News January 2017

21 January 2017

SMRs

A nuclear power company has designed a ‘modular’ mini nuclear power plant. Each nuclear reactor could fit on the back of a truck, but would still be nine stories tall. The company behind the radical design says it is far safer, and each mini reactor contains far less uranium that a full sized one – and is sunk into the ground with a protective building placed over it. NuScale, based in Portland, Oregon, has submitted a design application to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to be able to construct their nuclear power plant. Each small NuScale reactor has a 50-megawatt output. To give perspective, the smallest nuclear plant in the US, the Fort Calhoun plant in Nebraska, has one reactor with a capacity of 479 megwatts.

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Posted: 21 January 2017

20 January 2017

Moorside

Speaking on the Andrew Marr show last weekend, Jeremy Corbyn gave no clear support to the massive Moorside nuclear development in Cumbria, writes Marianne Birkby. But to win the impending Copeland by-election, he and the Labour Party must go further – and campaign against the deeply unpopular project.

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Posted: 20 January 2017

19 January 2017

Toshiba

Shares in Toshiba fell as much as 13.3 per cent after reports the company told lenders that the loss in its US nuclear business would be larger than the previously estimated ¥500bn ($4.4 billion). The share price tumble came after Nikkei reported the company was asking for financial support from Development Bank of Japan and other lenders. Toshiba said at the end of December it would make writedowns of “several billions of dollars” to cover cost overruns linked to nuclear construction company Stone & Webster in the US. While the company failed to give a figure, analysts expected the writedown to be between $5bn and $8bn. Shares in the company have fallen 42.3 per cent since the December announcement. Toshiba’s US nuclear power subsidiary Westinghouse bought S&W in 2015 under a promise of $2bn in annual revenues. Toshiba’s potential writedowns from its nuclear operations, estimated by some to be as high as $8bn, look close to unbearable. Its lenders look nervous. Its options, including a partial fire sale of noncore assets that could raise as much as $5bn, look humiliating for a group that in its earliest incarnations gave Japan its first electric streetlamps, power stations, lightbulbs, refrigerators and colour televisions. Shares in Toshiba were traded as low as ¥250 a share during the morning session, while the benchmark Topix index was up 1.1 per cent.

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Posted: 19 January 2017

18 January 2017

Nuclear Transports

The Scottish government said it has “on-going regular dialogue” with the UK government on the transfer of nuclear material from Scotland to the US. Highly-enriched uranium was transferred from Dounreay, near Thurso, to the US via Wick John O’Groats Airport in 2016. The transfers were made following a deal agreed by UK and US governments. The airport, 30 miles from Dounreay, is run by Highlands and Islands Airports Ltd (Hial), a public corporation owned by Scottish ministers. Further flights of the material, in exchange for a type of uranium from the US used to diagnose cancer, are expected in the future. Highlands Scottish Greens MSP John Finnie has raised concerns about the suitability of Wick John O’Groats Airport in a series of questions to the Scottish government. The MSP does not believe the airport to be safe for the large aircraft involved. In answer to one of his questions, Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham said: “There will be on-going regular dialogue between the Scottish government and the UK government on the programme of movements of nuclear materials from Dounreay. “The Scottish government will continue to seek assurances on the safety and security of any movements.” Mr Finnie has also asked what role Hial played in negotiations about the flights and also what extra costs Police Scotland has incurred in helping to provide security for the flights. The government is expected to release responses to his other questions later on Tuesday. Dounreay, near Thurso, is being decommissioned and the site cleaned up. Most of the radioactive materials held there, such as fuel, are being moved to other locations, including Sellafield in Cumbria where it will be reprocessed or stored. These shipments are being made by rail. Other material has been returned to nuclear sites overseas. During the 1990s, nuclear material was sent from abroad to Dounreay for reprocessing. The customers included power plants and research centres in Australia, Germany and Belgium. Dounreay said the priority “at all times” was to comply with regulations governing “the safe and secure transportation of nuclear material, both in storage and transit”. The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority provided Hial with funding to upgrade the airport in preparation for the US flights.

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Posted: 18 January 2017

17 January 2017

Hinkley

Construction at Hinkley Point C will boost the South-west construction market by £500m over the next two years, according to data shared exclusively with Construction News. Forecaster Hewes & Associates predicts that work at Hinkley will add between £400m and £500m to industry activity in the region during 2017 and 2018. Bouygues Travaux Publics and Laing O’Rourke this month signed the multi-billion-pound contracts to build the facilities that will house Hinkley Point C’s two EPR nuclear reactors. Works at the Somerset site will help the South-west to become the UK’s fastest-growing region in terms of construction activity in 2018, with output set to grow by 2 per cent in 2017 and 1.3 per cent in 2018, according to the forecasts. This means the South-west will make up 7.4 per cent of the UK’s total construction output by 2018 – up from 6.9 per cent in 2016.

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Posted: 17 January 2017

16 January 2017

Moorside

A POLITICAL row has broken out after the leader of the Labour Party refused to give his support for a nuclear development in west Cumbria. Speaking on The Andrew Marr Show this morning, Jeremy Corbyn did not endorse the proposed Moorside Power Station when asked. He said: “I want to see a mix, I want to see a greater emphasis in the long-term on renewables in the way Germany and other countries have done but we do have nuclear power stations, we do have a nuclear base at the moment and that will continue for a long time.”

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Posted: 16 January 2017

15 January 2017

EDF

When a utility stock pays a dividend that yields 11 percent it is either an overlooked steal or the equity of a company with big problems–and a dividend that’s soon to be either eliminated or reduced. EDF, France’s state controlled nuclear energy giant, looks more the latter than the former. But never underestimate the determination of French politicians–right, left and center to protect and subsidize their civilian nuclear power establishment. To understand this byzantine story of French public and private partnerships, let’s start with EDF’s current stock price. It’s priced in Paris this morning at about €9.60, slightly above the 52 week low. And down from a high of €28.78 more than two years ago. To compound its woes, EDF’s stock sells at about 63 percent of its book value. This typically indicates the market’s view that either current earnings provide a below-cost-of-capital return or that investors don’t believe the assets are worth the value carried on EDF’s books. By way of contrast, a financially sound elec-tric utility in the U.S. sells at about 1.5 times its book value and its shares offer investors a yield of less than 4 percent.

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Posted: 15 January 2017

14 January 2017

Moorside

THE leader of Cumbria County Council is seriously concerned west Cumbria will not get the vital investment it needs in its infrastructure. Labour leader of the council, Councillor Stewart Young, said the council was “reaching the end of its tether” with the lack of support from government and NuGen, which has plans to build a £10bn power station at Moorside, Sellafield. Without investment in vital infrastructure as soon as possible, Cllr Young said the power station could not be supported.

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Posted: 14 January 2017

13 January 2017

Hinkley & Euratom

If Hungary emerges unscathed from the European Commission’s two investigations into its controversial Russia-backed nuclear power project, it will largely have France and the U.K. to thank for setting rule-bending precedents on such projects. Brussels provided its blessing in November to Hungary’s decision to skip a competitive tender and hand the multi-billion euro contract for building the two Paks II nuclear reactors to Russia’s Rosatom. Budapest had argued that the nuclear giant was the only company that could meet the project’s specific technical needs. Next up, the Commission is expected to approve Hungary’s deployment of state aid for the €12 billion project, 80 percent of which would come courtesy of a loan from Moscow. That decision has been delayed for several months, but it’s expected in the coming weeks. The Commission’s decision not to challenge the lack of a competitive tender is likely to have pushed the limits of what the EU normally allows, as political worries about Hungary’s posture toward the EU dominate the relationship between Brussels and Budapest, said Jan Haverkamp, a nuclear energy consultant at the NGO Greenpeace. Both approvals have precedents in two earlier nuclear energy cases: France’s decision 10 years ago to award the contract to build its Flamanville 3 nuclear reactor directly to state-controlled Areva, and the U.K.’s deal to subsidize its two new Hinkley Point C reactors. In 2007, France’s state energy utility EDF awarded Areva the contract to build the Flamanville reactor in Normandy, without inviting bids from other companies. Nearly two years later, the Commission sent Greenpeace a letter explaining that it would not challenge the move because France had shown that Areva’s reactor was the only one that met the “technical characteristics” the project required. According to Greenpeace, France excluded Areva’s nuclear industry rivals by asking for a reactor with an unusually specific electricity generation capacity of 1,658 megawatts, rather than giving a more general range. And when it comes to state aid, EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager already laid the groundwork for approving Paks II’s subsidy in a letter to Green MEPs Rebecca Harms, from Germany, and Benedek Jávor, from Hungary, last July, pointing to the Commission’s decision to approve the U.K.’s Hinkley Point C support scheme. In the letter, Vestager pointed to the Commission’s decision to approve the U.K.’s Hinkley Point C support scheme in 2014. The Commission, she argued, has less leeway to evaluate state aid for nuclear power projects because it’s limited by the 59-year-old European Atomic Energy Community, or Euratom, which is meant to support and encourage investment in nuclear projects where needed. “This means that if member states choose to invest in nuclear energy, the Euratom’s objective to facilitate that investment becomes an objective of common interest that the Commission should take into account in its state aid assessment,” she said. France and Britain may have forged the way, but the Commission’s grounds for blessing the Paks II terms have grown shakier in recent months, opening it up to potential backlash.

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Posted: 13 January 2017

12 January 2017

Bradwell

Chinese nuclear reactors are not the solution to the UK’s growing energy needs, says GMB. British energy union GMB has called for “considerable caution” over Chinese involvement in the involvement in the Bradwell B reactor design. The UK will not benefit from “Chinese pop-up power stations” it said. The union voiced its concerns following the news that nuclear regulators have been asked by the government to begin the Generic Design Assessment for the Chinese reactor that set to be installed at the Bradwell B nuclear plant in Essex. National Secretary for Energy for GMB Justin Bowden said that the announcement by Business and Energy Minister Jesse Norman was one of “huge importance” for both the Bradwell project and the future of new nuclear reactors across the UK.

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Posted: 12 January 2017