Jim O’Neill, the British Treasury minister and former Goldman Sachs chief economist, could quit over new UK prime minister Theresa May’s approach to China exposed by her handling of plans for a new nuclear plant. Lord O’Neill was a star signing brought into the Treasury during George Osborne’s time as chancellor to build relations with China and oversee new infrastructure. He is best known outside the UK for having coined the phrase “Brics” in 2001 to describe the world’s leading emerging economies, Brazil, Russia, India and China. The real goal for Beijing in Britain is not so much Hinkley Point itself, but the opportunity to build and finance another nuclear power station of its own design at another of EDF’s sites in Bradwell, Essex. “This is all about Bradwell,” said one minister. “I’m sure Theresa would be happy to take £6bn off the Chinese for Hinkley but it’s not clear whether she is happy about the next stage.”
FT 31st July 2016 read more »
Daily Mail 1st August 2016 read more »
Politics Home 1st August 2016 read more »
Theresa May’s postponement in approving the Hinkley Point nuclear power station is a heavy blow to her predecessor’s attempts to cultivate China as a key investment and strategic partner. The UK and China had proclaimed a “golden era” of commercial and diplomatic relations, and President Xi Jinping in October referred to the investment in Hinkley Point as a “flagship project” of bilateral co-operation. Chinese officials have been clear that if Hinkley does not now go ahead, there would be little chance that the “golden era” would ever get off the ground. Failure of the deal would be damaging to Chinese ambitions that reach far beyond the project itself. If the deal is shelved, it may be felt by Mr Xi as a personal rebuff. Not only did he sign the deal on Hinkley with Mr Cameron, the other Chinese company that was due to take a stake in the project — China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) — is a constituent of the military-industrial complex that bolsters Mr Xi’s power base. The companies believe that helping to build a nuclear power plant in the UK is a springboard to the international market. A month after the Hinkley deal was announced, CNNC won a $15bn contract to build two reactors in Argentina, one of which uses China’s homegrown technology.
FT 31st July 2016 read more »
UK’s proposed Hinkley Point nuclear project is “significant” for China’s nuclear power industry because it is the first nuclear power project in the West that a Chinese company will participate, a Chinese energy expert said. Lin Boqiang, the director of the Center for Energy Economics Research at the Xiamen University told state-run newspaper Global Times: “It is not easy for China to participate in a nuclear power project in a Western country. Any concern or objection from any party could lead to reviews and delays.”
IB Times 1st Aug 2016 read more »
Dominic Lawson: t would be very embarrassing for her to declare, even though the Hinkley deal was the high point of the Sino-British co-operation agreed during the state visit of China’s President Xi Jinping last October, that she would be suspending it until she had made up her mind as the new Prime Minister. But that is precisely what she did: Mrs May seems to have been not in the least embarrassed. At the risk of generalising about the difference between the sexes, I believe this is more a characteristic of women — and not just women prime ministers. The absurdly-named weaker sex are much less easily embarrassed than us men. Perhaps this is partly what Kenneth Clarke meant, when he was (inadvertently) recorded during the short-lived Tory leadership campaign saying to his fellow ex-Cabinet colleague Malcolm Rifkind: ‘Theresa is a bloody difficult woman . . . but you and I worked with Margaret Thatcher.’
Daily Mail 1st Aug 2016 read more »
The Hinkley project is now eight years behind schedule. The chief executive of EDF Energy Vincent de Rivaz infamously said Brits would be cooking their turkeys using power from Hinkley by the Christmas of 2017. It is now not expected to be up and running until 2025 at the earliest. With an agreed strike price of £92.50/MWh, critics have questioned Hinkley’s value for money, particularly when the cost of renewable alternatives is falling fast. There are concerns over EDF’s ability to finance the project. At the end of 2015 the company had net debts of £37.4 billion and, at £18 billion, the cost of building Hinkley is almost equal to the value of the entire company (£19.2 billion).
Edie 29th July 2016 read more »
Plans to protect Hinkley Point from national security threats by giving the Government a “special share” in the nuclear project were blocked by George Osborne, a former Cabinet minister has claimed. Sir Edward Davey, who served as energy secretary in the Coalition, last year assured MPs worried about Chinese involvement in Hinkley that the Government would have “a special share in the consortium”, enabling it to intervene on certain decisions to protect national security. But Sir Edward last night revealed that the plan, which could have provided “extra safeguards”, was subsequently dropped after being “rejected without explanation” by the former Chancellor. Theresa May’s Government on Thursday announced a surprise review of French energy giant EDF’s proposed £18bn project in Somerset, postponing final approval until the autumn, amid security concerns about China’s proposed role.
Telegraph 31st July 2016 read more »
Guardian 1st August 2016 read more »
Bridgwater Mercury 1st August 2016 read more »
The projected cost of guaranteeing the amount paid for electricity from Hinkley C has risen considerably because the government forecast for the wholesale price of electricity has fallen. The estimated extra amount consumers will pay has risen for one simple reason – the government’s forecast for the wholesale energy price in the future has fallen. The lower the wholesale price, the bigger the chunk UK households have to pay to make sure EDF gets paid £92.50 per megawatt hour. The strike price of £92.50 is in 2012 pounds, so will be considerably higher by 2025. Already, if you adjusted for CPI inflation, the figure would be about £97. Another figure that is given in 2012 pounds is the government’s estimate that the cost of Hinkley C will add £10 per year to each household’s bill. In current pounds that’s about £10.50. So where does the £10 per household actually come from? The government has so far declined to explain how this differs from its own calculation. Last year, the government department responsible predicted that the project would add between £4bn and £19bn to household bills over the lifetime of the station. If you take a central figure of £11.5bn, divide it by the projected 35-year lifetime and divide by the number of households, then you do indeed get to about £10 per household. But the National Audit Office says that figure for project cost has risen to £29.7bn, and if you calculate that per household per year then you get to £25 per household per year.
BBC 29th July 2016 read more »
Countries legally objecting to a European Commission decision to facilitate the construction of new nuclear power plants in the UK are determined to pursue their case, despite the news of Hinkley Point C being approved by owners EDF to go ahead. Alexandra Perl, press spokesperson at the Austrian Federal Ministry of Science, Research and Economy told Power Engineering International, “The EDF-decision does not change our position. Besides that, there is no new development. Austria has filed a lawsuit at the European Court of Justice and is now waiting for the further development.” Olaf Munichsdorfer, top advisor to the Luxembourg ministry of environment, when asked by this website if his government would continue to oppose the facilitating of nuclear power, provided just a one word answer – “Yes”.
Power Engineering International 31st July 2016 read more »
Theresa May may have gained short term kudos for ‘stamping’ her authority on the Hinkley decision by delaying it until the Autumn. But in reality all she may have done in the long term is emphasised the fact that she sanctioned a decision that resulted in the biggest industrial disaster to have affected the country in modern times. Once the Government signs the project it will be committed to footing the bill for a long running engineering construction foul-up, whatever the terms of the Government’s contract may actually say. It should be obvious from the problem that EDF has had with its attempts to build the two reactors at Okiluoto in Finland and Flamanville in Normandy that there is a very high chance that the project will end in disaster, organised by a company whose leaders ignore commercial logics in pursuit of a discredited piece of technology – the hallmark of a nationalised industry that controls the state. But now EDF say they will go ahead, in 2019, with ‘pouring concrete’ (ie starting building proper) once Flamanville has ‘proved’ itself. Yet even this timetable may not happen, pushing EDF further into its financial crisis and producing even more handouts from the french state to EDF.
Dave Toke’s Blog 31st July 2016 read more »
You don’t have to be a Sinophobe, or indeed a Francophobe, to wonder whether the Hinkley Point nuclear power project is entirely in the British national interest. The new prime minister wants a fresh look at it, and that is entirely wise. This is a commitment that will still be operating when babies born now will be approaching their retirement. It makes assumptions that may look realistic in today’s world, but not tomorrow’s. China’s general outlook on the world is peaceful and friendly: but it is certainly jealous of its special position as an east Asian superpower, and the extravagant territorial claims it makes in the South China Sea are a direct challenge to her neighbours, and their ally, the United States. China also has an ambivalent relationship with the semi-sane regime in North Korea. As an international partner, China has few, if any, direct quarrels with Britain, even over Hong Kong, but its emergence as a military as well as industrial force means that we should be cautious about the extent of our co-operation. A half a century is a long way to look ahead, and Theresa May is right to want to assess thoroughly whether British security interests could be, one day, compromised by the Hinkley deal, and the other nuclear projects that have been suggested may follow it.
Independent 31st July 2016 read more »
A side deal forming part of the wider Hinkley Point package was for French energy firm EDF to transfer its site at Bradwell-on-Sea to a Chinese state-owned firm to build a new station with a new reactor design, with EDF retaining a one-third stake in the project. Professor Andy Blowers, chairman of the Bradwell Against New Nuclear Group (BANNG), said a decision by the business, energy and industrial strategy secretary Greg Clark to further review the project could be a blessing or a curse for Bradwell. On the one hand any step-down from new nuclear schemes could leave Bradwell dead in the water, whether rejected by the government or too much uncertainty leading investors to pull out. However he warned if Hinkley Point is rejected it may lead China General Nuclear to look to press ahead – with Bradwell, not Hinkley, becoming Britain’s first new nuclear power station in a generation.
East Anglian Daily Times 31st July 2016 read more »
Global ratings agency S&P said on Friday that it was leaving French state-controlled utility EDF’s rating unchanged following the company’s decision to go ahead with its $24 billion Hinkley Point nuclear power project in Britain. It said this was because of the British government’s announcement that it would review the project terms and economics, postponing its decision to award the contract until this autumn. “The outcome of the U.K. government’s decision remains unclear and we therefore do not include the project in our base case for EDF,” S&P said in a statement.
Reuters 29th July 2016 read more »
A risk assessment compiled by the Department of the Environment in the wake of the Brexit referendum warns of a “high operational risk” to arrangements Ireland has with the UK on nuclear policy. The briefing document says environmental assessments and mandatory consultation processes “may prove more difficult” to enforce when Britain leaves the European Union (EU). Ireland has bilateral agreements with Britain which entitle the government to information on the UK’s nuclear programme. The UK will no longer be tied down by strict EU laws which underpin these agreements once it officially leaves the union. Documents released following a Freedom of Information request reveal high-ranking civil servants fear information exchanges will be under threat once Britain leaves the EU. Concerns were first raised two years ago in a risk assessment compiled by the Department of the Environment for the Taoiseach’s Office.
Irish Independent 31st July 2016 read more »
LOCAL leaders have welcomed news that Trawsfynydd is being touted as a “standout” candidate for the UK’s first small nuclear reactor. This week, the Welsh Affairs Committee published a report into the future of nuclear power in Wales which highlights the great potential for re-developing nuclear power in North Wales, at Trawsfynydd and Wylfa in particular. Dwyfor and Meirionnydd’s MP Liz Saville Roberts said the installation of a SMR would be of “immense significance to Gwynedd and beyond”. She said: “North Wales needs jobs of this calibre for the sake of the local economy and to address the chronic loss of young people from Welsh-speaking communities.
Cambrian News 28th July 2016 read more »
Matt Ridley: If Hinkley Point C nuclear power station goes ahead, the cost for consumers of subsidising it could be £30 billion, according to the National Audit Office — five times what was originally estimated. The increase comes largely from the fact that fossil fuels are cheaper than even the lowest possibility envisaged by the late and unlamented Department of Energy and Climate Change. The purpose of this subsidy is to ensure that we have very-low-carbon electricity to replace ageing coal and nuclear plants, the better to mitigate global warming. Since Hinkley would emit half a billion fewer tonnes of CO2 during its 35-year life than comparable gas-fired projects, that implies a cost per tonne of carbon dioxide avoided of £60. How does this compare with the cost of the damage that global warming will do in the entire future, per tonne of CO2, a number known as the “social cost of carbon”? The US government uses a figure of $37 per tonne (£28), so we are being asked to pay more than twice as much. Even that probably overstates the cost of carbon. Taking into account more than ten recent studies of climate sensitivity using real-world data, assuming a normal 3 per cent discount rate, and employing two widely used models of climate change, Professor Ross McKitrick of the University of Guelph in Ontario and two colleagues at the Heritage Foundation in Washington DC found that a realistic social cost of carbon was somewhere between $3 (£2) and $30 (£22) per tonne of CO2.
Times 1st August 2016 read more »
EXPERTS from the United Nations have sent state-of-the art detection equipment to Brazil over fears suicidal terror nuts will target the Olympics with a devastating ‘dirty bomb’. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has loaned hi-tech radiation monitors – including personal detectors and portable scanners – for use on the ground throughout the Games.
The Sun 31st July 2016 read more »
The contaminated nuclear wasteland around Chernobyl could be turned into one of the world’s largest solar farms, producing nearly a third of the electricity that the stricken plant generated at its height 30 years ago, according to the Ukrainian government. In a presentation sent to major banks and seen by the Guardian, 6,000 hectares of “idle” land in Chernobyl’s 1,000 square km exclusion zone, which is considered too dangerous for people to live in or farm, could be turned to solar, biogas and heat and power generation. Pressure has been mounting for years to allow industrial development, but no indication is given of where the solar panels would be located. “There has been a change in the perception of the exclusion zone in Ukraine. Thirty years after the Chernobyl tragedy [it] reveals opportunities for development. A special industrial area is to be created in compliance with all rules and regulations of radiation safety within the exclusion zone,” says the presentation.
Guardian 29th July 2016 read more »
Given the complications of building a nuclear power plant in a foreign country, China’s nuclear exports have just gotten started and it is understandable that Chinese companies will face obstacles in participating in such projects, an expert said on Sunday. “More importantly, Chinese nuclear power companies need to seize every opportunity and try their best to participate in the construction of overseas nuclear power plants so as to gain experience, win trust and obtain market share,” Lin Boqiang, director of the Center for Energy Economics Research at Xiamen University, told the Global Times on Sunday. The comment came on the heels of a fresh delay by the British government to the Hinkley Point C project, the country’s first civilian nuclear power plant in more than a decade. Shortly after the board of EDF, the -project’s French developer, approved the project, UK Business and Energy Secretary Greg Clark said in a statement on Thursday that the government will review the project once more, according to the Financial Times.
Global Times 31st July 2016 read more »
Five years ago, meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant in Japan sparked what would become a prolonged slide in prices for uranium nuclear fuel. Today, the world’s worst nuclear disaster in a quarter-century is depressing prices again. Antinuclear sentiment is gaining momentum in Japan with the election three weeks ago of an antinuclear governor in the only Japanese prefecture with an operating nuclear-power plant, and the likelihood that a court injunction will halt the next reactor slated to go online in August. Japan was once the world’s No. 3 nuclear-power generator, behind the U.S. and France. The slump in the uranium market is being exacerbated by weak demand from the U.S. and plentiful uranium supplies in China, an emerging nuclear-power producer. The price of uranium has slumped to $25 a pound, its lowest level since April 2005, according to the Ux Consulting Co., a nuclear-fuel research firmthat publishes weekly market prices. The fuel’s value is down 27% since the start of this year and is a fraction of the $136 a pound it traded for at its 2007 peak. It is the worst-performing mined commodity this year. Other natural resources such as copper, coal and iron ore have gained year to date.
Wall St Journal 31st July 2016 read more »
As the Hinkley Point debacle was unfolding in Europe, Japan’s nuclear industry had two grim moments of its own last week. The more terrifying was the discovery of digital monsters from the Pokémon Go game in the country’s nuclear power stations, raising the prospect of smartphone users irradiating themselves in the hunt for Magikarp and Squirtle. Arguably more significant, though less widely noted, were remarks by one of Japan’s leading businessmen. Teruo Asada is an executive of the Japan Association of Corporate Executives and chairman of Marubeni, one of the country’s biggest trading houses; he is as far as could be from a tree-hugging green. And yet he was scathing about the Japanese government’s infatuation with nuclear power and reluctance to embrace renewable energy. Only two reactors are in operation and of the pre-Fukushima fleet at least a dozen will never be switched on. These include six at Fukushima Dai-ichi and four elsewhere in Fukushima prefecture. Although they were undamaged by the tsunami, it is clear that the region will never tolerate nuclear power stations again. Several more are due for decommissioning on grounds of age, leaving 42 which could go back into operation. They must first clear an obstacle course of certification by the newly rigorous regulator and the scrutiny of the courts in civil suits brought by local anti-nuclear groups. In March, a local court ordered the shutdown of two reactors at the Takahama plant on the grounds that they could be at risk from future earthquakes.
Times 1st August 2016 read more »
US – Plutonium
Twenty years ago, in the Clinton Administration, both of us helped launch a program to build a factory to turn the excess plutonium from dismantled nuclear weapons into fuel for nuclear reactors. At that time, the full life-cycle cost estimate to make this plutonium-uranium mixed oxide (MOX) fuel was expected to be less than $2 billion dollars. Now, however, with official cost estimates ballooning to over $30 billion, it is clear that the project has become too expensive. It is time to stop throwing good money after bad and pursue cheaper alternatives that will serve our national security better.
The Hill 18th July 2016 read more »
Hundreds of thousands of buy-to-let homeowners will have to pay a “green tax” of up to £5,000 to make their properties more energy efficient, the Telegraph has learnt. Landlords will have to pay upfront for measures such as insulation, cavity wall filling and new boilers from 2018. Until recently they could apply for loans from the Green Deal scheme for improvements, which are then repaid by tenants who benefit from lower bills. But the new Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy is proposing owners provide the money. The move will affect 330,000 buy-to-let landlords who own homes that are less energy efficient, often from the Victorian and Edwardian eras. Richard Jones, policy adviser at the Residential Landlords Association, said: “Unless they make funding available, landlords will be forced to pass these costs on to tenants in the form of higher rents. It could also make being a buy-to-let landlord prohibitive. They could struggle to find such a large amount of money upfront. “Landlords have been harshly treated. This is an extra stealth tax on top of all the other measures that threaten the finances of the sector.” From April 2018, owners must raise the energy efficiency of homes to at least Band E. More than 330,000 homes in bands F and G, the worst-insulated, need major work.
Telegraph 30th July 2016 read more »