News January 2015

31 January 2015

Hinkley

The promoters of this project, granted consent in March 2013 and finally out of the courts in December 2014, applied for a ‘non-material change’ to the project on Tuesday. Details of the change have yet to be published on the Planning Inspectorate website.

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Posted: 31 January 2015

30 January 2015

Hinkley

The global rebirth of nuclear power was meant to be well under way by now, writes Jim Green. But in fact, nuclear’s share of world power generation is on a steady long term decline, and new reactors are getting ever harder to build, and finance. The only real growth area is decommissioning, but that too has a problem: where’s the money to pay for it? The UK’s planned Hinkley C nuclear plant is looking increasingly like a dead duck – or possibly parrot. As the Financial Times reports today, Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee has abandoned plans to examine the ‘value of money’ Hinkley C offers taxpayers – because no deal has been reached and none is expected before the general election in May. In other words, all that bullish talk about Hinkley C launching Britain’s ‘nuclear renaissance’ has melted away like a spring frost in the morning sun. There is no deal on the table for the PAC to examine – indeed it’s looking increasingly as if there may never be a deal, in spite of the astonishingly generous £30 billion support package on offer, at the expense of UK taxpayers and energy users. Only last week Austria confirmed that it will launch a legal action against the Hinkley C support package, on the grounds that it constitutes illegal state aid. The action looks likely to succeed – and even if it doesn’t, it’s predicted to ensure at least four years of delay.

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Posted: 30 January 2015

29 January 2015

Hinkley

The UK’s parliamentary watchdog has abandoned plans to scrutinise the Hinkley Point C nuclear project after predicting that a deal over state support would not be struck until after the general election in May. EDF, the French company behind the proposed £24bn twin-reactor scheme in Somerset, says it still hopes to finalise a deal by the end of March. Besides concluding negotiations with the Treasury over a financial guarantee to underwrite the project, EDF needs to finalise agreements with investors from China and elsewhere. But the Commons public accounts committee has given up any hope of examining the contract before the election, according to Margaret Hodge, who chairs the influential group of MPs that scrutinises public expenditure. The committee had intended to carry out an inquiry in the next few months. “We don’t think they will have struck a deal by then,” said Ms Hodge. “The National Audit Office have said that it looks increasingly unlikely.” Tim Yeo, chair of the energy select committee, said any further delays to the scheme would be “extremely worrying” for long-term supporters of nuclear power in the UK. “It will be disappointing if it slips to after the election. We do not need yet another element of doubt,” he said. Paul Flynn, a Labour MP, recently pressed Sir Nicholas Macpherson, the Treasury permanent secretary, during a hearing of the public affairs select committee. “You have agreed to a contract, in this time of falling fuel prices . . . to guarantee a price of £92.50 per megawatt hour, which is twice the present going rate for electricity,” he said. “Is this sensible planning?” Sir Nicholas accepted these were “good questions” and said he would report back to the committee.

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Posted: 29 January 2015

28 January 2015

Radwaste

Seeking views of stakeholders who wish to contribute to the the second Triennial Review of the Committee on Radioactive Waste Management. Consultation closes 10th March 2015. The government has announced the second Triennial Review of the Committee on Radioactive Waste Management (CoRWM) and is seeking the views of stakeholders who wish to contribute to the review. Triennial Reviews of non-departmental public bodies (NDPBs) are part of the government’s commitment to ensuring that NDPBs continue to have regular independent challenge. The review will examine whether there is a continuing need for CoRWM’s function and its form and whether it should continue to exist at arm’s length from government. If there is evidence of a continued need for the body, the review will also examine whether CoRWM’s control and governance arrangements continue to meet the recognised principles of good corporate governance.

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Posted: 28 January 2015

27 January 2015

Radwaste

Today’s entry reports on the extension of the Planning Act 2008 to cover nuclear waste disposal. Earlier this month, the Infrastructure Planning (Radioactive Waste Geological Disposal Facilities) Order 2015 was laid before Parliament. This will extend the Planning Act 2008 regime to a 17th type of nationally significant infrastructure project (NSIP). Although the existing 16 thresholds have had some changes, this is the first new type of infrastructure project to be added to the regime. This means extending the list of NSIPs in section 14 of the Act from (a) to (p) to (a) to (q), and adding a new section 30A that gives the threshold for the new NSIP. The threshold is that it is either a borehole preparing for a radioactive waste facility or the facility itself. The facility has to be for the final disposal of radioactive waste, at least 200m below the ground or sea bed and such that the engineering and natural environment will inhibit radionuclides from reaching the surface. So all those disposal facilities over 200m below ground where the radionuclides will reach the surface won’t count as NSIPs. Seriously, though, the last criterion is an interesting part of the definition that will presumably require the Planning Inspectorate to be satisfied that it is true before deciding whether to accept the application for examination, as otherwise it won’t be an NSIP.

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Posted: 27 January 2015

26 January 2015

Nuclear security

More than two decades of cooperation in guarding weapons-grade stockpiles comes to an end, leaving the world ‘a more dangerous place’. One of the greatest boons brought to the world by the end of the Cold War was the agreement been the US and the countries of the former Soviet Union to cooperate in securing the USSR’s vast nuclear arsenal. Under the 1991 Cooperative Threat Reduction agreement, better known as the Nunn-Lugar programme (after the two senators who persuaded Congress to pay for it) 900 intercontinental ballistic missiles were destroyed, and over 7600 warheads were deactivated. Some 250 tons of bomb-grade fissile material, scattered across the disintegrating superpower, was locked up and put under guard, so it could not be stolen and sold to the highest bidder. Tens of thousands of former Soviet nuclear weapons scientists and technicians were found jobs and salaries to help reduce the incentives to offer their expertise to rogue states and terrorists. All in all, a pretty big deal, whose benefits will only be fully appreciated in their absence. The spirit of cooperation that underpinned the programme has crumbled over recent years.

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Posted: 26 January 2015

25 January 2015

Hinkley

Michael Meacher: Despite the government’s constant assertion that funding is impossibly tight and that any departure for a rigid status quo by the Labour party is unaffordable, there seems to be no limit to government subsidies gushing into the doomed nuclear project at Hinkley in Somerset. Last year the government offered the French energy company EDF the contract to build a third nuclear power station paid for by increases in electricity bills over 35 years and Treasury-backed loans. Now confidence in the project is evaporating as it is increasingly realised that the same construction problems, delays and spiralling costs which have devastated EDF’s building similar nuclear plants at Olkiluoto in Finland and Flammanville in France will hit Hinkley C in the UK. Centrica, which was supposed to be a joint partner with EDF, pulled out. EDF then couldn’t sustain the project out of its own finances, so it went cap in hand to Chinese state-owned companies and to AREVA, a French state-owned company. Then 2 months ago it was revealed that AREVA was going bankrupt.

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Posted: 25 January 2015

24 January 2015

Hinkley

Britain will have a “special share” in the French-led new Hinkley Point nuclear power plant consortium to safeguard national security, British energy officials told a parliamentary hearing this week. “The UK will have a special share in the consortium,” energy minister Ed Davey said on Wednesday when asked about safeguards for the project, which is led by French giant EDF and should include Chinese partners. The Chinese firms, CGN and CNNC, are expected to get a stake of between 30 and 40 percent. Stephen Lovegrove, permanent secretary to the energy department said the share “will allow us, under certain circumstances, to step in and make certain decisions around the project that would be specifically designed to protect national security.

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Posted: 24 January 2015

23 January 2015

Hinkley

Austria is to launch a legal challenge to the price deal for electricity generated by the planned Hinkley C nuclear power station meaning a final investment decision on the plant could be delayed by up to two years. Molly Scott Cato Green MEP for the South West welcomed news of the planned challenge.”Greens vowed to support any legal action so I welcome this announcement by the Austrian government. We simply cannot leave unchallenged the European Commission’s clear breach of its own rules on state aid. This deal would waste vast sums of public money on a dated and dangerous technology, when we should instead be promoting a safe and sustainable energy future for Europe.”

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Posted: 23 January 2015

23 January 2015

Hinkley

Austria is to launch a legal challenge to the price deal for electricity generated by the planned Hinkley C nuclear power station meaning a final investment decision on the plant could be delayed by up to two years. Molly Scott Cato Green MEP for the South West welcomed news of the planned challenge.”Greens vowed to support any legal action so I welcome this announcement by the Austrian government. We simply cannot leave unchallenged the European Commission’s clear breach of its own rules on state aid. This deal would waste vast sums of public money on a dated and dangerous technology, when we should instead be promoting a safe and sustainable energy future for Europe.”

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Posted: 23 January 2015