News April 2016

20 April 2016

Hinkley

The French president, François Hollande, is expected to hold a meeting of government ministers at the Elysée palace on Wednesday to discuss whether or not the construction of the £18bn Hinkley Point nuclear power plant in Britain will go ahead. The French government is not yet expected to reach a final decision on the controversial plans for France’s state-controlled utility EDF to build two nuclear reactors at Hinkley Point. But the president and top ministers are expected to consider the various financing options for the project. EDF shareholders will then meet later this week to consider the options. After repeated delays, a shareholder vote and a final decision are expected in early May.

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Posted: 20 April 2016

19 April 2016

Hinkley

French president Francois Hollande will chair a meeting devoted to the future of state-owned utility EDF next week, Les Echos reported on Sunday. “The electricity company, which has an important investment programme in the works, wants to secure financial guarantees from the state,” the newspaper said, adding EDF would hold a board meeting on April 22. EDF had no immediate comment.

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Posted: 19 April 2016

18 April 2016

Hinkley

The French government has stressed its commitment to building Britain’s first new nuclear power station in a generation. There has been uncertainty over whether the state-owned French power company EDF will sign off on the £18 billion project at Hinkley Point in Somerset. “We back Hinkley Point project, it’s very important for France, it’s very important for the nuclear sector and EDF” said Emmanuel Macron. However Emmanuel Macron, the French economy minister, told the BBC that rubber-stamping the contract would be “very important” for France and the company and hinted that progress will be made in the near future. The British Government has insisted that plans to build the Hinkley Point C reactor will go ahead and voiced its intention to commission additional nuclear plants before 2020. However Labour has raised concerns over an apparent lack of a viable plan B should the French government back away from a deal in Somerset.

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Posted: 18 April 2016

17 April 2016

Hinkley

The French government is “completely committed” to constructing the Hinkley Point nuclear power plant, the French economy minister has told the BBC. Emmanuel Macron told the Andrew Marr Show the £18bn project in Somerset was “very important” for France and EDF, which is 85% owned by the French state. Mr Macron said work still needed to be finalised but he hoped something would be signed with UK officials this week. Greenpeace said alternatives to Hinkley Point were “increasingly attractive”. EDF has yet to outline how it will fund the project. John Sauven, director of environmental pressure group Greenpeace, said: “The French economy minister Emmanuel Macron says one thing to a UK audience and another to the French. “He has made it abundantly clear in French that no decision has been made. “The reasons are clear: the costs are rising, the problems are mounting, and the opposition in France is growing. “The alternatives are looking increasingly attractive no matter which language you speak.”

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Posted: 17 April 2016

16 April 2016

Hinkley

Electricite de France SA and the French government are at odds over a financial deal that would allow the state-owned utility to give the final go-ahead next month to a 18 billion-pound ($25.5 billion) nuclear plant in the U.K. The government, which owns 85 percent of EDF, is resisting the company’s demand for a share sale to raise capital, arguing it has no immediate liquidity issues, said three people, who asked not to be named because the discussion isn’t public. For its part, the government is ready to take EDF’s dividend in shares rather than cash this year and next, two of the people said. The company, which wants to limit any credit rating downgrade to two levels, is also seeking additional savings and preparing asset sales, one of them said. These costs cuts may reach 1 billion euros ($1.1 billion) by 2018 and would be on top of 750 million euros already announced, French newspaper Le Figaro reported on Friday, without saying where it got the information. EDF may hold a board meeting around April 22 to look into its financial plan, assuming that it’s reached an agreement with the French government, two of the people said. It would hold another board meeting at the end of the month or early May to vote on the final investment decision for Hinkley Point, the people added.

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Posted: 16 April 2016

15 April 2016

Hinkley

Plans for an £18 billion nuclear power station in Somerset were dealt a double blow yesterday after the French minister responsible admitted it was a risky project and fresh problems emerged at a prototype in Normandy. Emmanuel Macron, France’s economy minister, has been a staunch supporter of the plan by EDF, the state-owned energy giant, to build two reactors at Hinkley Point. However, he is wavering in the face of growing doubts and a rift within the French cabinet. Mr Macron’s spokeswoman said that he still backed the plan, but admitted that it involved “risks as well as opportunities”. Leaders of French unions, who oppose the project, said he had told them that he had not yet decided on whether to order EDF to press ahead with construction of two reactors supplying 7 per cent of Britain’s electricity in the UK. EDF is 86 per cent owned by the French state. The comment marked a clear change in tone from Mr Macron whose voice is considered decisive in the debate. The spokeswoman said Mr Macon had told unions that EDF, which has debts of £30 billion, needed to make a swift decision on whether to proceed, but had agreed on the need for a “debate” within the company over the project. Compounding the concerns about the Hinkley project, EDF and Areva, the French reactor maker, have admitted that more tests will be required at Flamanville. A year ago, French safety authorities detected weak spots in the 550-tonne steel reactor vessel being used there. Mr Macron’s remarks came after Seggolene Royal, the energy minister, publicly called for a decision on Hinkley Point to be delayed because it would leave EDF with no money for solar and wind-power projects in France. EDF’s board is widely expected to adopt the same position as the French government when it meets next month to make a final decision on Hinkley Point. Chinese regulators have said construction of two similar French reactors in Taishan will also be delayed while tests in France are conducted.

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Posted: 15 April 2016

14 April 2016

Baseload

Battles continue over the economic viability of the proposed £18bn Hinkley nuclear project, with EDF still saying it can go ahead, despite the resignation of two key senior executives, opposition from the French trade unions and even doubts now emerging from the French Government. Energy minister Ségolène Royal said: ‘This project must offer further proof that it is well-founded and offer a guarantee that the investment in this project will not dry up investments that must be made in renewable energies.’ It is interesting then that EDFs recent R&D Paper ‘Technical and Economic Analysis of the European Electricity System with 60% RES’, by Alain Burtin and Vera Silva, looks at an EU future dominated by renewables, with nuclear only playing a moderate role, 90GW total. The EDF team says that storage and flexible demand can help a bit with balancing, but there will still be a need for back-up plants. EDF do not see large scale storage as being very viable. But what about Power to Gas Conversion? That could turn the surplus ‘problem’ into a balancing ‘solution’. I have looked at options like that in my new IoP book on ‘Balancing Green Power’, now out: http://iopscience.iop.org/book/978-0-7503-1230-1

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Posted: 14 April 2016

13 April 2016

Hinkley

Investing in renewable energy in Britain has become difficult because changes in government policy have created too much uncertainty for investors, the chief executive of insurance firm Legal & General Group said on Monday. Over the past year, the British government has changed many energy policies to rein in costs, including scrapping support for onshore wind farms and reducing subsidies for other renewable energy technologies. However, investors and lawmakers have warned that in the long term, costs will rise because energy projects such as gas-fired power plants, nuclear plants and wind farms can take years to build and have high up-front costs. For example, the cost of EDF’s proposed 18 billion pound Hinkley Point C nuclear power project in southwest England has escalated since it was first announced in 2013 and a final investment decision repeatedly delayed as EDF struggled to find partners and financing. “We think Hinkley Point C is a total waste of money. The noise around Hinkley creates confusion in the marketplace. (The government) should take it off the table and move to more sensible solutions,” Wilson said.

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Posted: 13 April 2016

12 April 2016

SMRs

Concerns are being raised about the billions of dollars being spent on research to design and build small nuclear reactors for electricity production The world’s big powers are in a race to build a new series of small reactors, which they believe will combine with renewables to create a low-carbon future for the planet. Small modular reactors (SMRs) have hardly been heard of by the public, but many billions of dollars are being spent in the US, China, Russia, the UK and France on research and development. The nuclear industry believes the first reactors can be deployed as early as 2025, and the plan is for them to be sited close to towns to produce the local electricity supply. This week, leaders of companies from across the globe are meeting in Atlanta, Georgia, to assess progress on prototypes and to address the all-important question of licensing these new designs for safety. The US government has already put $217 million into one commercial design, and is offering billions of dollars in loan guarantees for others.

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Posted: 12 April 2016

11 April 2016

SMRs

Lady Judge: Five years ago, a tsunami caused by a huge earthquake hit Japan and overwhelmed the nuclear plant at Fukushima. I recently revisited the site of the accident as deputy chairwoman of the Tokyo Electric Power Company’s nuclear reform monitoring committee. Five years on, it is clear that Fukushima is still a traumatic memory for the Japanese people. However, after thorough investigation and much soul-searching, Japan is still committed to nuclear energy, as it is the most reliable form of base load, low-carbon energy that exists. The Japanese are also keen to help us in the UK to replace our ageing fleet of nuclear plants. You might be surprised by this; media coverage of nuclear energy would suggest that there is only one show in town, Hinkley Point C, a collaboration between the French and the Chinese. Hinkley Point is a huge project that promises to provide power for 50 million homes. It should not be considered in isolation, however; it is just the beginning of our nuclear renaissance in the UK. The plan to focus on building large reactors was originally conceived before Fukushima, while I was chairwoman of the UK Atomic Energy Authority, and when fossil fuel prices were expected to keep going up. Large nuclear plants, however, are expensive and take a long time to build. In the interim, one answer is small modular nuclear reactors. Being small is useful because they can be built in one place and transported to another, such as the site of one of the coal plants that we are in the process of shutting down, or even an industrial park. Modular, in this context, means that more plants can be added easily on an existing site. The flexibility and lower cost of small reactors is a way of getting greater private sector involvement, without the more complex financing arrangements needed for a larger plant.

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Posted: 11 April 2016