield, both in Berkshire. Consultation will run until February around all the locations on the shortlist.

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Posted: 26 November 2014

25 November 2014

Hinkley

The Scottish National Party has said the financial crisis surrounding the future of the Hinkley Point C nuclear plant demonstrates yet again the folly of the UK government’s decision to spend huge amounts of public money to subsidise new nuclear power stations. The future of the Hinkley Point C nuclear plant in Somerset is facing a financial crisis as Areva, a shareholder in the project and the designer of the proposed reactors, has seen its shares plunge by almost a quarter.

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Posted: 25 November 2014

24 November 2014

Hinkley

The future of the proposed new Hinkley Point C nuclear plant in Somerset is under a cloud as Areva, a shareholder in the project and the designer of the proposed reactors, has seen its shares plunge by almost a quarter. Meanwhile, the CBI is today calling for the rUK Government to make a final decision on its guarantee/ subsidy for the proposed Hinkley Point C nuclear power station as part of a package of measures to boost the UK economy. Mike Weir, MP – the SNP’s Energy spokesman at Westminster – commented: “Despite the mounting evidence that it is hugely expensive with other stations going vastly over budget and being years behind schedule, the UK government is determined to continue to throw billions of pounds into promoting new nuclear. “By diverting money away from renewables to new nuclear the UK Government’s plans are also damaging the renewables sector. “Scotland neither needs not wants new nuclear. We have huge potential in renewables that can generate clean green energy for the future.”

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Posted: 24 November 2014

23 November 2014

Hartlepool/Heysham

One of two nuclear power stations shut down after a crack was found in a boiler is safe to use again, regulators have said. Electricity firm EDF temporarily closed down two of its nuclear power stations, Heysham 1, in Lancashire, and Hartlepool, Teesside, in August. The Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) declared three of the four reactors safe but the fourth, at Heysham 1, requires further safety checks. Hartlepool can now resume operations. The problem was detected during a routine boiler inspection in June. EDF said it shut all four reactors at the two stations as a “precautionary measure” because they are of similar design.

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Posted: 23 November 2014

22 November 2014

Dounreay

A fire at the Dounreay nuclear plant resulted in an “unauthorised” release of radioactivity, an investigation has found. Dounreay Site Restoration Limited (DSRL), the company responsible for decommissioning the site on the north coast of Scotland, said it had identified “unacceptable behaviours and practices” by staff. The fire broke out on October 7 in the prototype fast reactor sodium tank building, where sodium residues from the operation of the reactor are stored. The Dounreay on-site fire brigade extinguished the blaze and no one was hurt. The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority and regulators were informed and an investigation was launched. A statement from DSRL said: “The investigation thoroughly checked each aspect of the work and identified procedural non-compliances and behavioural practices that were factors in the incident, and fell short of the values and standards expected of our people. “It also confirmed the release of radioactivity via an unauthorised route.”

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Posted: 22 November 2014

21 November 2014

Hinkley

Doug Parr: Given UK consumers are on the hook for an undiscounted£37billion of subsidy to this project, you’d think democratic principles would require that all developments were subject to full public scrutiny. But no; it’s all happening behind closed doors. A few new scraps of information have emerged that do suggest the project is far from going swimmingly. There are 3 main points. First, the reactor design, the European Pressurised water Reactor (EPR) isn’t very good. A nuclear engineer now affiliated to University of Cambridge recently described it as ‘unconstructable’. Further understanding of the weakness of the EPR design come from the actual experience of trying to build it. The French project in Flamanville has announced further delays and will now take a decade to build instead of the original timetable of 5 years. The other EPR under construction in Europe is in Finland at Olkiluoto. Construction started in 2005 was originally scheduled complete in 2009, but earlier this Autumn it was announced it will now be almost a decade late in 2018, if there are no more delays. It’s not easy building an EPR. Secondly, the other observation the Cambridge engineer had was that the Chinese – who are experimenting with building several models of reactor – appear to have rejected it for their future nuclear programme. This is a little hard to square with what the Chinese view of the Hinkley project is, because the Chinese state-backed companies China General Nuclear and China National Nuclear Corporation reportedly want a greater share of the supply chain contracts. Presumably because they anticipate the skills that would be developed would be transferrable to other nuclear designs/engineering, but if anyone can shed any light on this thinking I’d be glad to know. The Chinese are playing sufficiently hard-ball that an industry source has told The Times “We are desperate. The Chinese are not going to invest in Hinkley Point unless they get a supply chain.” However a key justification (presumably) for the French Government in standing behind the companies EDF and Areva who are developing and deploying the EPR is getting some employment in the French nuclear sector. They cannot be happy about the Chinese wanting to pinch some of those jobs as part of the funding negotiations. So in turn this means that EDF are turning to other potential investors such as Saudi Arabian state-controlled Saudi Electric. Presumably having other investors and reducing the Chinese stake means more leverage in the negotiations about where those valuable supply chain jobs land. Thirdly, a minor investor but a significant player in the Hinkley project (10% of funding) are Areva, the reactor vendor. They are in considerable financial trouble and still face the possibility of their shares being downgraded to junk bond status by ratings agency Standard and Poor. So the prospect of them finding around £2.4bn to fund their 10% of the project –in order to show off a design that clearly isn’t that good – has to remain in doubt, even though the French state is standing behind them. In fact it turns out that without telling anyone, the UK government has been quietly questioning whether Hinkley will go ahead after all, or worrying if it does go ahead that it might be years late.

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Posted: 21 November 2014