News October 2016

31 October 2016

Hinkley

The Government is facing fresh criticism over the Hinkley Point nuclear deal after it emerged a condition supposed to ensure the £18bn plant was being built on schedule had already been met before contract was signed. A clause in the subsidy deal gives ministers the right to cancel the contract if EDF, which has been plagued by delays building reactors elsewhere, has not hit a construction “milestone” within 33 months of taking its final investment decision. The milestone requires the “commissioning of the main concrete batching plant” at the Somerset site. But the Telegraph can disclose that EDF believes it has already “achieved that milestone”, after two concrete batching plants were commissioned earlier this year, months before the deal was inked in September. While the meeting of the condition still has to be officially signed off by the Government agency handling the contract, EDF expects this to be “completed shortly”. This renders the milestone clause largely pointless and leaves no other lever to ensure construction is proceeding as planned in coming years. Ministers argue EDF has an incentive to build Hinkley by its 2025 target date because it will not receive any income until it starts generating. However, the contract, which has been widely criticised as too generous, allows EDF to retain the same subsidy deal if Hinkley is up to four years late and only lets the Government cancel if it is still not running by 2033. Alan Whitehead MP, Labour’s shadow energy minister, said ministers must confirm whether they knew the concrete plants has already been built when the subsidy contract was signed.

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Posted: 31 October 2016

30 October 2016

Hinkley

Taxpayers will pick up the bill should the cost of storing radioactive waste produced by Britain’s newest nuclear power station soar, according to confidential documents which the government has battled to keep secret for more than a year. The papers confirm the steps the government took to reassure French energy firm EDF and Chinese investors behind the £24bn Hinkley Point C plant that the amount they would have to pay for the storage would be capped. The Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy – in its previous incarnation as the Department for Energy and Climate Change – resisted repeated requests under the Freedom of Information Act for the release of the documents which were submitted to the European commission. “The government has attempted to keep the costs to the taxpayer of Hinkley under wraps from the start,” said Dr Doug Parr, Greenpeace chief scientist. “It’s hardly surprising as it doesn’t look good for the government’s claim that they are trying to keep costs down for hardworking families.” on the very last day before government officials had to submit their defence against an appeal for disclosure of the information, the department released a “Nuclear Waste Transfer Pricing Methodology Notification Paper”. Marked “commercial in confidence”, it states that “unlimited exposure to risks relating to the costs of disposing of their waste in a GDF [geological disposal facility], could not be accepted by the operator as they would prevent the operator from securing the finance necessary to undertake the project”. Instead the document explains that there will be a “cap on the liability of the operator of the nuclear power station which would apply in a worst-case scenario”. It adds: “The UK government accepts that, in setting a cap, the residual risk, of the very worst-case scenarios where actual cost might exceed the cap, is being borne by the government.” Separate documents confirm that the cap also applies should the cost of decommissioning the reactor at the end of its life balloon. The level of the cap is unclear. But Dr David Lowry, a senior research fellow at the Institute for Resource and Security Studies in Cambridge, Massachusetts, who made the FoI request, said it was clear that the risk of footing the bill for a significant cost overrun had been transferred from Hinkley’s operator to the taxpayer.

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Posted: 30 October 2016

29 October 2016

Sizewell

Bosses at EDF Energy are refusing to give any clues over when the next stage of consultation will start for Sizewell C – but say a decision will be made soon. Negotiations have been taking place between the company and Suffolk County Council and Suffolk Coastal District Council over the length and format for the process. Completion of the deal for the Hinkley Point C nuclear power plant has led to internal changes at the energy giant, which has now had to reconstitute an internal board to include representatives of its Chinese partner CGN. EDF and CGN have an agreement to develop Sizewell C to a final investment decision with a view to build and operate two EPR reactors. During the development phase EDF will take an 80% share and CGN will take a 20% share.

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Posted: 29 October 2016

28 October 2016

Moorside

A public consultation process begins today looking at a £2.8-million project to connect the future Moorside nuclear power station, with the electricity network. Earlier this week, National Grid announced revised plans to connect the plant near Whitehaven, with 14-miles of underground cables. Original proposals for overhead pylons had sparked concern from conservationists, so new plans outline an underground network A total of 30 public information events are being held across Cumbria and Lancashire.

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Posted: 28 October 2016

27 October 2016

Hinkley

A damning news report in the Times reveals that the company building Britain’s first nuclear power station for 21 years has been ordered to shut down five reactors in France for emergency tests. This is on top of seven that are already closed because of safety concerns. Theresa May recently gave the go-ahead for a partnership project between the French energy firm EDF and China’s General Nuclear to construct two European pressurised reactors at Hinkley Point in Somerset. The controversial move will supposedly cost a cool £18bn, but as the ongoing troubles with EDF reactors in France indicate, the real cost is likely to be much higher. Under the watch of EDF, fuel prices look set to rise still further. In the short term, this is because the UK imports French electricity during periods of high demand (usually in December and January). With twelve French reactors now closed for inspection, and with 80% of French electricity being produced through nuclear power, France is now faced with massive fuel shortages. Yesterday, French power prices reached their highest in four years. This crisis will undoubtedly have knock-on effects in the UK.

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Posted: 27 October 2016

26 October 2016

Hinkley

MAJOR improvements at two busy junctions in northern Bridgwater will start in January. The improvements will be carried out at the Bristol Road and Wylds Road junctions on The Drove. The key benefits of the scheme are to make it easier to turn left from Western Way into Wylds Road and to provide more space for vehicles to wait to turn right from Bristol Road into the Drove so as not to hold up traffic wanting to go straight on into Bridgwater. The traffic lights will be upgraded, the junctions will be adjusted and crossing points for cyclists and pedestrians improved. The work is part of the agreed schedule of improvements required for the construction of Hinkley Point C. David Eccles of EDF Energy said: “We are writing to residents and businesses inviting them to a drop-in meeting later this year to find out more about the improvement work. “We are working closely with Somerset County Council and Sedgemoor District Council to minimise disruption. “Traffic lights will be manually controlled during busy periods to react quickly to a peak in traffic from a particular direction and use that important human element to decide what needs priority rather than leaving it to a computer.”

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Posted: 26 October 2016

25 October 2016

Sizewell

Plans for Sizewell C are doomed to “evaporate” in the wake of insurmountable problems that will prevent its intended forerunner at Hinkley Point ever producing electricity, one of Britain’s leading environmentalists has predicted. The Chinese and French-financed nuclear construction project on the Somerset coast “might get started” as Theresa May’s government tried to “save face” but the £18billion twin-reactor mega-project was destined to become mired in construction difficulties and delays. It would eventually be overtaken by burgeoning renewable energy technologies in which numerous important breakthroughs were being achieved, green heavyweight Sir Jonathon Porritt told a public meeting in Aldeburgh’s Jubilee Hall.

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Posted: 25 October 2016

Local Authorities and Energy: Building a Fairer Low Carbon Energy System

Our latest report looks at a range of innovative local energy initiatives which show how Britain’s towns and cities are transforming efforts to create a cleaner, smarter and more affordable energy system, providing an alternative to the big utilities, and boosting their local economies in the process. We look at a range of different energy initiatives being carried out by local authorities around the country. The list – in alphabetic order – is not meant to be exhaustive, but hopefully it will inspire others to set up projects of their own. If local authorities can learn from each other, rather than starting from scratch, it will avoid common pitfalls and speed up progress towards a low carbon local renewable energy revolution.

We can learn for instance from Aberdeen’s pioneering district heating scheme and Portsmouth City Council’s plans to continue installing solar panels on public building despite cuts in feed-in tariffs, or Peterborough’s scheme to install solar panels free of charge on homes in the City. Every Authority should know about Wolverhampton’s highly efficient new schools which require hardly any energy to heat, about Shetland Island Council’s plans to extract heat from the North Sea or Islington’s plan to extract heat from the London Underground and how Nottingham City Council managed to set up its own energy company which can sell electricity more cheaply than any other company in the East Midlands. Surely every councillor will want to hear about Oxford’s project to provide low income households with solar electricity and batteries to store any surplus, Edinburgh’s work with a local community energy co-operative to install solar panels on schools and leisure centres across the City, and Fife Council’s project to fuel council refuse collection vehicles with wind generated hydrogen.

Local Authorities and Energy

Posted: 24 October 2016

24 October 2016

Hinkley

It’s been another turbulent month in the long-running saga over the Hinkley Point C nuclear power station. Having looked as if she might be contemplating a rethink, Theresa May unveiled an apparently decisive approval just before the Conservative Party conference. But with longstanding issues still unaddressed – and new problems emerging even since the PM’s announcement – the debate over Hinkley is far from over. Now might be a good moment, then, to reflect on the contribution that social science can make to these kinds of controversies over science and technology. Of course, what counts as useful in any given controversy will depend on your perspective. It is inherent to democracy that different values and interests yield contrasting conclusions. This is especially so over deeply-fractured faultlines like those which run through the UK’s commitments to nuclear power. Social science can provide a better understanding of why different perspectives disagree – and help (when possible) to identify common ground. Hard-pressed policymakers often find it useful to understand how to foster trust, confidence and “acceptance” of their institutions and procedures.

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Posted: 24 October 2016

23 October 2016

New Nuclear

The UK has laid out a welcome mat for any nuclear operators in the world who want to showcase their latest designs in Britain − the one exception being the Russian state company Rosatom. With many nuclear companies no longer able to build new stations in their own countries – France and Japan, for example – because of public and political opposition, the UK government is inviting them to construct their newest models in England and Wales. So the French company EDF, Japan’s Hitachi, the US-based Westinghouse, and the state-owned China Nuclear Power Corporation are all anxious to find somewhere that will allow them a chance to show off what they’ve come up with. If all their new-build plans go ahead, the UK will have 12 new nuclear reactors of four different designs at six different sites. This open-door policy is a lifeline for an industry that elsewhere in the democratic world is fading away. Apart from South Korea, which has a thriving home-grown nuclear industry, only in nations such as China and Russia − where the government can ride roughshod over local objections − is the nuclear industry still expanding. All of the nuclear companies involved in new build in the UK say they want to launch their most recent versions there as a prelude to selling them to the rest of the world.

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Posted: 23 October 2016