The Energy Secretary, Ed Davey, has hit back at critics over the Government’s apparent lack of oversight in the handling of Sellafield, one of the world’s most hazardous nuclear sites. The Liberal Democrat peer Lord Avebury has written to Mr Davey demanding to know why ministers left the decision of whether to hand a contract extension to the private sector consortium running the clean-up of the site in Cumbria to the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA), which owns Sellafield. The decontamination is now set to cost more than £70bn, and the consortium, Nuclear Management Partners (NMP), has been heavily criticised for a vast number of delays and budget overruns. In a recent parliamentary statement, the Government said the energy department was not in charge of awarding the extension last October as it was an “operational matter for the NDA”. However, Mr Davey told The Independent that his department had “put the NDA as well as NMP through its paces” before the extension was permitted. Last week, the influential Public Accounts Committee of cross-party MPs called on the NDA to sack NMP if its work does not improve and criticised the “astonishing” costs of the project. A damning report by KPMG last year showed that nine out of the 11 biggest projects to make Sellafield safe, including the construction of a storage facility to store radioactive sludge, were a combined £2bn over budget. The situation on site was so dire that there was widespread speculation that responsibility for decontaminating Sellafield, which houses more than 1,000 nuclear facilities on a site of only six square kilometres, would be taken back in-house by the NDA.
Independent 17th Feb 2014 read more »
Mirror 16th Feb 2014 read more »
Letter: I WAS appalled to read that the price of decommissioning of the Sellafield nuclear site, pictured, will be rising to £70bn with no cap set on the spend and this is “likely to continue to rise”. Is there no end to the money we are throwing at this monster and the money-grabbing industry that profits from it? If this money was subsidising any other part of society there would be an outcry from both Tory and Labour, but there is a strange silence when it comes to these massive handouts.
Herald 17th Feb 2014 read more »
Team of academics say climate change could force nuclear and gas-fired power stations to shut down during droughts. Parts of Britain may be under water after the worst floods in half a century, but a team of top academics from Newcastle and Oxford University is warning that the country is at risk of water shortages that could shut down power stations and paralyse electricity supplies. “It is difficult to fathom we should start to think about water shortages in the middle of these storms but only two years ago areas of Britain were suffering from severe droughts,” said Ed Byers, a researcher at Newcastle University’s engineering and geosciences department. “The high dependency on water in electricity generation means there is a real possibility that in just a few decades some power stations may be forced to decrease production or shut down if there are water shortages, which may be expected with changes in climate and a growing population.” new academic paper makes clear that one Department of Energy and Climate Change option – of using gas or other fossil fuels with high levels of carbon capture and storage (CCS) – could increase fresh water consumption by almost 70%. Another option – using high levels of nuclear power – could lead to increases in the use of tidal and coastal water by almost 400%. Although sea water is clearly in much greater supply than fresh water from rivers, the increase in use could bring with it much more impact on the environment because of potentially harmful emissions. Using wind power, in contrast, could save water. The academics conclude that a high level of wind or other renewable power technology, with a consequent reduction of other more water-intensive power systems, could result in fresh water consumption falling in the electricity sector by about 60%.
Guardian 16th Feb 2014 read more »
Some of Britain’s biggest manufacturers have called on the Chancellor to exempt heavy industry from expensive wind farm subsidies, warning that the charges will put them out of business. In a letter to The Times today, executives from companies such as Tata Steel, Sheffield Forgemasters and BOC Gases, the chemicals giant, tell George Osborne to take action to cut energy bills at next month’s Budget. The Government’s array of green levies has lifted industry’s energy costs 50 per cent higher than those of their European rivals, making it increasingly difficult for British manufacturers to compete. The signatories of the letter warn that unless the Government sets aside money to compensate them for the levies, companies will be forced to close or move overseas where energy costs are lower.
Times 17th Feb 2014 read more »
Manufacturers have invested heavily in energy efficiency measures but the future of the heaviest users is still threatened by high prices and supply issues, according to EEF, which represents the industry. A joint survey by EEF and Npower, the energy supplier, found that about half of companies had changed their lighting and manufacturing processes to reduce energy use. But Tata Steel, a big Npower customer, said its efficiency savings had been wiped out by price rises.
FT 16th Feb 2014 read more »
US – Radwaste
Mystery radiation leak in tomb for Cold War nuclear waste half a mile under the desert: Crews to investigate ‘excessive’ radiation.
Daily Mail 17th Feb 2014 read more »
Unusually high levels of radioactive particles were found at an underground nuclear waste site in New Mexico on Saturday in what a spokesman said looked like the first real alarm since the plant opened in 1999.U.S. officials were testing for radiation in air samples at the site where radioactive waste, such as plutonium used in defense research and nuclear weapon making, is dumped half a mile (0.8 km) below ground in an ancient salt formation.
Reuters 16th Feb 2014 read more »
Eye Witness News 16th Feb 2014 read more »
An Iranian negotiator said nuclear talks with world powers this week would focus on advanced centrifuges and the unfinished Arak heavy water reactor, the official IRNA news agency reported Sunday. Iran is due to resume talks Tuesday in Vienna with the P5+1 — Britain, France, the United States, Russia and China plus Germany — aimed at reaching a comprehensive accord on its controversial nuclear programme following November’s landmark interim deal.
Middle East Online 16th Feb 2014 read more »
Ronald Reagan’s famous dictum on dealing with the Soviet Union was to “trust, but verify”. But according to the US Senator John McCain earlier this month, in the case of Iran, US policy must be: “don’t trust, and verify.” On Tuesday, diplomats from the P5+1 powers – the permanent members of the security council and Germany – gather in Vienna to open comprehensive negotiations over Iran’s nuclear programme.
FT 16th Feb 2014 read more »
American insistence on “zero enrichment in Iran” is one reason for the failure of past talks. Last November’s deal was only possible because the US was prepared to be more realistic. A comprehensive agreement must offer something for both sides. Measures that go beyond the NPT may be required for a time to build confidence. But Iran cannot be expected to agree to them forever.
FT 16th Feb 2014 read more »
Renewables – solar costs
One of the most misunderstood aspects of the solar PV phenomenon over the past 5 years is the idea that it has been that it has been driven entirely by surplus capacity from China, and little else. Defenders of fossil fuel generation will tell you that the cost reductions are a mirage, and solar module prices will likely rebound as the market comes into balance. They are in for a nasty shock. Between 2007 and 2012 it is estimated that solar manufacturing costs fell by between 70 and 80 per cent – courtesy of the feed in tariffs that began in Germany and spread elsewhere, and the manufacturing boom that followed, particularly in China. But the cost fall was not simply a matter of capacity, it was also about efficiency – more powerful modules, less silicon, less metals, improved manufacturing processes and so on. And the fall is continuing.
Renew Economy 17th Feb 2014 read more »
Bob Alvarez: Recently, national media attention was given to the publication of a paper by scientists at the Lawrence-Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) announcing that fusion of hydrogen atoms was achieved involving lasers at the National Ignition Facility (NIF). Not much was said [in the news reports] about the fact that the experiment took a very much larger amount of energy than it produced. As pointed out by Arjun Makahijani, who has a PhD in fusion engineering: “you need an improvement in performance of tens of thousands of times before a shot can be deemed fit for a powerproducing machine.” If this project weren’t wrapped around the energy “breakthrough” flag, behind the protective walls of the nuclear weapons budget, it probably wouldn’t have survived as long as it has.
CCNR 15th Feb 2014 read more »
The US energy revolution is a geopolitical windfall that will enable Washington to loosen Russia’s grip on its neighbours. It is the closest thing Barack Obama has to a game changer in what remains of his presidency. The maths behind America’s shale revolution is unanswerable. The reserves opened up by hydraulic fracturing in the past five years have slashed US natural gas prices to $4 per million British thermal units. This is less than a third of the rate Gazprom charges most of its European customers for Russia’s pipelined gas. And it is well below a fifth of the rate in much of Asia, including China. US politics remains obsessed with whether Mr Obama will approve the Keystone XL pipeline from Canada. But whichever way Mr Obama’s decision goes – my bet is he will postpone it for as long as possible – Canada’s tar oil is becoming irrelevant to America’s needs. The US has more than enough shale to be the new Saudi Arabia of natural gas, as well as being on course to overtake Saudi oil production by the end of the decade.
FT 16th Feb 2014 read more »