News February 2017

28 February 2017

New Nuclear

With the world’s leading nuclear corporations facing bankruptcy due to ever escalating costs, ‘unconstructable’ reactor designs and financing risks, there’s an easy way to finance the UK’s new nuclear power stations, writes David Toke: pin the cost onto taxpayers. As for schools, hospitals, pensions, housing, social care and other public services, who needs ’em?

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Posted: 28 February 2017

27 February 2017

New Nuclear

Tens of billions of taxpayers’ money at risk as pressure mounts to spend billions more on new nuclear. Giant portions of public spending are now at risk of pouring down a nuclear power black hole as calls for the Government to make direct investments into new nuclear power plant intensify. Ultimately the sums at risk would be much larger than the Government’s own estimates of the cost of the Trident nuclear weapons system. Former Minister and House of Commons Energy Committee Chair Tim Yeo is the latest to call for the Government to take ‘minority’ equity shares in new nuclear m projects. There has been a flurry of such demands in the wake of the near bankruptcy of Toshiba, who spearhead the 3GW proposed plant at Moorside in Cumbria. In fact nuclear power is proving to be virtually undeliverable and ruinously expensive in western countries. Toshiba’s problems stem from the fact that they own Westinghouse who are responsible for the construction (so-far non-construction) of AP1000 reactors in South Carolina and Georgia in the USA. These plant are as costly as the failing French EPR design that is so disastrous in the cases of the Finnish and French reactors, something which is bankrupting the French nuclear industry and EDF. Despite the manifest bankruptcy of the technology, rather than question whether it is right to continue with the new nuclear programme, its supporters are in effect wanting to bet the British economy on it. If the Treasury are forced against their will to sanction ‘equity’ stakes in new nuclear reactors, the losses and., eventually, all the liabilities will fall on the UK Government.

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Posted: 27 February 2017

26 February 2017

New Nuclear

The Treasury is facing calls to pour billions of pounds into a string of troubled new nuclear projects which threaten the UK’s energy supplies. Tim Yeo, a former environment minister and energy committee chairman, is warning that the only way the Government can avert a crisis for the country’s nuclear programme is to take a direct financial stake in the projects. Ministers should also actively encourage investment from nuclear companies in China, South Korea and Russia where the the industry is relatively insulated from the challenges faced by European companies thanks to strong state backing, he said. Mr Yeo said the existing support regime, which guarantees a fixed price for each megawatt of power produced, does not go far enough to help investors who face billions in construction costs before the nuclear plant begins producing power.

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Posted: 26 February 2017

25 February 2017

Small Modular Reactors

Up to 600 jobs could be created if the UK government locates a small nuclear reactor at a decommissioned Gwynedd power station, it has been claimed. Snowdonia Enterprise Zone chairman John Idris Jones is to address a government-sponsored conference on Monday as the Trawsfynydd site could be considered. The small reactors, used on nuclear submarines, are cheaper and generate as much power as the old reactors. Opponents claim the “experimental” technology is still untested. They also insist sites such as Trawsfynydd are only proposed due to their remote location and small population. “I would hope that Trawsfynydd will be one of the main sites for this type of reactor,” Mr Jones told the Newyddion 9 programme. “We have all the necessary resources, the lake for cooling water, we have connections to the national grid and we have an educated local workforce.

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Posted: 25 February 2017

24 February 2017

Hinkley

The Hinkley Point C nuclear plant is risky and poor value for money, according to a House of Lords committee that urged the government to set out a “plan B” in case the £18 billion project is not built on time. In a damning report on energy policy, the Lords economic affairs committee said that household energy bills had already soared by 58 per cent since 2003 and the risk of blackouts had increased, in part due to “poorly designed government interventions, in pursuit of decarbonisation”. Ministers should abandon plans to award subsidies to future nuclear plants through bilateral deals like that given to Hinkley, the committee said. Instead such projects should be forced to compete against wind farms, solar power farms and gas-fired power stations to find the cheapest way of keeping the lights on and cutting emissions. The committee said that the government should ensure that “the security of the UK’s energy supply is the priority of its energy policy” and suggested that climate change targets be “managed flexibly”. Lord Hollick, the committee’s chairman, highlighted Hinkley – which was signed off by Theresa May in September – as “a good example of the way policy has become unbalanced and affordability neglected”, and described it as “very, very expensive”.

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Posted: 24 February 2017

23 February 2017

New Nuclear – Scotland

RUTH Davidson has been criticised for committing her party to building two new nuclear power stations in Scotland without giving their cost or saying how they would be paid for. The Scottish Conservative leader included the pledge among a package of environmental measures designed to protect the environment and tackle climate change. The Global Challenge, Local Leadership policy paper said the Tories were the only pro-nuclear Scottish party and promised to support “new nuclear power plants at Hunterston and Torness”. Published to mark Scottish Environment Week, the Tory paper said natural resources could not be used at the current “unsustainable” rate, and more must be done to cut fossil fuel use. An SNP spokesperson: “Considering the eye-watering bills the public face for the Hinkley Point vanity project in England – which could cost the taxpayer as much as £37bn – it’s staggering that the Tories want their own white elephants nuclear projects in Scotland without any detail on when, where, how or who will pay. “The Tories have an appalling record on the environment. If Ruth Davidson wants to be taken seriously, she should call on her Westminster colleagues to fulfil their broken promise on Carbon Capture investment and to reverse their cuts to support for renewable energy.” Green MSP Mark Ruskell MSP said the Tory proposals were cynical “greenwash”. He said: “The frackers’ friends, the Tories, have no environmental credentials.

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Posted: 23 February 2017

22 February 2017

Nuclear Power

A fire-sale is underway as the punch-drunk nuclear power industry tries to stop the rot. The French government is selling assets so it can prop up its heavily indebted nuclear utilities. Électricité de France (EDF) announced in 2015 that it would sell A$13.8 billion of assets by 2020 to rein in its debt, which now stands at A$51.8 billion. EDF is purchasing parts of its bankrupt sibling Areva, which has accumulated losses of over A$14 billion over the past five years. French EPR reactors under construction in France and Finland are three times over budget ‒ the combined cost overruns amount to about A$17.5 billion. Bloomberg noted in April 2015 that Areva’s EPR export ambitions are “in tatters“, and now Areva itself is in tatters. Meanwhile, Japanese industrial giant Toshiba would like to sell ndebted, US-based nuclear subsidiary Westinghouse, but there are no buyers so Toshiba must instead sell profitable assets to cover its nuclear debts and avoid bankruptcy. One site where these problems come together is Moorside in the UK. A Toshiba / Engie consortium was planning to build three AP1000 reactors, but Toshiba wants to sell its stake in the consortium in the wake of its massive losses from AP1000 construction projects in the US. Engie reportedly wants to sell its stake in the consortium, and the French government has already sold part of its stake in Engie … to help prop up EDF and Areva! Deck-chairs are being shuffled.

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Posted: 22 February 2017

21 February 2017

New Nuclear

The UK’s failing nuclear programme should be scrapped. That’s according to anti-nuclear group Stop Hinkley, which has said Britain’s nuclear efforts are clearly failing to deliver and could only be achieved through huge public subsidies that the nation can’t afford. The group says ministers should instead focus on creating a wide renewable energy mix bolstered by decentralised micro-generation projects, energy storage and energy efficiency technology. It says these sectors are more cost effective, can be deployed faster and actually deliver low carbon climate change objectives, all without generating “thousands of tonnes of highly radioactive waste”. The group points to a number of international energy utilities, such as E.ON, RWE and npower, that have confidently announced their commitment to new nuclear power stations in the past but then had to pull out as they realise they cannot afford the huge levels of investment required. It also highlighted the fact that EDF, which is responsible for the development of Hinkley Point C, issued three profit warnings last year following a string of unplanned nuclear plant shutdowns. Stop Hinkley spokesperson Roy Pumfrey said: “If you look around the country you find local authorities and communities that are still finding ways to take control of their own energy and make the economic case to install renewables despite cuts in subsidies. “This contrasts with the vast level of public subsidy being offered or sought for new nuclear.” The ‘Brexit’ decision means the UK is going to leave the EURATOM Treaty which deals another blow to UK nuclear policy. The Nuclear Industry Association (NIA) have declined to comment.

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Posted: 21 February 2017

20 February 2017

EDF

Les Echos, the French business newspaper, carried an extraordinary article from a Senior Vice President of EdF, the largely state-owned utility that will build the nuclear reactor at Hinkley Point in England. Marc Boillot contends that ‘large nuclear or thermal power plants designed to function as baseload are challenged by the more flexible decentralized model’. He says that the centralised model of power production is dying, to be replaced by local solar and wind, supplemented by batteries and intelligent management of supply and demand. Not only will this be cheaper in the long run but customers are actually prepared to pay more for solar electricity and actively work to reduce usage at times of shortage. His conclusion is that ‘the traditional model must adapt to the new realities, thus allowing the utilities to emerge from …hypercentralized structures in a world that is becoming more and more decentralized’. In most jurisdictions Mr Boillot would have been asked to clear his desk. What will EdF do about one of its most senior people openly forecasting the end of the large power station as it tries to raise the ten billion Euros necessary to pay for its share of Hinkley?

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Posted: 20 February 2017

19 February 2017

Moorside

The future of Moorside, one of Britain’s three big nuclear projects, was thrown into doubt last night after it emerged that cash-strapped Toshiba and its partner Engie needed to find £225 million in the next two years to fund its preparation. The Cumbrian project was set to be approved at the end of next year, to join Hinkley Point C in Somerset and Wylfa in North Wales as the nuclear alternative to coal and gas. Toshiba has said it will continue to fund the project, in Sellafield, to approval stage, leaving open the question of who will build the reactors. But documents filed at Companies House reveal that a further £225 million is needed from Toshiba and Engie by the end of 2018 to gain Whitehall approval, potentially adding to the firm’s financial woes.

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Posted: 19 February 2017