News August 2016

31 August 2016

Hinkley

Four of Britain’s major unions are big supporters of nuclear power, writes Ian Fairlie – all because of the jobs. Now Labour’s shadow energy minister has joined them in backing Hinkley C – even though renewable energy is a far better job-creator than nuclear, and already employs three times more people. Although ill-informed leaders of a few large unions support nuclear for jobs reasons, many trade unionists do not. The excellent 2014 report A Million Climate Jobs by 24 energy analysts and trade union officials reveals the large potential for jobs in the renewables and explicitly eschews nuclear power. Trade union leaders may think that nuclear power is a major provider of jobs. It is not. The recent analysis of jobs in the energy sector published by the Office of National Statistics reveals only 15,500 direct jobs in nuclear power compared with 43,500 direct jobs in renewables – including renewable heat, renewable combined heat and power, bioenergy and alternative fuels in 2014.

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Posted: 31 August 2016

30 August 2016

Hinkley

A full month after the British government decided to review Chinese involvement in the Hinkley Point C nuclear power project, the howls of outrage just won’t die down. Insisting any security concerns over Chinese involvement are groundless, China’s state news agency, Xinhua, warned Britain would be “foolish” to jeopardise its relations with Beijing by suspending the project. China’s ambassador to London declared the delay had brought bilateral relations between the two countries to “a crucial historical juncture” and called on the British government to “come to a decision as soon as possible so that the project can proceed”. Last week China’s president, Xi Jinping, even gave a speech in which he insisted China’s international investments deliver “a solid sense of gain”. All these protests miss the point. They all assume that the reason for the British government’s review is concern about China’s investment. But there is a far greater objection to Hinkley than that: it is a deeply flawed project, driven more by political vanity than economic rationale, the numbers of which make no sense whatsoever. The new British government of Prime Minister Theresa May would be right to pull the plug, regardless of any Chinese involvement. The evidence that London’s review of Hinkley was prompted by security concerns is remarkably thin. It consists largely of a blog post on a right-wing website written last October by the director of an education charity who was later appointed May’s joint chief of staff. In the post, he cited an article in The Times newspaper, claiming unnamed “security experts… are worried that the Chinese could use their role to build weaknesses into computer systems which will allow them to shut down Britain’s energy production at will”. Maybe, but that should be the least of London’s concerns over Hinkley. The real problem with the project is its cost. In short, the Hinkley Point project would be a horror show with or without China’s involvement.

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Posted: 30 August 2016

29 August 2016

Hinkley

Supporters of the proposed Hinkley Point nuclear power station have launched a last-ditch push for approval as Theresa May, prime minister, nears a decision on whether to go ahead with the £18bn project. UK union leaders on Sunday called for an end to the “faffing” over a scheme they say is crucial to keeping Britain’s lights on, afterEDF, the French company planning to build the Somerset plant, sought to ease security concerns over Chinese involvement. The comments signalled a fight back against critics of Hinkley, whose arguments have appeared to be in the ascendancy since Mrs May ordered a review of the politically sensitive project last month. Justin Bowden, national secretary of the GMB, one of the UK’s largest unions, said it was “wishful thinking” to believe that alternatives such as wind and solar power could fill the gap if Hinkley was cancelled. Hinkley is likely to be discussed when Mrs May visits China for the G20 summit in Hangzhou next weekend, where she is expected to have a face-to-face meeting with her Chinese counterpart. The decision to put Hinkley on hold has been interpreted as a break from concerted UK efforts to woo Chinese investment when David Cameron was prime minister. Allies of EDF say they are cautiously optimistic that the debate is moving in their favour behind the scenes. One senior person in the nuclear industry said: “Many of those in government who were previously sceptical are now better informed of the reality and are realising that a lot of the claims on cost, China, and alternatives for meeting [electricity] demand without nuclear are exaggerated and spurious.”

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Posted: 29 August 2016

28 August 2016

Hinkley

Vincent de Rivaz: New nuclear has to be part of our low-carbon energy future. Detractors have filled many column inches and broadcast hours. However, some critics risk losing sight of the bigger picture by overlooking the positive impact and importance of this investment for Britain. China’s participation is much more than £6bn of inward investment. It brings the benefits of a 30-year partnership between EDF and CGN in nuclear construction in China, a country with the largest civil nuclear programme in the world. The cost of Hinkley Point C’s electricity is frequently compared with today’s depressed wholesale prices. The correct comparison is with future prices. Hinkley Point C is competitive with all other future energy options, even including fossil fuels like gas when the cost of carbon is taken into account

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Posted: 28 August 2016

27 August 2016

Hinkley

Case against Hinkley Point nuclear development gets stronger after yet another critical report. The more entertaining stuff is in director Richard Black’s blog. He describes Britain’s first new nuclear plant in a generation as: “A giant Godzilla that will either crush all before it or collapse under its own weight.” The latter is much the more likely outcome. But you can see his point.

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Posted: 27 August 2016

26 August 2016

Hinkley

Britain could save £1bn a year by pursuing cheaper alternatives to the proposed Hinkley Point nuclear power station, according to a report that says the Franco-Chinese project is not essential to keeping Britain’s lights on. As few as four big offshore wind farms could provide as much electricity as the 3.2 gigawatts expected from Hinkley, with additional gas-fired power and interconnectors with other countries also helping to fill the gap if the Somerset plant is scrapped. The findings from the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit follows the decision by Theresa May, prime minister, to put Hinkley on hold pending a review, with a decision expected next month. Critics say that the £18bn project is too expensive and risky. Richard Black, director of the ECIU, said the think-tank set out to determine whether it was possible for the UK to maintain adequate electricity supplies without Hinkley while keeping carbon emissions and energy bills in check. “Our conclusion is that [Hinkley is] not essential; using tried and tested technologies, with nothing unproven or futuristic, Britain can meet all its targets and do so at lower cost,” he said. “If Mrs May decides to go ahead with Hinkley, all well and good — if she decides not to, or if the project stumbles at a later stage, we have alternatives.”

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Posted: 26 August 2016

25 August 2016

Hinkley

Whitehall officials reviewing the massive Hinkley Point nuclear project are exploring how the UK might withdraw from the deal while minimising financial risk and damage to international relations, it has been claimed. Westminster sources told The Independent civil servants are looking to see if there is any loophole, clause or issue in contracts yet to be signed that allow the Government to pull back without huge loss and while also saving face. Ministers are acutely aware of the potential damage a withdrawal could do to relations with China, which is committed to pouring billions of pounds into the controversial project.

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Posted: 25 August 2016

24 August 2016

Hinkley

Dong Energy, the world’s leading developer of offshore wind energy, says it is ready to offer the UK more offshore wind power should prime minister Theresa May scrap construction of a nuclear plant. Although there is no suggestion yet that the nuclear plans might be scrapped, the programme was thrown into fresh uncertainty by the UK government’s recent announcement that it would “review” the project. “We would be able to further accelerate and expand the build out of offshore wind should there be such a need,” Dong’s chief executive officer Henrik Poulsen told Bloomberg in a recent interview. “Of course, that’s entirely leaving those decisions to the UK Government.” As Bloomberg noted, some energy analysts say offshore wind could be an economically-viable alternative to nuclear. In contrast to the massive price of building the UK’s next generation of nuclear power stations and the very high strike price for the project, costs in the offshore wind sector are coming down quickly. “If the Brits cancel Hinkley and need more offshore wind power it’ll certainly be something we can help with,” Mr Poulsen told Bloomberg. “We just want to make the point that if they want to accelerate the build-out of offshore wind energy we’re at their disposal.”

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Posted: 24 August 2016

23 August 2016

Hinkley

For a brief moment last month, it looked like the Somerset coast was destined to become the home of the most expensive object in the world — Hinkley Point nuclear plant. But after a last minute intervention by Prime Minister Theresa May, the government’s nuclear ambitions were suddenly put on hold. In the run up to the decision, Hinkley was almost unanimously condemned by the British press. So in case you missed it at the time, here’s a quick look at what’s been said.

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Posted: 23 August 2016

22 August 2016

Nuclear Industry

Theresa May revealed herself as an even more enthusiastic proselytiser for fracking than David Cameron. This seems so bizarre that it tells me one of two things: 1. She’s already decided against Hinkley Point, and is now so seriously worried about ‘the lights going out’ in the next decade that she’s ramping up the fracking hype to cover (notionally!) some of the gap in supply that opens up without Hinkley Point. 2. She’s as woefully ill-informed about energy policy as David Cameron was himself, and therefore as vulnerable as he was to the next well-funded, superficially-persuasive industrial lobby seeking to get her attention. Having to bribe people to accept fracking – with more and more apparent financial benefits on offer – is of course a measure of desperation. And when you read the small print (with the bribes only to be paid out of ‘future profits’ at some indefinable point in the future), you have to wonder how many savvy rural folk are going to be taken in by such garbage. But we shouldn’t underestimate the pernicious influence of corporate bribes offered over extended periods of time. And no industry is more sophisticated in this nefarious art form than the nuclear industry.

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Posted: 22 August 2016