News May 2016

31 May 2016

Hinkley

A furious row has broken out after the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) refused to disclose the arrangement with EDF for dealing with radioactive waste at the planned Hinkley Point C nuclear plant. The information commissioner’s office has turned down a freedom of information (FoI) request for state aid arrangements between the UK and the European commission to be made public. The FoI complainant, David Lowry, has launched an appeal, claiming it is in the public interest for British citizens to be able to judge whether their government had made the right decision about the new reactors in Somerset. Lowry, a British-based senior research fellow with the Institute for Resource and Security Studies in the US, said: “I do not believe the balance of judgment should be in favour of a foreign company, EDF Energy, who will potentially make huge multibillion-pound financial gain from the continued non-disclosure, and hence non scrutiny, over myself as a British tax and electricity bill payer.” Under the new arrangements, the prospective nuclear operators must enter into a waste transfer contract (WTC). Those contracts, like the one covering Hinkley, must be submitted for scrutiny by the EC under its state aid rules. It is the pricing methodology of the WTC that Lowry wished to review and which remains under wraps.

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Posted: 31 May 2016

30 May 2016

Moorside

Moorside would be 20 miles from Keswick – join protest on 31st May.

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Posted: 30 May 2016

29 May 2016

Hinkley

Business Leader: The Hinkley farce – which has been running since last October, when the final sign-off was due within weeks – could yet roll on and on. The UK government is disinclined to set a deadline: it’s a “commercial decision” for EDF. Meanwhile, the current French government could have a radically different shape this time next year – there is a presidential election in 2017 and the incumbent, François Hollande, is the least popular leader in modern French history. French union opposition to Hinkley Point appears entrenched and the workers’ representatives have six seats on an 18-strong board. To embark on an £18bn venture with a divided boardroom would invite trouble down the line. That is especially so when you remember EDF’s last finance director, Thomas Piquemal, resigned over concerns that Hinkley could threaten the company’s future. The best thing the UK government could do at this point is to stop and consider whether the obstacles facing Hinkley are simply too big. There are other ways to meet the legally binding emissions targets. Offshore wind is expanding with no Hinkley-style fuss, and its costs are falling. More importantly for the UK’s requirement for secure baseload supplies, other builders are waiting to pursue projects that use different nuclear technology. In theory, planning and appraisal can continue in parallel; in practice, confidence in the UK’s commitment to its new-nuclear programme will drain away. The Hinkley show is becoming an embarrassment. The project is expensive, uses unproven technology and its builder is a disunited and over-borrowed company that requires constant financial assurances from an ever-changing cast of politicians. The UK government should set EDF a deadline and be ready to enforce it. We can do better – much better – than Hinkley.

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Posted: 29 May 2016

28 May 2016

Hinkley

French plans for an £18 billion nuclear plant in Britain faced renewed opposition yesterday amid claims that the investment could undermine the country’s own reactors. Critics warned that essential safety work at French atomic energy sites risks being delayed or abandoned if Eléctricité de France (EDF), the state-owned electricity giant, goes ahead with plans to build two European pressurised reactors at Hinkley Point in Somerset. The warning came after the head of France’s nuclear watchdog, the Nuclear Safety Authority (ASN) expressed concern that EDF’s financial woes posed a threat to the safety of the country’s 58 reactors. Many of the firm’s engineers and executives say its troubles will deepen if it takes on the British project. Unions have no formal veto over the project but they have threatened industrial action if it goes ahead without their approval. Mr Hollande, who is struggling to contain strikes and protests over his plans for labour law reform, is keen to avoid that prospect. Critics, including Thomas Piquemal, EDF’s former financial director, say the firm is too fragile to shoulder its planned two-thirds share of investment at Hinkley Point. Pierre-Franck Chevet, chairman of ASN, told France’s office for the evaluation of scientific and technological choices, that he was concerned about nuclear safety in France. He said the financial, economic or budgetry difficulties faced by EDF and Areva might lead to investments in safety not being made or being postponed. Mr Chevet said that while French reactors were safe at the moment, the future was worrying. Mrs Cailletaud said: “He’s not saying there’s going to be a nuclear accident. What he is saying is that the ASN might shut down reactors if safety work is not carried out. “What we say is that it is important to stabilise EDF’s financial position before going ahead with Hinkley Point.”

Times 28th May 2016 read more »

The workers’ committee at EDF on Thursday dealt a new blow to Hinkley, saying it is likely to vote against the plan. The French utility has been on the verge of giving the final approval to the Hinkley Point project for the past few months, but has delayed doing so on several occasions after a string of last-minute objections. Last month the company announced another pause while it consults unions within the organisation, which have representation on the company’s board. Those unions have threatened to vote against the project, saying they believe it could threaten the company’s future. Speaking to the BBC on Thursday, Jean-Luc Magnaval, the secretary of the EDF workers’ committee, which represents those unions, said that he remained opposed to the scheme despite EDF’s consultation. Mr Magnaval told Newsnight: “We want something that will work. We wish that EDF was as keen to improve the project as they are to start work on it. We have reservations about several aspects of the project: organisation, supply chain, installation and procurement. The trade union is unlikely to give its blessing to the project in its current state. We are not reassured by the documents we have received. We have been given a marketing folder not the full information we require.”

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Posted: 28 May 2016

27 May 2016

Hinkley

The future of the planned new nuclear power plant at Hinkley Point remains in doubt as key French unions still oppose the project, BBC Newsnight has learned. EDF, which would build the plant, had delayed a decision on the project in Somerset until the summer while it consulted French union representatives. The company, which is 85% French state-owned, had hoped to win support from a committee of workplace representatives. But the committee said staff had not been reassured about the plant’s costs. Trade union representatives hold six of the 18 seats on EDF’s board. Jean-Luc Magnaval, secretary of the Central Works Committee that EDF consulted with, told Newsnight that staff feared the cost of the project would cripple EDF. He said: “We have reservations about several aspects of the project: organisation, supply chain, installation, and procurement. “The trade unions are unlikely to give their blessing to the project in its current state. A former energy adviser to the French government told Newsnight that while EDF did not technically need the backing of the trade union representatives, it would be very difficult, politically, to go ahead without it. Yves Marignac said: “Going for it would for the government be crossing a red line in their relationship with the trade unions, which would make it really difficult for the government, particularly with the perspective of the next general election when they will need to get some support of the trade unions. “Making a decision for the project is not possible right now. The political costs and the costs for EDF’s financial situation are too high right now.”

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Posted: 27 May 2016

26 May 2016

Hinkley

Energy Minister Andrea Leadsom told the panel, appearing after De Rivaz. “We never leave ourselves in a position where one particular project will make or break the system.” Hinkley will add about 10 pounds to a typical U.K. household’s annual bill by 2030, Leadsom said. Alternative plans to generate the same amount of power would probably be more expensive, she said, seeking to justify the cost of guaranteeing EDF a power price of 92.50 pounds per megawatt-hour for 35 years.

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Posted: 26 May 2016

25 May 2016

Hinkley

EDF cannot give a definitive time for when the French utility will make an investment decision regarding the Hinkley C nuclear project in Britain, EDF Energy CEO Vincent de Rivaz told British lawmakers on Tuesday. De Rivaz told members of parliament’s energy and climate change committee some of the company’s trade union members had suggested the project should be delayed by 2-3 years. The final decision would be taken once a consultation by the company’s central works council had taken place. That consultation began on May 2 and will at least 60 days, de Rivaz said, but would not say how long it could last. Britain’s minister of state at the Department of Energy and Climate Change, Andrea Leadsom, was also called before the committee. She said the government had not given EDF a deadline to take a financial decision on the project and remained “fully confident” the project would go ahead. De Rivaz said EDF still hopes the project will start power generation in 2025, but said an update on timings would be provided after the investment decision had been taken. The company said this month it would take 115 months to build once the decision is made. Separately, French Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron told the British lawmakers in a letter that French authorities remained fully behind the project and he had every confidence a final investment decision could be made rapidly after the central works committee consultation.

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Posted: 25 May 2016

24 May 2016

Hinkley

Doug Parr: A lot has changed since Tony Blair signed the UK up for new nuclear almost exactly a decade ago. Back then we were talking about a start date of 2017 – with electricity produced for £24 per MW/hour of power. All of it now seems absurd. Instead the French state-owned utility building Hinkley faces two fundamental problems. First the nuclear design it wants to build (the European Pressurised Reactor) is a mess – it’s not yet been built successfully anywhere and it’s described by an engineering professor as ‘unconstructable.” Second, partially because of that, EDF don’t yet have the money to pay for it. Whilst Hinkley has cleared all the UK legal hurdles there remain questions over finance and compliance with EU State Aid law. The arrangements for the UK’s subsidy for Hinkley was, somewhat surprisingly, cleared through State Aid in October 2014. This clearance raised two challenges: firstly from Austria and Luxembourg, and secondly from a group of German renewable energy companies. These have not yet been resolved

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Posted: 24 May 2016

23 May 2016

New Nuclear

To directly compare Calder Hall to EDF’s project at Hinkley Point in Somerset would be unfair. For one thing, Calder Hall was tiny, generating less than a tenth of the electricity of the proposed £18 billion plant at Hinkley Point, nearly 300 miles to the south. For another, the engineers behind it had a secret motivation to work swiftly. As well as providing electricity to illuminate nearby Workington, Calder Hall helped to produce plutonium for Britain’s nuclear weapons programme (a fact the Queen politely omitted from her speech at the opening ceremony in 1956). Nevertheless, ten years after Tony Blair first publicly threw his weight behind plans for a revival of Britain’s nuclear industry, it’s worth asking why the UK’s drive to construct a fleet of new reactors is stuck in the starting blocks. It’s not as if there is a lack of political will, but, after nearly a decade of unflinching government support for new UK reactors, not a single brick has been laid. Next spring, Korea Electric Power Corporation will flick the switch on the first of four new reactors under construction at a site in the United Arab Emirates. On time and on budget, once complete Kepco’s Barakah power plant on the Persian Gulf will generate 5.6 gigawatts of electricity, almost double the capacity of Hinkley Point. With an estimated price tag of £17 billion, Barakah isn’t exactly cheap, but the project still looks compelling and better value than what is proposed in Somerset, where EDF warned this month that costs could rise to nearly £21 billion.

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Posted: 23 May 2016

22 May 2016

Moorside

Three quarters of voters say Cumbria should not be home to a new nuclear power station. In our online poll, 73 per cent of voters said Cumbria should NOT be home to a nuclear power station.

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Posted: 22 May 2016