News April 2016

10 April 2016

Nuclear Security

GEORGE Osborne has been warned that granting the Chinese a large stake in Britain’s nuclear energy infrastructure poses a “substantive” threat to UK national security. Security concerns centre on access to IT systems, with analysts warning the UK would be left vulnerable if relations continue sour to China over the coming years. Britain’s friendship with the communist state was strained recently over the Tata steel crisis with China putting a highly punitive tax on the metal produced in south Wales to further damage the UK industry. But experts say a nuclear power deal would put the UK at the mercy of Beijing. Dr Paul Dorfman, an advisor to the British Government on nuclear security and a senior research fellow at UCL’s Energy Institute, said: “You don’t want to let the Chinese into complex, strategic, national energy infrastructure and you certainly don’t want them anywhere near nuclear. “There are some real security issues here.” Fears have been raised about “backdoors” in IT technology that could be exploited by the Chinese government or rogue hackers. Malicious IT breaches could allow data to be extracted or inserted into complex computer systems, allowing Beijing to circumvent British control of a nuclear plant and shut it down. GCHQ will be on standby to protect the UK from the threat of a cyber attack if the Chinese are allowed to build at Hinkley Point in Somerset and Bradwell in Essex. Caroline Baylon, a cyber security specialist at the Chatham House think tank, said she believes the current deal could end badly for Britain. She said: “If the international situation changes, the UK may find itself in a tricky spot if this Chinese deal goes through. Today’s alliances are not tomorrow’s alliances.”

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Posted: 10 April 2016

10 April 2016

Nuclear Security

GEORGE Osborne has been warned that granting the Chinese a large stake in Britain’s nuclear energy infrastructure poses a “substantive” threat to UK national security. Security concerns centre on access to IT systems, with analysts warning the UK would be left vulnerable if relations continue sour to China over the coming years. Britain’s friendship with the communist state was strained recently over the Tata steel crisis with China putting a highly punitive tax on the metal produced in south Wales to further damage the UK industry. But experts say a nuclear power deal would put the UK at the mercy of Beijing. Dr Paul Dorfman, an advisor to the British Government on nuclear security and a senior research fellow at UCL’s Energy Institute, said: “You don’t want to let the Chinese into complex, strategic, national energy infrastructure and you certainly don’t want them anywhere near nuclear. “There are some real security issues here.” Fears have been raised about “backdoors” in IT technology that could be exploited by the Chinese government or rogue hackers. Malicious IT breaches could allow data to be extracted or inserted into complex computer systems, allowing Beijing to circumvent British control of a nuclear plant and shut it down. GCHQ will be on standby to protect the UK from the threat of a cyber attack if the Chinese are allowed to build at Hinkley Point in Somerset and Bradwell in Essex. Caroline Baylon, a cyber security specialist at the Chatham House think tank, said she believes the current deal could end badly for Britain. She said: “If the international situation changes, the UK may find itself in a tricky spot if this Chinese deal goes through. Today’s alliances are not tomorrow’s alliances.”

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Posted: 10 April 2016

9 April 2016

Hinkley

A group of more than 100 engineers at French utility EDF have come out in support of the company’s contentious plans to build a flagship nuclear power station at Hinkley Point in the UK, after some of their counterparts said the project should be delayed. An internal note to company employees by the EDF engineers, which was issued this week, said: “We are convinced that EDF is able to build and deliver the two Hinkley Point reactors on time. Hinkley Point is politically, economically and industrially, one of the most significant projects of our era.” The Financial Times reported last week that some senior engineers at EDF had written a policy paper calling for at least a two-year delay to the £18bn project, which involves two reactors and is meant to be operational by 2025. The paper said that the “realistic service date was 2027” due to the size of the project, continuing design modifications and the “very low” competency of French supplier Areva in making some of the large components. The contrasting visions from the two groups of EDF engineers point to a wider battle going on inside the company over whether to make the much-delayed final investment decision on Hinkley at a board meeting on May 11.

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Posted: 9 April 2016

8 April 2016

Hinkley

The French energy minister, Ségolène Royal, has said that a postponement of the Hinkley Point C nuclear power project was still under discussion. In a French television interview on Thursday, she was asked whether Hinkley Point would be postponed. “It’s still under discussion,” Royal replied. “There’s an agreement between France and Britain, so things should go ahead. But the trade unions are right to ask for the stakes to be re-examined.” Asked if she was in favour of a postponement, Royal ducked the question and said she would not make rash comments. However, the minister added that while she did not want to “decisively throw the project into question just like that”, there should be “further proof” that the £18bn venture was “well-founded” and would not affect investment in renewable energy.

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Posted: 8 April 2016

7 April 2016

Hinkley

One of EDF’s unions has threatened to launch a strike if the French utility decides to go ahead with its project to build two nuclear reactors in Britain. Force Ouvriere (FO), one of EDF’s smaller and more radical unions, said in a statement it would call a strike if EDF management schedules a board meeting to decide on the 18 billion pound (22.3 billion euros) Hinkley Point project before the May 12 EDF annual general shareholders meeting. “If a board meeting is scheduled, we will launch a strike to demand that the Hinkley Point project is delayed,” FO union leader Jacky Chorin told Reuters. Chorin said he did not know whether other unions would follow FO’s lead. “Once the strike is on, I could see CGT and CFE-CGC follow, as they are also against the project,” he said. The CFE-CGC union, which represents managerial staff, has been the most critical of the project. Late last month, Christian Taxil, EDF board member for CFE-CGC, said in a letter to employees he would vote against Hinkley Point. The CGT union, EDF’s most powerful union with three seats on the EDF board, has also asked management to delay the project. EDF’s unions do not have the power to delay or block the project, but their public resistance to Hinkley Point is a stark break with a long consensual tradition at EDF.

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Posted: 7 April 2016

6 April 2016

Hinkley

A new study shows that onshore wind and solar photovoltaics (PV) can generate as much as the Hinkley Point C nuclear power plant (NPP) at a far lower cost. The Intergenerational Foundation thinktank’s report, quoted by the Guardian, says that producing the same amount of power as the NPP would over 35 years, but with onshore wind farms, would cost GBP 31.2 billion (USD 44.4bn/EUR 39bn) less. Betting on solar PV would result in GBP 39.9 billion of savings. The calculations in the report take into account the cost to build and operate the power plants. It also takes into account Bloomberg projections for the decline in wind and solar power costs in the future. The thinktank says that Hinkley Point C would be the “most expensive building on Earth”. The NPP will get a strike price of GBP 92.5 per MWh for 35 years. Electricite de France (EPA:EDF) is to make a final investment decision on the project next month.

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Posted: 6 April 2016

5 April 2016

Hinkley

Scrapping plans for new nuclear reactors at Hinkley Point in Somerset and building huge amounts of renewable power instead would save the UK tens of billions of pounds, according to an analysis that compares likely future costs. The Intergenerational Foundation thinktank calculated that Britain would pay up to £40bn less for renewable alternatives that would generate the equivalent power to Hinkley over the plant’s planned lifetime. A final investment decision by EDF on the nuclear power plant’s expansion is expected in May. The deal involves the government committing £92.50 per megawatt hour over 35 years for its electricity output, more than twice the current wholesale price. But a report published on Tuesday by the thinktank, which campaigns on fairness between generations, found that onshore windfarms would cost £31.2bn less than Hinkley, and solar photovoltaic power £39.9bn less over 35 years to build and run. The estimate is based on both the value of subsidies paid by the taxpayer for the electricity and the cost of building the infrastructure. The analysis is based on the government’s ‘contracts for difference’ subsidy levels for the technologies and projections by Bloomberg for how the cost of wind and solar power will fall in the future. Andrew Simms, one of the report’s co-authors, said: “The government’s current plans for new nuclear power will break spending records, and pass both high costs and large, unknown economic risks onto every UK child for generations to come. “But, readily available, cheaper, safer and quicker renewable energy options would help Britain live both wi thin its economic and environmental means, while also protecting and providing for future generations.” Tom Burke, chairman of the environmental thinktank E3G and a former government adviser, said that while the report’s precise figures for costs were debatable, the broad thrust of its analysis was correct. “The government essentially is pushing this cost on to future generations. It’s a terrible thing to do to your kids. There are a lot of kids not born yet who will end up paying for this,” he said.

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Posted: 5 April 2016

4 April 2016

Hinkley/Bradwell

Beijing’s growing confidence in its plans to help build new reactors at Hinkley in Somerset and Bradwell in Essex has been underlined by the recent incorporation of seven new Chinese nuclear-related firms in London. It appears, however, that an agreement between China and its partner EDF of France to develop the first new reactors in Britain for 20 years has still not been signed. Beijing’s creation of so many new businesses could further alarm those concerned at the degree of complexity surrounding the £18bn Hinkley scheme. Documents from Companies House show the recent listing of General Nuclear System Limited and Bradwell Power Holding Company alongside more opaque entities such as Libra International and Sagittarius International. All seven companies use the same Stratton Street address in Mayfair, west London used by the state-owned China General Nuclear Power Corporation. They also have the same director, Zhu Minhong, the public face of China’s nuclear power business in Britain.

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Posted: 4 April 2016

3 April 2016

Small Modular Reactors

Mini nuclear power stations in towns around the UK have moved a step closer after it emerged the Government is assessing suitable sites to push ahead with a build. The Telegraph understands that a team of experts working for Ministers is looking at possible locations for small modular reactors, which could be built by 2025. It follows money announced by George Osborne in the Budget earlier this year, giving the green light to develop the so called “mini-nukes”. The stations, which must be built near water for cooling and need to be close to the towns they serve, form a key part of the Government’s plan to cut carbon emissions and generate clean energy in the UK. But campaigners are warning the plans could mean communities have new power stations forced on them if suitable sites are identified nearby. The Sunday Telegraph understands that sites in Wales, including the site of a former reactor at Trawsfynydd, and in the North of England where ex-nuclear or coal-fired power stations were stationed are being looked at as possible options. Other areas including Bradwell, Hartlepool, Heysham, Oldbury, Sizewell, Sellafield and Wylfa are also thought to be possibilities. Small modular reactors are attractive because they can be built in factories and assembled on-site. They take less time to develop than conventional nuclear power stations but they produce much less power – meaning there must be more of them to generate sustainable energy and they must be built close to the communities they serve. Doug Parr, chief scientist at Greenpeace, also warned that the small reactors will fail because they will be overtaken by other technology before they can be built. “Rather than focusing on a plan that revolves around wishing nuclear power will work and things that may well not be operating for decades, the government should be focussing on what works right now. That’s homegrown, renewable power that is falling in cost, smart efficient buildings, and creating connectors with Europe so that we can import and export renewable power when we need to.”

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Posted: 3 April 2016

2 April 2016

Hinkley

There seems to be practically no one left who thinks Hinkley is a good idea. Newspaper columnists are falling over themselves to condemn the project. Only UK Chancellor George Osborne and EDF’s CEO are left defending it. I suspect they privately wish it would disappear as well, but they have to save face. But saving face is not a sensible motivation for national energy policy, and there’s wide agreement that everyone would be better off if we can find a way out. The important thing is that such a scenario absolutely must involve much greater investment in renewables, storage capacity and smart grid technology. Otherwise the gap could be filled by more polluting technologies, as happened when Germany shut down its nuclear reactors following the Fukushima disaster.

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Posted: 2 April 2016