As widespread incredulity spreads about the UK Government’s insistence that the plan to build Hinkley C nuclear power station is still on track, we must wonder which country and which companies will take the hit in the event of the near certain financial catastrophe that will befall the project. It is near certain given that the first three reactor projects, in Finland, France and China, have all suffered delays and thus heinous cost overruns. Indeed the failure of the European Pressurised reactor (EPR) design, produced by the French state owned nuclear constructors, AREVA has so far ruined AREVA. This company is now being merged with EDF who are already set to fork out billions to plug the financial holes in the company. The UK Government is insisting that it will not pay for any cost overruns suffered by the Hinkley C project, which is due (on the latest word) to start construction in 2016. Quite how that squares with the £10 billion worth of loan guarantees to be offered by the UK Government is not clear. However, if the British Government will not pay for the cost overruns then who will? The Chinese nuclear companies involved in the deal? That sounds odd given that Chinese companies, whilst they are state owned, are incentivised to make money. There managers will not do well if they make large losses. Of course western state owned companies can continue making loss after loss, as typified by British and French nuclear operations, and expect to be continuously bailed out by the state. So, is the French state effectively going to underwrite the whole project through a merged EDF-AREVA? Certainly British electricity consumers will be paying out large sums over a very long period for any electricity generated by the project (for 35 years after generation starts), sums that will increase with inflation. I wish people would not keep quoting the agreed 2012 figure of £92.50 per MWh. It is now over £94 per MWh. Meanwhile of course the Government has stopped the scheme that pays for wind power to be paid just £80 per MWh for just 15 years (and no loan guarantees). But it seems that EDF-AREVA could end up carrying the can for cost overruns on top of the £25 billion price tag already estimated. This could do serious financial damage to EDF. Ultimately the French electricity consumer would end up paying a high price to install a failed nuclear power design in the UK. Does the French public understand this? They ought to be acquainted with what they are taking on.
Dave Toke’s Blog 16th Aug 2015 read more »
New emerging evidence from Fukushima shows that nuclear disasters and their aftermaths can kill thousands of people due to necessary evacuations. Between 2011 and 2014, about 2,000 Japanese people, including many old people, died from ill-health and suicides connected with the evacuations. Some nuclear advocates, including government officials, have said these deaths are the fault of the evacuations, as if they were unconnected with the nuclear disaster. This is incorrect: the evacuations were necessary to avoid large radiation exposures from the radioactive fallout due to the plumes from the Fukushima explosions and meltdowns. In future, such deaths should be included in assessments of the fatalities from nuclear disasters.
Ian Fairlie’s Blog 16th Aug 2015 read more »
In response to communication from the nuclear industry, the regulatory agency’s four member commission has given the staff nine months to develop new emergency regulations for small modular reactors (SMRs). A document describing the agency’s planned work was posted on its public facing website this week. (see summary below). Reactors which have electrical generating capacity of less than 300 MW are generally classified as SMRs. The nuclear industry has long maintained that emergency planning requirements for SMRs are sufficiently different than for 1,000 MW designs. Russ Bell, senior director for new plant licensing at the Washington-based Nuclear Energy Institute told wire services the NRC’s action is timely, given the progress small reactor vendors and prospective customers are making to submit licensing documents to the NRC. “However, for small reactors, these zones could be considerably smaller because their smaller reactor cores and simplified designs are expected to reduce the risk of off-site consequences of a potential accident. Any releases of radioactivity to the environment would be much smaller and slower for SMRs, providing more time for mitigation.”
Nuclear Street 16th Aug 2015 read more »
Japan – Plutonium
When Japan marked the 70th anniversary of Nagasaki’s obliteration by a plutonium bomb on Aug. 9, its own cache of weapons-usable plutonium was more than 47 metric tons — enough to make nearly 6,000 warheads like the one that flattened Nagasaki. Britain already holds about 20 tons of Japan’s plutonium, and France, about 16 tons, under contracts to reprocess it into usable fuel. Under current arrangements, this fuel, plus all byproducts (including plutonium), are to be sent back to Japan by 2020. Instead, Japan should pay, and generously, for that plutonium to stay where it is, in secure interim storage. And it should help fund the construction of secure permanent storage in Britain and France.
New York Times 16th Aug 2015 read more »
Japan – Fukushima
Four and a half years after the Fukushima disaster, and as Japan tentatively restarts nuclear power elsewhere, the legal challenges are mounting for the crippled plant’s operator. They include a judge’s forced disclosure of a 2008 internal document prepared for managers at Tokyo Electric Power Co warning of a need for precautions against an unprecedented nuclear catastrophe. Also, class actions against Tepco and the government now have more plaintiffs than any previous Japanese contamination suit and, overruling reluctant prosecutors, criminal charges have been levelled against former Tepco executives for failing to take measures to prevent the 2011 meltdowns and explosions.
Reuters 16th Aug 2015 read more »
Japan – Sendai
Japanese utility Kyushu Electric Power said on Monday that it was monitoring activity at a volcano near its Sendai nuclear plant, but did not need to take any special precautions after authorities warned of the risk of a larger-than-usual eruption. The reactor is the first to be restarted under new safety standards put in place since the meltdowns at Fukushima in 2011. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and much of Japanese industry want reactors to be switched on again to cut fuel bills, but opinion polls show a majority of the public oppose the move after the nuclear crisis triggered by an earthquake and tsunami. The possibility of a significant eruption of Sakurajima, located about 50 km (30 miles) from Sendai, is a reminder of the volatile geology of Japan, which has 110 active volcanoes.
Reuters 17th Aug 2015 read more »
Thousands of people are being evacuated after Japan warned a massive volcano close to a nuclear power plant is threatening to erupt.
Mirror 16th Aug 2015 read more »
Independent 16th Aug 2015 read more »
Sky News 16th Aug 2015 read more »
LBC 16th Aug 2015 read more »
With so much focus on the level of Chinese oil imports, impending U.S. LNG exports, and India’s rising coal consumption, it goes somewhat by the wayside that Japan is one of the largest global consumers of all three of these commodities. Japan is the third largest consumer of oil (although soon to be fourth), the fourth largest consumer of coal, and the fifth largest consumer of natural gas in the world. And after the Fukushima nuclear disaster in March 2011, it has only grown in stature as the largest global consumer of LNG. Given the announcement of the first restart of a nuclear reactor in four years, it seems a timely juncture to assess what this means for the primary fuel sources in the world’s third largest economy, and specifically, oil demand.
Oil Price 16th Aug 2015 read more »
A nuclear weapons base has contravened health and safety laws for failing to show a long-term plan for handling radioactive waste. The Atomic Weapons Establishment has been given a year to say how they will reduce the risk. The Office for Nuclear Regulation slapped an improvement notice on the base near Aldermaston, Berks, which was put into special measures in 2013.
Mirror 17th Aug 2015 read more »
KEZIA Dugdale, the new Scottish Labour leader, has opened the door to a historic debate on Trident nuclear weapons at the party’s next conference. The Lothians MSP said she would not shy away from a “proper debate” at the October gathering when the party’s long-standing support for Britain’s nuclear deterrent, based at Faslane on the Clyde, could be challenged. Speaking on her first day after winning the leadership with a large majority, she spoke of her determination to “democratise” the party and said a debate on Trident was “not impossible”. She is likely to come under intense pressure to discuss the issue if surprise frontrunner Jeremy Corbyn, a staunch opponent of nuclear weapons, wins the UK leadership and begins efforts to change party policy.
Herald 17th Aug 2015 read more »
Renewables – offshore wind
The world’s first modular offshore wind turbine blade is being shipped to the UK from a NASA facility in New Orleans. Experts say that when commercialised, the pioneering 78-metre blade will increase reliability and cut the costs of producing energy for offshore wind farms. Because the blade is modular i.e assembled from smaller components, it can also be cheaply put together in simple warehouses, cutting supply chain costs.
Edie 14th Aug 2015 read more »
Switching to LED street lights could save millions of pounds a year for local authorities across Scotland, new figures suggest. Of the country’s 890,820 street lights, 5% are currently run using the more energy-efficient bulbs, according to Scottish Futures Trust (SFT). The organisation’s data shows that £40m is spent every year on energy for street lighting, and it said 50-70% could be saved by switching to LEDs – or £19m to £26.6m. The cost of running a conventional street light is 13p per night, which could be cut to 9p using the alternative lamps. The figures emerged ahead of a conference hosted by Scottish Renewables in Edinburgh next month where speakers from across the world will gather to look at ways to tie together energy, transport, industry and civic society to save energy. Jenny Hogan, director of policy at Scottish Renewables, said: “Technologies like these let us reduce the amount of power we use in everyday life, and help the renewable energy we generate to go much further – crucial if we are to cut the carbon produced by our society and slow the effects of climate change.
STV 17th Aug 2015 read more »
While local campaigners were popping open champagne corks just over a month ago when Lancashire county council rejected a planning application by shale gas explorer Cuadrilla, they are now coming to terms with the prospect of an even greater struggle as the government last week unveiled a new fast-track policy that would strip local authorities of the right to decide fracking applications unless they approve them swiftly.
Guardian 16th Aug 2015 read more »
Four years ago The Times reported from Crystal City, a dusty hamlet in Texas that sits on the Eagle Ford Shale, an oilfield that stretches for 250 miles. The oil price was hovering around $100 a barrel and the region was in the grip of a fracking boom. Blue-collar jobs were paying six figures and a wave of economic migrants had flooded in from other states. The men far outnumbered the women, and the party culture had grown every bit as grubby as the oil jobs those men had come to do. “There’s gambling, whorehouses, shoot-outs,” one labourer, who had travelled from Kansas, said. It felt like a new Wild West, but with oil now at $50 the boom is careering towards bust. In 2012 there were more than 250 rigs working in the Eagle Ford region. Today only about half that number remain. Companies have slashed spending and at the Double C Resort, which h ad provided housing to oil workers in Crystal City, occupancy has tumbled from full to about 10 per cent.
Times 16th Aug 2015 read more »