News October 2016

12 October 2016

Hinkley

The Norwegian Energy Minister has mocked the decision of the British government to back the Hinkley Point C nuclear power project. Speaking at the Bloomberg New Energy Finance Energy Summit on Monday, Tord Lien, Norway’s Minister of Petroleum and Energy, also declared his country’s support for carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology and pointed to the Scandinavian example of inter-governmental co-operation as a model for the European energy union. Later, Baroness Lucy Neville Rolfe, UK minister of state for energy, defended the government’s decision to back the development of the controversial nuclear power plant in a keynote speech at the annual clean energy event. In response to a question on the merits of approving the go-ahead for Hinkley, Mr Lien told the audience the experience of Norway’s neighbours Finland informed his opinions.

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Posted: 12 October 2016

11 October 2016

Bradwell

China General Nuclear Power Corp has said it is confident that the Chinese-made Hualong One reactor will pass Britain’s strict approval process in five years. The technology, also known as HPR1000, will be submitted to the UK Office for Nuclear Regulation for its rigorous generic design assessment by the end of this year, the company said. If it passes, the design will be used at the proposed power station at Bradwell, on the east coast of England, which would be the first nuclear project in a developed market to use a Chinese reactor. “We completed all preparatory work regarding the technology’s assessment in July, and we received positive feedback from Britain during a technology conference last year,” said Mao Qing, the project manager at CGN responsible for Hualong One’s assessment. “We have thoroughly studied the technologies that have gone through the process in the past and are confident Hualong One will meet the UK’s stringent safety, security and design requirements.”

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Posted: 11 October 2016

10 October 2016

Hinkley

Controversial UK nuclear power station Hinkley point looks set still to be built, despite making no economic or environmental sense. But what’s so bad about nuclear? We spoke to Greenpeace activist and campaigner Kate Blagojevic. They don’t have a plan for Hinkley. Nuclear waste is highly toxic and lasts for centuries. They need to have a good plan to deal with it safely. Hinkley doesn’t make economic or environmental sense and we don’t want to reach a point in the UK where the only thing we can do is build more. There’s so much new technology which means that renewable energy platforms are actually readily available and could create a whole new industry, that’s what we should be investing in. For example the UK is really well equipped for offshore wind because we’ve got a really windy coastline, so we should look into making that a possibility.

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Posted: 10 October 2016

9 October 2016

Bradwell

A CAMPAIGN group has said it is ‘shocked and disappointed’ after councillors agreed plans to store more nuclear waste at Bradwell. Magnox applied to Essex County Council to remove a planning condition barring it from storing waste removed from other power plants at Bradwell. The intermediate level waste, which would come from Sizewell in Suffolk and Dungeness in Kent, typically consists of sludge, sand, gravel and metal. It is likely the waste would be transported by train and road. Last month Essex County Council’s development and regulation committee approved the plans by five votes to two. Blackwater Against New Nuclear Group (Banng) objected to the proposals and attended the meeting where vice chairman Barry Turner spoke. Member Peter Banks, who attended the meeting, said: “For me and the BANNG team I travelled with it was both shocking and disappointing.

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Posted: 9 October 2016

8 October 2016

Hinkley

U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May recently gave the green light to Hinkley Point C, a long-debated nuclear power project backed by French and Chinese capital. Many sceptics believe it is a financial boondoggle in the making. The project’s lead, French utility EDF, has €37 billion of debt and declining revenues at home. Voices both within and outside EDF have warned that Hinkley C will bankrupt the company. The British have promised to subsidize the £18 billion project through a 35-year contract that will pay EDF twice the wholesale electricity price for the power the plant produces, while passing the bill to British ratepayers through extra electricity costs totaling up to £2 billion annually. (Although because the electricity is sold at a fixed price, that doesn’t mean it will be twice the wholesale price for 35 years.) A decade from now, when Hinkley will presumably be on-line and renewable power will be cheaper, more capable, and more likely to be backed by batteries, it’s uncertain whether the country will still have need for large and inflexible (albeit carbon-free) baseload capacity. The question is larger and more complex than Hinkley itself, and at its heart reflects a complex balancing act involving energy security, diversity and the country’s broader industrial aspirations. nuclear’s ability to contribute to carbon reduction is increasingly being questioned. The World Nuclear Industry Status Report 2016 warns that nuclear will be of limited help to countries looking to meet their carbon reduction commitments under the 2015 Paris climate agreement: “While no energy source is without its economic costs and environmental impacts, what has been seen clearly over the past decade, and particularly in the past few years, is that choosing to decarbonize with nuclear turns out [to be] an expensive, slow, risky and potentially hazardous pathway, and one which few countries are pursuing.”

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Posted: 8 October 2016

7 October 2016

EDF

French-based energy company Électricité de France (EDF) has been given the go-ahead by the U.K. government to build a new nuclear plant, Hinkley Point C. S&P’s Director of Utilities, Pierre Georges, discusses why EDF’s credit rating has consequently been downgraded from ‘A’ to ‘A-’. Following the recent announcement that energy giant EDF will begin a new £18 billion nuclear project – Hinkley Point C, in Somerset – we see increased execution and contingency risks for the company. This highly complex and expensive project will hamper EDF’s already large number of investments at a time when the company is generating a weak cash flow. At the same time, the announcement comes at a time when EDF continues to face high execution risks relating to another nuclear build in Normandy, France. The company is also suffering from an increasing reliance on revenue derived from unregulated activities (following a partial liberalisation of the French energy market) which make energy prices less predictable. Because of these risks, we are lowering our ratings on EDF to ‘A-’ from ‘A’.

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Posted: 7 October 2016

6 October 2016

Hinkley

WITH Hinkley getting the green light, communities in Sedgemoor and West Somerset are urged being reminded to apply for grants from a £7.2million funding pot. The fund was secured from EDF Energy after West Somerset Council gave planning permission for the site at Hinkley Point to be prepared for the C station development. It is known as the Community Impact Mitigation Fund (CIM). CIM-funded projects can be large or small – but must be directly linked to impacts from Hinkley Point C and seek to improve the economic, social or environmental wellbeing of affected communities.

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Posted: 6 October 2016

5 October 2016

Fast Reactors

Generation IV ‘fast breeder’ reactors have long been promoted by nuclear enthusiasts, writes Jim Green, but Japan’s decision to abandon the Monju fast reactor is another nail in the coffin for this failed technology. Fast neutron reactors are “poised to become mainstream” according to the World Nuclear Association. The Association lists eight “current” fast reactors although three of them are not operating. That leaves just five fast reactors ‒ three of them experimental. Fast reactors aren’t becoming mainstream. One after another country has abandoned the technology. Nuclear physicist Thomas Cochran summarises the history: “Fast reactor development programs failed in the: 1) United States; 2) France; 3) United Kingdom; 4) Germany; 5) Japan; 6) Italy; 7) Soviet Union/Russia 8) U.S. Navy and 9) the Soviet Navy. The program in India is showing no signs of success and the program in China is only at a very early stage of development.” The latest setback was the decision of the Japanese government at an extraordinary Cabinet meeting on September 21 to abandon plans to restart the Monju fast breeder reactor. A 2010 article in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists summarised the worldwide failure of fast reactor technology: “After six decades and the expenditure of the equivalent of about $100 billion, the promise of breeder reactors remains largely unfulfilled. … The breeder reactor dream is not dead, but it has receded far into the future. In the 1970s, breeder advocates were predicting that the world would have thousands of breeder reactors operating this decade. Today, they are predicting commercialization by approximately 2050.” Allison MacFarlane, former chair of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission, recently made this sarcastic assessment of fast reactor technology: “These turn out to be very expensive technologies to build. Many countries have tried over and over. What is truly impressive is that these many governments continue to fund a demonstrably failed technology.”

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Posted: 5 October 2016

Bradwell site unsuitable & unsustainable

Professor Andy Blowers writes: With all the attention fixated for so long on Hinkley Point C (HPC) developments at other sites have tended to slip into the background a bit. It’s now clear that the Government not only backs HPC but a whole raft of future possibilities leading up to the ludicrous total of 18GW nuclear power. We’ve unequivocally established why that is economic madness but the other arguments against new nuclear have been somewhat subdued. That is where the proposal for Bradwell now comes into full sunlight.

Perhaps unnoticed by those following the meta-narrative of nuclear power, there has been a campaign focused on Bradwell continuing over the past eight and more years. It has been run by Blackwater Against New Nuclear Group (BANNG) which I founded and have chaired ever since. A tour of the website Banng.info will reveal the extent and depth of the issues and concerns. In brief they are:

  1. The site is quite unsuitable and unsustainable in the long run. It is at sea level on a coast highly vulnerable to storm surges, coastal processes and sea level rise.
  1. The Blackwater estuary is very shallow making it very difficult to supply cooling water without damage to the environment. Alternatives – sea cooling, cooling towers – provide serious technical and environmental challenges.
  1. It is intended to store spent fuel on the site. Even if a repository becomes available it would not be possible to transfer Bradwell’s waste until well into the next century if at all.
  1. The estuary is highly ‘protected’ by national and international designations including the recent declaration of a Marine Conservation Area status. No doubt the idea of Imperative Reasons of Overriding Public Interest (IROPI) will somehow be invoked to enable the Chinese to trash the area.
  1. Within an approximate range of 30km are 300,000 people. It will be difficult, if not impossible, to implement emergency planning measures in the event of a serious incident. The nearest large settlement is within 3km, an island cut off completely during certain high tides and with only one access.
  1. The proposed power station is essentially a Chinese experiment using the so-called tough British regulatory system to legitimate the untried Hualong 1 reactor and showcase it for global markets. This raises unprecedented security issues offering British sensitive infrastructure to a foreign, hostile power.

Furthermore, the Chinese have been typically reticent about their intentions despite being invited to meet with BANNG. Openness and transparency is quite alien to them it seems, despite protestations to the contrary. Thus, we have no idea how many reactors, what cooling system is proposed, how they intend to deal with environmental constraints or what they will do with the spent fuel and other wastes.

The predictable sell of jobs and investment has begun to beguile a gullible local population on one side of the estuary while opposition is strong on the other. It is worth noting this is not an active site – the former power station shut in 2002 and the site is shortly to enter a care and maintenance phase. However, this has been delayed as Magnox discharge dissolved Fuel Element Debris into the estuary and have recently got agreement for the import of ILW from Dungeness and Sizewell.  All this has proved deeply controversial and been fought step by step by BANNG.

So, after all these years the nuclear sun refuses to set on the Blackwater with the prospect of a new dawn the harbinger of the ‘golden relationship’.

Over the years we have campaigned vigorously, including demonstrations, a 10,000 face-to-face petition taken up to Whitehall, lobbying and research.  The fruits can be found in the cornucopia of consultation papers on our website. I draw attention especially to papers 4 and 9 especially which give the case against Bradwell comprehensively.

Now that the Hinkley battle has been lost (though not perhaps entirely) attention needs to turn to the other sites. The arguments on economics and security are powerful and need constant repetition.  To these must be added problems with siting and especially the problem of nuclear waste that cannot be wished away and confers on future generations a burden they have no part in creating and do not deserve.

It’s hardly surprising Bradwell has received relatively little attention at national level. After all it only came into prominence last year when it was put forward as a vanity project for Osborne and his erstwhile Chinese collaborators. It has received continuing coverage in the regional and local press and media.  Now it’s necessary to get a more national focus to stop it dead in the water so to speak. I hope you’ll all get behind the campaign in the coming months.

Posted: 4 October 2016

4 October 2016

SMRs

Rolls-Royce will in the “coming weeks” announce the consortium it has formed to launch a small modular reactor in the UK, a spokesman for the British company told World Nuclear News today. The consortium could provide a £100 billion ($1.28 billion) boost to the UK economy because the companies involved are either UK-owned or have a strong UK presence, the spokesman added. Last November, the UK government announced plans to invest at least £250 million over the next five years in a nuclear research and development program including a competition to identify the best value SMR design for the UK. The first phase of that competition, a call for initial expressions of interest, was launched in March. It has also announced that an SMR Delivery Roadmap will be published later this year. Rolls-Royce has submitted a paper to the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, outlining its plan to develop a fleet of 7 GWe of SMRs with its consortium, the spokesman said.

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Posted: 4 October 2016