Lady Judge: Five years ago, a tsunami caused by a huge earthquake hit Japan and overwhelmed the nuclear plant at Fukushima. I recently revisited the site of the accident as deputy chairwoman of the Tokyo Electric Power Company’s nuclear reform monitoring committee. Five years on, it is clear that Fukushima is still a traumatic memory for the Japanese people. However, after thorough investigation and much soul-searching, Japan is still committed to nuclear energy, as it is the most reliable form of base load, low-carbon energy that exists. The Japanese are also keen to help us in the UK to replace our ageing fleet of nuclear plants. You might be surprised by this; media coverage of nuclear energy would suggest that there is only one show in town, Hinkley Point C, a collaboration between the French and the Chinese. Hinkley Point is a huge project that promises to provide power for 50 million homes. It should not be considered in isolation, however; it is just the beginning of our nuclear renaissance in the UK. The plan to focus on building large reactors was originally conceived before Fukushima, while I was chairwoman of the UK Atomic Energy Authority, and when fossil fuel prices were expected to keep going up. Large nuclear plants, however, are expensive and take a long time to build. In the interim, one answer is small modular nuclear reactors. Being small is useful because they can be built in one place and transported to another, such as the site of one of the coal plants that we are in the process of shutting down, or even an industrial park. Modular, in this context, means that more plants can be added easily on an existing site. The flexibility and lower cost of small reactors is a way of getting greater private sector involvement, without the more complex financing arrangements needed for a larger plant.
Times 11th April 2016 read more »
Letter: Jo Smoldon’s letter in the Western Daily Press (April 4) concerning Hinkley Point interests me very much. Having watched the Japanese programmes on television of their terrible problems following the tsunami have made me wonder if anyone has questioned the possibility of flooding at Hinkley Point.
Western Daily Press 9th April 2016 read more »
In a March 2016 report, the Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs laid out three potential types of “nuclear or radiological terrorism.” One possibility—the hardest to achieve, but by far the most devastating if it were to occur—is that terrorists will acquire or build and then detonate a nuclear bomb in a major city. A second possibility is that they will set off a “dirty bomb,” a weapon made of radioactive material attached to conventional explosives, sometimes referred to as a radiological dispersal device or RDD. Executing this scenario would be so easy that many experts are surprised it hasn’t happened already. A third possibility, which the Belfer Center estimates would fall somewhere between the other two in terms of severity and likelihood, is that terrorists will sabotage a nuclear facility, releasing radioactive material over a wide area.
Bulletin of Atomic Scientists 7th April 2016 read more »
National Grid has said it may have to curtail wind generation over the summer to balance the system, with electricity demand forecast to fall by nearly 2 per cent to its lowest levels on record. In its summer outlook report, Grid forecasted a peak demand of 35.7GW – a drop of nearly 2 per cent compared with 37.5GW last year. Minimum summer demand is forecast to be 18.1GW – a slight decrease from the 2015 demand of 18.4GW, while daytime minimum demand is expected to be 23.5GW, lower than the 2015 minimum of 25.8GW. The company said that while underlying demand is expected to remain broadly similar to last summer, demand on the transmission network will be lower because of the proliferation of embedded generation, particularly domestic solar PV.
Utility Week 9th April 2016 read more »
Businesses will be paid to use more electricity for the first time next month, as National Grid launches a scheme designed to boost the flexibility of the nation’s power system. Under the terms of a trial contract, dubbed Demand Turn Up, companies will be offered cash payments to absorb excess electricity generation, mainly from wind or solar power, at times of low demand. For example, if wind farms are producing a surplus of electricity at 4am on a windy night, companies that turn up their power usage at short notice will be paid a one-off fee per megawatt hour of electricity they use. The trial, which will start on May 1 and will run until the end of August, was oversubscribed, with 21 companies expressing interest, according to National Grid. Contracts will be awarded this month. Among those keen to take advantage are water companies, which may opt to switch on their hydraulic sewage pumps at odd times of the day or night. Hanson UK, the concrete and asphalt manufacturer, is also interested. Pumps used to remove water from its quarries will switch on when required.
Times 11th April 2016 read more »
Energy Policy – Scotland
Allan Wilson: Transmission charges are critical to selling electricity generated in Scotland into the UK market. Until now, they have worked strongly in Scotland’s favour by not being fully reflective of actual costs – the exact opposite of the claims made by the current Scottish Government. I have never believed that it was transmission charges that closed Longannet prematurely, as opposed to a commercial decision by its owners. Certainly, the existing system of transmission charges has done absolutely nothing to inhibit the growth of renewable energy in Scotland – quite the reverse. But now this is the classic case of the boy who cried wolf. Whatever problem currently exists, real or imagined, it is as nothing to a change in the system which is proposed – and which, astonishingly in my view, has gone unnoticed by Scottish Ministers who last month welcomed a report by the Competition and Ma rkets Authority, presumably because they did not understand it. One of many unsung achievements of the early Labour/LibDem Governments at Holyrood was to convince the then Labour Government in Westminster to share the costs of transmission losses across the UK network thereby avoiding increasing charges to Scotland’s generators beyond the level at which they would able to compete with other generators closer to the major consumer markets elsewhere in the UK.
Herald 11th April 2016 read more »
At about 3pm on the last Monday in April 1986, a mass of black clouds unleashed a sudden downpour on the sleepy western Russian town of Novozybkov, sending participants in a rehearsal for that year’s May Day parade running for cover. The wind was strong, and the rain an unusually torrential, 40-minute downpour, but Sergei Sizov, a professor at the local teacher-training college, thought nothing of it until delivering a lesson the next day on one of the more outlandish responsibilities of educators in the Soviet Union – detecting and responding to nuclear and chemical attack. “The class was called ‘nuclear and chemical reconnaissance’, and it basically involved showing [students] how to use a military grade Geiger counter,” he said. “It was just something everyone was meant to know, like stripping a Kalashnikov.” But instead of registering the expected trace of background radiation, the dial surged to levels Sizov had only seen in text books about nuclear attack. Alarmed and confused, he immediately called the local civil protection headquarters.
Stuff.co.nz 11th April 2016 read more »
17 years since the facility opened, the nation’s nuclear landscape has changed. WIPP remains the world’s only underground geological repository for nuclear waste, and a confluence of budget constraints, geopolitical issues, the threat of terrorists obtaining nuclear materials and other concerns have led many to consider whether WIPP’s mission should be expanded to include not only higher levels of waste from the U.S. but also waste from around the world. Plans are already in motion to accept plutonium from Japan. The U.S. now has 61.5 metric tons of plutonium that require a path to disposal — a path that increasingly points to WIPP, despite vulnerabilities exposed by an underground truck fire at the plant in 2014 and an unrelated radiation leak that followed days later, shutting down the plant for the past two years. Officials say it might reopen by the year’s end.
Sante Fe New Mexican 10th April 2016 read more »
Renewable energy and new technologies that are making low-carbon power more reliable are growing rapidly in the U.S. Renewables are so cheap in some parts of the country that they’re undercutting the price of older sources of electricity such as nuclear power. The impact has been significant on the nuclear industry, and a growing number of unprofitable reactors are shutting down. When the first nuclear power plants went online 60 years ago, nuclear energy seemed like the next big thing. In many ways, it lived up to that promise. It turned out to be remarkably safe and reliable and clean. It’s carbon-free and is the source of about 20 percent of the country’s electricity. But right from the start, people in the nuclear industry struggled with a big problem: cost. Making nuclear power cheap was the Holy Grail. It never panned out.
NPR 7th April 2016 read more »
Over the Easter weekend, power demand in Germany fell from a normal workday peak of around 60 GW down to around 45 GW during the day – but closer to 30 GW at night. With wind power production exceeding 20 gigawatts and solar also kicking in at above 10 gigawatts on Easter Sunday, conventional power generation was pushed dangerously low for a full 15 hours last Sunday.
Renew Economy 11th April 2016 read more »
The discovery by a Cambridge university professor of a network of listening cables hidden beneath his floorboards has lifted the lid on one of the most remarkable secret chapters in the Second World War. Marcial Echenique, former head of the university’s department of architecture, was renovating Farm Hall, Godmanchester, when he found a network of fine wires in concealed channels. He had no idea that the Georgian mansion had been used to house the Nazis’ nuclear scientists rounded up in a secret operation at the end of the conflict. They included three Nobel prize winners, and every word they uttered during six months in captivity was recorded on microphones hidden by the security services. A new book has revealed details of Operation Big, the secret mission to capture Hitler’s “Uranium Club” and take them to Cambridgeshire, which was led by a US army colonel, Boris T Pash.
Times 11th April 2016 read more »
Renewables – AD
One of the UK’s largest cheese creameries, First Milk, has announced the completion of the first on-site Anaerobic Digestion (AD) plant in the European dairy industry which will feed bio-methane to the national gas grid.
Edie 8th April 2016 read more »
A new survey conducted for Biomethane Day 2016, has shown that 84% of people in the UK would like to switch to using green gas in their homes. Biomethane is a renewable gas, often called ‘green gas’, which can be made from energy crops, food waste, sewage sludges and or residues from food manufacture.
Scottish Energy News 11th April 2016 read more »
UK households could start heating their homes and cooking using ‘green’ hydrogen gas within a decade, under a radical new plan to tackle climate change by phasing out the use of natural gas. The entire gas network for the city of Leeds, including all domestic gas boilers and cookers, would be converted to run on clean-burning hydrogen under the proposed world-first project. The plans to make Leeds a “hydrogen city” would cost an estimated £2 billion, according to Northern Gas Networks (NGN), which is responsible for distributing gas across northern England and has received funding from energy regulator Ofgem to develop the idea. It hopes Leeds could be converted by 2025-30 and that the model could then be replicated in other major cities across the UK. More than 80 per cent of UK homes currently use natural gas for their heating, with many using it for cooking too. This presents a major obstacle to Britain hitting its climate change targets, because natural gas consists primarily of methane, which when burnt produces carbon dioxide – a greenhouse gas that causes global warming. Experts say alternative sources of home heating will need to be found if Britain is to comply with its Climate Change Act, which requires an 80 per cent cut in emissions on 1990 levels by 2050. NGN says one solution may be to use pure hydrogen, which is more environmentally-friendly than natural gas because it produces only water and heat when burnt.
Telegraph 9th April 2016 read more »
Renewables – offshore wind
Production is being increased at an Isle of Wight factory building the world’s largest wind turbines, spanning wider than the London Eye and standing taller than the Gherkin skyscraper in the City on London. Yet these giants of the seabed, destined initially for the shallow waters off north Wales, Merseyside and Cumbria, will begin to arrive only after an industrial back story that mirrors the vacillations of wind turbine electricity generation. “Our mission is to bring affordable offshore wind power and to bring down the cost of providing offshore wind power, but to be successful we need a stable pipeline of work,” Jens Tommerup, chief executive of MHI Vestas, said. The company employs more than 200 people on the Isle of Wight, who are making 80-metre composite blades. Burbo Bank and Walney will be built on arrangements in which British consumers are paying £145/MWh, about three times the present cost of electricity under a scheme designed to incentivise the building of offshore arrays. Future schemes, however, will be paid less, going down first to £105/MWh and then to £85/MWh.
Times 11th April 2016 read more »
Political parties should commit to ridding Scotland of the ‘scourge’ of cold homes by 2025, said campaigners today. The call by the Existing Homes Alliance Scotland, whose members include WWF Scotland, Changeworks, and the National Insulation Association, follows the publication of newly compiled data which revealed that there are up to 1.5million cold homes in the country – with tens of thousands in every single parliamentary constituency. Commenting on the new figures, Alan Ferguson, Chair of the Existing Homes Alliance said: “These figures show that if the next Scottish Government set an objective to bring all homes in Scotland to at least a ‘C’ energy performance standard by 2025, they could end the scourge of cold homes currently affecting thousands of households in every single parliamentary constituency across Scotland.
Existing Homes Alliance 11th April 2016 read more »
BBC 11th April 2016 read more »
The National 11th April 2016 read more »