News February 2016

19 February 2016

Hinkley

Ten years ago, when the British government first considered launching a new nuclear programme, Areva, the French nuclear technology company, said it could build reactors that would produce electricity profitably at £24 per megawatt-hour. It seemed an attractive proposition. Not only was this less than previous reactors, it was competitive with other power sources. New technology seemed to have opened the door to affordable carbonless electricity; Britain could meet its ever-tougher climate goals without shaking the public down. A decade on and a major nuclear accident later, the world knows better. Nuclear projects elsewhere have been scrapped and existing stations shuttered or scheduled for early closure. Meanwhile stringent regulations have exposed Areva’s promise as a chimera. It turns out that the price of new nuclear for Britain is not £24 per MWh but nearly four times as much. The French face several obstacles. First, there is the question of EDF’s balance sheet, groaning under a €37bn debt pile. The company’s share price has more than halved in the past year and its market capitalisation is now about €21bn. That is not much more than the company’s 67 per cent share of the cost of Hinkley C. Linked to this are worries about the reactor technology it is employing. The two projects under construction, including EDF’s at Flamanville in France, are delayed and over budget. It might be difficult to entice lenders while it is possible that problems with Flamanville might cause construction to be halted or scrapped. New nuclear might not be needed were the UK to rethink its costly promises and reduce its carbon targets to match those of other EU states. If new reactors are to be considered, however, they must be subjected to the rigours of competition. That is the only way to get the right technology at acceptable cost. Britain is saddled with the worst of all worlds. The government has effectively written the French a long-dated option to sell it unproven technology at an extremely generous price. Politically painful it may be, but the case for halting Hinkley Point C is becoming hard to refute.

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Posted: 19 February 2016

19 February 2016

Do we really need nuclear power to provide baseload power?

The UK Government and pro-nuclear advocates argue that we need nuclear power to provide baseload electricity. In reality the concept of baseload power is quickly becoming obsolete. It is perfectly feasible to design a reliable electricity system based on 100% renewable energy. In fact strong market forces which favour decentralised energy mean that utilities continuing to promote large centralised power stations are threatening their own existence and need to move to a new decentralised utility model as soon as practicable.

Do we really need nuclear power to provide baseload power? Is 100% renewables possible? Do we really need nuclear power

 

Posted: 19 February 2016

18 February 2016

Hinkley

Is there a really need for Hinkley Point to be built? Tom Burke: There isn’t actually, there’s lots and lots more things that we can do. There is no need to replace nuclear with nuclear, or indeed with gas. We’ve got so many more options, that by the time we get to the 20’s they are going to be an awful lot cheaper, a much better bargain for Britain’s bill payers. What’s interesting about Hinkley Point is that it has managed to be 10 years late before it’s even started, which is a record even for the nuclear industry, so we can’t have any confidence anyway that they what they say they’ll be able to do.

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Posted: 18 February 2016

17 February 2016

Hinkley

French utility EDF’s project to build two nuclear reactors in Hinkley Point, Britain should pour its first concrete in 2019 and a possible British exit from the European Union would not change the plan, its chief executive said on Tuesday.The 18 billion pound (23.26 billion euro) project was first announced in Oct. 2013 and EDF announced a partnership for it with Chinese utility CGN in Oct. 2015, but an investment decision has been delayed several times although EDF has said repeatedly a decision would come soon.”We have the intention to proceed rapidly with the investment decision for Hinkley Point,” EDF CEO Jean-Bernard Levy told reporters.He added that EDF had not yet finalised talks with its Chinese partners before the Chinese New Year break. “Today we estimate this final decision is very close,” he said.Levy said it would take about three years, possibly a bit more, of study and work with sub-contractors before EDF will begin building the first definitive structures on the Hinkley Point C site, though the company will do terracing and other preparatory work between now and then.”Definitive construction of what will be built on the site, what we call the first concrete, is on the horizon for 2019,” Levy said.Asked whether a possible British exit from the European Union could change the utility’s plan to go ahead with Hinkley Point, Levy said “No, we do not think so”.

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Posted: 17 February 2016

16 February 2016

Hinkley

Fresh doubts about how EDF will pay for plans to build an £18 billion nuclear power station in Somerset pushed the energy group’s shares to a new low yesterday. Board members of the company, which has debts of 37 billion euros met to sign off its accounts. These are expected to show a sharp deterioration in profits when they are released today because of a decline in wholesale energy prices. Power prices in France have declined by 23 per cent over the past three months, reflecting a fall in commodities prices. On Saturday, Moody’s placed EDF on review for a possible downgrade. “The rating review reflects EDF’s exposure to a weakening power price environment,” the ratings agency said. “A prolonged period of low power prices will further affect EDF, given its exposure to market-exposed generation activities . . . These pressures may further exacerbate the risks associated with the Hinkley Point C project.” The plan to build at Hinkley Point is not thought to have been discussed at length during the board meeting. EDF’s board deferred a final investment decision on Hinkley Point last month. Mycle Schneider, a nuclear industry consultant based in Paris, said that financing doubts and EDF’s heavy debt load were complicating the board’s final investment decision on Hinkley Point, which could take several more months. Opposition from French energy unions and the collapse of Areva, the French reactor designer whose technology had been earmarked for use at the power station, have added to the challenge, he said. “There are huge doubts over the future of this project,” Mr Schneider said.

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Posted: 16 February 2016

15 February 2016

Hinkley

EDF has not put the investment decision for its plan to build two nuclear reactors in Hinkley Point, Britain, on the agenda for its board meeting on Monday, a source familiar with the situation told Reuters. The state-owned utility’s board is set to focus on the firm’s 2015 earnings – which will be released on Tuesday – despite press speculation about an imminent decision on Hinkley. A new internal report by Yannick d’Escatha, former head of French state nuclear agency CEA, raises serious doubts about whether the Hinkley Point C project could be realised on schedule. The project’s 18 billion pound (23.21 billion euros) budget is bigger than EDF’s 22.5 billion euro market value. One source said some unions and EDF insiders are proposing that EDF and its Chinese partner CGN postpone the plan by a few years and offer the UK government to build European Pressurised Reactors (EPR) “New Model”, instead of the current model.

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Posted: 15 February 2016

14 February 2016

Radwaste

British scientists are designing a revolutionary cement that could withstand the impact of intense radiation for thousands of years. The project could prove vital in dealing with the challenges of Britain’s proposed expansion of its nuclear industry. “To work out how materials – in this case cement – are going to behave for tens of thousands of years is quite mind-boggling, but that is exactly what we are now doing,” said the project’s leader, Claire Corkhill of Sheffield University. She is due to present details of the project at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington on Sunday. The key to her team’s project is the UK’s Diamond Light Source, near Oxford. The facility accelerates electrons almost to the speed of light, so that they give off a light 10 billion times brighter than the sun. These bright beams are then directed off into laboratories, where they are used to study the properties of many different types of material: ice, viruses, cancer drugs – and cement.

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Posted: 14 February 2016

13 February 2016

Hinkley

Sheffield Forgemasters will now have a chance to help with the building of Britain’s new nuclear power station, it has been announced. The steel firm will have the opportunity to be part of the supply chain for the Hinkley Point C power station in Somerset following a political row about the use of foreign firms. French and Japanese companies have been signed up to carry out the ultra-large forging work on the plant, leading to criticism of the lack of British firms involved in the project. But EDF, the French energy giant behind the plant, has now said firms such as Forgemasters should be able to bid for some of the sub-contracted work on other parts of the scheme – provided they can meet the necessary regulatory standards. A spokesman for the company said: “Hinkley Point C is a big opportunity for UK steel, as well as for UK construction and manufacturing more widely.

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Posted: 13 February 2016

12 February 2016

Hinkley

Firms working on the £18bn Hinkley Point C nuclear power plant have admitted their finances have taken a hit due to the project’s delays. Consultant Rider Levett Bucknall (RLB) had a contract on Hinkley Point C as a subconsultant and its chairman Ann Bentley has told Building the contract was cancelled when EDF paused work on the site as a final investment decision had still not been made. She added that the contract termination put a dent in RLB’s profit. Bentley said: “People we had allocated for years, instead of going to Hinkley they literally turned up in our office. They just sat there for two months until we were able to reallocate them. “Five people for two months, that’s ten months, almost a year’s salary that came straight off our profits.” A director at a contractor working on the project said their company will only move workers back to Hinkley when a final investment decision is made. He said: “We still feel pretty confident it will go ahead, but no matter how much EDF shout at us to mobilise, we are not going to actually do it until we see that money in our bank account.”

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Posted: 12 February 2016

11 February 2016

Hinkley

Ministers appear to have left the door open for a re-tendering of big steel contracts for the £18 billion Hinkley Point C nuclear power station. Under questioning from MPs on the business select committee, and as the row deepens over the bidding process run by the French energy company EDF, Sajid Javid denied claims that Sheffield Forgemasters had not been given the opportunity to tender for some of the largest, highest-value steelwork for Britain’s first new nuclear plant in more than two decades. “My understanding is that EDF has not made any decisions, has not made a firm decision on the procurement of these issues,” the business secretary said. Pressed by Paul Blomfield, the Sheffield Central MP, Mr Javid added: “You are suggesting EDF has made decisions. I am not sure where you are getting your information from. I am not aware they [EDF] have ruled out one company or another. What we do know is Sheffield Forgemasters is perfectly capable of producing 80 per cent of the forgings required.”

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Posted: 11 February 2016