China’s planned investment in Britain’s nuclear power industry is not a “Trojan horse”, supporters insisted yesterday as concern grew about potential threats to national security. Lord Mandelson, the new president of the Great Britain China Centre, said the Chinese government knew that its reputation was at stake in any nuclear agreement. The Times revealed yesterday that intelligence and military chiefs have expressed unease to ministers about China being granted a major role in Britain’s Critical National Infrastructure. Agreements are expected to be signed next week during President Xi’s state visit to give China a stake in nuclear plants planned for Hinkley Point, Somerset, and Sizewell, Suffolk. They would pave the way for China to design and build a reactor at Bradwell, Essex. A new company intended to be the vehicle for the nuclear programme, General Nuclear International, was registered in August with an address in London’s Mayfair Its sole director, Zhu Minhong, is the UK general manager of China General Nuclear, one of the two Chinese state-owned companies involved in negotiations over the nuclear agreements. Lord Mandelson said security chiefs were right to be vigilant but argued that “security concerns should not be allowed to drive knee-jerk responses to Chinese investment”.
Times 17th Oct 2015 read more »
Letter: Brian Parker Former commissioning physicist for Hinkley Point A, Sizewell A and Wylfa nuclear power stations. You are right to highlight the security issues in the proposals for the Chinese to design and construct nuclear power stations in the UK (Oct 16). Given the very long life of such stations, far longer than the waxing and waning of relationships between countries with markedly different polities, it is a near certainty that the Chinese will take the precaution, as they see it, of inserting “backdoors” into the software to allow external manipulation of station operation. If the proposals are to proceed, our nuclear inspectorate will be challenged as never before, and will have to protect against possibly undetectable deliberate malfunction design in the software. Whatever the circumstances, we need to ensure that the reactors can always be shut down safely and the residual heat extracted, unlike Fukushima Daiichi. We also need to consider the possibility that the stations could be forced out of operation for long periods or even permanently.
Times 16th Oct 2015 read more »
GCHQ is seeking special access to Chinese computer systems and companies in a multi-billion pound deal likely to be signed next week to allay security concerns. A Whitehall security official told the FT that discussions were now taking place over giving GCHQ unfettered to he contractors that will be involved in the project.
FT 16th Oct 2015 read more »
David Cameron has serious questions to answer about whether Chinese investment in nuclear power would endanger national security, Labour’s shadow energy secretary Lisa Nandy has said. Nandy called on the government to reassure the public after reports that the intelligence agencies have concerns that possible Chinese investments in Hinkley Point and Sizewell could pose a threat to the UK. There are said to be particular worries that a Chinese state-owned company could insert backdoor traps into the technology, enabling it to shut down the station in the event of a diplomatic row.
Guardian 16th Oct 2015 read more »
Ministers have drawn up secret plans to nationalise Chinese-run nuclear power stations in the event of relations with the Communist state turning sour, it emerged last night. George Osborne is expected to use a state visit to the UK by Chinese Premier Xi Jinping next week to finalise a deal that will see China invest billions of pounds in the construction of two new nuclear power stations in this country. The country could also then be granted permission to design, build and operate a third power plant at Bradwell in Essex. The move has caused alarm in security circles, with some officials warning that commercial and energy priorities are being placed ahead of national security
Daily Mail 17th Oct 2015 read more »
Downing Street is playing down security fears about plans to give China a stake in Britain’s nuclear power industry. A final decision on the new nuclear plant at Hinkley Point, Somerset, could be announced next week during Chinese president Xi Jinping’s state visit. Security sources have told The Times the scheme poses a threat to national security – and a senior Tory MP has called for an inquiry. But No 10 said it would not sign the deal if it thought security was a risk.
BBC 16th Oct 2015 read more »
Speculation is growing that a major Hinkley Point C agreement could be signed by project developer EDF and its Chinese partners next week, when the Chinese president Xi Jinping visits the UK. According to an article in today’s Daily Telegraph, negotiations are underway to reach an agreement that will give the strongest indication yet that construction of the Hinkley Point C nuclear power station will go ahead. The two sides are expected to sign an agreement on the main terms of co-operation for the project. EDF, supported by the China General Nuclear Corporation and China National Nuclear Corporation, is not expected to announce its final investment decision during the visit.
New Civil Engineer 15th Oct 2015 read more »
There has been a rising number of security breaches at nuclear power plants over the past few years, according to a new Chatham House report which highlights how important systems at plants were not properly secured or isolated from the internet. As critical infrastructure and facilities such as power plants become increasingly complex they are, directly or indirectly, linked to the internet. This opens up a channel through which malicious hackers can launch attacks – potentially with extremely serious consequences. For example, a poorly secured steel mill in Germany was seriously damaged after being hacked, causing substantial harm to blast furnaces after the computer controls failed to shut them down. The notorious malware, the Stuxnet worm, was specifically developed to target nuclear facilities. Unauthorised access by hackers to important systems in a power plant is a serious matter: anything that damages or disturbs the balance of operations within the plant could lead to a shutdown or even dangerous situations when shutdown routines fail, while power surges within the plant could affect transmission infrastructure outside. Whether we are talking about a nuclear power plant or not, the end result is likely to be production failures or financial losses, or even injury and death in. Of course, with a nuclear power plant the risks are that much greater because of the radioactive fuel in use.
The Conversation 16th Oct 2015 read more »
A four year study into nuclear waste has resulted in a breakthrough that the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority has said will save the taxpayer hundreds of millions of pounds. The research focused on the chemical behaviours of the Intermediate Level Waste (ILW) stored in the Magnox Swarf Storage Silo (MSSS) – one of the UK’s most hazardous buildings, and a priority for the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) to clean-up. It was thought a 22-step mechanical treatment and encapsulation process would be needed to manage and ultimately dispose of the ILW stored in silos constructed over 50 years ago. However, the study’s findings suggest an alternative three step solution that stores the waste ‘raw’ with concrete grout inside a shielded container is possible. The process would speed up decommissioning of the silo by several years and provide huge savings.
Professional Engineer 16th Oct 2015 read more »
Australian and French authorities have been asked to intercept a shipment of nuclear waste being carried by a vessel which has been blacklisted in the US because of its poor safety record, and return it to France. Greenpeace Australia has written to Australia’s Border Force asking that it contact French officials and request a ship carrying a consignment of nuclear waste be turned around and sent back to the French Port of Cherbourg for proper safety checks. Emma Gibson, Head of Program for Greenpeace Australia Pacific, told Fairfax Media that carrying hazardous waste on a ship like the BBC Shanghai was an environmental disaster waiting to happen.
Sydney Morning Herald 17th Oct 2015 read more »
Professor Tim Mousseau, at the Department of Biological Sciences, University of South Carolina: A very, very brief overview, rather superficial overview of the work we’ve been doing in Chernobyl and more recently in Fukushima. There have been three major nuclear accidents at commercial plants, not including the military accidents or the accidents at refineries or things like that. These are just the energy generating plants. There have been 33 serious incidents and accidents at nuclear power plants since 1952. And yet given this, what I would consider to be a relatively high frequency of significant accidents and incidents, there’s relatively little known about the biological consequences.
Mining Awareness 13th Oct 2015 read more »
Government response to the Committee on Climate Change’s (CCC) annual progress report on meeting carbon budgets and preparing for climate change. We will meet our climate change commitments, cutting carbon emissions as cheaply as possible. Our approach will be pragmatic and focussed on keeping bills low for hardworking families and businesses, while the essential work of reducing emissions carries on at pace. We have announced our intention to set out our approach to the LCF beyond 2020. The Government intends to set out plans in the autumn in respect of future Contracts for Difference (CfD) allocation rounds. We are currently considering the right long-term framework for the home energy efficiency market. The longer-term future of the Energy Company Obligation (ECO) is part of these considerations. Decisions on the future of the Renewable Heat Incentive are a matter for the Spending Review. The Heat Network Delivery Unit (HNDU) is currently working with local authorities to plan low carbon heat networks across England and Wales.
DECC 15th Oct 2015 read more »
Independent energy supplier Ovo Energy has announced it has removed coal and nuclear generation from its entire fuel mix. Ovo said it has spent 12 months working with government, Ofgem and an independent generator to decarbonise its fuel mix through top-up payments to gas generators. The supplier said it is “determined to find a way to provide low carbon energy whilst still offering the best possible deal for customers.” Fellow independent supplier Good Energy already offers its customers completely renewable energy. Ovo said it is the first supplier to voluntarily add a premium to Gas Generator certificates that prove the source of the energy supplied, thereby supporting gas above coal and nuclear and helping to decarbonise the market, while reducing Ovo’s own carbon intensity by 34% on the level last year.
Edie 16th Oct 2015 read more »
Business Green 16th Oct 2015 read more »
Utility Week 16th Oct 2015 read more »
Is new nuclear energy cheaper and more reliable than new wind power?
Full Fact 16th Oct 2015 read more »
In the 36 years since the event at Three Mile Island—the worst US nuclear plant accident to date—nearly four dozen US reactors have remained shut down for longer than a year while workers restored safety levels to the minimums acceptable to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) for operation. The most recent example was the Fort Calhoun nuclear plant in Nebraska, shut down between April 2011 and December 2013. The current economic and regulatory climate tolerates bad management and ineffective oversight that compromises safety levels, increases costs, and reduces reliability too often. Whether one is for or against nuclear power, we all need to be advocates for nuclear safety, assessing whether regulations and their enforcement manages the risks of nuclear power to an acceptably low level. To do so, a change in climate is necessary, whatever the future holds—whether it be that only existing reactors operate to the end of their licenses, or new reactors be built and operated.
Bulletin of Atomic Scientists 14th Oct 2015 read more »
Seaweed caused almost three days’ downtime at Unit 3 of Leningrad Nuclear Power Plant (LNPP), on the Gulf of Finland , near St. Petersburg , after a storm blew bay bottom sediments into the plant’s water intake structures, clogging the intakes that supply water to the unit’s cooling system. The blockage had to be manually removed before the reactor could resume operation. A scram caused… by seaweed. The unit remained in unplanned shutdown from 2:03 a.m. of October 3 to 3:02 p.m. of October 5 , LNPP’s Information and Public Relations Center reported.
Energy Central 12th Oct 2015 read more »
The United States has confirmed that Iran tested a medium-range missile capable of delivering a nuclear weapon in “clear violation” of a United Nations Security Council ban on ballistic missile tests, a senior U.S. official said on Friday.
Reuters 16th Oct 2015 read more »
Jeremy Corbyn is poised to stoke another row with his party over Trident by taking on a new role championing nuclear disarmament. The Labour leader is to be appointed vice-president of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament today in recognition of his long-standing opposition to nuclear weapons. But the move will be seen as a rebuke to his shadow cabinet, the vast majority of whom back a renewal of Britain’s nuclear deterrent, among them defence spokesman Maria Eagle.
Daily Mail 17th Oct 2015 read more »
Guardian 17th Oct 2015 read more »
Telegraph 17th Oct 2015 read more »
Labour’s new leader will address hundreds of anti-nuclear activists at a Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) rally, but the media will be blocked from entering the conference, IBTimes UK has learned. The group’s spokesman explained that Corbyn’s speech had been moved from Sunday 18 October to 17 October, and media would only be granted access to the second day of the rally. The CND billed the debate as the “first big public discussion on Trident since an anti-nuclear campaigner was elected leader of the Labour Party”. But for unknown reasons Corbyn pulled out of the Sunday session. “He’s attending a private reception – that’s all there is to it,” a spokesman for Corbyn told IBTimes UK.
IB Times 16th Oct 2015 read more »
Kate Hudson: THIS weekend’s CND conference is its most significant since the end of the cold war. This is a big claim but I do not feel that it is an exaggeration. I can see great possibilities for change over nuclear weapons — because we are facing a unique combination of events. First of all we are at a once in a generation decision point. The last time we had the opportunity to protest against — and potentially prevent — the building of a new nuclear weapons system was in the early 1980s.
Morning Star 17th Oct 2015 read more »
Renewables – solar
With less than one week to go before the government consultation on major cuts to solar subsidies closes, now is the time to have your say. The public has less than one week to influence planned government policy changes that are expected to dramatically scale back the solar industry. The government is proposing to cut the solar feed-in tariff by 87%. The subsidy supports householders, small businesses and community groups to invest in solar energy. The changes are currently scheduled to come into force next year, but the public can still contribute to the consultation and potentially influence the outcome.
Guardian 17th Oct 2015 read more »
A solar power company backed by the billionaire inventor Elon Musk has pulled out of the UK, blaming the government for not supporting the technology. Zep Solar UK, which is owned by SolarCity where the Tesla boss is chairman, becomes the fourth UK solar business to close in a fortnight. SolarCity laid the blame squarely on cuts to solar subsidies announced by the Department of Energy and Climate Change in the summer. A company spokesman said: “We had been exploring opportunities in the UK but based on the Decc decision we’re left to conclude that the UK government doesn’t support solar development. We’ve put expansion plans to the UK on hold indefinitely and will focus efforts elsewhere.”
Guardian 16th Oct 2015 read more »
As the second phase of the Guardian’s Keep It in the Ground campaign has highlighted, solar power has gone through a remarkable period of growth since the demoralising Copenhagen climate summit in 2009: in the intervening six years, the cost of panels has fallen by 70%, with the government’s target of 750,000 domestic solar installations by 2020 reached this year. Following her promotion in May, energy secretary Amber Rudd promised to “unleash a new solar revolution”, singling out commercial rooftop developments, still a relative rarity in the UK, and perhaps thinking too of her Hastings constituents with their sun-kissed, southern roofs. But just three months later, she was announcing drastic cuts. In the next few weeks, Rudd, who used to work under chancellor George Osborne in the Treasury, will decide whether or not to reduce by almost 90% the feed-in tariff that subsidises small-scale solar installations, such as household roofs, from 1 January 2016. A consultation closes next week. For those considering installing solar panels, the race is already on. In the weeks since Rudd’s about-turn, several companies have already gone bust. “The rush is there. We are seeing it at many levels – large and small-scale, commercial rooftop, schools and residential,” says Reza Shaybani, chairman of the British Photovoltaic Association (BPVA). “I’m taking calls from members saying they will be doing the equivalent of eight months’ installations in the next three months, and as you can imagine, that will have an impact on safety and quality. No matter who you are, if you rush, you cut corners.”
Guardian 16th Oct 2015 read more »
This week’s Micro Power News.
MicrogenScotland 16th Oct 2015 read more »
Community groups are well placed to access people in a subtler manner than government agencies or energy companies might be able to. However, many rely on volunteer time and grant money – both often intermittent and limited. While fuel poverty has been tackled from many angles, the problem ultimately cannot be solved without dedicated, long-term, government action to address the quality of the housing stock, not only in terms of improved energy efficiency but also in terms of improved quality of life. It is vital that we as a society address fuel poverty as part of a wider ethics issue, and ask the government can it really afford to lose another 26,000 people to fuel poverty this winter?
SPRU 16th Oct 2015 read more »
Richard Dixon: When the fracking voting at the SNP conference was over I knew the media would have trouble explaining it. But their early online stories have outdone themselves this time, producing headlines which are the opposite of what actually happened. Speaker after speaker was cheered when they called for a full ban, there were even standing ovations. If the motion on offer had been for a full ban it would clearly have sailed through. What was defeated was the idea of sending the motion away for strengthening in some byzantine process from which it might never re-emerge. Rejecting the ‘remit back’ was about making sure that a motion against unconventional fossil fuels was passed today, rather than waiting for a stronger motion at some theoretical point in the future. The SNP leadership will have no difficulty understanding what happened. They know they have to come up with something much stronger for the spring conference and the Scottish Election manifesto or they will face a hugely embarrassing defeat at the hands of the grassroots.
FoE Scotland 16th Oct 2015 read more »