News June 2015

30 June 2015

Flamanville

More safety faults could be uncovered in France’s flagship nuclear reactor being built by Electricite de France SA and Areva SA in Normandy, a regulator warned. “There are difficulties” in the execution of the project, Pierre-Franck Chevet, head of the French nuclear safety regulator, told a parliamentary hearing in Paris on Thursday. “As we enter into the period of startup trials and the qualification phase, there could be more anomalies. We’ll have to deal with them.”

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Posted: 30 June 2015

29 June 2015

Hinkley

Letter Vincent de Rivaz: YOUR report on Hinkley Point C nuclear power station ignored many of the critical arguments in favour of the project and imagined cheaper alternatives that do not exist (“Is nuclear power really worth it?”, last week). Wind and solar power will play an important part in our energy mix, but they cannot provide a reliable energy supply all day and all year round. In a British winter, when demand is high, solar output is low. On a foggy and still day on January 23, Germany, which has many times the solar (and wind) capacity we have in Britain, saw almost zero output. Nor do we yet have the technology to store excess energy cost-effectively for use when we really need it. If the solution can be found, we don’t know what it will cost. Nuclear power is still the choice that gives reliable baseload power at the same time as helping Britain meet its carbon emission targets. When the cost of extra back-up is included, the cost of nuclear remains competitive with any other technology. The cost of new nuclear stations is expected to fall. The benefits of new nuclear mean Sizewell C will be cheaper than Hinkley Point. All this is before we count the enormous benefit of a multibillion-pound investment in Britain, with the impact on jobs, skills and our global industrial competitiveness. Hinkley Point C is not funded by taxes. Consumers will pay only when it produces electricity. Investors bear the construction risk. This means taxes can be spent on the hospitals, train lines and aircraft carriers you mention in your article. It is simply wrong to suggest it is a choice between one and the other.

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Posted: 29 June 2015

28 June 2015

Radwaste

The president of the company that designs and sells the giant concrete and steel casks that will store Vermont Yankee’s waste for the foreseeable future told a Vermont panel Thursday night his invention will last for 300 years. Kris Singh, president and chief executive officer of Holtec International told the Vermont Nuclear Decommissioning Citizens Advisory Panel that his casks love cold weather and even love being flooded. He said the casks, which are made of two-inch thick stainless steel and a special, high-density concrete, can withstand high-impact attack, high temperatures, and even an F-16 loaded with jet fuel crashing into them. The casks can withstand bullets and missiles, he said.

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Posted: 28 June 2015

27 June 2015

Bradwell

A campaign group is seeking talks with Chinese developers over the future of a new Bradwell nuclear site. Blackwater Against New Nuclear Group has taken the unusual step of seeking direct discussions with the Chinese state-owned nuclear companies who are considering developing their own nuclear power station at the Bradwell site on land owned by EDF Energy. BANNG’s Chair, Professor Andy Blowers, has written to the heads of the China National Nuclear Corporation and the China General Nuclear Power Group pointing out the “formidable obstacles” that would have to be overcome before new nuclear power could be brought to Bradwell.

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Posted: 27 June 2015

26 June 2015

Hinkley

The Austrian government is to file a legal challenge against the EU next week over its recent decision to allow the UK to fund a new nuclear plant using state aid. Austria believes the EU has breached its own rules on fair competition in the marketplace in making the decision, giving nuclear an unfair advantage over renewable energy technologies struggling for investment. Such a legal move will likely delay the UK government’s plans for a ‘nuclear renaissance’ by up to two years. The construction of a new reactor at Hinkley Point in Somerset, a joint venture between the UK government and French energy giant EDF, is set to be the first such undertaking in the country since 1988. This renewed interest in nuclear energy stems from the previous UK coalition government’s proposal to reform the electricity market in order to accommodate nuclear plant construction. The reform package includes a controversial investment plan called contracts for difference (CfD), first introduced in 2012.

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Posted: 26 June 2015

25 June 2015

Hinkley

The Austrian government has announced its intention to take the commission to the European court of justice over state subsidies for UK-based two nuclear reactors at Hinkley Point. The UK government plans to finance the EDF Energy-developed reactor through subsidies amounting to €130 for each megawatt-hour of power generated over a period of 35 years – an amount which is twice the current market price for electricity. The subsidies – which Austria considers to be competition distorting, illegal state aid – are to be funded through levies on consumer bills. Austria has no nuclear power plants itself and plans to file the case on Monday in what chancellor Werner Faymann said “is also of symbolic value against nuclear power”. UK Greens MEP Molly Scott Cato welcomed the move, saying, “The Austrian government recognises that the European commission is in breach of its own rules on state aid and this cannot be left unchallenged.

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Posted: 25 June 2015

24 June 2015

Hinkley

Austria is to officially file a legal complaint in Brussels against state subsidies for Britain’s planned new Hinkley Point nuclear power plant, the government in Vienna said. “We cannot accept that a technology such as this being portrayed through subsidies as being modern, sustainable and future-oriented,” Chancellor Werner Faymann said after a cabinet meeting. The complaint, which Vienna had already threatened in September and which will be filed next Monday, “is also of symbolic value against nuclear power”, the centre-left chancellor said. Despite opposition from activists and several member states, the European Commission approved the Hinkley Point project – where France’s EDF is to build two reactors – in October, after the UK modified funding plans for the £16bn deal. A spokeswoman for the Department of Energy and Climate Change said: “We are confident that the European Commission’s state aid decision on Hinkley Point C is legally robust and have no reason to believe that Austria will submit a challenge of any merit.” Environmentalists see Hinkley Point as an unnecessary support of nuclear energy just when the use of renewables, such as wind and solar power, is beginning to take hold. But the EU Commission insists that the choice of energy source, no matter how controversial, is strictly up to member states.

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Posted: 24 June 2015

23 June 2015

Bradwell

Fears have been raised over jobs and safety if a nuclear site is given “lock, stock and barrel” to a Chinese corporation. In 2011, the Government earmarked Bradwell as one of eight sites for a new nuclear power station to be built in the UK by 2025. China is already funding a new power station in Hinkley Point, Somerset, and a leading union – the GMB- is concerned this deal has been done on the basis that a Bradwell site will be handed over to the Chinese and they will be allowed to use their own technology there.

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Posted: 23 June 2015

22 June 2015

Energy Policy

The boss of one of Europe’s biggest power companies has called for deep changes to the way the continent runs and regulates its electricity sector, urging an end to fossil fuel subsidies and a renewed focus on “efficient” renewable sources of energy. Iberdrola claims to be the biggest provider of wind power in the world, and Ignacio Galán, the executive chairman, told the Financial Times: “We are defenders of renewables — but we are defenders of renewables that are economically efficient. What we can’t do in Europe is what we are doing now: using immature technologies, fully subsidised, that are producing little energy and that cost a lot.”

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Posted: 22 June 2015

21 June 2015

Hinkley

David Cameron is about to sign you up to pay for one of the most expensive man-made objects in the world. The proposed nuclear power station at Hinkley Point in Somerset will cost an estimated £24.5bn, take a decade to construct, and tie British households into an astonishingly expensive electricity subsidies until 2060. For that price you could pick up eight Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers, build forty Royal London Hospitals, or pay for Crossrail – twice. You could also just about afford another Three Gorges Dam, the 1.5-mile long monstrosity that spans the Yangtze River. The latter, which required the relocation of about 1.5m people, cost £26bn. But it also produces 22.5 gigawatts of power, more than seven times what Britain’s version will generate. Perhaps unsurprisingly, a growing chorus of critics are calling for the unthinkable: to bin Hinkley Point altogether. They may have a point. The world has changed dramatically since 2010 when the government named the spot on the Somerset coast as a possible site for new atomic reactors. In the intervening years, the price of some renewable technologies has plummetted by as much as two-thirds. A deluge of natural gas from America’s shale industry has slashed the fuel’s cost in half. Last month, entrepreneur Elon Musk unveiled a battery that he said portends an era in which any home with solar panels, and perhaps a rooftop wind turbine, will be its own self-sustaining power plant. The advance, he said, will “fundamentally change the way the world uses energy”. Even if Musk’s prediction proves wildly optimistic, the cost of Hinkley has become a problem. Peter Atherton, an analyst at Jefferies and long-time critic was unequivocal: “This project is an abomination,” he said. “It’s going to cost £16bn to build, plus another £6bn in financing costs. Either of those numbers alone should have made this unthinkable. We’re building a power station, not the pyramids.”

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Posted: 21 June 2015