News March 2017

GDA

In 2011 the Environment Agency published its decision document setting out its detailed assessment of environmental aspects of the UK AP1000 nuclear power station design. It used the comments and issues raised in the 2010 consultation to help inform its decisions. Since December 2011, the Environment Agency has been assessing the further information Westinghouse provided. The environmental regulators have now issued a full SoDA. This supplement to the 2011 decision document explains developments since 2011 and why they have issued a SoDA. The regulators conclude that the environmental aspects of the design would meet the high standards they expect, and have decided to issue a SoDA for the design. The Office for Nuclear Regulation has also published its Design Acceptance Confirmation.

Environment Agency 30th March 2017 read more »

ONR 30th March 2017 read more »

Westinghouse has been granted regulatory approval for its nuclear reactor design to be used in the UK, a day after it filed for bankruptcy protection. The company’s AP1000 design, for use by the Toshiba-led Nugen venture at Moorside, Cumbria, has passed the UK’s Generic Design Assessment process, the Office for Nuclear Regulation said. This means that it “meets expectations on safety, security and environmental protection at this stage of the regulatory process”, the ONR said. The £15 billion Moorside project has been thrown into doubt after Westinghouse was hit by massive cost overruns in the construction of four AP1000 reactors in the United States, plunging Toshiba, which owns 87 per cent of Westinghouse, into financial crisis. Westinghouse, which is based in the US, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Wednesday. While Westinghouse insisted the filing would have “no impact” on its role in Nugen, a spokesman for Toshiba told The Times that “the Chapter 11 filings have made the planned supply of AP1000 for the UK project uncertain.” A spokesman for Westinghouse said that continued involvement in Nugen would be included in its turnaround plans, which would be submitted to the bankruptcy court. Tom Samson, Nugen’s chief executive, said: “This news from the UK regulators is further acknowledgement and a testament to the robust safety features and design of the AP1000 reactor, which we will deploy at Moorside.

Times 31st March 2017 read more »

Westinghouse Electric Company announced today that its AP1000 nuclear power plant design has successfully completed review by regulators in the United Kingdom, who concluded their Generic Design Assessment (GDA) by issuing Design Acceptance Confirmation (DAC) and Statement of Design Acceptability (SoDA) for the Westinghouse technology. The DAC and SoDA were issued by the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) and the Environment Agency (EA), respectively.

Westinghouse 30th March 2017 read more »

Posted: 31 March 2017

Moorside

Labour demands action to save Moorside from collapse. Shadow BEIS secretary accuses government of “dragging its heels” after reactor supplier files for bankruptcy. Labour shadow BEIS secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey has demanded the government takes action to save the Moorside nuclear project from collapse. She has called on ministers to provide urgent reassurances over the future of the development in Cumbria after the reactor supplier Westinghouse filed for bankruptcy protection in the US. “This announcement throws into doubt the Moorside new nuclear plant that could create 20,000 jobs in Cumbria,” Bailey said in a statement. She continued: “When Westinghouse’s viability was first called into question, Labour said the government should step in to underwrite the company’s investment if the project was at significant risk of collapsing. Unfortunately, the government dragged its heels. “The government must now urgently provide assurances about the future of Moorside. Relying on the private sector alone, in absence of a robust contractual legal structure, has failed.

Utility Week 30th March 2017 read more »

Posted: 31 March 2017

Toshiba

Toshiba’s management has come under fierce criticism from shareholders, despite investors approving plans to sell its valuable memory chip unit. The company needs money to plug a gaping hole at its US nuclear unit Westinghouse, which filed for bankruptcy protection on Wednesday. Due to the woes at Westinghouse, Toshiba is struggling with debt that some warn might threaten its future. One investor said management had turned Toshiba “into a laughing stock”. “You have no clue what’s going on,” the investor added, speaking at a shareholder meeting that approved the sale of Toshiba’s NAND flash-memory unit. The company has twice postponed its annual earnings and is now expected to file a net loss of 1tn yen ($9bn, £7.bn), which would be one of the biggest losses in the country’s corporate history.

BBC 30th March 2017 read more »

Shareholders accused Toshiba management of having an entrenched culture of secrecy and glaring failures in oversight as they cast doubt over the company’s revival plan a day after its US nuclear unit filed for bankruptcy protection. In a stormy meeting lasting more than three hours, the 142-year-old conglomerate, which faces Japan’s biggest industrial loss and the risk of delisting, sought to convince more than 1,300 rattled shareholders that the worst was behind them following Westinghouse’s Chapter 11 filing. Few investors were convinced. “There is a chronic culture of lying. We can’t possibly trust such a company.

FT 30th March 2017 read more »

One of the troubled reactor construction projects in the US that have forced nuclear engineering group Westinghouse into bankruptcy could be stopped, the new plant’s largest shareholder has suggested. South Carolina-based Scana, the utility that owns 55 per cent of the VC Summer power plant where two new Westinghouse AP1000 reactors are being built, said on Wednesday that the options available included stopping one of the units or abandoning the project.

FT 30th March 2017 read more »

If only Britain hadn’t sold Westinghouse. Just think of all that nuclear expertise: the sort that’s just seen the company crash into Chapter 11 administration, with liabilities now up to $9.8 billion. It’s pretty much ruined its parent, Japan’s Toshiba, too. Among the many things for which Gordon Brown gets deserved flak, getting shot of Westinghouse while he was chancellor isn’t one of them: sold for $5.4 billion in 2006, or more than four times what Britain paid for it. The subsequent tale is horribly familiar in this post-Fukushima world, where mega-nuke safety costs have rocketed: four reactors in Georgia and South Carolina now $10 billion over budget and three years late. And all exacerbated by Westinghouse’s desperate purchase of the US nuclear construction outfit Stone & Webster in an attempt to halt a legal fight over who was to blame for the ballooning costs. There’s an obvious lesson for Britain. It’s that massive nuclear power plants are a licence to blow yourself up financially. And that’s before the soaraway clean-up costs, already driven home this week by the botched contract for 12 Magnox reactors. Indeed, Britain’s clean-up bill already stands at £117 billion. How many more nuclear disasters before the government finally wakes up?

Times March 30 2017 read more »

Westinghouse Electric Co., once synonymous with America’s industrial might, wagered its future on nuclear power — and lost. Now a unit of Japanese technology giant Toshiba Corp., Westinghouse filed for bankruptcy-court protection, citing as much as $10 billion in debt. The move marks the end of a troubled era, which began in 1999, when the company ditched its other businesses to focus on reactors. Since then, nuclear power has failed to catch on because of the cost of building reactors in communities that often oppose them and declining costs for competing technologies. “They placed a big bet on this hallucination of a nuclear renaissance,” said Peter A Bradford, a former Nuclear Regulatory Commission member who now teaches at Vermont Law School. “Toshiba seemed to believe that all the nuclear plants were actually going to get built. Nuclear power in the last round was a financial disaster, and it is in this one too.”

Japan Times 30th March 2017 read more »

In February 2006, then Toshiba Corp. President Atsutoshi Nishida declared to a London audience that his firm would become a world standard-setting nuclear reactor maker. Nishida was there to ink the contract that would make U.S. nuclear technology firm Westinghouse Electric Co. a Toshiba subsidiary, and at the ceremony Nishida looked and sounded ready to take on the world. Toshiba paid some US$5.4 billion (about 640 billion yen) to acquire Westinghouse. Before the deal was closed, observers had seen past business partner Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. as Westinghouse’s most likely suitor, and projected a purchase price in the 200 to 300 billion yen range. However, Toshiba swooped in and sealed the deal with what could be called a stratospheric bid.

Mainichi 30th March 2017 read more »

Westinghouse Electric Co,’s much-anticipated bankruptcy petition — filed in the wee hours Wednesday morning — describes a company in quicksand, where two money-sucking reactor projects in Georgia and South Carolina brought down the Cranberry-based nuclear firm and threatened to do the same to its Japanese parent, the electronics giant Toshiba Corp. As more than 11,000 employees and thousands of vendors worldwide braced for what a bankruptcy would mean for this nuclear giant — and what it will mean for the broader nuclear industry — documents filed in the Southern District of New York Bankruptcy Court chronicled a desperate few months as it became clear that Toshiba was looking for ways to stop the bleeding. By January, Westinghouse’s “liquidity crisis” had the Pennsylvania company asking Toshiba for cash to stay afloat long enough to figure out its next moves. Within the course of two months, Toshiba gave Westinghouse $900 million to plug a cash hole. When Westinghouse came back in March asking for more, Toshiba said it couldn’t shell out any more money without collateral. Westinghouse went out looking for someone to fund its Chapter 11 bankruptcy restructuring and was “soon inundated with proposals from a number of prominent banks, private equity firms and hedge funds in a highly competitive process,” its bankruptcy petition said. New York-based alternative investment management firm Apollo Investment Corp. won out, with an $800 million debtor-in-possession financing package, of which Toshiba would provide at most $200 million, the Japanese company said. The bankruptcy court still has to approve the arrangement.

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 29th March 2017 read more »

Westinghouse Electric Co. on March 29 filed for protections under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code. A Westinghouse press release said the company is seeking a strategic restructuring as a result of certain financial and construction challenges in its U.S. AP1000 power plant projects.

Nuclear Energy Institute 30th March 2017 read more »

Westinghouse Electric — whose technology is used in more than half the world’s nuclear power plants — is shifting its focus from building reactors to helping dismantle them, the latest sign of the decline of the U.S. atomic energy industry. The company, which filed for bankruptcy on Wednesday, is scaling back on construction, where disastrous projects in Georgia and South Carolina have exposed Westinghouse to billions of dollars in possible liabilities and penalties. It wants to focus on its other businesses, including making parts and taking apart decommissioned reactors.

Bloomberg 29th March 2017 read more »

Posted: 31 March 2017

Hinkley

Hinkley Point C: The numbers behind the new nuclear power station. Energy giant EDF has revealed details of the progress in building the first new nuclear power station in a generation. Around 1,600 workers are now on the Hinkley Point C site in Somerset, the first concrete has been poured for the tunnels and three million cubic metres of earth has been moved. EDF said three million tonnes of concrete and 230,000 tonnes of steel reinforcement will be used in the construction of the £18 billion project.

AOL 30th March 2017 read more »

Construction has begun of the first permanent structures at the Hinkley Point nuclear power station in Somerset, marking an important step towards Britain’s first new nuclear plant since the 1990s. EDF, the French utility leading the £18bn project, said it had started pouring concrete after receiving its first go-ahead for construction work from Britain’s nuclear regulator. Preparatory work has been under way at the site since Theresa May, prime minister, gave her blessing to the project last September but this week’s activity represents the beginning of a new phase of more critical construction. Mike Finnerty, deputy chief inspector for the Office for Nuclear Regulation, said his agency’s approval for EDF to start building a network of tunnels to carry cabling and piping was “a key regulatory milestone”. Construction at Hinkley will last eight years if a target is met to be producing electricity from its two reactors by 2025. Similar projects involving EDF’s European Pressurised Reactor in France and Finland have been beset by delays and cost overruns. About 1,600 people are already working at the site and 3 million cubic metres of earth has been moved in preparation for what will be one of Europe’s biggest construction projects. Work is also under way on a jetty to which much of the construction material will be delivered by ship, a seawall to protect the site from the sea and on-site accommodation blocks for hundreds of worke rs.

FT 312st March 2017 read more »

EDF Energy Chief Executive Vincent de Rivaz says there will be “no impact” on its nuclear project Hinkley Point C in Britain from issues at Areva’s Le Creusot factory in France. He said the reactor vessel for the plant will be made “at right place and right time”, declining to give further details. De Rivaz said EDF Energy is “ticking all the boxes” in terms of safety and environmental compliance for the project. An internal document by Britain’s Office for Nuclear Regulation seen by Reuters last week warned about the implications for the Hinkley Point C project as it said the Creusot Forge’s nuclear safety culture fell short of expectations.

Reuters 29th March 2017 read more »

Posted: 31 March 2017

Bradwell

BRADWELL Power Station has been at the centre of the Dengie community for more than 50 years. Providing jobs to thousands of residents across the district, it has been a vital, if controversial employer. So what does the future hold for the site as it makes the final journey towards decommissioning? After donning a hard hat, safety glasses, high-visibility vest and a device to detect radiation, I was taken on a tour of the site. As the power station heads towards the end of decommissioning you wouldn’t be blamed for thinking the site would be quiet. But during my visit last Wednesday, the power station was a hive of activity as work continued to prepare the site for the 80 year care and maintenance process. The power station stopped generating electricity in March 2002, after running for 40 years.

Maldon & Burnham Standard 29th March 2017 read more »

Posted: 31 March 2017

Hinkley Point A

Two US firms are set to be paid almost £100 million in compensation by the government for a “fudged” nuclear tender involving the decommissioning of Hinkley Point A. The government has ordered an inquiry into the “deeply flawed” £6.1bn contract, awarded in 2014, after it was terminated nine years early.

Somerset Live 29th March 2017 read more »

Posted: 31 March 2017

Magnox

Your energy editor’s report of the very expensive consequences of what you characterize as the “flawed tendering process for dismantling old reactors at 12 sites quotes my research colleague, Stephen Thomas, emeritus professor of energy policy at the University of Greenwich, as branding the NDA’s handling of the contract as “an immense screw-up.” I fear it is much worse than that. From my detailed experience of a previous failed management contract agreed by the NDA , also placed with an American company-led consortium, Nuclear Management Partners (NMP) , which also led to the early cancelling of the contract, there could well be dubious collusion between the NDA and the then responsible Government Department ( energy and climate change, DECC) under a Labour Government, at the expense of the long fleeced taxpayers. The investigator appointed by business secretary Greg Clark to look into this scandal, Steve Holliday, needs to revisit this earlier Sellafield scandal to assess why the public procurement lessons – especially the need for candour and transparency- that should have been learned, were not.

David Lowry’s Blog 28th March 2017 read more »

TWO of the country’s leading unions have voiced concerns following the launch of a government inquiry into the clean-up contract of power stations including Berkeley and Oldbury. The termination of the £6billion contract with Cavendish Fuor Partnership to decommission 12 redundant Magnox reactors was announced by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) yesterday, sparking criticism from unions Prospect and Unite. Business secretary Clark Greg announced that an inquiry would take place into the tendering process that led to the 14-year contract being awarded in 2014 following a High Court case that resulted in a £100million fine that will be picked up by the taxpayer. Prospect general secretary Mike Clancy said: “This is an extraordinary situation given the scale and importance of the Magnox contract to the UK nuclear industry. “The public, and our members, will want reassurance that the termination process, and uncertainty over the future of decommissioning, will not lead to standards deteriorating or the loss of UK expertise. “Over the years, members have been moved from the public to private sector and back again. While this has proved politically convenient at times, it can be no surprise that treating people in this way creates resentment and confusion.”

Gloucestershire Gazette 28th March 2017 read more »

Posted: 31 March 2017

New Reactors

Michael Shellenberger: Britain has a chance to rethink its nuclear energy policy. The Westinghouse bankruptcy offers an opportunity to consolidate the industry. Britain has an opportunity to contract and consolidate an industry that is vital for national, and perhaps international, development and climate goals. The UK has contracts with different consortiums to build various nuclear power plant designs. Others want more radical designs, such as those that use coolants other than water, to receive government support. Such diversity might seem positive but all of that variation is the opposite of what is known to work to reduce costs. And with low prices for coal and natural gas, few nations are buying nuclear plants. This puts Britain in such a powerful buyer’s position that it could shape the future of nuclear power for generations to come. The importance of standardisation was demonstrated by France throughout the 1970s and 1980s. While the cost of building nuclear plants rose when it switched designs, construction costs fell when it built the same reactor on the same site using the same team. Something similar happened in South Korea in the 1990s, and in the United Arab Emirates in the 2000s. So why then do the US and Britain keep opting for distinctiveness instead of efficiency? In part, because t hey insist on using only private funds, which guarantees high interest rates and thus higher overall nuclear plant costs. It should scrap future nuclear deals and empower an independent commission to choose a single, experienced contractor and power utility to build the 10 or more reactors required – to a single, standard design. There should also be a long-term plan for the plants to be built sequentially, by the same construction managers, and with commitments progressively to reduce the cost of construction. While it may seem counterintuitive to go with something that is older rather than newer, the historical record is clear: nuclear reactors become safer the more experience we have of building, operating and regulating them. In other words, what makes nuclear plants safer are the human factors: not just the plant design but also the construction and operation. It is clear that in the UK there are too many nuclear companies selling too many designs into too small a market. It is almost certain that the recent shake-up in the global industry will be the end of some of those companies. The British government should take action now to ensure that its nuclear ambitions do not go down with them by choosing a standard reactor design that will deliver lower capital costs and with them lower electricity costs.

FT 30th March 2017 read more »

The bankruptcy of Westinghouse Electric Co., the Pittsburgh-based nuclear power company, is a geopolitical setback for the U.S. It halts a long-standing U.S. effort to get Eastern European countries to buy U.S. rather than Russian fuel, and leaves state-controlled Russian and Chinese companies the dominant suppliers in the huge global market for nuclear technology.

Bloomberg 30th March 2017 read more »

After years-long wrangling between the government and EDF Energy, and more lately with Chinese state-backed newcomer CGN, Hinkley’s construction is finally in process. There are also plans for a national fleet of smaller reactors, including a plant proposed for Oldbury, South Gloucestershire – 13 miles outside Bristol. The city’s location means it’s poised for a central role in the so-called ‘nuclear renaissance’. Companies have flocked here to open offices, while huge concrete shells for Hinkley’s construction will be built at Avonmouth, which is also the endpoint of a new 400,000V overhead power line from Hinkley Point. Bristol Port Company is in line for two multimillion pound contracts from Hinkley for ‘marine services’. Local authorities and local enterprise partnerships are working to harvest as much dosh from the mega-project as possible. Public-private partnership Nuclear South West was set up “in recognition of the area’s unique potential for transformational growth through the nuclear sector”, which offers “£50 billion of investment on our doorstep”, and Somerset Chamber of Commerce, backed by EDF, is leading the Hinkley Point Supply Chain portal to connect local businesses to the project. Hinkley Point C itself is expected to employ 25,000 people and to provide £100m a year to the regional economy.

Bristol Cable 30th March 2017 read more »

Posted: 31 March 2017

Energy Costs

An energy price cap could kill competition, SSE has claimed, amid fears that looming government intervention could threaten its dividend. The company, formerly known as Scottish and Southern Energy, spooked investors yesterday by warning that its dividend cover would come under pressure next year because of lower income than expected from its networks and generation business. Analysts have said that a price cap on standard variable tariffs could force SSE to cut its prized dividend, which it has increased every year since 1999.

Times 31st March 2017 read more »

The government is preparing to consult on new regulation of the energy market after Theresa May vowed to “step in”, declaring that “relying on switching alone to keep prices down is clearly not working”.

Posted: 31 March 2017

UK Carbon Emissions

The government has today released UK greenhouse gas figures for 2015 and 2016, showing overall emissions have fallen at a rapid rate over the past two years as reliance on coal-fired power has continued to slump. The data set includes final figures for 2015 and prelimnary figures for 2016 showing that emissions have fallen around 10 per cent over the past two years. The official data for 2015 shows emissions fell four per cent during the year, while preliminary data for 2016 suggests emissions then fell a further six per cent last year. The performance has been largely credited to a slump in coal power production, as energy efficiency measures, renewables, and gas power have all helped to reduce UK reliance on coal to record low levels. The result means total greenhouse gas emissions have fallen 42 per cent since 1990.

Business Green 30th March 2017 read more »

Independent 30th March 2017 read more »

Posted: 31 March 2017