News August 2015

31 August 2015

Hinkley

Letter Keith Parker: In response to Tom Bawden’s article on Hinkley Point (28 August) I would like to clarify a few points. There is an urgent need to build new energy infrastructure in the UK. Around half of existing capacity will close by 2030, and this needs to be replaced by low-carbon generation if we are to meet our carbon reduction targets. Our energy system needs new nuclear power to help manage a system with an increasing amount of intermittent renewable generation. By matching output to demand, it will save money by providing power when we need it. It is the only large-scale low-carbon option able to do this. There is a role for gas in this system, providing flexible generation at peak times. But it is not low-carbon and too much will leave UK consumers exposed to volatile gas prices and a reliance on foreign imports. The agreed price of £92.50/MWh for Hinkley Point C provides the certainty needed for ED F and its partners to make the largest inward investment in the UK’s history. It will be built without taxpayer funding, with the investors bearing all the construction risk. Consumers will pay nothing until it starts generating in the mid-2020s. The HSBC report is right that demand for power in the UK has declined slightly in recent years. What it fails to take into account is the likelihood of increased demand from economic growth and increased electrification of transport and heating infrastructure. Even with flat or declining demand, we still need to replace infrastructure, or else we will become dependent on importing energy from sources, and at a cost, which are out of our control. The Government has been clear that new generating capacity and energy security are vital for UK prosperity.

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Posted: 31 August 2015

30 August 2015

Hinkley

Private Eye: In summer 2013 government spin doctors said a deal with the French to build two new nuclear power plants in the UK was in the bag (EYE 1351). It wasn’t. Now the spinners are in action again. This time they are hinting that during the state visit in October of China’s president Xi Jinping, he will commit Chinese money to rescue the endlessly delayed nuclear projects. With his country’s dire record on industrial health and safety , Xi should feel at home in the ramshackle edifice that is much of Britain’s nuclear infrastructure.

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Posted: 30 August 2015

29 August 2015

ABWRs

Hitachi-GE has requested an adjustment to their schedule for Generic Design Assessment (GDA) of the UK Advanced Boiling Water Reactor (ABWR). Their request to ONR will allow them to spend longer on Step 3 of GDA, now expected at the end of October 2015, and have a slightly shorter Step 4. Neither Hitachi-GE nor the regulators expect any change to the achievement of a Design Acceptance Confirmation, scheduled for December 2017, and a revised programme of submissions has been agreed with ONR.

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Posted: 29 August 2015

28 August 2015

Hinkley

A deal for the £24.5bn power plant in Somerset could be signed in October after the Government agreed terms with the energy giant EDF. But, writes Tom Bawden, environmentalists are far from alone in opposing an ‘expensive mistake’. After years of wrangling, the Government and EDF – the energy giant that will operate Hinkley Point C and own around half of it – have agreed a deal that would guarantee EDF a price of £92.50 per megawatt hour of the electricity it generates, rising with inflation, up to 2061. That’s nearly three times the current price, suggesting households may have to hand over a substantial subsidy to the French state-controlled generator in the form of higher bills. Despite the strength of opposition to the project, David Cameron is expected to sign a final deal in October during Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to the UK; the Chinese are big backers of the project. An in-depth report into Hinkley Point C by HSBC bank saw “ample reason for the UK Government to delay or cancel the project”. It argued that the justification for the plant was “receding” because the UK’s energy consumption is falling just as a threefold rise in the number of giant interconnectors, hooking the country up with mainland Europe, means we could import energy much more cheaply than generating it at Hinkley Point. Furthermore, while UK electricity generation is set to fall, capacity looks set to hold up surprisingly well, in part because of rising wind and solar power. As a result, the strike price is very difficult to justify, HSBC argued.

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Posted: 28 August 2015

27 August 2015

Hinkley

Further delays to the £24.5bn project to build Hinkley Point C have been predicted this week amid the continuing financial turmoil in China. As recently as three weeks ago the media was predicting that David Cameron and China’s president, Xi Jinping, would sign a deal at a meeting in the UK in October which would signify that a Final Investment Decision on Hinkley Point C had been made. The Chinese are expected to fund two thirds of the scheme. The Construction Products Association (CPA) is predicting that the start of the main works on the nuclear site will be delayed until 2018. Stop Hinkley Spokesperson Roy Pumfrey said: “With the Chinese stock market in turmoil it is hardly surprising that the construction industry is predicting yet more delays to this £24.5 billion project. But we think the CPA is being overly optimistic. By 2018 the renewable industry will have had another 2 or 3 years of falling costs and innovation, whereas nuclear costs just keep rising and technical problems mount up. Somerset should kick EDF out now so that we can get on with building the sustainable industries we need to tackle climate change, capture the jobs required and transform our energy and transport system into one over which communities have more control.”

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Posted: 27 August 2015

26 August 2015

Hinkley

We forecast that infrastructure output will experience double-digit growth each year to the end of our forecast horizon in 2019. It’s not all good news, however, as yet again we expect delays until 2018 for the main works on the nuclear power station Hinkley Point C.

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Posted: 26 August 2015

25 August 2015

Wylfa

Nuclear power operator Horizon and Anglesey County Council are planning to establish a framework of contractors to deliver vital road improvements before the massive construction project starts. An estimated £30m-£70m of road improvements will be needed on the Welsh island to accommodate works for the new nuclear power station. The partners aim to select three to five firms for each of three lots covering works valued at less than £1m, £1-£5m and bigger projects.

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Posted: 25 August 2015

24 August 2015

Hinkley

Two very recent articles in Click Green and Professional Engineer indicate that Hinkley Point C is now officially mothballed. Indeed the project seems to be in its death throes. While some desk work appears to be continuing all major work on-site appears to have stopped and NNB Genco is so uncertain that the final investment decision will be positive it has asked ONR to stop as much work as possible to save money – even to the point of threatening its own status as a nuclear capable organisation.

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Posted: 24 August 2015

24 August 2015

Hinkley C Mothballed – Is it in its Death Throes?

Two very recent articles in Click Green and Professional Engineer indicate that Hinkley Point C is now officially mothballed. Indeed the project seems to be in its death throes.

We already knew that site preparation work at Hinkley Point C was stopped in April 2015, up to 400 construction workers were laid off, and the Final Investment Decision was delayed until the autumn. (1) What wasn’t clear at the time was that NNB Genco – the consortium planning to build the reactors which consists of EDF Energy, China General Nuclear Corp and other investors – put a cap on future spending on the project. (2)

On 1st July the site entered Care and Maintenance which means that activity at the site is limited to the management of material stockpiles and water management zones, remediation of asbestos contaminated land and archaeological surveys. (3)

The budget cap seems to have been greater than the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) was expecting. ONR, of course, charges NNB Genco for all the work it carries out to regulate its activities.

ONR says it has taken the decision to suspend the production of future inspection reports until a Final Investment Decision is made. It has also suspended attendance at the local liaison committee – the Cannington Forum. These suspensions are most likely because NNB Genco no longer has the budget to pay for them, so the consortium will have asked ONR to stop visiting the site to do inspections and stop attending the forum because it can’t afford to pay.

In retaliation ONR says it is “monitoring the impact of the budget constraint upon NNB Genco’s competency and capability”. In other words NNB Genco had better watch out or it will lose its status as an organisation competent and capable of holding a nuclear license.

ONR says its inspectors “continue to engage with the programme of design and safety case activities” related to the start of nuclear safety related construction. Its August newsletter said that further submissions are expected in September this year and the Pre Construction Safety Case related to nuclear island construction was ready for ONR to begin initial engagement at the end of July this year. (4)

So while some desk work appears to be continuing all major work on-site appears to have stopped and NNB Genco is so uncertain that the final investment decision will be positive it has asked ONR to stop as much work as possible to save money – even to the point of threatening its own status as a nuclear capable organisation. The Click Green website says:

“Despite recently publishing a list of preferred suppliers for the £24 billion project, the French firm were in behind-the-scenes talks with the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR), during which they informed them of their decision to mothball the site.”

It looks as though it may be all over for Hinkley Point C bar the shouting.

(1) Gloucestershire Echo 2nd April 2015 http://www.gloucestershireecho.co.uk/400-jobs-lost-Barnwood-based-EDF-stops-site-work/story-26271600-detail/story.html

(2) Click Green 20th Aug 2015 http://www.clickgreen.org.uk/news/national-news/126381-exclusive-edf-mothballs-planned-hinkley-c-nuclear-power-site.html

(3) Professional Engineering 20th Aug 2015 http://www.power-eng.com/articles/2015/08/construction-halted-at-hinkley-point-c-nuclear-project-site.html

(4)   See page 7 ONR Regulation Matters August 2015 http://www.onr.org.uk/documents/2015/regulation-matters-issue-1.pdf

Posted: 24 August 2015

23 August 2015

Hinkley

Worked has stopped at Hinkley after regulators says the company told them they were halting production. On 1st July the site entered Care and Maintenance which means that activity at the site is limited to the management of material stockpiles and water management zones, remediation of asbestos contaminated land and archaeological surveys. In April the consortium which consists of EDF Energy, China General Nuclear Corp and other investors set a cap on spending on the project. “The reduction in spend means that work on preparing the site for the start of construction has stopped” an ONR statement said. NNB Genco said it is retaining a core staff to maintain oversight of the continuing program of activities associated with development of the detailed design production of site specific nuclear safety case documentation and construction planning, ONR said. ONR says it is “monitoring the impact of the budget constraint upon NNB Genco’s competency and capability”. Furthermore ONR inspectors continue to engage with the programme of design and safety case activities so that ONR is ready to respond when NNB Genco decides to fully remobilize the project.

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Posted: 23 August 2015