A “very serious” fault has been discovered in a French nuclear power station which is at the heart of David Cameron’s strategy to “keep the lights on” in Britain in the next decade. The future of two nuclear reactors planned for Hinkley Point in Somerset has been thrown into doubt by the discovery of a potentially catastrophic mistake in the construction of an identical EPR power plant in Normandy. “It is a serious fault, even a very serious fault, because it involves a crucial part of the nuclear reactor,” said Pierre-Franck Chevet, head of France’s nuclear safety inspectorate. Mr Chevet also revealed that the same manufacturing techniques had been used in the steel for the identical safety casings destined for Hinkley Point, which “have already been manufactured”. Mark Hackett, a councillor in Manchester who chairs Nuclear Free Local Authorities, said: “This is a devastating blow to proponents of new-build nuclear power stations in the UK. It is likely to scare off the Chinese backers. If I was a betting man, I would now bet that Hinkley Point will never be built.” Yannick Rousselet, of Greenpeace France, said the latest problems to beset the prototype power station in Normandy are “clearly the coup de grâce for the EPR idea”. He asked: “What foreign client would want to buy this reactor when France itself is not capable of completing its construction?”
Independent 18th April 2015 read more »
David Cameron’s plan to buy a new generation of French-made nuclear reactors is facing fresh problems after an official warning that a key component could be unsafe. The Office for Nuclear Regulation has been told by its French counterpart that tests have revealed a “serious anomaly” with a similar reactor under construction in northern France. The French Nuclear Safety Authority said that the steel dome and bottom of the reactor vessel appeared to be weak and risked cracking. Critics say that the latest setback could sound the death knell for the European pressurised reactor that is earmarked for Hinkley Point. “Isn’t the EPR very close to collapse?” Steve Thomas, professor of energy policy at the University of Greenwich, said. “How much more can go wrong before they say it’s time to give up on this?” He called Hinkley Point “a project that needs an exit strategy”. A source close to the British project insisted that the problem was surmountable, saying that, “in the worst-case scenario”, Areva could make the vessels again. “It’s not like at Flamanville, where the work is under way and where they’d have to take the vessel out and put a new one in,” the source said. However, Yannick Rousselet, the head of nuclear campaigns at Greenpeace France, said: “This is clearly the coup de grâce for the EPR industry. What foreign customer will want to buy a reactor like this that France is not capable of completing?”
Times 18th April 2015 read more »
Weak spots found in nuclear reactors designed by France’s Areva are “very serious” and could prove costly to rectify, the head of France’s nuclear regulator told a French newspaper. Anomalies have been found in the bottom and lid of the reactor vessel which could reduce the resistance of the metal, Pierre-Franck Chevet, head of the ASN regulator, told daily Le Parisien. “This is a serious, even very serious anomaly as it affects an absolutely crucial reactor component on which no risk of rupture can be taken,” Chevet was quoted as saying. The ASN said last week that Areva had found weak spots in the steel of the European Pressurised Reactor (EPR) it is building for utility EDF in Flamanville, France. Chevet said that a similar Areva forging technique had been used for five other EPRs either planned or being built. Two of these are in Taishan, China and another two set for Hinkley Point in England. Components have also been manufactured for one planned for Calvert Cliffs in the U.S. state of Maryland. Areva was not immediately available to confirm whether the vessels for the Hinkley Point project — for which a final investment decision has not yet been taken — had already been manufactured. Chevet said the installation of the reactor vessel in Flamanville is already largely completed. The vessel has been placed in its concrete base and welded to cooling circuits. New tests on the vessel will be held in coming months and results are due in October. Asked what would happen if these were negative, Chevet said: “Either EDF abandons the project or it takes out the vessel and starts building a new one … this would be a very heavy operation in terms of cost and delay.”
Reuters 17th April 2015 read more »
China will not load fuel at two EPR nuclear reactors designed by France’s Areva until recent safety issues have been fully resolved, the environment ministry said, its first response to faults detected at a similar reactor in France. Parts of the Taishan 1 and 2 nuclear reactors under construction in the southern province of Guangdong were made by the same manufacturer that supplied the reactor vessel for EDF’s EPR in Normandy, the site of anomalies found by France’s nuclear watchdog ASN last week.
Reuters 16th April 2015 read more »
New UK nuclear plants under threat as ‘serious anomaly’ with model found in France. A €9 billion (£6.5bn) new-generation French nuclear power plant – the same model sold to Britain – may have to be scrapped due to a faulty steel reactor vessel at risk of splitting. It was supposed to be France’s atomic energy showcase abroad, but the European Pressurised Reactor, or EPR, is threatening to turn into a nuclear nightmare with an astronomical price tag. Designed to be the safest reactors in the world and among the most energy-efficient, the EPR has suffered huge delays in models under construction in France, Finland and China. This week, Areva informed the French nuclear regulator that “very serious” anomalies had been detected in the reactor vessel steel of an EPR plant under construction in Flamanville, northern France, causing “lower than expected mechanical toughness values”. Mr Chevet confirmed that the same “production process” as for Flamanville had been used on reactor vessels destined for the British-based plants, along with two in China and one in Calvert Cliffs, Maryland, in America.
Telegraph 17th April 2015 read more »
Whatever the outcome of further tests ordered by the French watchdog, Areva has to convince the Office for Nuclear Regulation that it knows what it is doing. The problem now for Areva and the French nuclear watchdog is assessing whether these anomalies will affect the strength of the pressure vessel not just in routine operation, when it is being bombarded by embrittling neutrons, but also in the unlikely event of something called pressurised thermal shock, which occurs in some accident scenarios when cold water enters the pressurised reactor. If the pressure vessel at Flamanville has to be replaced – which is theoretically possible, although expensive, because it has not yet been irradiated with nuclear fuel – it would cast serious doubts over the new reactors at Hinkley and Sizewell, which were to be built by Areva. It is no exaggeration to say that questions over the safety of a nuclear reactor’s steel pressure vessel can undermine confidence in the project. Whatever the outcome of further tests ordered by the French watchdog, Areva has to convince the UK watchdog, the Office for Nuclear Regulation, that it knows what it is doing.
Independent 17th April 2015 read more »
Workers at the Sellafield nuclear site have voted to take industrial action in a row over health and safety. Sellafield Unite said its 1,200 members at the site in Cumbria overwhelmingly backed a campaign of action. A meeting will be held next week to decide what form the action will take.
Whitehaven News 16th April 2015 read more »
The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) has awarded Amec Foster Wheeler a contract to provide decommissioning and waste management services for sites across the UK. The four-year deal, announced by Amec Foster Wheeler today, will increase the range of services the company currently provides to the NDA.
Process Engineering 16th April 2015 read more »
Heysham 1 power station has been given an improvement notice from the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) after a leak from a pipe carrying clean carbon dioxide gas. Around 30 tonnes of clean CO2 were released from a corroded pipe in the carbon dioxide storage and distribution plant at Heysham 1 on March 16. There was no release of radioactive material, no persons were injured and the two nuclear reactors at Heysham 1 remained operational during the event.
Lancaster Guardian 16th April 2015 read more »
Nuclear plants supply almost three-fourths of France’s electricity, and they boast a near-spotless safety record and some of the cheapest electric rates in Europe. In 2001 the government created a state-owned company, Areva, to export French reactors and nuclear know-how to the rest of the world. Those ambitions are now in tatters, offering an object lesson in the dangers of French dirigiste industrial policy. Beset by a troubled new reactor design and other expensive problems, Areva posted a €4.8 billion ($5.1 billion) loss in 2014 on sales of €8.3 billion. Revenue is expected to shrink 5 percent this year, and the company says it expects to keep hemorrhaging cash. The French government plans to announce a rescue plan before the end of April that’s likely to include asset sales and a bailout from state-owned utility Electricité de France (EDF). “There have been significant strategic errors,” François Brottes, who heads the French Parliament’s economic affairs commission, said at a conference in Paris on March 31. Added Brottes: “Questions have to be asked about the state’s oversight.”
Bloomberg 16th April 2015 read more »
In three weeks, the UK will go to the polls in one of the closest-fought and least predictable elections in a generation. Carbon Brief has already pored over the political parties’ manifesto views on climate and energy. But the chance of a multi-party coalition make it hard to extrapolate pre-election commitments into future government action. Carbon Brief asked a range of experts for their views on the May 7 poll’s implications, in particular: What are the key climate and energy dividing lines for the election? How do you see potential election outcomes affecting climate and energy policy, post-election and in the run-up to Paris? Here’s what they had to say: Catherine Mitchell said There is a major divide between the two factions: the Tory / UKIP scepticism of renewables, climate change and Europe and the Labour, SNP and Green alliance. “The former is anti-innovation and supportive of incumbents and the current ways of doing things which is an ostrich-like position which will cost Britain’s society dear whilst the latter, unexpectedly, has the possibility of being positive in terms of embracing change and capturing the opportunities of climate change to benefit Britain, and wider society.
Carbon Brief 17th April 2015 read more »
How will “STAY OUT!” be written 5,000 years from now? When we’ve had some kind of apocalypse, all society is gone, no one remembers America even existed, let alone how to read English. But we’re still drilling for oil. This science fiction notion of how to warn future humans about buried radioactivity has resurfaced now.
Forbes 17th April 2015 read more »
An official of Russian state nuclear firm Rosatom told a Brussels audience that his company could guarantee a levelized price for electricity of $50/MWh from new nuclear plants it builds, if the client chooses the firm’s services for their lifecycle. According to EU policies, however, fuel supply should be diversified. Speaking at an event organised by New Nuclear Watch Europe, Kirill Komarov, First Deputy CEO of Rosatom, said that his company was the only one able to guarantee a low price for electricity, if European countries chose the full package of its services.
Euractiv 17th April 2015 read more »
Less than two decades ago, Japan positioned itself in the vanguard of the global fight against climate change when it helped broker the Kyoto protocol. Now, though, it is Fukushima, not Kyoto, that has come to define Japan’s energy policy, and with potentially grim consequences for its already stalled attempts to reduce CO2 emissions. It was telling that in the same week as a court blocked the restart of two nuclear reactors on the Japan Sea coast – citing concerns over their vulnerability to a major earthquake – the government released emissions data showing just how far Japan has regressed since the more hopeful days of the Kyoto summit in 1997. Climate change campaigners have accused Abe and his allies of talking up nuclear power to avoid confronting hard choices about its future energy mix. “The government is using this as an opportunity to make excuses not to do more about CO2 reductions,” said Hisayo Takada, climate and energy campaigner at Greenpeace Japan. “If it did everything possible to tackle climate change, then things would eventually change for the better. But instead, it is hanging on to the old ways of thinking, and barely gives any thought to renewables and energy efficiency. The industry lobby, too, is pushing to switch idled nuclear reactors back on, despite opinion polls showing that most voters oppose restarts. As long as they hold out hope for even a limited role for nuclear, the impetus for serious investment in renewables will be lost, said Aileen Smith of Green Action. “The utilities are saving grid space for nuclear, which effectively blocks suppliers of renewable energy. In turn, that dampens investment in renewables because investors can’t be sure which way the wind is blowing politically,” said Smith. “It’s clear that far from being good for climate change, nuclear power is actually contributing to higher emissions of global warning gases.” Paul J Scalise, a senior research fellow at the University of Duisburg-Essen in Germany, said the nuclear shutdown and higher dependence on coal and LNG “doesn’t help Japan’s CO2 targets in any way at all. But you have to bear in mind that climate change is a secondary issue for the power utilities. They want nuclear reactors back online for financial reasons.”
Guardian 17th April 2015 read more »
Your editorial painted Pakistan as a country that is recklessly building its nuclear arsenal. But Pakistan was not the first to introduce nuclear weapons in South Asia; India did. Pakistan had to develop nuclear capability purely for self-defense. Regrettably, the editorial conveniently avoided referring to India’s aggressive military posturing and its expanding nuclear and missile capabilities. Giving a special waiver for nuclear trade to India was detrimental to strategic stability in South Asia.
New York Times 16th April 2015 read more »
The efforts by the nuclear power industry to obtain ratepayer bailouts to subsidize their uneconomic reactors in several states, most notably Illinois, New York and Ohio, are gaining greater and greater attention across the country. Any hope utilities like Exelon might have had that their legislative and regulatory machinations might slip under the radar is long crushed. And today the issue hit the biggest media player covering this venue (not to mention the interests of large industrial consumers of electricity, who have not been sold on the notion of bailout out failed nuclear reactors): the Wall Street Journal. Headlined Nuclear Power Goes Begging, Likely at Consumers’ Expense, the article doesn’t really take a strong position either way on the issue–it’s pretty straightforward–but the reality that if Exelon et. al. are successful consumers will pay more for electricity that they otherwise would have to, comes across clearly.
Green World 17th April 2015 read more »
Letter David Lowry: Labour’s 86-page election manifesto says at the very start: “Every policy in this manifesto is paid for. Not one commitment requires additional borrowing.” Ed Miliband asserts in his foreword: “An economy built on strong and secure foundations, where we balance the books.” But when it comes to national security, the manifesto swerves off message. It pledges, “Labour remains committed to a minimum, credible, independent nuclear capability, delivered through a continuous at-sea deterrent,” as your round-up of policies recorded. But, despite the upfront commitments to explain how expenditures will be paid for, Labour has no word of how it is going to find the £100bn for Trident replacement. It goes on to assert: “We will actively work to increase momentum on global multilateral disarmament efforts and negotiations, and look at further reductions in global stockpiles and the numbers of weapons.” So it will first spend taxpayers’ money to build Trident’s replacement, then spend even more taxpayers’ money to dismantle it.
Guardian 16th April 2015 read more »
Scotland risks missing its renewable heat target of 11 per cent by 2020 unless a “major change of mindset” is adopted, according to Scottish Renewables. The trade body says the country will need to “kick its addiction” to gas-fired boilers if it is to meet the ambitious target from its current renewable heat use of just 3 per cent. The benefits of decarbonising heat use are not only related to the environment, but could save consumers money and boost the local economy, said the group’s policy manager Stephanie Clark. “Most of our homes, businesses and public buildings are warmed by conventional gas boilers, and we must kick that addiction. District heating, for example, is a great way for hundreds of homes to share one heat source, but we have yet to see a consensus on its importance in Scotland,” Clark added. The group said it will lobby for a “re-think” on Scotland’s approach to heat at its Low Carbon Heat conference to be held at the end of the month.
Utility Week 16th April 2015 read more »
A wind turbine on Orkney has clocked up more than 100 million kWh of electricity generation – believed to be the first such single-turbine in the UK to have reached this milestone. The record-breaking output from the Torfinn turbine is taking the islands’ generation near to the maximum capacity of the two interconnectors from Orkney to the Scottish/ British mainland. Orkney’s current connections to the mainland electricity grid are not suitable for transmitting the large amount of power produced by renewables on the islands. Interconnector capacity is a growing local political and industry issue.
Scottish Energy News 17th April 2015 read more »
The Conservatives have promised to give people living near proposed windfarms the final say on applications. Will the future of renewable energy in the UK come down to a matter of taste?
Guardian 18th April 2015 read more »