News October 2014

31 October 2014

Bradwell

A DEFECTIVE pipe caused an acid leak at Bradwell nuclear power station sparking an investigation at the plant. In late September a “small quantity” of acid escaped from a pipe with all of the fluid contained at the site, on the banks of the River Blackwater. A Magnox spokesman said: “During ongoing decommissioning work of a new water treatment plant, a defect was located within a pipe that allowed a small quantity of acid to escape into a further containment hold. “This pipe is not used to discharge liquid from the site. All of the material has been contained on the site, there has been no release of radioactivity and no impact on the environment.

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Posted: 31 October 2014

30 October 2014

Hinkley

The UK Government promises that the Hinkley C ‘EPR’ nuclear reactor will lower electricity bills, but Keith Barnham shows that this is the very reverse of the truth. Our best hope is that it will never be built. Legal challenges aside, no sane investor will commit until one of the two EPR prototypes is working, which will be in 2016 at the earliest.

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Posted: 30 October 2014

29 October 2014

Politics

In his campaign to stamp out onshore wind power, communities and local government secretary Eric Pickles has just halted his 50th onshore wind project. Accused by Labour and Lib Dems of exceeding his powers, he overrides local planning systems and inspectors, pulling 85% of wind energy capacity out of the standard process for purely political purposes. Just as onshore wind becomes the cheapest renewable energy source, the Conservatives have committed to effectively abolishing it: their manifesto will pledge to remove subsidies, jeopardising future investment and rural jobs. In all of Somerset there is just one wind turbine, so you might think the proposal by Ecotricity to put up a modest four in the Parrett valley would have had a fair wind. It would power 6,769 homes. But no, it was opposed by a small local group – and Pickles “recovered” the application and turned it down. I went to look at the aptly named Black Ditch site, and this is no beauty spot: in fact it would be hard to find a duller patch of England. It sits beside the busy M5 motorway, by a demolished Royal Ordnance factory and a man-made river channel that used to service wartime munitions-making. This dreary strip of flat lands is crisscrossed in all directions by enormous pylons bestriding the countryside, carrying electricity from the nearby Hinkley Point nuclear power station across fields where shrink-wrapped black plastic hay bales litter the landscape. Pickles’s blocking of windfarms in the last year has lost over £500m in income and 2,000 scarce rural jobs, killing off investment in an industry providing the cheapest renewables. The EU has just reported that onshore wind is cheaper than coal, gas and nuclear energy when the cost of pollution is factored in, especially the high cost of climate change.Both Tory and Lib Dems promised that nuclear would get no extra subsidy: but EDF building at Hinkley C has been guaranteed a 10% profit for 30 years – and no one adds in the vast insurance bill they would bear if the state didn’t underwrite nuclear disaster. This isn’t an argument against nuclear, which is needed in the mix, but a reminder of how cheap onshore wind has become – the price would fall ever faster if only Pickles were stopped.

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Posted: 29 October 2014

28 October 2014

Sellafield

Dilapidated nuclear waste storage ponds abandoned 40 years ago containing hundreds of tonnes of fuel rods pose an immediate danger to public safety, photographs sent to The Ecologist reveal. The fuel and sludge in the ponds could spontaneously ignite if exposed to air, spreading intense radiation over a wide area.

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Posted: 28 October 2014

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Posted: 27 October 2014

27 October 2014

Hinkley

Chancellor George Osborne has been criticised by the European Commission for failing to reveal all the costs associated with building the UK’s first nuclear power station since the 1990s. Some members of the Commission were critical that the Government has consistently failed to include other long-term costs when valuing Hinkley Point C, the first of a planned fleet of new nuclear reactors that are expected to reduce household bills by £95 in 2030. Buried deep in commission minutes from 8 October is an admission that there was “regret, expressed by some, that all the long-term costs for the British Treasury had not been integrated into the calculation of the cost of the project, for instance the cost of storing the nuclear waste or of dismantling the plant at the end of its lifetime”. Dr David Lowry, a research consultant and member of Nuclear Waste Advisory Associates, warned that nuclear costs “always escalate” and added: “When ministers and political atomic aficionados back the nuclear industry’s claims that they have covered all future costs for long-term radioactive waste management, they have fallen into a clever trap.”A Treasury spokesman said: “With respect to the decommissioning and storage costs the situation is that [EDF subsidiary] NNBG are responsible for these long-term costs (through their investment in a Funded Decommissioning Plan), and these costs are all included in the agreed strike price. It is a pity that the minutes do not reflect this.

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Posted: 27 October 2014

26 October 2014

Hinkley

ANOTHER investigation into the controversial Hinkley C deal has begun. Just two weeks ago, the European Commission approved plans for the £16bn nuclear power plant. They had been investigating whether the subsidy deal between energy company EDF and the Government constituted as illegal State aid. While the project was approved, the National Audit Office has now begun investigating the deal to make sure the subsidy price of £92 a megawatt hour represented value for money. The Stop Hinkley Campaign welcomed the news about the investigation. Spokesperson Allan Jeffery said: “This is an extraordinarily bad deal, locking consumers into high prices until almost 2060. “Worse still, it will use up most of the money available to subsidise non-fossil fuel energy, leaving almost nothing available for renewables at a time when their costs are plummeting. “The European Commission’s ill-thought through decision has turned UK Energy Policy into even more of a dog’s breakfast than it was to begin with. “Let’s hope the National Audit Office can inject some sanity into the situation.”

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Posted: 26 October 2014

25 October 2014

Energy Policy

Britain will no longer be forced by the European Union to build wind and solar farms under a climate change deal which gives member states flexibility over how they cut emissions. The agreement means that all 28 member states have accepted emissions targets for 2030 which are similar in scope to the target Britain had already set itself. In practice, this means Britain could decide to cut emissions by building nuclear power stations and adding carbon capture systems to coal and gas plants, rather than building more wind turbines. Germany, which has invested heavily in renewable energy and exports wind turbines, had wanted binding 2030 renewable energy targets for each country. In what is seen as a classic Brussels fudge, the deal stated that 27 per cent of the EU’s energy should come from renewable sources by 2030 but that this would not be binding on individual member states. Another target for a 27 per cent improvement in energy efficiency was seen as even weaker as it was made clear that this would be optional.

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Posted: 25 October 2014

24 October 2014

Hinkley

David Lowry: Overlooked in the political frenzy over the success of Ukip in the two by-election results is Nigel Farage’s curious backing for Brussels’s support for massive multibillion-pound subsidies for new nuclear power plants in Britain. In fact the costs of this giant twin reactor project have continued to escalate as planning has gone ahead by the coalition government, with the full support of Labour’s leadership — if not its membership. Back in 2006, the current Lib Dem Energy Secretary Ed Davey correctly wrote on his blog, when he was a mere opposition MP launching the Lib Dem energy policy, Say No to Nuclear: “A new generation of nuclear power stations will cost taxpayers and consumers tens of billions of pounds.” The reference plant for the mega nuclear station at Hinkley Point C is the French-designed Olkiluoto plant in Finland, which started construction in May 2005 — with an original promised completion date in 2009 — and for which the construction costs have doubled to at least €6.4 billion and completion delayed to 2016. The new decision by the European Commision on October 8 to flout its own rules on state aid, reverse its initial opposition to the massive subsidies requested by the coalition government and allow a further taxpayer subsidies increase for Hinkley C to an eye-watering £34bn beggars belief.

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Posted: 24 October 2014

23 October 2014

Hinkley

Cambridge nuclear engineer casts doubt on whether Hinkley Point EPR nuclear plant can be constructed. ‘The EPR is safe, very safe’ said Tony Roulstone at a lecture in Oxford on Tuesday 21st October. But the complexity of the design means it is extraordinarily difficult to build. This type of reactor is, he said, perhaps in an unguarded moment, ‘unconstructable’. Areva, the French company that owns the EPR design, is no longer actively selling power stations of this type. In those countries still looking to expand nuclear power, such as Saudi Arabia, China and Turkey, Areva is now pushing an alternative reactor. In China, where several EPRs are currently being constructed, the authorities have indicated that they will not use the design for future power plants. In other words, the Hinkley Point design is already regarded as a failure by those with most knowledge of it. In Finland and in Normandy, where the EPR is already under construction, delays of several years and enormous cost overruns are crippling the projects. Most scenarios, though not all, show the UK needing a large nuclear programme to meet its power and decarbonisation needs. But by focussing on the increasingly unpopular EPR design, the country may have saddled itself with an unmanageable and hugely expensive construction project that will sour the prospects of all other nuclear technologies for another generation. Perhaps those of us who still believe in the value of nuclear power should pray that sceptical investors refuse to commit their funds to the Hinkley project.

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Posted: 23 October 2014