Dave Elliott: An Open Letter to Environmentalists has been published by two Australian academics and backed by over 70 conservation biologists calling for support for nuclear power as a way of tackling climate change. Whereas nuclear faces strong opposition in many parts of the world, and its global contribution has fallen to 11% of global electricity (half of what renewables are now supplying globally), the Open Letter calls for a rethink. It claims that nuclear power can have less social and environmental impacts than renewable sources and so should not be opposed by environmentalists. The Open Letter points to a paper backing its claims, ‘Key role for nuclear energy in global biodiversity conservation’ in the journal Conservation Biology. Put very simply, it argues that nuclear has lower land-use per unit of energy produced than renewables and so will leave more space for biodiversity. This assessment, like some of the other analysis in the paper, is debatable. It is true that some renewables are land-hungry, biomass especially, but that is not the case for offshore wind, wave and tidal stream or roof-top solar. And although onshore wind farm sites may be relatively large, the land around the wind turbines can be farmed or left wild. It has also been claimed that solar farm arrays on land can actually increase local biodiversity – protecting the area from other uses. By contrast with nuclear, it is not just the area of the plants and their security zones that has to be considered, but also the impact of uranium mining and fuel production and waste disposal activities. These activities and the operation of nuclear plants also have impacts beyond just land-use. The release of radioactive materials has a significant potential for long term damage to cellular and possibly genetic material and to the health of ecosystems.
Scientists for Global Responsibility 9th Jan 2015 read more »
The National Grid is to build new pylons across the North Wales countryside in the face of stiff opposition from critics fighting for undersea cabling. But the group has backed away from its original proposals to have pylons straddling Anglesey’s Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and the iconic Menai Strait. Instead it will use undersea cabling at the Menai Strait and in the Anglesey AONB. The pylons, which opponents say will be visible from the Snowdonia National Park, will connect power generated by wind farms and the new Wylfa nuclear power station to the national grid. An existing line of overhead pylons runs from Wylfa to its substation in Pentir, Gwynedd.
Wales Online 9th Jan 2015 read more »
Controversial overhead power lines across Anglesey are the preferred option for the planned £8bn Wylfa Newydd nuclear station. But National Grid (NG) has ruled out pylons for an area of outstanding natural beauty with cables set to run underground and under the Menai Strait.
BBC 9th Jan 2015 read more »
New Reactor Types
THE US Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory has formed partnerships with three nuclear majors to develop advanced nuclear reactor designs. Argonne hopes that the partnerships, with Areva, GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy and Westinghouse will help to address the challenges in the design, construction and operation of a new generation of reactors. The projects, based on needs identified by nuclear experts, will each receive a total of US$13m in cost-share funding. The Areva-led project will also include TerraPower Company and Texas A&M University. The four partners will carry out thermal hydraulic modelling and simulations, as well as an experimental investigation into liquid metal-cooled fast reactor fuel assemblies. GE Hitachi and Argonne will update the safety assessment of GE Hitachi’s PRISM sodium-cooled fast reactor. Meanwhile Argonne, Westinghouse and the University of Pittsburgh will work to develop thermo-acoustic sensors for sodium-cooled fast reactors.
Chemical Engineer 9th Jan 2015 read more »
Oil prices keep sliding, sending economic shockwaves around the world. Analysts are scrambling to try and understand what it means for the world’s future energy mix and efforts to cut emissions. But the relationship between oil prices and energy investments is complex. Much depends on how low the price goes as, beyond a certain point, lots of projects are no longer economically viable. We take a look at what may happen to the oil price, what it means for the industry, and how it could affect the world’s efforts to move towards a zero-carbon energy system. Renewable power sources are unlikely to be greatly affected by falling oil and gas prices in the long term. In contrast, the data suggests that the majority of the world’s oil projects, particularly costly new exploration in the Arctic, are most threatened by oil priced at $50 a barrel.
Carbon Brief 9th Jan 2015 read more »
Gas prices have fallen so low in recent months that fracking in the UK may not be economically viable, according to Energydesk analysis using extraction cost estimates from EY, Bloomberg and Oxford University. Having crashed alongside oil in recent months, UK natural gas is currently priced at around 46 pence per therm — which may be less than it would cost to extract shale gas. The low price has also led to concerns about investment in renewable energy because gas power will be cheaper by comparison.
Energydesk 8th Jan 2015 read more »
Essex manufacturers looking to get involved in the nuclear sector for the first time will be given an insight into the £60bn opportunity later this month. Fit For Nuclear (F4N) is hosting a special event on January 21st to provide firms with the latest information and guidance on what they need to do to prepare themselves for supplying into this expanding market. Held at the Hilton Stansted, the free workshop will outline nuclear new build and decommissioning projects set to come online in the UK now and over the next five years.
BDaily 9th Jan 2015 read more »
French power exports rose sharply over the course of this week after EDF ramped up its nuclear power production to near record levels and power demand eased off from Tuesday’s highs, data from grid operator RTE showed Friday. EDF’s fleet of 58 reactors is France’s primary source of electricity and nuclear production hit a high of 61.2 GW at 10:15 am (0915 GMT) on Thursday, equaling the previous winter’s high, according to data from RTE. French net power exports sales were 10.0 GW for delivery 9 am Friday, some 7.2 GW higher than sales for the same time on Monday, January 5, RTE data showed. Nuclear power output rose by 2.0 GW over the same period to 60.7 GW, while French power demand was 73.1 GW at 9 am Friday, down from 81.2 GW on Tuesday when colder weather drove up heating demand.
Platts 9th Jan 2015 read more »
Last May, the Illinois legislature responded to months of mounting hysteria from Exelon that several of the utility’s reactors in the state were losing money and might be forced to close by passing HR 1146, which directed four state agencies to examine Exelon’s claims with a clear intent to support the utility. In October, the Nuclear Energy Institute piled on, releasing a study meant to bolster Exelon’s position and influence the state agencies. Exelon should have heeded the old adage: be careful what you ask for. The agencies’ report was released on Wednesday. Despite the directive from HR 1146 that could have been read to require the agencies to support Exelon (for example, HR 1146 told the agencies to recommend “market-based solutions to ensure that premature closures do not occur.”), and despite the fact that the agencies did not exactly welcome public input, Exelon did not get what it wanted. In fact, the agencies concluded that Illinois would get by just fine if all of Exelon’s uneconomic reactors were to close, thank you. Even worse for Exelon, the report said that shutting down the reactors “could even bolster clean energy generation and jobs,” as Midwest Energy News put it.
Green World 9th Jan 2015 read more »
US – radwaste
Two reports about inadequate safety conditions at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant criticized the facilities contractor for insufficient information in the plans it created to control the decisions that are made during an emergency. Both reports were conducted by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Enterprise Assessments starting in June and focused on WIPP’s recovery plan for operating diesel equipment with restricted airflows, and on the deficiencies found in the facility’s safety maintenance assessments.
Current Argus 7th Jan 2015 read more »
Syria’s President Bashar Assad wants to have a nuclear bomb and has begun work on an underground plant in order to achieve his goal, German news magazine Der Spiegel Online reported on Friday. Intelligence sources provided exclusive documents, satellite photographs and intercepted conversations to Der Spiegel that indicate that the plant is located near the city of Homs and is a built deep underground in an inaccessible mountain region only two kilometers from the Lebanese border.
Jerusalem Post 10th Jan 2015 read more »
Global investment in clean energy jumped 16% in 2014, boosted by fast-growing solar power in the US and China. Solar, whose costs have plummeted in recent years, attracted over half the total funding for the first time. The green energy market has been gloomy in recent years and the rise in investment is the first since 2011. But despite strong growth in most regions, only a series of large offshore wind farms stopped Europe going into reverse, while the Australian government’s antipathy to renewables saw investment there tumble by 35%. The new figures, from Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF), show $310bn (£205bn) was ploughed into green energy last year, just short of the record $317bn in 2011. However, as green energy gets ever cheaper, the money invested in 2014 bought almost double the clean electricity capacity than in 2011. “It’s encouraging to see the smart money in the world’s economic powerhouses is betting on clean energy,” said Doug Parr, Greenpeace UK’s chief scientist. “The only disappointment is that, save for offshore wind, the UK and the EU are now lagging behind. For all the whinging about UK ‘going it alone’ on clean energy, it is increasingly clear that the bigger economic risk is being left behind as the low-carbon jobs go where political leaders show genuine commitment to a clean energy future.”
Guardian 9th Jan 2015 read more »
Guardian 9th Jan 2015 read more »
Renewables – tidal
Plans to transform a section of seabed off the Isle of Wight into a tidal energy farm have been submitted. The Perpetuus Tidal Energy Centre (PTEC) facility would allow developers to build underwater turbines off St Catherine’s Point. PTEC claim it would be the first of its kind in the world and generate enough electricity to power 15,000 homes. Fishermen and businesses in Ventnor have signalled their opposition, claiming it will damage shellfish beds.
BBC 8th Jan 2015 read more »
This week’s Micro Power News: Ealing increasing solar council houses to 600; campaign for cities to go 100% renewable.
Microgen Scotland 9th Jan 2015 read more »
Policy Exchange has today called on the next government to fundamentally revamp the UK’s domestic energy efficiency policies in a bid to move 2.3 million households out of fuel poverty. The influential centre-right think tank has also become the latest organisation to urge ministers to make energy efficiency a National Infrastructure Priority, arguing that some of the £100bn infrastructure budget for the next five years should be earmarked for energy efficiency schemes.
Business Green 9th Jan 2015 read more »
Policy Exchange’s Richard Howard argues the government’s fuel poverty target can only be achieved if existing schemes are reprioritised towards improving the energy efficiency of fuel poor homes.We recognise that it would be difficult to increase the overall budget for fuel poverty interventions in the current economic and budgetary climate. But our analysis shows that it is possible to bridge the funding gap simply by reprioritising existing spending. Under the Energy Company obligation, some £320m of funding is available to all households (under the Carbon Emissions Reduction Obligation). We think that this should be reallocated to fuel poor households. Secondly, government should reprioritise fuel poverty schemes towards investment in energy efficiency. At present the vast majority of fuel poverty spending goes on income and price support schemes such as the Winter Fuel Payment, Cold Weather Payment, and Warm Homes Discount; which provide cash payments or bill rebates to households. Thirdly, the government needs to rethink energy efficiency as a national infrastructure priority. At present, it barely gets a mention in the National Infrastructure Plan. But we think it has many of the characteristics of a major infrastructure programme, such as significant macro-economic, social and environmental benefits. Government should recognise energy efficiency as a ‘Top 40’ infrastructure priority, and allocate some of its £100bn infrastructure budget to it over the course of the next parliament.
Business Green 9th Jan 2015 read more »