News January 2017

31 January 2017


The future of a new Cumbrian power plant is in doubt, after one of the key players admitted it is reviewing its involvement. A spokesman for Toshiba – which holds a 60 per cent stake in Moorside developer NuGen, alongside ENGIE of France – said it is re-examining all of its nuclear projects outside Japan. This includes the proposed nuclear new build at Moorside, near Sellafield. Last month Toshiba announced its US subsidiary, Westinghouse Electric, may have overpaid – by several billion dollars – for another nuclear construction and services business. Following this, its shares fell dramatically. Toshiba confirmed yesterday it is now reviewing its involvement in all other overseas projects as a way of dealing with this situation. It also plans to sell its semiconductor business.

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Posted: 31 January 2017

30 January 2017


The first of two meetings asking people’s views on a new nuclear power station design will be held on Anglesey later. Horizon Nuclear Power propose to build and operate the Advanced Boiling Water Reactor design at Wylfa Newydd on the island. Natural Resources Wales (NRW) and the Environment Agency will ask for views on their assessment of the design by Hitachi-GE. The consultation ends on 3 March. The public will have no influence on the technology used or the site location. Tim Jones, NRW’s executive director for north and mid Wales, said: “Our purpose is to ensure that the natural resources of Wales are sustainably maintained, enhanced and used.” At Wylfa Newydd we will do this in three ways; assessing the design of the reactors, determining site specific environmental permits and providing advice to other organisations on decisions they need to make. “It is our job to ensure that any new nuclear power station will meet high standards of environmental protection and waste management, ensuring that our communities are kept safe from environmental harm.”

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Posted: 30 January 2017

29 January 2017


Toshiba Corp. will cease taking orders related to the building of nuclear power stations, sources said Saturday, in a move that would effectively mark its withdrawal from the nuclear plant construction business. The news comes amid reports Toshiba’s chairman may resign over the massive write-down that has doomed the company’s U.S. nuclear business. The multinational conglomerate said Friday it will review its nuclear operations and spin off its chip business to raise funds in a bid to cover an expected asset impairment loss of up to ¥700 billion ($6.08 billion). After Toshiba ceases taking new orders, it will focus on maintenance and decommissioning operations, according to the sources. The company will continue work on four nuclear plants under construction in the United States that are expected to be completed by 2020. The Japanese industrial conglomerate may announce company chairman Shigenori Shiga’s resignation as soon as Feb. 14, when it reports its April-December financial results, the sources also said. Shiga once served as president of the U.S. nuclear unit, Westinghouse Electric Co., which Toshiba has said could face a multibillion-dollar loss due to cost overruns from delays in plant projects. The post of Toshiba chairman is expected to remain vacant after Shiga’s resignation. Westinghouse Chairman Danny Roderick is also set to step down, the sources said, but Toshiba President Satoshi Tsunakawa is likely to stay on.

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Posted: 29 January 2017

28 January 2017


Britain’s first nuclear power station in two decades will be delayed by a government decision to quit Europe’s atomic power treaty, experts have warned. Ministers revealed on Thursday that Brexit would involve the UK leaving Euratom, which promotes research into nuclear power and uniform safety standards. The news poses problems for the Hinkley Point C station in Somerset, while raising questions over safety inspection regimes and the UK’s future participation in nuclear fusion research. EDF warned that restrictions on the movement of people because of Brexit could delay delivery of new energy infrastructure. Vince Zabielski, a nuclear energy specialist at the law firm Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman, said: “If the UK leaves Euratom before new standalone nuclear cooperation treaties are negotiated with France and the US, current new build projects will be placed on hold while those standalone treaties are negotiated.” Other lawyers questioned why the government had decided to quit Euratom and in the manner it had done so, in the explanatory notes accompany the article 50 bill.

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Posted: 28 January 2017

27 January 2017


The new wave of British nuclear power stations was in jeopardy after the government announced it would pull out of a Europe-wide nuclear co-operation organisation. Ministers sneaked out the news that the UK would leave the European Atomic Energy Community, known as Euratom, within the notes accompanying the bill published yesterday to trigger Article 50, the process for leaving the European Union. Euratom was established through a 1957 treaty and plays a crucial role in ensuring compliance with international nuclear safeguards as well as establishing a European market for nuclear goods and services. The decision to announce Britain’s planned exit from Euratom yesterday caught the nuclear industry by surprise and caused concern in parts of government. Some ministers wanted to delay the announcement because of the level of sensitivity. The government said it had decided to leave Euratom because it is “uniquely legally joined” to the EU and continued membership would mean oversight by the European Court of Justice, one of Theresa May’s red lines on Brexit. However, withdrawal could cause “major disruption” according to the Nuclear Industry Association and a failure to sort out new arrangements before Brexit could have “potentially serious consequences for both existing generation and nuclear new build projects”, worth tens of billions of pounds. It is understood that Japanese-led ventures Horizon and Nugen, which are developing plans for reactors on Anglesey and in Cumbria respectively, could face particular problems because their plans involve co-operation with US nuclear companies. The US currently has an agreement with Euratom but not with the UK bilaterally. US law prohibits nuclear co-operation without an agreement. The Hinkley Point C station in Somerset could also face renewed problems. EDF, the French state-controlled developer, warned this week that Brexit could increase “the costs of essential new infrastructure developments and could delay their delivery”.

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Posted: 27 January 2017

26 January 2017


End in sight for reprocessing at Sellafield. Over the next 4 years, the commercial reprocessing of spent fuel at Sellafield will end, and the site will move to full-scale decommissioning. The decision was taken in 2012 to close THORP in 2018, once reprocessing of the current contracts is complete. It would have taken billions of pounds to upgrade THORP and its support plants to allow it to continue running beyond 2018. This was not a viable option. Instead, funding will be directed towards work to decommission and remediate the site. The Magnox Reprocessing Plant began reprocessing fuel from Britain’s early nuclear reactors in 1964. It is scheduled to complete its operations in 2020 once all of the Magnox fuel has been reprocessed. The closure is scheduled to follow the defueling of the final Magnox station, Calder Hall, in 2019. This will mark the completion of a complex, logistical and procedural process, as outlined in the Magnox Operating Programme.

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Posted: 26 January 2017

25 January 2017

Energy Policy – Scotland

Scottish Renewable has described the publication of a draft strategy on the future of energy in Scotland as a “landmark moment”. Earlier today, Minster for Business, Innovation and Strategy outlined the government’s plans for a low carbon future. It includes £50million of funding which will be made available to support 13 projects which demonstrate low carbon or renewable electricity, heating or storage solutions across Scotland. Jenny Hogan, director of policy, said: “This is a landmark moment in Scotland’s transition to a low-carbon economy. “The new draft strategy shows that Scotland is serious about building on the fantastic progress made in renewable power over the past decade and maintaining our position as a global leader in green energy. “Setting a new target for renewables to deliver half of our energy needs by 2030 sends a strong signal that renewable energy will be at the heart of Scotland’s economy and is key to meeting our climate change targets at lowest cost. “While ambitious, the target is achievable but absolutely depends on the right support from both the UK and Scottish Governments.”

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Posted: 25 January 2017

24 January 2017


Community leaders are set to withhold their backing for a £14billion new nuclear power plant on the Suffolk coast – saying EDF Energy needs to do a lot more work to reassure the public. Senior councillors and officials are voicing “deep concerns” over some aspects of the latest consultation and how the impacts of the massive development will be mitigated. While they support the principal of a new power station and recognise the benefits for the local economy, they say there is a “lack of information” still – four years since the last consultation – on a range of vital issues, including traffic and transport, the environment, and design of the plant. They say it is unclear how social and economic benefits will be delivered to communities, and some areas of concern have not been covered at all. Both Suffolk County Council and Suffolk Coastal District Council have been frustrated by the short period of the Stage 2 consultation, which they say made it challenging for the councils to coordinate their response. They are urging EDF to allow significantly more time for the Stage 3 consultation, the final stage, given the large amount of material expected to be released at that point.

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Posted: 24 January 2017

23 January 2017


Toshiba is facing pressure to secure investment from a South Korean energy group and the UK government to keep afloat a multibillion-pound British nuclear power project as the Japanese conglomerate struggles with mounting financial difficulties. Korea Electric Power Corporation (Kepco) has been in talks for months to join the NuGen consortium planning a nuclear plant at Moorside in Cumbria alongside Toshiba and Engie of France. The need for new partners has been increased by huge write-downs on Toshiba’s nuclear business in the US, which has left the group scrambling to shore up its balance sheet. As well as Korean capital, Toshiba is angling for UK government investment in the Cumbrian project after Theresa May’s administration recently signalled its willingness to put public money into new nuclear plants. This would represent a reversal of longstanding UK policy not to expose taxpayers’ money to the heavy expense and high risks involved in building nuclear reactors. A Whitehall official said it was “premature” to talk about government involvement in financing Moorside but several other people involved in the process or briefed on the matter said the option of public investment was on the table. But these people said a more immediate step to keep the scheme on track was the proposal for Toshiba to sell part of its 60 per cent stake in NuGen to Kepco, the utility majority-owned by the South Korean government. There has also been speculation over the commitment of Engie, the French utility one-third owned by the French government, but NuGen told the Financial Times that both its shareholders were “committed to the development of the Moorside project”.

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Posted: 23 January 2017

22 January 2017

Plant Life Extensions

THE nuclear industry is secretly bidding to relax safety standards to allow the doubling of the number of cracks in the radioactive cores of Scotland’s ageing reactors. EDF Energy is asking for the safety rules to be rewritten so that it can keep running its nuclear power stations at Hunterston in North Ayrshire and Torness in East Lothian until they are at least 47 and 42 years old. They were originally designed to last 30 years. Prolonged radiation bombardment causes the thousands of graphite bricks that make up reactor cores to crack, threatening a safe shutdown. But EDF is asking the UK government’s watchdog, the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR), to permit an increase in the proportion of cracked bricks from 10 to 20 per cent. The revelation has sparked alarm from politicians and campaigners, who say that the industry is “gambling with public safety” and the public must be consulted. One leading expert argues that Hunterston should be immediately shut down. EDF’s bid to relax safety standards at Hunterston and Torness is highlighted in a new report today for the Scottish Greens. It concludes that the risks from graphite cracking are serious and argues that an international convention demands that environmental risks must be assessed, alternative energy sources considered and the public consulted. According to the report’s author, Edinburgh-based anti-nuclear campaigner and consultant, Peter Roche, Scotland doesn’t need nuclear electricity. “Despite the fact cracks are beginning in the graphite core of these reactors, increasing the risk for us all, the public has still not been asked for its opinion once,” he said. “The Scottish Government should ask itself if it really wants ageing reactors to continue operating and producing nuclear waste for up to another thirteen years – gambling with public safety – when we know that there are plenty of ways to provide alternative sources of energy.” Scottish Green MSP for West of Scotland, Ross Greer, warned that communities would be concerned about proposals to allow more cracking. “The lack of public consultation is just unacceptable,” he told the Sunday Herald. “If we did this properly, the public would reject an ageing, cracking, safety hazard. The Scottish Government’s relaxed position on nuclear needs challenged. We simply don’t need to sweat these plants and add to our toxic legacy.” John Large, a consulting nuclear engineer, pointed out that the integrity of the graphite bricks was vital to nuclear safety. If they failed, they could block channels that enable control rods to be inserted to close down reactors and prevent them from overheating. “Ageing problems like this serious cracking of the graphite bricks at the heart of each reactor are deeply worrying, so much so that these nuclear plants should now be permanently shut down,” he said. Large accused EDF and the ONR of “false confidence” in believing they fully understood graphite cracking, which was difficult to predict. “The Hunterston B nuclear reactors now in their forty-first year of operation, should be immediately shut down,” he stated. But EDF, a state-owned French company, insisted that its nuclear stations would continue to operate safely. “The graphite in our reactors is behaving exactly as experts predicted it would, and this is confirmed by our regular inspection programme,” said a company spokeswoman. The ONR told the Sunday Herald that its periodic safety review for Hunterston was due at the end of January. “While the decision is still being made, it would not be appropriate to comment on it,” said an ONR spokesman.

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Posted: 22 January 2017