News

13 May 2014

Nuclear Security

NFLA calls on nuclear regulator and nuclear industry to improve on alarming number of nuclear security incidents.The NFLA is alarmed to hear that there have been 398 security incidents at UK nuclear sites in the past four years.

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Posted: 13 May 2014

12 May 2014

Nuclear Security

Security at Britain’s nuclear power stations is being breached eight times every month, sparking safety fears. An investigation by The Sunday Post has discovered lapses such as broken CCTV cameras or door alarms, which may have left incredibly sensitive plants open to trespassers. But the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) which released the data, has been accused of a cover-up after it refused to release details of the breaches. Figures obtained under freedom of information (FOI) laws revealed there has been 398 security breaches since 2010. Experts fear the number could be even higher because the ONR has changed its definition of what poses a security risk to the UK’s nuclear power stations. Last night independent nuclear expert John Large said: “It is deeply worrying that the ONR admits there are existing weaknesses and vulnerabilities in the nuclear plants.

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Posted: 12 May 2014

11 May 2014

Sellafield

The latest figures from Sellafield Ltd show that both magnox (B205) and oxide (THORP) reprocessing plants again failed to meet their respective annual targets. In a presentation to the site’s local stakeholder working group on spent fuels (29th April) the Company maintained however that the currently scheduled ‘end of reprocessing’ dates – ‘around 2020’ and 2018 respectively – would be met. In a reference to the written evidence submitted by CORE to the Government’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) last year, the Company also admitted that, for magnox reprocessing particularly, it would be setting ‘more realistic targets’ in the future.

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Posted: 11 May 2014

10 May 2014

ONR

We are at the start of the most ambitious civil nuclear programme in this country’s history. A generation of state-of-the-art reactors worth at least £60bn will be built across the country, from Hinkley Point in the South-west to Hartlepool in the North-east. Tens of billions more are being spent clearing up radioactive waste at historic, highly hazardous nuclear sites, including Sellafield in Cumbria and Dounreay in the Scottish Highlands. A shame, then, that we’re struggling to find enough nuclear inspectors to make sure all this radioactive material is stored safely. Les Philpott, the deputy chief executive at the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR), has told me that although the organisation has undertaken a “massive” recruitment programme, it is “running just to stand still”. This situation isn’t the ONR’s fault. But it is a reminder of how easy it is for ambitious governments to forget about the simple things – like having enough experts around to make sure the country doesn’t suffer a nuclear disaster.

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Posted: 10 May 2014

9 May 2014

Hinkley

The European Commission will almost certainly find that EDF Energy’s funding mechanism for the construction of the Hinkley Point C nuclear unit in the UK is illegal state aid, an Austrian law professor told Platts. Franz Leidenmuhler, who specializes in EU state aid cases and European competition law, said in an email that he believed “a rejection is nearly unavoidable. The Statement of the Commission in its first findings of December 18, 2013 is too clear. I do not think that some conditions could change that clear result.” The new Hinkley unit will be built based on a funding model in which the UK government guarantees a floor price for future power sales. This floor price, known as a “strike price,” is the reference price below which EDF would receive UK government financial support and above which EDF would pay back money, effectively a guaranteed price for the power. Leidenmuhler indicated he believed EDF’s funding mechanism for Hinkley Point C did not meet these criteria to be granted an exemption for state aid. However, George Borovas, an energy lawyer at Shearman and Sterling in Tokyo, said in an email to Platts that he believed some form of negotiation was likely take place before the EC formally rejected EDF’s proposals. “While the Commission has expressed substantial criticisms and concerns, it would be unusual for a project of this nature to be prohibited outright on State aid grounds,” he said. Borovas said that “instead, there will likely be a negotiation between the UK and the EU, resulting in a settlement of some sort, on issues such as the period of the CfD and the level of the strike price.” The issue of a potential precedent being set was a point emphasized indirectly by Leidenmuhler in his presentation, when he cited the recent decision by the Czech government not to offer aid guarantees for the construction of a new nuclear unit at Temelin that would be similar to the guarantees offered by the UK government for Hinkley Point C.

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Posted: 9 May 2014

8 May 2014

Radwaste

The Welsh Government has agreed to look again at its policy on nuclear waste disposal after a plea by Anglesey’s Assembly Member. It follows concerns voiced by the island’s AM last month that Anglesey could become a “dumping ground” for the disposal of nuclear waste from across the British isles. The UK Government is currently looking for communities to come forward and ”‘volunteer themselves” as potential sites, but Anglesey Council has already stated in no uncertain terms that it has no interest whatsoever in such a plan, despite promised economic benefits for any communities that do so. A meeting is due to take place on the island in September where the UK Government will outline its procedure in finding a solution to Britain’s long-term nuclear waste disposal problem. The Welsh Government’s current policy on the matter is to is neither to support nor object the burial of radioactive waste. But last Tuesday, hours before a planned question on the matter during First Minister’s Questions, the Welsh Government’s Minister for Natural Resources and Food released a statement outlining that this policy could soon change. The Welsh Government is now seeking suggestion from the public on what their position should be. During the session in the Senedd later that day, Anglesey AM Rhun ap Iorwerth sought further assurances that the Welsh Government would oppose proposals to store such waste. First Minister Carwyn Jones said: “We are not in favour of any importing of waste into Wales. We are not in favour of any burial of such waste. We want to ensure that the position that has existed so far continues, namely that the waste goes to Sellafield. We do not intend to change that, and neither does the UK Government from what we can see.”

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Posted: 8 May 2014

7 May 2014

Hinkley

The contract for building the UK’s first nuclear power station in a generation might not be “valid”, a leading legal academic has warned. Former Liberal Democrat MP David Howarth, who lectures at Cambridge, said the deal with EDF over a plant at Hinkley Point could be seen as an “unjustifiable subsidy” under EU law. The contract fixes a price for energy provided if the scheme goes ahead. The government said the deal was “robust” and would give a “fair deal”. Mr Howarth told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme there was a “problem with whether this is a valid contract at all”. He argued that, under EU law, its terms could be described as an “unjustifiable subsidy” and that “because the system doesn’t allow for non-British generators to come within it, it might be a violation of the basic principle of EU law of freedom of movement of goods”.

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Posted: 7 May 2014

6 May 2014

New Nukes

AT A high-powered PR summit in London, energy giant EDF’s head of communications proudly reported that sponsoring the Olympics had “added value to the nuclear brand.” Flushed with this success, EDF now plans to harness a new team of company volunteers who will “go out into the community and schools to tell the story.” Their Bringing Nuclear to Life initiative will unleash hundreds of volunteer EDF joggers onto the streets, each carrying the torch for new nuclear. Their stated objective will be to “normalise nuclear to consumers.” So, just when you thought it might be safe to step out a bit more — when double glazing salesmen, charity fundraisers and energy company “swappers” might be taking a breather — a new sort of “chugger” is about to hit the streets.

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Posted: 6 May 2014

5 May 2014

Energy Costs

Households will pay £4.2 billion too much for their energy bills over the next eight years, according to one of Britain’s biggest energy suppliers. British Gas has claimed that energy network companies, who are responsible for the electricity cables and gas pipelines that feed homes from the national grid, are charging too much for their services and this is adding to consumer bills. Network costs, which are set by energy regulator Ofgem, already account for £288 of the average energy bill — more than a fifth — but will rise further, in line with inflation, over the next eight years.

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Posted: 5 May 2014

4 May 2014

Hinkley

BANK of England governor Mark Carney hosted a round-table discussion in Taunton during his visit to the South-West. His visit is part of a series of regular discussions with business leaders across the region. Mr Carney was also briefed by Rupert Cox, chief executive of the Somerset Chamber of Commerce, on the opportunities and challenges associated with the proposed Hinkley Point C nuclear power station. Speaking after the event on Monday (April 28), Mr Cox said: “We were delighted to welcome the governor to Somerset. Mark Carney was not only very informative on the work of the bank and the wider economic outlook, he was also very engaging and interested to hear from our members who attended this important meeting.

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Posted: 4 May 2014