News

9 March 2013

Sellafield

Friends of the Earth reveals today a catalogue of safety failures over nuclear waste at Sellafield and £millions wasted. A new FoE Briefing ‘Towards a safer Cumbria’ shows how regulators have lowered safety standards and the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority has created yet more waste instead of ‘focusing squarely on the nuclear legacy’, its original mission. Mike Childs, Head of Research & Policy at Friends of the Earth said: ‘Sellafield is making a pig’s ear out of clearing up the mess from their costly reprocessing activities. Successive governments have failed to get a grip, with the result that the people of Cumbria continue to face intolerable risks. We need a firm commitment from government that sorting out this mess is a top priority with a firm deadline for making the waste safe’

[Read more…]

Posted: 9 March 2013

8 March 2013

Towards a Safer Cumbria

Friends of the Earth has published a report which catalogues saftey failures over nuclear waste at Sellafield and £millions wasted. A new FoE Briefing ‘Towards a safer Cumbria’ shows how regulators have lowered safety standards and the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority has created yet more waste instead of ‘focusing squarely on the nuclear legacy’, its original mission.

Mike Childs, Head of Research & Policy at Friends of the Earth said:

“Sellafield is making a pig’s ear out of clearing up the mess from their costly reprocessing activities. Successive governments have failed to get a grip, with the result that the people of Cumbria continue to face intolerable risks. We need a firm commitment from government that sorting out this mess is a top priority with a firm deadline for making the waste safe”

The Brieifing analyses the performance of the THORP Plutonium Separation Plant, the High-level Waste Treatment Facilities, and the treatment of solid wastes. It says that in 2008 the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate said Liquid high Level Waste Storage tanks needed replacement ‘with the utmost urgency’, but now the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) says these tanks ‘may no longer represent the ‘as low as reasonably practicable’ position with regard to hazard reduction activities on the site’. The report says:

“Failure by the NDA and its private partner bodies has been responded to by the ONR changing its recommendations, rather than using its regulatory powers to ensure action. ONR seems to be sanctioning  cost-cutting exercise rather than insisting on maximum safety.”

The poor performance of reprocessing at Sellafield lies at the heart of the problems, causing build-up of dangerous waste and cost over-runs. The report concludes: “Sellafield and the NDA have been carrying out an expensive and dangerous balancing act in order to complete its reprocessing contracts … Because the nuclear regulator refuses to countenance ordering an end to reprocessing we remain at risk.”

FoE calls on the NDA to halt reprocessing as soon as possible, even if this requires contracts to be broken.

Towards a Safer Cumbria (March2013)

Posted: 8 March 2013

8 March 2013

Hinkley

Austria could be badly contaminated by radioactive pollution from a serious accident at the new nuclear power station proposed for Hinkley Point in Someset, the country’s environment agency has warned. The Austrian government’s Umweltbundesamt has lodged a formal objection to the application to build the station by the French power company, EDF Energy. The dangers of a worst-case accident should be assessed before the plant is given the go-ahead, it says. The Vienna agency’s 39-page submission concludes that the environmental impact assessment of the proposed Hinkley reactors “does not permit a meaningful assessment of the effects of conceivable accidents”. EDF’s claim that the risk of a large release of radioactivity has been practically eliminated “is not sufficiently demonstrated”, it says.

[Read more…]

Posted: 8 March 2013

7 March 2013

New Nukes

“Intense” was the word Henri Proglio, chief executive of EDF, chose last month to describe the company’s talks with the British government over building the UK’s first nuclear power plant in a generation. The French energy giant had just been dealt a body blow by HM Treasury: an offer of a subsidy far below the level EDF felt necessary to spend £14bn building reactors at Hinkley Point in Somerset. Yesterday, however, an internal EDF memo emerged showing the talks had reached a new level of “critical”. So challenging are the negotiations that EDF has now begun laying off staff from the Hinkley Point project because of the real possibility the talks may fail. Some in the industry suggest the Treasury has become seduced by the possibility of cheap shale gas and is prepared to let EDF’s project fail. Others still believe the Government remains committed to nuclear and the Treasury is merely engaging in brinkmanship because it believes it can still extract a better deal from EDF. The truth is likely to become much clearer in the next few weeks.

[Read more…]

Posted: 7 March 2013

6 March 2013

Hinkley

THERE is growing tension surrounding the Hinkley C project amid reports talks between EDF Energy and the Government over the price to be paid for the energy generated have reached “crisis point”. A planning decision on Hinkley C will be announced before March 19, with Energy Secretary Ed Davey firmly expected to give the thumbs-up.

[Read more…]

Posted: 6 March 2013

A dead parrot?

This March the nuclear renaissance has a whiff of dead parrot about it. Negotiations over the guaranteed price EDF hopes to receive for Hinkley seem to have hit the buffers. The Telegraph says talks are at “crisis point” and heading for failure. The BBC’s Robert Peston says the dispute seems “more serious than the Treasury’s habitual battles with the private sector” over subsidies. EDF is scaling back spending on Hinkley “until there is greater clarity around its negotiations with the Government”.

Apparently EDF wants a 10% rate of return but the Treasury fears that means it would make excessive profits. EDF says future reactors should be cheaper. And Hitachi has warned that if the deal with EDF collapses, Ministers could not count on Hitachi to step into the breach. Peston says rejection of the nuclear option now looks a very real prospect.

Even if the Treasury and EDF do come to an agreement, the European Commission might take up to two years to decide on whether the proposals constitute illegal State Aid. EDF Energy’s proliferating demands for financial support will force the EC to deliberate until 2015 at least.

The Energy and Climate Change Committee has called for a Plan B, in case nuclear investment doesn’t happen. At no2nuclearpower we think that an alternative strategy based on energy efficiency and renewables is essential anyway. As former Labour MP, Alan Simpson, points out: “…hundreds of thousands of the fuel poor will die in this decade …. Millions more will face rising fuel bills for energy set to become less and less affordable, while better choices slide off the table. This is not a programme, it’s a road crash. The only sources of energy with genuinely falling cost curves are all being sidelined.”

For less than the cost of a single new nuclear power station, Britain could take seven million households out of fuel poverty. For less than the cost of the bribes that we will pay for reopening mothballed gas power stations we could have a renewable energy programme that would deliver sustainability, and a decentralised system of generation, and distribution that would turn a cartel into an energy democracy.

5th March 2013

Posted: 5 March 2013

5 March 2013

Nuclear Subsidies

Talks between EDF Energy and the Government over building Britain’s first new nuclear plant in a generation are at “crisis point” and could fail within weeks because of deadlock over subsidies for the project. Tim Yeo MP, chairman of the Energy Select Committee, warned of the problems as EDF said it was scaling back spending on its £14bn project for reactors at Hinkley Point in Somerset “until there is greater clarity around its negotiations with the Government”. This would “have an impact on recruitment and jobs”, EDF said, understood to mean the loss of 150 jobs – about one-fifth of the project’s workforce. the Treasury, which is heavily involved in the negotiations, has taken a tough line over the returns EDF should be allowed. “The talks have reached a critical stage,” Mr Yeo told The Daily Telegraph, adding he believed they were likely to conclude either way “in the next fortnight”.

[Read more…]

Posted: 5 March 2013

4 March 2013

New Nukes

The government needs a “plan B” on nuclear power, because of the danger that new reactors will not be built in time to avoid energy shortages and possible blackouts, an influential committee of MPs has warned. The warning follows concerns raised by Alistair Buchanan, the outgoing chief executive of the energy regulator, Ofgem, that the decommissioning of many of the UK’s ageing fleet of power stations could sharply increase the risk of shortages within a few years. EDF Energy, the French national energy company that will lead the building of the first plant, is in a stand-off with ministers over demands for higher prices for its energy, and work on the first potential reactor is likely to face further opposition, endangering the government’s timetable for new plants. Any power shortages are unlikely to result in blackouts for consumers in the short term, but could affect businesses that are on contracts, forcing them to close if there is an imbalance between supply and demand, and this could be expensive. Tim Yeo, chairman of the energy and climate change select committee, said: “The government seems to be crossing its fingers that private companies will deliver a fleet of new nuclear power stations on time and on budget. Ministers need to urgently come up with a contingency plan in case the nuclear industry does not deliver the new power stations we need.”

[Read more…]

Posted: 4 March 2013

3 March 2013

Magnox Decommissioning

Consortia vying for the contract to decommission £7bn of nuclear waste are spending as much as £1m a month on bidding. In a sign that government procurement costs remain eye-wateringly high, sources said the four bidders had spent “well into the teens of millions” on working up their proposals in a process that began 18 months ago. The contract, formally launched last summer, will see the clean-up of 12 nuclear sites including obsolete magnox stations in Gloucestershire and Essex. “There are so many different workforces, cultures and projects on these sites that you have to come up with different plans for each of them,” added one of the sources. The sites are also at different stages of decommissioning, with one, in Anglesey, still producing electricity. The bidders include a pairing of listed British engineers Amec and Atkins, while the remaining three teams are led by US giants Bechtel, CH2M Hill and Fluor. A fifth team, led by another US group in URS, recently withdrew from the auction. The contract will run for 14 years.

[Read more…]

Posted: 3 March 2013

2 March 2013

Sellafield (Moorside)

Toshiba is expected to buy an empty reactor site at Sellafield, in a move that the Government hopes will kick-start Britain’s faltering programme. Toshiba, the owner of Westinghouse, has approached Iberdrola, co-owner of the Nugen project, to build a reactor on the Cumbria site. The Japanese group recently appointed PwC to advise on investing in nuclear projects in Britain. Iberdrola, which has always denied that it wants to leave the Nugen project, is close to appointing an investment bank to advise on its exit. The debt-laden Spanish group is keen to secure a quick sale of its 50 per cent stake, which could be worth £100 million. The lease on the Sellafield land will expire next April unless its present — or new — owners rapidly accelerate work to prepare the site for construction. If progress is not made, the site could be auctioned off again next year. Toshiba is expected to seek additional funding from cash-rich Chinese state-owned nuclear groups that want to gain expertise in building new reactors in countries such as Britain. Ministers hope that a change in ownership will revive the flagging project, which has made little progress since the Nugen consortium paid £70 million to lease the 190-hectare plot in 2009. SSE, a partner in the consortium, left in 2011 to invest instead in wind farms. The two remaining partners, Iberdrola and GDF Suez, of France, have little appetite or ability to make the multibillion-pound investment required. CGNPG, of China, has held discussions with EDF Energy about becoming a partner in Hinkley Point but there are doubts if that would be politically acceptable Britain. A Japanese rival, Hitachi, unexpectedly outbid Toshiba last October to buy a separate project called Horizon to build up to six reactors in Britain on two sites from the German groups E.ON and RWE for £700 million. Ministers are keen to have the Nugen project up and running in case the other two falter. They hope to have a new fleet of reactors built by the 2020s to keep the lights on and meet ambitious emissions targets.

[Read more…]

Posted: 2 March 2013