News

Dounreay

DOUNREAY said decommissioning work is continuing as normal as the UK terror threat level has been raised to critical. Prime Minister Theresa May announced on Tuesday night the threat level was raised from severe to critical, the highest possible level after the Manchester Arena bombing on Monday night.

John O’Groat Journal 24th May 2017 read more »

Posted: 26 May 2017

Energy Policy

A former Tory energy minister in the Lords is to join the Renewable Energy Association – the UK’s biggest such body. Baroness Verma joins the REA as an independent non-executive board member. Her new job includes looking at the strategic role of renewables and clean tech in the UK and trade opportunities for British services and manufacturing in emerging markets. As Energy Minister during the coalition Government, Verma took the Energy Act 2013 through the Lords, before becoming Minister at the Department for International Development in 2015, with responsibility, amongst others, for climate and environment. She said: “With storage and smart technologies already a reality, the opportunities for the UK to lead the world in these areas is one we cannot afford to waste and I look forward to working with REA members in this.”

Scottish Energy News 26th May 2017 read more »

‘Affordability, prosperity and security should not be risked in the drive to deliver a low-carbon energy system’ that was the key message last night in Glasgow from GMB Scotland Secretary Gary Smith. Addressing the Centre for Energy Policy at Strathclyde University’s International Public Policy Institute, he said that the roles of domestic gas and nuclear production in the Scottish energy mix should ‘not be dismissed by policy makers’ if we want a genuinely just transition towards a low carbon economy. Against a backdrop of rising fuel poverty, in-work poverty and dependence on imports, Scotland’s trade union for gas and utilities workers is calling for a pragmatic debate over our energy future on issues such as targets for fifty per cent of energy consumption to be supplied by renewable sources by 2030. Smith said: “GMB supports a balanced energy policy that embraces all the viable indigenous options we have at our disposal to tackle our social inequalities while maximising prosperity and self-reliance as an energy nation.

Scottish Energy News 26th May 2017 read more »

Posted: 26 May 2017

Westinghouse

Westinghouse’s core business remains strong and the company intends to emerge from Chapter 11 bankruptcy stronger, better and more competitive, interim president and CEO José Gutíerrez said yesterday. Gutiérrez’s speech to the Nuclear Energy Assembly – the US Nuclear Energy Institute’s (NEI’s) annual conference for the US nuclear industry, held this week in Arizona – was his first discussion of Westinghouse’s current situation in an open forum since the company’s 29 March bankruptcy filing. He said it was important to note that the filing focuses on the construction of the four US reactors at Vogtle and VC Summer. The company’s AP1000 construction projects in China are making good progress, and the company remains confident that AP1000 is “good technology,” he said. The bankruptcy filing was a strategic move to “reset the financial footprint” of the company to address construction issues at US projects, while protecting the company’s core business, he said. The projects have been beset by significant cost overruns.

World Nuclear News 25th May 2017 read more »

Posted: 26 May 2017

Hualong One

The dome has been installed on the containment building of unit 5 at the Fuqing nuclear power plant. The unit – the first of two demonstration Hualong One units being built at the site in China’s Fujian province – is expected to start up in 2019.

World Nuclear News 25th May 2017 read more »

Posted: 26 May 2017

Fukushima

Six years after the nuclear disaster, Japan is pushing villagers back to the homes they left.

Economist 26th May 2017 read more »

Posted: 26 May 2017

US

Ed Lyman, Michael Schoeppner, Frank Von Hippel – The March 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident prompted regulators around the world to take a hard look at their requirements for protecting nuclear plants against severe accidents. In the United States, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) ordered a “top-to-bottom” review of its regulations, and ultimately approved a number of safety upgrades. It rejected other risk-reduction measures, however, using a screening process that did not adequately account for impacts of large-scale land contamination events. Among rejected options was a measure to end dense packing of 90 spent fuel pools, which we consider critical for avoiding a potential catastrophe much greater than Fukushima. Unless the NRC improves its approach to assessing risks and benefits of safety improvements—by using more realistic parameters in its quantitative assessments and also taking into account societal impacts—the United States will remain needlessly vulnerable to such disasters.

Science 26th May 2017 read more »

Unsafe Nuclear Waste Management May Put Eight Million Americans at Risk: In March of 2011, the Fukushima nuclear reactor in Japan experienced one of the largest meltdowns in history following a major earthquake. In the aftermath of this catastrophic event, which displaced some 174,000 locals, the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) decided it was time to update the national protocols for storing spent nuclear waste. By July 2011, the NRC released its new recommendations, which resulted in a three-tiered program for updating the US nuclear safety regulations, such as making it easier to add more water to spent fuel pools, where radioactive waste is stored. According to a policy article published in Science , the NRC program underestimated the danger posed by current waste storage standards and, in the process, has put millions of lives at risk. The problem is that most nuclear reactor operators in the US don’t proactively remove spent fuel from the pools because the NRC doesn’t see using pools as semi-permanent storage as a problem. According to the Science paper, nuclear utilities treat the pools as default storage containers, fill them to capacity and and only transfer waste to dry storage when space in the pool is running low. While this might save some cash for the utility, it also significantly increases the risk of a fire at the reactor. According to the authors of the new policy paper, the release of radioactive material resulting from a fire at a spent-fuel pool filled to capacity would result in about $2 trillion in damage and the relocation of some eight million people, on average.

Motherboard 25th May 2017 read more »

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) relied on faulty analysis to justify its refusal to adopt a critical measure for protecting Americans from the occurrence of a catastrophic nuclear-waste fire at any one of dozens of reactor sites around the country, according to an article in the May 26 issue of Science magazine. Fallout from such a fire could be considerably larger than the radioactive emissions from the 2011 Fukushima accident in Japan. Published by researchers from Princeton University and the Union of Concerned Scientists, the article argues that NRC inaction leaves the public at high risk from fires in spent-nuclear-fuel cooling pools at reactor sites. The pools—water-filled basins that store and cool used radioactive fuel rods—are so densely packed with nuclear waste that a fire could release enough radioactive material to contaminate an area twice the size of New Jersey. On average, radioactivity from such an accident could force approximately 8 million people to relocate and result in $2 trillion in damages. These catastrophic consequences, which could be triggered by a large earthquake or a terrorist attack, could be largely avoided by regulatory measures that the NRC refuses to implement. Using a biased regulatory analysis, the agency excluded the possibility of an act of terrorism as well as the potential for damage from a fire beyond 50 miles of a plant. Failing to account for these and other factors led the NRC to significantly underestimate the destruction such a disaster could cause.

Phys.org 25th May 2017 read more »

The nuclear industry is so uncompetitive that half of U.S. nuclear power plants are no longer profitable. And if existing nukes are uneconomic, it’s no surprise that new nuclear plants are wildly unaffordable. New York and Illinois have already agreed to more than $700 million a year in subsidies, and if all northeast and mid-Atlantic nukes got similar subsidies, it would cost U.S. consumers $3.9 billion a year. Things are so bad for the nuclear industry that, recently, even conservatives have started to publicly oppose the subsidies the industry needs to survive. The nuclear industry has essentially priced itself out of the market for new power plants, at least in market-based economies. Even the nuclear-friendly French — who get more than three fourths their power from nukes — can’t build an affordable, on-schedule next generation nuclear plant in their own country. Last week, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported on the umpteenth cost overruns in Georgia Power’s effort to build two new reactors, with the headline, “Plant Vogtle: Georgia’s nuclear ‘renaissance’ now a financial quagmire.” The Westinghouse plants, originally priced at a whopping $14 billion are “currently $3.6 billion over budget and almost four years behind the original schedule.” Westinghouse filed for bankruptcy in March. Some existing nuclear plants are shutting down prematurely because they can’t compete with cheap fracked natural gas. That’s fine with both O’Keefe and Shughart. But it means we are going to end up with more fracked gas and more greenhouse gas pollution (both carbon dioxide and methane) in the short term. The fact is that the rapid advances in renewables, batteries and other storage, demand response, efficiency, and electric vehicles mean that integrating low-cost renewables into the grid will almost certainly be far easier and cheaper and faster than people realize. The bottom line is that existing nuclear plants can make a plausible case for a modest short-term subsidy. But whether or not you agree with those subsidies, the future belongs to renewables and efficiency.

Think Progress 25th May 2017 read more »

Georgia’s nuclear mess is about to get way messier now that the chief contractor on the Plant Vogtle expansion has fled to bankruptcy court. So a new race is underway to see who can nab enough bubble wrap to insulate themselves from a fresh round of costly shocks. So far, Georgia Power has sidestepped virtually all of the financial reckoning on its own project. Billions of dollars in past Vogtle overruns and delays will be borne by Georgia consumers or already have been by the contractor, Westinghouse Electric Company. I suspect leaders of Georgia Power and parent Southern Company would like to keep dodging on this one. A partial federal bailout from taxpayers perhaps? Southern CEO Tom Fanninghas been spending a lot of time in Washington D.C. talking about continuation of nuclear energy development being in “our national security interest.”

Atlanta Journal Constitution 25th May 2017 read more »

Posted: 26 May 2017

France

Former President Hollande aimed to have France reliance on nuclear drop from 75 percent of power supply to 50 percent by 2025; that goal is still law. Macron is generally considered to be pro-nuclear, Hulot less so, but Macron has also commented skeptically on the cost of nuclear: “Nobody knows the total cost for nuclear energy. I was minister for industry and I could not tell you.” It thus seems likely that an approach will be taken to pursue an energy transition towards renewables and away from nuclear, but possibly not at the speed that Hollande’s law specified. The slowdown would then be justified with solidarity. If so, this approach seems logical. As I have been saying for years, France has put most of its eggs in the nuclear basket and can hardly afford to shut very many reactors. It’s not just communities with reactors that will be affected by a nuclear phaseout. Rather, last November EDF – the utility than runs all French reactors – bought up the effectively bankrupt Areva, the firm that built them. Both companies are largely state-owned. In January, the EU approved France’s plans to inject a whopping 4.5 billion euros in Areva to keep it afloat. Whatever compromises he is forced to make, Hulot will easily bring more expertise to the table than the French have become accustomed to. Royal made a showcase out of the awful idea of 1,000 kilometers of solar roads (really terrible). And let’s remember, one last time as she leaves office, her challenge to Nicolas Sarkozy in 2007 to state how much nuclear power France has. They both got the answer wrong (Sarkozy was closer).

Renew Economy 26th May 2017 read more »

Posted: 26 May 2017

Renewables

Renewable energy could produce three quarters of the UK’s electricity by 2030 without compromising reliability, Friends of the Earth has claimed. In a report published today (26 May), entitled Switching on; how renewables will power the UK, the environmental group predicts that with falling energy costs and advances in storage technology, renewables could provide 75 per cent of the country’s power by that date. The report predicts 65 per cent of the UK’s power will come from intermittent sources by 2030, and a further 10 per cent will come from less variable sources, like tidal, hydro and geothermal. And as it points out, the UK has gone from 7 per cent renewable electricity to 25 per cent in six years, without causing blackouts.

Utility Week 26th May 2017 read more »

Posted: 26 May 2017

Energy Networks

Northern Powergrid has signed a memorandum of understanding with Nissan to look at how electric vehicles (EVs) can support energy networks. The two organisations will work together on a range of projects over the next six years, designed to look at how EVs, storage batteries and other new technologies can enhance the capability and resilience of the region’s power network. Northern Powergrid’s head of trading and innovation, Jim Cardwell said the agreement “signals the start of a ground-breaking industry partnership”, which could “support the creation of smarter, greener energy networks”.

Edie 25th May 2017 read more »

Posted: 26 May 2017

Fossil Fuels

Don’t do it Scotland: fracking warnings from Pennsylvania. Jane Worthington is one of many voices on fracking in Pennsylvania. The Ferret has uncovered widespread concerns about health and quality of life where unconventional oil and gas is being exploited. The team heard numerous warnings that should be learnt and discovered direct connections with Scotland.

The Ferret 24th May 2017 read more »

Posted: 26 May 2017