Letter: Elizabeth Marshall (Past director, British Institute of Energy Economics) I WAS surprised to read Professor Jack Ponton and John Williams’ opinion (Letters, 11 June) of the proposed new nuclear power Âstation at Hinkley Point. Many energy economists find the costs of this project indefensible. Electricity prices were agreed for Hinkley Point in 2013 at £92.50 per megawatt hour while Ineos, the owners of the Grangemouth refinery, negotiated an industrial fuel supply price of £37.94 per megawatt from the French nuclear industry. This extraordinary price for Hinkley Point was, additionally, to be fixed over 35 years. This proposal, unsurprisingly, produced an exceptional return on investment to the French partnership. Independent assessors have calculated this would add an additional £200 each year to the electricity bill of every consumer in the UK. Apart from the huge costs, there are serious safety and technical problems with Areva’s European Pressurised Reactor design planned for Hinkley Point. Of the six reactors constructed in Finland, China and France, none are operational. The latest reports from the French Institute for Radiological Protection and Nuclear Safety to France’s nuclear safety regulator (ASN) for the new French reactor near Cherbourg identify major failings in safety relief valves. There is also the risk of the reactor pressure vessel cracking because of the wrong steel mix being used in this ¬reactor.
Scotsman 13th June 2015 read more »
RWM has issued a draft of the national geological screening (NGS) guidance for discussion with Independent Review Panel in June.
NDA 12th June 2015 read more »
Rio Tinto may have to take a $300 million charge after Energy Resources of Australia, a subsidiary of the Anglo-Australian mining group in which it owns a 68.4 per cent stake, said it will not proceed with a uranium project at the Ranger mine, in the Northern Territory, because of weak prices. ERA was conducting a feasibility study into building an underground mine after uranium from the open cast mine was exhausted. Uranium prices have fallen since the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan in 2011 and are trading nearly 40 per cent lower at about $38 per lb.
Times 13th June 2015 read more »
Last week, the French government announced plans to inject cash into Areva, the firm that constructs nuclear plants in the country. It is a desperate attempt to ward off the inevitable: bankruptcy. The French nuclear power sector has always been a top priority for government officials ever since the practically forgotten (and failed) Messmer Plan of the early 1970s. With few orders for nuclear reactors on the books and tremendous cost overruns for the EPR plant under construction in Flamanville, Areva now faces a financially dismal future. As a result, the French government is officially (press release in French) looking into “reorganizing the French nuclear industry” with a strategic partnership between Areva and EDF, the former state power monopolist. The deal would not make the order books look better by ramping up international demand. Instead, it would absorb losses by spreading them across the merged new company – and eventually transferring them (at least in part) into tax budgets. The deal would at least settle a dispute over whether EDF or Areva should cover cost overruns for the ERP reactor under construction in Flamanville.
Renew Economy 12th June 2015 read more »
Japan – Fukushima
Four years after an earthquake and tsunami destroyed Japan’s Fukushima nuclear power plant, the road ahead remains riddled with unknowns. The government approved a revised 30-to-40-year roadmap Friday that delays by three years the start of a key initial step — the removal of still-radioactive fuel rods in the three reactors that had meltdowns following the March 2011 disaster in northeast Japan. Experts have yet to pinpoint the exact location of the melted fuel inside the three reactors and study it, and still need to develop robots capable of working safely in such highly radioactive conditions. And then there’s the question of what to do with the waste.
AP 12th June 2015 read more »
In “Fukushima: The Story of a Nuclear Disaster,” a team of scientists and a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist recount what happens when a catastrophe strikes that no one imagines. No one with the clout to prevent it, that is. It’s a tale of entwined worlds that must cooperate intelligently in order to protect the public. The tensions and cross-purposes among them, however, lead to indecision, inaction and increased calamity. In crisis, these worlds—the nuclear energy industry, two powerful governments, and international regulatory commissions—are about as effective as a machine lubed with super glue.
Truthdig 12th June 2015 read more »
Japan – reactor restarts
Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) has begun redoing parts of pre-service inspections it had already completed at the Sendai-1 nuclear power plant after the discovery of “numerous incomplete documents and erroneous written entries”, the Japan Atomic Industrial Forum (Jaif) said today. Pre-service inspections are the final stage before a nuclear power plant can be restarted. Kyushu Electric Power Company, the owner and operator of the 846-megawatt pressurised water reactor unit in Kagoshima prefecture, southern Japan, has now postponed the scheduled restart of the unit from early July to mid-August 2015. Jaif warned today that because of the number of errors that need to be corrected, a restart this summer is unlikely.
Nucnet 10th June 2015 read more »
Of the many unnerving aspects of the future of the Middle East, a nuclear arms race would top the list. And to feed that unease, Saudi Arabia has been periodically dropping hints that, should Iran’s nuclear ambitions go unchecked, it might just have to get nuclear weapons itself. This week, the Saudi ambassador to London made yet another explicit threat, warning that “all options will be on the table.” Oh, please! Saudi Arabia isn’t going to build a nuclear weapon. Saudi Arabia can’t build a nuclear weapon. Saudi Arabia hasn’t even built a car.
Washington Post 11th June 2015 read more »
Russia’s Deputy Ministry of Economic Development and state nuclear corporation Rosatom have agreed to postponing the commissioning of several large-scale nuclear builds in the country, Russian news agencies reported last week. Deputy Russian Economic Development Minister Nikolai Podguzov approved a plan to put the commissioning of reactor No 1 at the Leningrad Nuclear Power Plant Phase II, reactor No 2 at the Novovornezh NPP Phase II and the No 1 reactor at the Smolensk NPP Phase II, the oil.ru news portal, citing financial newspapers reported on May 27. Podguzov cited an energy surplus as reason for what he called the “rather significant” delay in starting the new power units. While Romanov cited that the Smolensk delay was in keeping with the newly developed federal “Nuclear Power Plant Construction Roadmap,” and Podguzov said the country had enough power, Bellona’s Alexander Nikitin has suggested Rosatom is simply spending too much money on other things to complete much else.
Bellona 8th June 2015 read more »
CLAIMS have been made that security at Faslane will be weakened if there are further cuts to the service that provides guards for the nuclear submarine base. Eamon Keating, Chairman of the Defence Police Federation, made the claim just weeks after William McNeilly, a Royal Navy submariner, raised concerns over Trident safety, saying the nuclear missile programme was a “disaster waiting to happen”. UK ministers are preparing to make further savings within the Ministry of Defence police force in its strategic defence and security review(SDSR). Since 2010, the force has lost more than a third of its officers, who now number 2600.
Herald 11th June 2015 read more »
A key factor in our belief that a nuclear-free, carbon-free energy system is not only inevitable but will be here sooner than nearly everyone currently believes, is not just the factual evidence of its mind-boggling, rocketing growth. Renewables are growing from a very small percentage of generating capacity–it would take many years of expansion at even their present staggering rate for them to play a major role in providing the world’s electricity. But that well-documented growth is the necessary starting point. The more compelling rationale for our belief is, as we’ve reported in these pages numerous times, the world’s major investment banks have bought into the clean energy future–both rhetorically and with their resources–and have largely abandoned new investment in nuclear power and fossil fuels. This week, UBS released a report predicting that within a decade, 10% of the world’s electricity will be solar-powered and, more importantly, that the growth rate of solar will only continue to accelerate. Indeed, UBS says solar power will be the “default” energy technology–within years. “We believe solar will eventually replace nuclear and coal, and [be] establish[ed] as the default technology of the future to generate and supply electricity,” wrote the analysts.
Green World 12th June 2015 read more »
The Scottish Government is being proactive in publishing plans for decarbonising heat in pursuit of a target of substantial reductions from this sector by 2030. There is much talk of district heating systems. If the district heating systems are to be supplied by renewable energy then perhaps the most practical way of doing this is through the heat networks being supplied by industrial scale heat pumps. Renewable energy production from wind, solar, tidal etc needs to be expanded beyond the current size of the Government’s 100 per cent electricity from renewables target to supply the decarbonised heat. It will be delivered by (probably water sourced) heat pumps which are an efficient way of using the renewable electricity. The Scottish Government has already given £20 million in grants towards installing a district heating system supplied by a heat pump in Coal, Fort William. The Aberdeen Heat and Power Company has calculated that, using the renewable heat incentive (RHI) heat pumps are an even more economical means of supplying heat compared to gas engines. In the future they will certainly be lower carbon.
Dave Toke’s Blog 12th June 2015 read more »
Renewables – Onshore Wind
Despite all the furore about alleged large subsidies being earned by onshore wind through the Renewables Obligation, the facts speak otherwise. We have heard how, under the new Electricity Market Reform ‘contracts for differences’, onshore wind contracts were won in the February auction organised by the Government for a £80 per MWh for just a 15 year contract. Of course this is much less than Hinkley C is being offered for a 35 year contract. What is less known is that even under the Renewables Obligation onshore wind is not being paid more than around that figure now (£80 per MWh). You can calculate this by inspecting the results of the auctions for renewable obligation certificates (ROCs). These come out at around £42 per MWh recently, and onshore wind receives 90 per cent of this figure, say £38 per MWh. Add to this the wholesale electricity price, which is currently running a around £42 per MWh. Add the two things together, and, bingo, you get £80 per MWh. Compare this to the price being offered to Hinkley C, which in 2012 prices is £92.50 per MWh (for 35 years underwritten by a £10 billion loan) which in current prices is £94 per MWh.
Dave Toke’s Blog 11th June 2015 read more »
Dave Toke: While the G7 leaders have been pledging to stop using fossil fuels by 2100, we’re still waiting to hear the details of the Conservative government’s plans for renewable energy. The party’s manifesto commitment to “end any new public subsidy” for onshore wind farms does not bode well, however. And virtually the first smoke signal issued by Amber Rudd, the new UK energy secretary, was that there could be an early end to the onshore wind subsidies paid to wind farms that have been built in previous years. This pleased many Conservative MPs and Scottish Conservatives, who were even more viscerally opposed to onshore windfarms in their election manifesto than their counterparts in other parts of the UK. Industry, especially the electricity industry, does not want subsidies scrapped for existing or future onshore wind farms. Neither do NGOs involved in tackling climate change. Onshore wind is clearly the cheapest low-carbon form of electricity generation. With existing wind-farm owners threatening to sue and Scottish energy minister Fergus Ewing insisting that the Scottish government be consulted as a big contributor to UK wind overall, the latest reports are that the UK government has postponed an imminent announcement to consult first. In order to finesse away Tory opposition to future onshore wind farms in the UK, some authority over renewables financing could to be given back to the Scottish government – it has such power under the old renewables-obligation scheme, but not under contracts for difference. A compromise could emerge whereby the Scottish government took decisions over how to spend a part of the low-carbon incentives, and developers of renewables projects in Scotland could have a choice whether to fund projects out of that pot of money or the (bigger) Westminster fund.
The Conversation 12th June 2015 read more »
This week’s Micro Power News.
Microgen Scotland 12th June 2015 read more »
On Monday, planning officers in Lancashire could recommend that county councillors approve Cuadrilla’s applications to drill and frack up to eight exploratory wells beside Mr Knight’s home on Preston New Road and at another site a few miles north at Roseacre Wood. The officers previously recommended rejection on the grounds that drilling would be too noisy and there would be a “severe” increase in lorry traffic near Roseacre Wood. Cuadrilla believes it has overcome these objections with new plans to spend an extra £1.8million on noise insulation for the drilling rig and rerouting up to 25 lorries a day through MoD land to avoid a village. Mr Knight, 71, who was diagnosed with terminal cancer three years ago, believes few of his customers will accept Cuadrilla’s assurances that it will muffle the noise from up to 14 months of 24-hour drilling in three phases.
Times 13th June 2015 read more »
Britain’s leading shale gas explorer Cuadrilla has cited rural Pennsylvania in the US, home to America’s “fracking” revolution, as a model for Lancashire where it hopes within days to win the go-ahead for a contentious drilling campaign. Ahead of a crucial planning decision on Monday that could put shale on course for development in the UK – or set it back months or years – Francis Egan, chief executive of Cuadrilla, said he understood the worries of anti-fracking campaigners. But he attacked the “scare stories” and “urban myths” surrounding earth tremors and pollution.
FT 12th June 2015 read more »
Telegraph 12th June 2015 read more »
The Government is attempting to fast-track fracking by doing away with the need for the public to be consulted before test drilling goes ahead. The changes, which have been quietly put out to public consultation, mean the advice of local residents would no longer be sought in the early stages of most new oil and gas developments. The proposals have been strongly criticised by campaign groups, who say the Government is increasing the risk of pollution by relaxing the environmental scrutiny given in the early stages of hydraulic fracturing – where pressurised chemicals are used to break up rocks to release oil or gas. The changes will sidestep the need for public consul tation in England by changing the way permits are allocated for the exploration phase of a site’s development – during which tests are carried out on the site using conventional drilling techniques to determine how much oil or gas is present.
Independent 11th June 2015 read more »
Talks on phasing out a form of coal subsidies have ended in stalemate as Japan, the biggest user of the aid, led calls for more time in defiance of this week’s G7 pledge on fossil fuel subsidies, sources said. The Paris-based Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development has been trying for a year to get an agreement from its 34 member nations on phasing out export credits for coal, the most polluting of the fossil fuels.
Guardian 12th June 2015 read more »