Safety limits on the storage of some of the world’s most dangerous nuclear wastes at Sellafield in Cumbria have been relaxed after an accident knocked out a treatment plant. The government’s safety watchdog, the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR), has permitted the private company that runs Sellafield to breach legal restrictions on the amount of hot, high-level radioactive waste that can be kept in tanks. The limits are likely to be exceeded by up to 350 tonnes between April 2014 and July 2016. Critics accused ONR of breaking their promises and putting Sellafield’s profits before safety. But ONR insisted there was “m inimal hazard increase”, while Sellafield said it put safety first. The waste storage limits, imposed in 2001, were meant to reduce stocks to below 5,500 tonnes of uranium equivalent by July 2015. The aim was to minimise the risk of a disaster spreading a plume of potentially lethal radioactive contamination over the UK and Ireland – officially regarded as Sellafield’s “worst credible accident”. The liquid waste comes from Britain’s nuclear power stations and generates significant amounts of heat. It has to be constantly cooled and stirred to prevent it from overheating. Sellafield asked for permission to breach the storage limits to help cope with a backlog caused by an accident in November 2013. A plant meant to solidify the waste to make it safer lost power, suffered “gross contamination” and had to be closed for 11 months. The alternative to exceeding the storage limits was to temporarily close a nuclear fuel reprocessing plant at Sellafield that sepa rates out the waste. But this would mean operating the plant for two or three years beyond 2018, when it is due to shut for good, placing extra strain on ageing downstream facilities, ONR said.
Guardian 14th May 2015 read more »
CORE 14th May 2015 read more »
Sellafield Ltd has been criticised for a decision to award a £50m contract to a non-local firm. Cambridgeshire-based Metalcraft has won the contract to provide the site with storage containers for nuclear waste, despite two west Cumbrian firms bidding for the contract. Sellafield Ltd said the firm was chosen because it “delivers a competitive solution which offers value to the taxpayer and supports UK business, small to medium enterprises, and businesses in deprived areas”. However, Cumbria county councillor Tim Knowles, found the decision “almost unbelievable”, adding: “Many of us will consider this decision is nothing less than a betrayal of trust.” Britain’s Energy Coast (BEC) has also expressed “disappointment” that the two local firms it assisted with their bids were unsuccessful.
Carlisle News and Star 14th May 2015 read more »
A ten week consultation begins this weekend on plans to build a new nuclear power station near Sellafield. The facility would have three reactors on the site at Moorside and be Europe’s largest nuclear plant. The power company NuGen hopes construction will begin in 2020 with the first reactor up and running in 2024. Anti-nuclear protestors are expected to hold a demonstration against the project in Whitehaven tomorrow.
ITV 15th May 2015 read more »
Power company looks to start procurement process for nuclear plant development in Anglesey. Horizon’s site development director, Charlie Tasker, told Building the client will split procurement of the contracting work into two main areas. The client will procure one engineering, procurement and construction contract for the large-scale, nuclear site-focused work, and a further contract covering all other aspects of the project, in particular off-site infrastructure on Anglesey, such as workers’ accommodation, park-and-ride facilities, a logistics centre and road improvements. Horizon is currently expanding its team in readiness to deliver the development. Last week it hired Greg Evans from Centrica Energy to become operations director for the Wylfa Newydd project.
Building 15th May 2015 read more »
RWM has published its Corporate Strategy, setting out the organisation’s approach to delivering its objectives.
NDA 14th May 2015 read more »
National Geological Screening (NGS) is an exercise where we at RWM are bringing together existing information about the geology of the UK (but not Scotland which has adopted a different approach to radioactive waste management) with specific reference to those features that are relevant to the long-term safety of the Geological Disposal Facility (GDF). After all, the GDF will be designed to keep radioactive waste contained and isolated from the surface environment for many thousands of years. The exercise has two parts: identifying and describing relevant geological attributes in the form of guidance; then applying that guidance across the country to bring together existing high-level geological information relevant to the GDF safety cases. These outputs will help communities in deciding whether to engage with RWM in initial discussions about hosting a GDF.
NDA 14th May 2015 read more »
The battle for the soul of the Conservative party will intensify on the volatile issue of climate change, write Brendan Montague and Matteo Civillini. Energy Secretary Amber Rudd may be among the Tories’ greenest but the ‘grey blob’ led by Owen Paterson may yet defeat her. There is now a hard core of climate deniers – numbering at least 12 – in the Tory ranks, led by the bitter Owen Paterson and the oil-tainted Peter Lilley.
Ecologist 13th May 2015 read more »
Boris Johnson has declared “huskies are go” for the new administration, predicting it will prove to be the “greenest government ever”, outstripping the record of a coalition that trebled UK renewables capacity and delivered steady reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. Asked if the new government would become the “greenest ever”, the London Mayor, MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip, and newly appointed Minister without Portfolio declared it “certainly will”, highlighting his record in London as evidence of the Conservative Party’s ability to deliver significant progress on green issues.
Business Green 14th May 2015 read more »
A tantalizing proposition has taken hold again in the nuclear industry: that small nuclear reactors have economic and other advantages over the standard-size ones being built today. The idea is that by reducing the substantial financial risk of a full-scale nuclear project, small reactors are the best option for kick-starting a much-discussed revival of nuclear power. “Small Modular Reactors are the perfect solution to this problem by mitigating billions in financial risk, growing incrementally with power demand and offering shorter and easier construction schedules…. The SMR market is global and extremely vast…. In short the power industry is crying out for commercial SMR projects throughout the world.” If it is, the power industry is likely to be disappointed. Small reactors, in fact, date back to the earliest days of atomic power, and this long history shouldn’t be overlooked as vendors tout new generations of the technology. As the history makes clear, small nuclear reactors would be neither as cheap nor as easy to build and operate as their modern proponents are claiming they would be.
Spectrum 27th April 2015 read more »
Nuclear vs Climate
Nuclear power can play a modest, but important, role in avoiding catastrophic global warming — if it can solve its various problems including high construction cost without sacrificing safety. That is the conclusion of a comprehensive 2015 “Technology Roadmap” from the International Energy Agency (IEA) and Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA). It is also what I’ve been arguing on Climate Progress for a long, long time. The IEA is the global body responsible for energy analysis, and one of the few independent agencies in the world with a sophisticated enough energy and economic model to credibly examine in detail the role of various low carbon technologies in a 2°C scenario (2DS) aimed at averting catastrophic global warming. The NEA was set up by the industrialized OECD countries “To assist its member countries in maintaining and further developing, through international co-operation, the scientific, technological and legal bases required for a safe, environmentally friendly and economical use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.”
Climate Progress 13th May 2015 read more »
“TRUST, but verify.” That was Ronald Reagan’s mantra for nuclear agreements, though the proverb itself is Russian. But verifying that a country is not cheating on one important matter of nuclear diplomacy, the manufacture of plutonium, is hard. At the moment, it can be done only by visiting the site of any and every nuclear reactor which could be employed for the task—even then, one might be hidden away. But if a project now being undertaken in America works well, hiding reactors will become much more difficult.
Economist 16th May 2015 read more »
France, whose nuclear industry is in speedy and accelerating decline, today exemplifies the failure of nuclear power. Moreover, a closer look at France reveals where the world is headed: to a clean and surprisingly affordable nuclear-free and carbon-free energy system. If that kind of energy future can come to France–and it increasingly appears that it will and sooner than might be expected–then it can come everywhere. To understand just how far the French nuclear industry has fallen in recent years, look no further than the value of EDF and Areva. Since 2007, EDF’s stock price has fallen more than 70%; Areva’s by more than 85%. EDF is 34.2 Billion Euros in debt. Areva’s debt is much smaller, at 5.8 Billion Euros, but Areva is valued at only 3 Billion Euros (less than a third of the cost of the Flamanville or Finland’s Okiliuoto-3 EPRs now under construction). Last year, it lost 4.8 Billion Euros. If Areva weren’t 83% government-owned, it almost certainly would have declared bankruptcy by now. EDF’s problems, although not as severe as Areva’s–mostly because it is much larger and as the main electric utility in France at least has cash flow–may be structurally even greater. The basic issue is, as is the case for U.S. nuclear utilities like Exelon and Entergy, that EDF can no longer sell electricity for as much as its aging fleet of reactors cost to generate that electricity. As in the U.S., EDF’s operating and maintenance costs for its reactors are increasing at about 5% per year–and its electricity rates aren’t. Nor can it easily raise its rates: there are legal issues involved for its regulated business and if it raises rates in its deregulated markets it won’t be able to compete. EDF’s reactors will begin reaching the end of their 40-year license period at the end of this decade, and the utility is looking at a cost estimated at about $110 Billion just to keep its existing reactors operating. That’s money that will be nearly impossible for EDF to recover from ratepayers.
Green World 14th May 2015 read more »
Phillippe Knoche, Areva’s CEO, at this point in his brief history at the head of the firm, could probably be forgiven for thinking that without too much trouble he could throw a rock in just about any direction and hear the clang of its impact on side of one of the firm’s major crisis. The past month has seen them pop up like a string of volcanic islands rising from the ocean floor their heat driven by the friction of the intersection of massive tectronic plates. Areva’s troubles look like that because the firm’s financial crisis is growing due to forces that appear to be beyond its control. The most significant piece of newly released bad news, in addition to the ongoing financial crises, is that in early April the French nuclear safety agency ASN released a report that problems had been found with the steel in the reactor vessel head and other components of the reactor pressure vessels (RPVs) installed at one unit at Flammaville, France, and two units at Taishan, China.
Energy Collective 13th May 2015 read more »
After another transformer fire at the Indian Point nuclear facility on May 9, New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo would like to see the power plant shut down for good. The aging nuclear power plant is in the midst of its application to the federal government for a license renewal, which would allow the two reactors on site to continue to harness fission to boil water for electricity generation for another 20 years. But with local, well-connected opposition like the governor, Indian Point’s days as a nuclear facility may be numbered no matter what federal regulators decide. There are currently four reactors under construction in the U.S., and one new reactor—conceived in the 1970s and taking decades to complete—will open soon at the Tennessee Valley Authority’s Watts Bar power plant in Tennessee. But that will not be enough to replace all the reactors retiring for economic or age-related reasons, including the Oyster Creek station in New Jersey—the nation’s oldest operating power reactor—which will cease fission in 2019. As a result, the amount of electricity produced by nuclear power plants in the U.S. continues to drop, replaced in many cases by burning natural gas, which results in more air pollution. Now, the nation’s reactors produce only a little more than 60 percent of low-carbon electricity in the U.S., a percentage that looks set to dwindle.
Scientific American 13th May 2015 read more »
Senator Lamar Alexander spoke to energy policy leaders and professionals on Tuesday about how to overcome the real obstacles facing nuclear energy to help ensure a bright nuclear future in the United States. Senator Alexander listed six steps to overcome the obstacles for nuclear energy and guide America towards a bright nuclear energy future: 1) invest in more research to safely extend nuclear reactor licenses from 60 to 80 years; 2) build small modular reactors; 3) end the nuclear waste stalemate, which should include completing Yucca Mountain and creating a pilot program for consolidated storage sites; 4) oppose the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan, which arbitrarily favors wind and solar over nuclear power; 5) reduce the burden of overregulation; 6) end wasteful subsidies, like the wind production tax credit, and double energy research.
Chattanoogan 13th May 2015 read more »
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has ruled that it can grant an operating license to a controversial Department of Energy (DOE) plutonium fuel processing plant without determining that the DOE’s cybersecurity program can adequately protect it from cyberattacks.
Union of Concerned Scientists 14th May 2015 read more »
Finnish electricity company TVO said Wednesday it had scrapped plans to build a new nuclear reactor in Finland because of delays and problems with an EPR reactor being built by Areva and Siemens. The Finnish government had given TVO until June 30, 2015 to request a building permit for a fourth reactor at the Olkiluoto plant in western Finland, where a first European Pressurized Reactor has been under construction since 2005. TVO said Wednesday it would not exercise its option due to “the delay of the start-up of Olkiluoto 3 plant unit.”
Nuclear Power Daily 13th May 2015 read more »
Russian civilian nuclear power corporation Rosatom has postponed by an average of four years the timeframe for commissioning seven out of nine new nuclear power units in Russia, the press office of the Smolensk nuclear power plant said on Wednesday. Preparatory works for building the second stage of the Smolensk NPP in west Russia will begin in 2019, three years behind the schedule, the press office said.
Tass 13th May 2015 read more »
The nation’s nuclear watchdog concluded that fault lines running underneath the Shika nuclear power plant in Ishikawa Prefecture may well be active, throwing the prospect of restarting the facility’s reactors into doubt. An expert panel of the Nuclear Regulation Authority, comprising NRA Commissioner Akira Ishiwatari and four external specialists, said May 13 the possibility of the Shika plant standing directly above active faults was very real.
Asahi Shimbun 14th May 2015 read more »
Saudi Arabia has promised to match the nuclear enrichment capabilities Iran is allowed under a possible deal with the West, raising fears of a regional arms race. “Whatever the Iranians have, we will have, too,” Saudi Prince Turki bin Faisal, the 70-year-old former intelligence chief, said at a recent conference. The controversial agreement over Iran’s nuclear weapons programme is expected to be signed soon, though its success is still far from guaranteed.
The Week 14th May 2015 read more »
Independent 14th May 2015 read more »
Renewables – solar
Millions more homes should have solar panels on their roofs, the new energy secretary has suggested, vowing to “unleash a new solar revolution” across Britain. Amber Rudd, the former climate change minister, was promoted to lead the energy department in this week’s reshuffle, in a move that was welcomed by many green groups. Ms Rudd indicated she would back the continued expansion of household solar panels, which are heavily subsidised by consumers through levies on energy bills. “I want to unleash a new solar revolution – we have a million people living under roofs with solar panels and that number needs to increase,” she told her local newspaper, the Hastings & St Leonards Observer.
Telegraph 14th May 2015 read more »
Investment industry valuations focus on short-term returns and fail to take into account the impact of climate change, says former head of the UK Financial Services Authority, Lord Turner.
Guardian 14th May 2015 read more »