News May 2015

31 May 2015

Energy Supplies

Natural gas can only be a worthwhile bridge to a low carbon future if a series of tough conditions are met, according to a working paper from the influential New Climate Economy initiative. The paper says the climate benefits of gas, including shale gas, could in theory be significant. It suggests a 10% increase in global gas supplies could prevent 500 gigawatts (GW) of new coal capacity being added by 2035, avoiding 1.3 billion tonnes of annual carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. But it warns that any theoretical benefits could easily be wiped out without controls on methane leakage, limits on total energy use and targets to ensure low-carbon energy sources are not displaced.

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Posted: 31 May 2015

30 May 2015

Sizewell

A study is to be carried out around the Sizewell nuclear power stations site to investigate whether people eating food produced in the area or spending time there are vulnerable to radioactivity. The last time a similar investigation was carried out was five years ago and those behind the project are keen to see if people’s diets and activities have changed and the subsequent impact. Fieldwork for the Habits Survey will be carried out between June 9 and June 19 with the results published next year. It will be carried out by scientists from the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas), the Environment Agency and the Office for Nuclear Regulation.

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Posted: 30 May 2015

29 May 2015

Sizewell

Stephen Walls, head of the Sizewell C project, told a reception in the President’s Marquee that consultation remained at an early stage and that further progress hinged on developments at EDF’s Hinkley Point C project in Somerset. There was no news on when stage two of consultation was likely to begin. The second stage is expected to give final details of issues such as road improvements, worker accommodation and park-and-ride sites. Recent uncertainty over progress turned into frustration earlier in the year when it became clear that the next formal stage of consultation on the project would not take place until after the election. Mr Walls last night said: “There has been a little frustration that the second stage hasn’t yet occurred. We are conscious of that, but all things come through Hinkley Point. We very much hope that remaining issues around financing and infrastructure are resolved in the coming months, and that we are able to take matters forward with more pace here at Sizewell.

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Posted: 29 May 2015

28 May 2015

Hinkley

Austria will take legal action to block any subsidized nuclear power plants in an effort to discourage use of the technology in Europe and scare off investors, the country’s environment minister, Andrae Rupprechter, said in a newspaper interview. Rupprechter’s comments to business daily Wirtschaftsblatt reflect non-nuclear Austria’s tough stance, as evidenced by its intent to take the European Commission to court over approval of Britain’s plans for the Hinkley Point nuclear plant.Neighboring Czech Republic also plans to extend its nuclear capacity.

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Posted: 28 May 2015

27 May 2015

Nuclear Supplies

It’s odd how often the contribution of nuclear energy is overstated, writes Neil Crumpton, by mixing up ‘energy’ and ‘electricity’, while a similar trick to understates the importance of renewables like wind and solar. Even odder is how the mistake always seems to go the same way, to make nuclear look bigger than it really is, and renewables smaller. Welcome to the nuclear ‘X factor’! In April the proposers of a new nuclear power station at Moorside near Sellafield, put out an advertorial in all Cumbrian newspapers stating that the station would provide about “7% of the UK’s energy requirement”. In fact the Moorside leviathan would probably supply around 7% (in the 2030’s) of the UK’s post-2030 rising electricity demand. However, the station would supply about 2% of future UK energy demand. This electricity-energy percentage mixup is far from an isolated incident. As an energy campaigner since the 1990s I have noticed this very error reoccuring in the media and in other information sources with alarming if not chilling frequency. The Moorside advertorial is the latest incidence of a wording mixup that has been highly advantageous to the nuclear industry. It is possible that PM Tony Blair or brain-faded officials were caught out by this electricity-energy mix-up at an EU Summit in March 2007. The PM had signed the UK up to the EU’s 20% renewable energy by 2020 agreement possibly by mistake according to speculation by then Chief Scientific Advisor Sir David King. That was my first thought on hearing the news not least because the 2003 UK Energy White Paper had a 20% renewable electricity by 2020 target. Following subsequent negotiations (damage limitation) by civil servants and ministers the UK agreed to a still quite stretching share of 15% renewable energy by 2020 (15% of final energy demand implied over 30% renewable electricity). Some civil servants may well have been trying to get out of that commitment ever since. In 2006 I worked out UK nuclear output as a percentage of final energy demand, 3.6% in 2005, had it confirmed by the Government’s ‘DUKES’ energy-statistics team, and had set about raising media awareness at every opportunity. By July 2006 the Guardian was mentioning nuclear’s 3.6% energy contribution. Yet, the May 2007 Energy White Paper stated that ‘Nuclear power currently accounts for approximately 18% of our electricity generation and 7.5% of total UK energy supplies.’ The 7.5% figure was explained as a ‘primary energy’ comparison and it was followed by a comparison of nuclear output to final energy of, wait for it, 3.5%. So, nuclear power’s contribution to UK final energy demand was just 3.8% in 2013. France, the world-leading nuclear examplar, is generating 23% of its final energy from nuclear power – not 80% as many may have read or heard. Even the UK’s planned 16 GW new-build programme would only generate about 9% (120 TWh/y) of future energy demand (eg 1,300 TWh/y in 2030). A 3.3 GW Chinese project at Bradwell, linked to any Hinkley C deal, would add 2%. The same 11% of energy could be generated, with no uranium imports, by about 39 GW of fixed and floating offshore wind turbines on or beyond the hazy horizon. The UK’s practical offshore wind resource is estimated at around 1,500 TWh/y for floating structures and 400 TWh/y for fixed structures, which is probably higher than any future UK energy need.

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Posted: 27 May 2015

26 May 2015

Areva

Areva, the French firm charged with designing Britain’s Hinkley Point, has received a €2bn approach for its reactor business from EDF. The proposal is expected to open negotiations between the two companies and the French government, which controls stakes in both businesses. “We have received an indicative offer from EDF”, a spokesman for Areva confirmed. The French government owns 84pc of EDF and 87 per cent of Areva and will have the final say on whether any deal will pass. However, France’s president Francois Hollande has previously advocated a tie-up between the two companies after Areva sank into deeper losses. Mr Hollande is due to meet with French economy minister Emmanuel Macron on June 3 at the Elysee Palace to review strategic priorities for the nuclear industry. The French government has a vested interest in seeing a deal between EDF and Areva as it could be forced to pump millions into the latter company to keep it afloat. It is not known exactly which parts of Areva’s business EDF is interested in and whether it wants all of Areva’s reactor maintenance division, which employs 15,000 people. If it takes over the ailing company’s reactor business, EDF is said to want guarantees against Areva’s liabilities in Finland, where a project to build an atomic reactor is over budget and years behind schedule. Two months ago, EDF gave its strongest hint that the embattled reactor-maker Areva might pull out of funding the Hinkley Point nuclear plant after saying that its financial take was “not exitential” for the project. Areva had been lined up as a key investor to take a 10pc stake in the £24.5bn development.

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Posted: 26 May 2015

25 May 2015

Radwaste

Following a public consultation, we have taken the decision to adopt a policy for the geological disposal of higher activity radioactive waste. We consider that geological disposal can only be delivered in Wales on the basis of voluntary partnership with a community or communities willing to enter discussions about potentially hosting a geological disposal facility and for those discussions to be successfully concluded; a process which may take over a decade. This consultation seeks views on the processes by which a GDF might be sited in Wales, and to provide information to potential volunteer host communities which may want to enter discussions, without commitment, about hosting a geological disposal facility.

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Posted: 25 May 2015

24 May 2015

Trident

An inherent flaw in Trident missiles could lead to fires, explosions and widespread radioactive contamination, according to a top-secret safety manual leaked by the naval whistleblower, William McNeilly. The Royal Navy’s official instructions on how to take care of nuclear weapons reveal that the “chief potential hazard” from a live missile is the “accidental ignition” of solid rocket fuel. This could cause the warheads’ conventional high explosives to detonate and scatter plutonium and other toxic materials “over a wide area”, it says.

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Posted: 24 May 2015

23 May 2015

Radwaste

DECC has engaged external support by convening a Community Representation Working Group (CRWG) to help develop practical processes for how community representation, the test of public support, and community investment will operate throughout the siting process for a Geological Disposal Facility (GDF). The UK government’s commitment in the White Paper includes taking a voluntarist approach based on working with communities that are willing to participate in the siting process.

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Posted: 23 May 2015

22 May 2015

Magnox

Magnox has said it plans to cut up to 1,600 jobs across 12 of its nuclear power sites by September 2016. The company says the cuts will include staff, agency and contract roles. Magnox said: “The mission to safely decommission the Magnox sites has always predicted reducing staff numbers over the coming years.” The Unite trade union said the news was “shocking” and the move would lead to “a loss of vital skills and expertise in the nuclear industry”.

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Posted: 22 May 2015