News February 2016

10 February 2016

EPRs

[Machine Translation] The headlong rush of EDF and the state continues on the nuclear issue. Today, a convoy from AREVA’s Chalon-sur-Saône to deliver the head of the vessel of the nuclear plant “new generation” (obsolete before they emerged) Flamanville: the famous EPR. We are on the ground to alert the authorities about this new masquerade. Because this cover is not consistent: in April, the Nuclear Safety Authority (ASN) announced the detection of an anomaly in the composition of the steel of the tank of the Flamanville EPR during one of its control AREVA Saint-Marcel (Chalon-sur-Saône). In addition, a battery of tests has shown that the steel of the tank (already in place on the construction of the EPR) and the cover (forged together but so far stored in Chalon) is more fragile than this that provide for safety standards: these are not reliable in the state. However, the tank and lid form two parts in one piece and it is impossible to “patch up” as is, where necessary (it will all redémonter). Therefore, fix a defective lid itself falls within the above absolute nonsense.

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Posted: 10 February 2016

9 February 2016

Hinkley

This could be the week that EDF’s new nuclear ambition in Britain collapses, and with it, the climate-killing policies of our government. And this could be the week that YOU help make this happen! On Tuesday Feb 16 in France, EDF’s board will meet and try to make their postponed ‘final decision’ about whether to go any further with the ill-fated Hinkley C new nuclear plant. The Board of the state-owned company is split, with union reps warning that the Somerset project could bankrupt EDF, who already face massive financial difficulties. The repeatedly delayed decision is now on a knife-edge – bad news for the Tories, but brilliant news for renewables and everyone who wants a safe, clean, affordable and democratic power supply. So the people who work on the campaign against Hinkley C want you to help us tip the balance, by joining a protest at an EDF premises on Monday 15th Feb, or doing one of your own; By emailing French representatives and executives; By spreading information far and wide.

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Posted: 9 February 2016

8 February 2016

Bradwell

RADIOACTIVE waste from other nuclear power stations has moved a step closer to being stored at Bradwell. Magnox, the company running Bradwell power station, asked Essex County Council whether it needed to draw up a full environmental impact assessment on plans to import nuclear waste from other power stations. Now the council has decided the application is not “significant” enough to require a formal assessment. The decision said: “The formal decision of this Authority is that the effects of the development would not be so significant as to require formal Environmental Impact Assessment.” Magnox’s submission to County Hall revealed “intermediate level waste” would be stored, encased in cement, inside stainless steel drums or concrete boxes.

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Posted: 8 February 2016

7 February 2016

Plutonium Transports

Two top secret British ‘ghost ships’ carrying enough plutonium for a huge nuclear arsenal wend their way through the world’s oceans –guarded against terrorists by 50 commandos. It may sound like a tantalising target for a villain in a James Bond film, but what is potentially the most dangerous secret mission in history is deadly reality. Two vast container ships – the Pacific Heron and the Pacific Egret – left Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria, last month on the first leg of their incredible journey. Their mission is to sail to Japan to collect 331kg of plutonium – enough to make 80 nuclear warheads – which was leased by the UK to a Japanese research facility. The ships are almost certainly shadowed by a Royal Navy submarine and surface vessels and are heavily armed with 20mm cannon. They are sailing across the Atlantic before passing through the Panama Canal and into the Pacific on their way to Japan.

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Posted: 7 February 2016

6 February 2016

Hinkley

Sheffield Forgemasters and the Government have called a truce in a war of words over contracts going to British companies. The Brightside steelmaker and the department for Business, Innovation and Skills have issued a joint statement that agrees ‘Forgemasters cannot produce ‘ultra-large’ forgings. But it can produce 80 per cent of forgings for projects like the planned nuclear power station Hinkley Point C. The unusual move comes after the firm said it had been ‘snubbed’ in favour of foreign firms for contracts at the site.

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Posted: 6 February 2016

5 February 2016

Hinkley

The UK government’s energy strategy is experiencing what the man who made Manchester United the dominant force in European football – kids, ask your parents – once called “squeaky bum time”. Injury time has been extended again and again, but the point at which the whistle blows and EDF will be finally forced to make a decision on whether to build the Hinkley Point C nuclear project is looming. The future of the shaky edifice that is the UK’s current decarbonisation could yet rest on the result. Officially, the position remains the same as it has been ever since it was confirmed in October that China General Nuclear Power Corporation would take a stake in the project and stump up a third of the costs. EDF has said it will make a final investment decision once it has secured “finalisation of long form documentation based on Head of Terms agreed today; finalisation by EDF of its financing plan; approval by the boards of EDF and CGN; [and] clearance by merger control and other governmental authorities in China and Europe”. All the recent speculation the project is in trouble is just that, speculation – or so the official line goes. In reality, the conflicting signals surrounding the project confirm it is anything but a happy ship. EDF may have told contractors on the project to get to work, fuelling hopes a positive decision will come this month. But the public opposition from EDF unions, the departure of Hinkley Point’s project director, and the reports of further delays to a decision that has now been delayed more often than a train out of London Bridge, paint a very different picture. As the Guardian’s Nils Pratley observed last week, the likelihood remains the deal will go ahead. The government’s energy strategy is hugely dependent on the project going ahead and the loss of face that would result from scrapping it at this late stage would be so all-encompassing that Ministers and executives will strain every sinew to get a positive result. Do not be surprised if the Treasury greases the wheels of the deal still further to secure something it can call a victory. With CCS and onshore wind out the picture, the energy storage market still embryonic, and the government showing zero appetite for a comprehensive energy efficiency programme, the UK’s medium term decarbonisation strategy appears to rest on ministers’ willingness to make an already generous nuclear deal even more attractive to a company that is having a visible wobble about its appetite for the project. And all without any semblance of the Plan B that would both strengthen its negotiating hand and ultimately reduce the cost of meeting the UK’s carbon targets and energy security goals.

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Posted: 5 February 2016

4 February 2016

Hinkley

EDF HAS postponed building Hinkley C creating a massive economic uncertainty across Somerset and Bridgwater and Highbridge in particular, according to reports. And James Heappey MP for Wells and Burnham said: “News that EDF have kicked the Hinkley can down the road again is unwelcome and is understandably causing concern for local businesses and residents. I understand that EDF are now to make the Final Investment Decision in mid-February to coincide with the publication of their annual results. Despite the doubters there’s still confidence in Hinkley C from Sedgemoor District Council. The leader Cllr Duncan McGinty said: “With a project of this size, the largest engineering project in Europe, one would expect delays along the road to completion. Sedgemoor remains optimistic that the final investment decision to proceed will come soon. We are seeing increased activity on the ground, we are in contact with Tier 1 contractors and we are gearing ourselves up to play our part in delivering this project to achieve the maximum benefit for the local community and economy.”

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Posted: 4 February 2016

3 February 2016

Hinkley

The six union members on EDF’s 18-seat board would vote against the French utility’s plans for two nuclear reactors in the UK, but other board members do not want to postpone the project, sources familiar with the situation said. The unions want EDF to put off the 18 billion pound ($26 billion) project to build two Areva-designed European Pressurised Reactors (EPR) at Hinkley Point in southwest England until it has strengthened its balance sheet and started up at least one of the four EPRs it has under construction elsewhere. A united front of EDF’s unions opposing a major investment decision would be unprecedented, but the lack of support from other board members removes a major element of uncertainty for the plan. On Monday, EDF’s dominant CGT union, which has three board members, called on the firm to postpone the project, saying EDF should prioritise upgrading its ageing nuclear fleet in France, start up the long-delayed EPR it is building in Flamanville, and design a new-model EPR reactor. The more radical FO union, which as one board seat, also said on Monday it was “urgent to wait” and said that going ahead with Hinkley Point could put EDF’s very survival at risk. The CFE-CGC manager’s union had issued a similar warning last month. The moderate CFDT union has not made any statements about the UK project. With six seats on the 18-member board the unions are a large minority block and would need to get at least three other board members to side with them. Since EDF board member Philippe Varin is also chairman of Areva, he cannot vote on the UK project, which means that nine votes could block it. Besides the six union members, EDF also has six independent board members – including its chief executive Jean-Bernard Levy, Varin and the chairmen of listed French firms Vallourec and Lafarge – while six other members are appointed by the state. Three of these people are government officials. Two sources familiar with the situation told Reuters that none of the other independent or state-appointed board members would side with the unions.

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Posted: 3 February 2016

2 February 2016

Hinkley

The Treasury has, in effect, ridiculed any notion that EDF could take a final investment decision on Hinkley C within the next three years – if ever. The announcement by the Treasury that their offer of loan guarantees for the EPR at Hinkley C is linked to successful functioning of the Flamanville EPR means that short of absolute lunacy reigning at EDF HQ the power plant could not possibly be given a final go-ahead until 2018 at the earliest, and most probably never. The date of earliest completion of the Flamanville reactor is 2018, and even that assumes that things go a lot better than they have so far. To cap this, the Treasury have said that if the reactor hasn’t demonstrated it is working properly by 2020 then there will be no loan guarantee for Hinkley C. (see Sunday Times piece, link below). There is no chance of Hinkley C being funded without this – EDF haven’t got anywhere near the money needed and it would be financially crazy to pay for it without the guarantees – so EDF cannot take the chance of going ahead without a firm loan guarantee. This leaves people wondering about the motives of EDF in announcing that they are ‘restarting’ work on Hinkley C. They can’t do this, or at least carry on with this indefinitely. EDF is in difficult financial straits as it is without this sort of action. It is no surprise that employees and shareholders of EDF are up in arms about the prospect of a ‘final investment decision’ being taken by the EDF Board. They are nowhere near being able to do this – as you can see from the European Commission documents, before such a decision can be taken they have to have a signed contract with the UK Government and the agreed funding in place for the company that develops the project. None of this has happened or seems likely to happen.

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Posted: 2 February 2016

1 February 2016

Hinkley

The board of EDF remains deeply split over whether to proceed with the nuclear plant at Hinkley Point in Somerset, with nearly half its members expected to vote against the giant project, according to French nuclear experts. The French state-owned energy group, which is grappling with debts of €37 billion and plunging wholesale electricity prices, delayed a key board meeting last Wednesday under growing pressure from French energy unions to abandon the project because of the huge costs and financial risks involved. Mycle Schneider, a Paris-based nuclear energy expert, said that the situation was very serious, adding: “The indications are that the unions, who have six board seats, would have voted against it and at least one more member. Maybe more.” Although the executive team of EDF, including Jean-Bernard Lévy, the chairman, is strongly backing the project with government approval, they are facing stiff opposition from other powerful industry figures. Upheaval within the French nuclear industry is complicating efforts to finalise the Hinkley project, which EDF intends to build with two state-controlled Chinese nuclear companies, according to a deal agreed in October last year during a visit to the UK by President Xi. The two companies also plan to build two more EPR reactors at Sizewell in Suffolk. Mr Atherton said: “Financing such a massive project will place a significant strain on EDF’s finances. That is why they have brought in Chinese investors.” However, he said that the project could still prove highly profitable to EDF in the long term because of the attractive subsidies offered by the UK, including a guaranteed “strike price” for Hinkley’s electricity of £92.50 a megawatt hour, nearly three times the present wholesale cost of power.

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Posted: 1 February 2016