News

Fusion

THE UK could lose its pole position in the race to develop a pioneering clean nuclear power source, after Chinese boffins broke another record for the technology.

Express 19th July 2017 read more »

Nuclear fusion – the energy released when atomic nuclei merge – offers the potential for essentially limitless energy, without releasing greenhouse gases or creating dangerous nuclear waste, as nuclear fission does. It happens in stars such as our sun. We may not have to wait as long as you think to achieve it here on Earth. Last week it emerged that the European roadmap for the generation of electricity from fusion energy is to be delayed by at least a decade, pushing this achievement back into the second half of the century. The latest roadmap, published in 2012 by EUROfusion, outlined how the ITER and DEMO fusion machines would achieve electricity at the latest by 2050, 65 years after they were originally conceived as a joint project between the Reagan-era USA and Gorbachev’s Russia. This roadmap has now been dropped, the latest delay since late 2015 saw the announcement of another 6 year delay that led to the official schedule being called “widely discredited”.

IB Times 20th July 2017 read more »

Posted: 20 July 2017

Renewables – offshore wind

A £2 billion wind farm off the coast of Fife is one step closer to realisation after a legal appeal was rejected. The Neart na Gaoithe site has been in development since 2009, but has been subject to a long-running court battle. Scottish ministers backed consent for the scheme but the RSPB later won an appeal against the decision, having highlighted concerns about the impact on seabirds such as puffins, gannets and kittiwakes. The court of session sided with ministers in May, paving the way for construction work to start on the 450-megawatt wind farm that could eventually supply enough power for 325,000 homes. However, the RSPB then lodged an application to see if it could take an appeal against the decision to the Supreme Court. It was confirmed yesterday that the bid had been rejected by the inner house of the court o f session. The RSPB could still try to take the case to the Supreme Court, but its chances of success appear slim given the new ruling. Mainstream Renewable Power, the company behind the wind farm, welcomed the latest ruling and said it hoped to begin construction work soon. Andy Kinsella, its chief operating officer, said there would be about 500 jobs supported during the building phase, with more than 100 permanent positions created once the 64-turbine farm begins operating, which could be in 2021. About £540 million is likely to be spent in Scotland during construction, with an additional £610 million over the lifetime of the development.

Times 20th July 2017 read more »

Guardian 19th July 2017 read more »

Posted: 20 July 2017

Renewables – floating turbines

Norwegian energy giant Statoil said yesterday that the first of five turbines for its pioneering Hywind project is en route to Scotland. The turbine left the assembly yard in Stord, Norway, late Tuesday night and should arrive in the Buchan Deep, 15miles east of Peterhead, in four to five days. The Hywind pilot park will be the world’s first commercial floating wind farm, with the ability to power about 20,000 homes when production starts later this year. The 830-ft tall turbines will be towed individually to Scottish waters in a standing position.

Energy Voice 20th July 2017 read more »

Posted: 20 July 2017

Climate

Normally, the hottest years on record occur when the underlying human-caused global warming trend gets a temporary boost from an El Niño’s enhanced warming in the tropical Pacific. So it’s been a surprise to climate scientists that 2017 has been so remarkably warm — because the last El Niño ended a year ago. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reported Tuesday that the first half of 2017 was the second-warmest January-June on record for Earth, topped only by 2016, which was boosted by one of the biggest El Niños on record.

Renew Economy 20th July 2017 read more »

Humans must start removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere as soon as possible to avoid saddling future generations with a choice between extreme climate change or spending hundreds of trillions of dollars to avoid it, according to new research. An international team of researchers – led by Professor Jim Hansen, Nasa’s former climate science chief – said their conclusion that the world had already overshot targets to limit global warming to within acceptable levels was “sufficiently grim” to force them to urge “rapid emission reductions”. But they warned this would not be enough and efforts would need to be made to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere by about 12.5 per cent. This, the scientists argued, could be mostly achieved by agricultural measures such as planting trees and improving soil fertility, a relatively low-cost way to remove carbon from the air. Other more expensive methods, such as burning biomass in power plants fitted with carbon-capture-and-storage or devices that can remove carbon from the air directly, might also be necessary and would become increasingly needed if steps were not taken soon.

Independent 18th July 2017 read more »

Posted: 20 July 2017

Hinkley

The storm surrounding the construction of the Hinkley Point C nuclear plant was set to break out anew today after it emerged last night that the cost to consumers could mushroom to £50 billion. The new official estimate is more than eight times higher than the £6 billion that the National Audit Office estimated the plant would cost consumers when ministers first struck a subsidy deal to support it in 2013. The spark that ignited the explosion in the estimate is a decline in electricity prices, which in turn have hugely inflated the subsidies that the project is expected to require. Under the terms of the deal, which was confirmed, after some delay, last autumn by Theresa May, the nuclear developers EDF, of France, and CGN, of China, will foot the up-front construction cost in return for a guaranteed price of £92.50 for every megawatt- hour of power that the plant generates for 35 years. If wholesale prices are below that level, the difference will be subsidised by consumers through levies on their energy bills. Wholesale prices and projections of future prices have both fallen significantly since 2013 as the cost of fossil fuels used in conventional power generation has plunged. This has increased the estimates of the subsidy payments that will be required for Hinkley Point, making the project appear increasingly poor value. Government figures show that, as of September last year, the lifetime costs of Hinkley Point C were estimated at £49.9 billion. That compares with an estimate of £36.9 billion in 2015 and £14.5 billion in 2014.

Times 19th July 2017 read more »

Telegraph 18th July 2017 read more »

Former arch-rival Scottish Tory and Labour MPs have attack delays to the UK government’s plan to commission the new Hinkley Point C nuclear power plant. Michael (now Lord) Forsyth criticised the plans for the £18 billion project in an Economic Affairs debate in the House of Lords on the UK energy market, warning the delayed project was a “severe risk” to security of supply. Former Tory MP Forsyth said the report amounted to a “big red warning light” for ministers, and former Labour MP Alistair (now Lord) Darling said he agreed with almost everything the former minister had said. Darling said there was a big question mark over the future of nuclear power and challenged ministers to set out a “plan B” should Hinkley C not go ahead. Energy security was the “number one priority” but the public had been “short-changed” by the Hinkley C project, which was 10 years late and facing rapidly rising costs.

Scottish Energy News 19th July 2017 read more »

The Government admitted an agreement made in September last year over the Hinkley Point C nuclear power station means operators EDF can claim compensation if there is a change in British, EU or international law, policy or guidance, which forces the £24bn project to close early. Richard Harrington, the energy and industry minister, confirmed the payments could be “up to around £22bn” in a written answer to Labour’s Dr Alan Whitehead at the beginning of July. Mr Harrington said: “We remain firmly committed to bringing forward the UK’s first new nuclear power plants in a generation.

Express 18th July 2017 read more »

Posted: 19 July 2017

Euratom

The UK’s Article 50 letter which triggered its exit from the European Union also indicated that the country would be leaving the European nuclear regulator Euratom following Brexit. However, several MPs, including some prominent leave campaigners, have criticised this position, arguing instead for the UK to have some form of associate membership of Euratom after it leaves the EU. David Phinnemore highlights that there is currently no such thing as ‘associate membership’ of Euratom, but that other routes for an association between the UK and Euratom could potentially be pursued. To describe Switzerland’s status vis-à-vis Euratom as ‘associate membership’ is misleading. The Swiss do participate with ‘associated country status’ in a number of Euratom-focused research programmes under the Horizon 2020 programme. Switzerland also has a formal ‘Cooperation Agreement’ with Euratom dating back to 1978. Its focus is controlled thermonuclear fusion and plasma physics. These and other cooperative arrangements between Switzerland and Euratom do not amount, however, to ‘associate membership’. Nor do they mean that Switzerland is an ‘associate’ of either Euratom or the EU.

LSE 18th July 2017 read more »

Brexit doesn’t inevitably mean leaving the international body governing civil nuclear power in Europe, but there is very little time for the government to rethink its decision, the head of the U.K.’s nuclear industry group warned. The comments by Tom Greatrex, chief executive of the U.K.’s Nuclear Industry Association, add to growing concern over the government’s intention to pull out of the European Atomic Energy Community, or Euratom, at the same time as leaving the EU. The fear is that leaving the organization at the end of the two-year Brexit process in March 2019 does not leave enough time for the U.K. to replicate vital functions.

Politico 17th July 2017 read more »

Posted: 19 July 2017

Anglesey

Plans for Wales’s biggest solar park are heading to the Welsh Government after the developer has been left fuming at a 16 month wait for Anglesey council to make a decision. The proposals for the 220 acre solar farm near Cemaes were first submitted by Countryside Renewables in February 2016. It has the support of planning officers but has been deferred by the planning committee a staggering nine times, with three separate site visits. Now the application – which has attracted some local opposition – has been sent by the developer to the planning Inspectorate of Wales due to non-determination by the local authority.

Daily Post 18th July 2017 read more »

Posted: 19 July 2017

SMRs

Engineering firm Laing O’Rourke has joined the British consortium spearheading the development of small nuclear power plants which could provide a much-needed boost to the UK’s energy supplies. The consortium is hoping to win UK government funding for its innovative plants, known as small modular reactors (SMRs). The Rolls-Royce led venture also includes Amec Foster Wheeler, Arup, Nuvia and the Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre. Rolls-Royce has come up with a modular concept that allows for factory manufacture and speedy installation of the planned plants. The reactors are about the size of the O2 and could power a city the size of Leeds.

City AM 18th July 2017 read more »

The USA’s Holtec International has signed a teaming agreement with Canada’s SNC-Lavalin to collaborate in the development of Holtec’s SMR-160 small modular reactor (SMR).

World Nuclear News 18th July 2017 read more »

The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has concluded that the highly integrated protection system (HIPS) platform developed for NuScale Power’s small modular reactor is acceptable for use in plant safety-related instrumentation and control systems.

World Nuclear News 18th July 2017 read more »

Posted: 19 July 2017

Cybersecurity

A UK cybersecurity authority has issued a warning about hackers targeting the country’s energy sector, and says that some industrial control system organizations are likely to have been successfully compromised, according to a copy of the document obtained by Motherboard. The warning comes at the same time as an anonymously-sourced report from The Times stating that suspected Russian military hackers sent emails designed to trick engineers at an Irish energy organization. At the end of June, the US government warned businesses of hackers targeting nuclear and energy firms as well.

Motherboard 17th July 2017 read more »

Hackers backed by the Russian government have attacked energy networks running the national grid in parts of the UK, The Times has learnt. The hackers, who targeted the Republic of Ireland’s energy sector, intended to infiltrate control systems, security analysts believe. This would also have given them the power to knock out parts of the grid in Northern Ireland. Senior engineers at Ireland’s Electricity Supply Board (ESB) were targeted last month by a group understood to have ties to the Kremlin’s GRU intelligence agency. The hackers sent emails designed to trick staff by drawing on extensive surveillance of ESB practices and contained malicious software. There is no evidence of disruption to the network, but security analysts monitoring Russia’s cyberintelligence groups said that the hackers probably stole information including passwords. Ireland’s National Cyber Security Centre confirmed that it was working on the matter.

Times 15th July 2017 read more »

Posted: 19 July 2017

Terror

With the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics in Tokyo just three years away, the government is stepping up efforts to prevent terrorist attacks using nuclear and other radioactive materials.

Japan Times 19th July 2017 read more »

Posted: 19 July 2017