The risks of nuclear power are being significantly underestimated because of systematic under-reporting of accidents by industry bodies with conflicts of interest, scientists have said. The largest analysis of the risks of nuclear accidents has calculated that a Fukushima-magnitude event is “more probable than not” in the lifetimes of people born today. Scientists from the UK and Switzerland said that its true cost may not have been correctly calculated because of the underestimation of risks. They also called for greater transparency in the nuclear industry, saying their estimates were hampered by “flawed and woefully incomplete” data. Much of this data is meant to be held by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which collates national reports of nuclear accidents and rates them for severity. However, the scientists wrote in the journal Risk Analysis, they do not publish a historical database of these, which they describe as “astonishing”. They also said there were doubts about the scale used, arguing it underplays the severity of large events. “Given that the IAEA has the dual objective of promoting and regulating the use of nuclear energy, one should not take the full objectivity of the . . . data for granted,” they wrote. The French regulator is known to report hundreds of events every year deemed “significant to nuclear safety”, yet few turn up on the IAEA public records. Only 216 safety events since 1950 were available for the most recent analysis, but more than half of those had to be gleaned from press reports and other public data rather than being provided by the industry itself. Benjamin Sovacool, from the University of Sussex, said that the IAEA had a conflict of interest, dating back to the Cold War, for encouraging civil nuclear power. “It relates back to ‘Atoms for Peace’,” he said. “The goal was to show that the atom could be a force for good not just evil. Because of that the IAEA has a strong promotional arm.” Professor Sovacool says. “The first and most basic thing we need is much more transparent data from the nuclear industry and regulators,” he said. “It’s a matter of the industry not reporting to national regulators, regulators not reporting to the IAEA, and the IAEA not reporting all.” A spokeswoman for the IAEA said: “The IAEA neither regulates nor promotes the nuclear industry. Our job is to help countries that use nuclear power to do so safely, securely and sustainably.” The UK’s Office For Nuclear Regulation was approached for comment but did not respond.
Times 19th Sept 2016 read more »
Despite the majority of the British public being opposed to a new nuclear power station at Hinkley Point C, according to various surveys, Theresa May has approved the £18bn project. The arguments against it are well understood – cost, safety and national security. On the first point, George Osborne, the former chancellor, was on the radio supporting the project last week, claiming that the costs would be borne by French group EDF and its Chinese partner CGN. That is disingenuous at best, misleading at worst. EDF and CGN expect to make a profit from their investment and the National Audit Office has said the project could cost taxpayers almost £30bn in subsidies to these companies. Other factors May had to consider when making a final call about whether to go ahead with Hinkley included the diplomatic repercussions of scrapping a project that was significant to France and China. The shadow of Brexit also hung over the decision: this is not a time to be damaging relationships with two key trading partnerships. Britain’s energy strategy beyond Hinkley is another matter. It was surprising that alongside the government’s announcement that the nuclear power plant would go ahead there were suggestions emanating from Whitehall and Beijing that similar projects in Bradwell, Essex, and Sizewell, Suffolk, were also on track. The Bradwell B project is particularly noteworthy because CGN will design the reactor and own two-thirds of it. The Chinese company plans to submit its design for Bradwell within weeks. May and her government must seriously think about whether they want more nuclear power stations popping up around the country. While the decision on whether to proceed with Hinkley became wrapped up with diplomatic issues, Bradwell and Sizewell must only be approved if the government genuinely believes they are the best solution to Britain’s energy issues. Most experts would say they are not. Stopping Bradwell and Sizewell would not be straightforward: one of the main reasons that CGN supported Hinkley Point was so it could develop its own power station at Bradwell. However, it is possible that the Office for Nuclear Regulation and the government could, for example, reject CGN’s design for the reactor. Or the Chinese could be offered the opportunity to invest in another high-technology project on attractive terms, such as High Speed 2. So, while Hinkley could finally become a reality, the debate about nuclear power stations is far from over.
Guardian 18th Sept 2016 read more »
Paul Dorfman, senior research fellow at University College London’s Energy Institute, argues that the EPR can be regarded as “a failed reactor”. He says: “I think it’s generally understood now that the EPR is too complex to be built on time or to cost – you simply cannot do it.” He adds that the other two reactors that will be put into the UK’s new nuclear units, the Toshiba-Westinghouse AP1000 and the GE Hitachi Advanced Boiling Water Reactor, also have issues with their designs. The backers of Hinkley C argue that, although it’s a stretch to call what happened at Olkiluoto and Flamanville teething problems, that is basically what they are. Diane Coyle, professor of economics at Manchester University, says: “The people at EDF Energy have learned the lessons from Flamanville, and the two EPRs that are due to be installed in China’s Taishan power station are still due to start up next year.” Ben Britton, a research fellow in advanced nuclear engineering at Imperial College London, echoes this, and adds that the French and Chinese engineers at Hinkley will be the ideal team to tackle EPR five and six. “The Chinese have built very similar designs in Taishan, they have done cold tests, and they are likely to start switching on the reactors in the next four months,” he says. As for EDF, failure simply isn’t an option. “Getting Hinkley right really matters to them: they’ve got a huge amount invested and they’ve had many boardroom discussions and engineering and technical discussions about this project, and they’re very confident about taking it forward. I would take that as a good sign that it’s a horse worth betting on.”
Construction Manager 18th Sept 2016 read more »
A major nuclear developer has warned the French energy giant EDF that it must deliver the Hinkley Point project in the UK on time and on budget or risk damaging the credibility of the wider industry. In an exclusive interview with Climate News Network, Kirill Komarov, first deputy chief executive of Russian state-owned corporation Rosatom, expressed fears that problems at other EDF schemes − such as Flamanville in France and Olkiluoto in Finland − could be repeated. Rosatom believes the decision by the UK prime minister, Theresa May, to give the go-ahead to the first new nuclear reactors in Britain for over 20 years was a major step forward, but knows that the eyes of the world will now be on a good performance at the Hinkley power plant in southwest England.
Climate News Network 19th Sept 2016 read more »
The Hinkley Point C nuclear power plant is “so last century”, when cheaper, faster and cleaner alternatives are plentiful, according to the founder of clean energy company Ecotricity. “Nuclear power is very expensive,” Dave Vince told Utility Week. “EDF is trying to build three of these… They are decades late and billions over budget between them. “The idea that anybody would contract them to build another one, and depend on it as well as a nation to bridge our energy gap, is quite foolish.” He said the power source has a toxic legacy for 10,000 years, which “nobody knows how to deal with” and is “just not talked about”. “It’s just a bonkers thing to do really, particularly when we have so many clean alternatives which are cheaper, faster, cleaner in wind, solar, tidal, wave, and energy efficiency even.”
Utility Week 16th Sept 2016 read more »
Letter Ian Fells: There has been a danger with the decision on Hinkley Point C as with the third runway at Heathrow, that too much analysis would lead to paralysis. The decision to go ahead with the former may yet prove premature. EDF has decided that the reactor at Hinkley, as well as being the first of its kind in the UK, will also be the last of its kind, and any future build will be a new design. I cannot believe that independent due diligence would give this project the green light as it stands. The decision has been strongly influenced by political opportunism and fear of loss of face. Nuclear power is essential for the generation of carbon-free energy, and Hinkley should play its part, once the technical difficulties at the sister project at Flamanville have been resolved. For the future, our carbon-free electricity could well be generated by building smaller, more affordable, factory-built nuclear reactors with reliable renewables such as tidal barrages, solar and wind, supported by energy storage built into the system for flexibility.
Times 19th Sept 2016 read more »
Nuclear energy companies say the approval of the £18bn Hinkley Point power station will boost plans for new reactors across the UK, in spite of stricter conditions for foreign investment. Executives said Theresa May’s go-ahead for the Hinkley project, which is led by EDF, the French utility, with Chinese backing, had removed doubts about the prime minister’s commitment to the renewal of the UK nuclear power industry. Westinghouse is the reactor supplier to NuGen, a Franco-Japanese consortium planning to build a new plant at Moorside in Cumbria. Mr Gutierrez said he had no concerns about Mrs May’s proposals for the government to take a “golden share” in nuclear plants and to consider a public interest test for investment in strategically important infrastructure. “We are used to those kind of measures in many countries,” he told the Financial Times. The UK has become a magnet for nuclear companies as one of relatively few developed countries to have pressed ahead with new reactors since the disaster at the Fukushima plant in Japan in 2011. It emerged last week that Kepco, the South Korean power company, was closing in on a deal to join the NuGen consortium alongside Toshiba of Japan and Engie of France. Another group called Horizon, owned by Hitachi of Japan, is also seeking partners for its project at Wylfa in Anglesey. NuGen and Horizon are both behind EDF in gaining regulatory approval for their reactors and reaching agreement with the government on a guaranteed price for their electricity. However, both groups say their reactors can be built faster than Hinkley’s, putting all three projects on course for completion around 2025. The Bradwell plant planned by China General Nuclear Corporation, as well as others by EDF at Sizewell in Suffolk and Horizon at Oldbury in Gloucestershire, would come later.
FT 18th Sept 2016 read more »
The boss of EDF Energy has conceded that the French group has no plan in place to finance the next step in its nuclear programme after Hinkley Point. The contentious scheme to build the world’s most costly nuclear power station in Somerset was approved by the government last week. The deal was hatched as the first of a trio of new stations, with reactors also to be built by EDF and China General Nuclear, its partner, at Sizewell in Suffolk and Bradwell in Essex. The French government paved the way for EDF to go ahead with Hinkley Point by offering to recapitalise the indebted utility, which has been urged to postpone the project by unions and some of its own engineers. Vincent de Rivaz, chief executive of EDF Energy, EDF’s British business, said in an interview published over the weekend that the company did not know how it would finance Sizewell. The government made no mention of Bradwell in its announcement on Hinkley Point last week and Mr de Rivaz acknowledged that the plant would face obstacles and would not come on stream until 2026. Even Hinkley Point is not forecast to be up and running before 2025. “Bradwell has to go through many hurdles and I am confident that at the end they will succeed,” he said. “I think everybody can understand, given the experiences that others had, that it will not be delivered before the next decade for sure. But it is not a reason not to start now.”
Times 19th Sept 2016 read more »
THE first flight believed to be carrying British nuclear waste to America took off from Wick Airport amid tight security yesterday. Scots politicians and anti-nuclear campaigners have slammed the deal, brokered by David Cameron and Barack Obama, to move the waste. The airport was closed from early morning as armed police patrolled the perimeter. Twenty miles away in Thurso, more armed officers escorted a lorry from the Dounreay nuclear plant through the town. It was carrying two heavily reinforced containers. The plan to transport highly enriched uranium from Dounreay to the US emerged late last year. Other types of uranium will be sent to Europe in exchange and used to make medical isotopes. But Dr Richard Dixon, director of Friends of the Earth, said: “There is no truly safe way to move this waste.” Caithness MP Paul Monaghan said the deal was “morally reprehensible” and Green MP John Finnie said people would be stunned that nuclear waste was being transported by plane. Nuclear expert John Large said: “The risk in transport by air is the fuel being engulfed in fire, the packages breaking down and the fuel igniting.” The runways at Wick have been extended at a cost of £18million to take the US planes, and Highland Council have published an order allowing local roads to be closed for five hours at a time until March 2018. Police refused to comment on yesterday’s operation for security reasons. The first flight believed to
Daily Record 18th Sept 2016 read more »
Concerns have been raised after the first flight carrying nuclear fuels took off from the Highlands at the weekend headed for the US. An American military aircraft believed to be transporting the enriched uranium from the Dounreay power station left Wick-John O’Groats Airport on Saturday. Dozens of armed police were on guard as the containers were loaded onto the aircraft, while the main road to the airport was closed to the public.
Press & Journal 19th Sept 2016 read more »
Former Energy Secretary Ed Davey has accused the current Government of playing “fast and loose” with the UK’s long-term energy security by prioritising gas and nuclear investment over support for low-carbon and renewable energy sources. Davey, who played a pivotal role during office in securing the Hinkley Point C nuclear power station deal, told BBC Newsnight on Thursday (15 September) that he was not opposed to the project itself, but expressed concern that the Conservatives were undermining cheaper low-carbon alternatives. “I think the Conservatives are making a huge error,” he said. “They’re putting all the nation’s eggs in the nuclear and gas basket. They’ve basically demolished onshore wind, they’ve restricted offshore wind, they’re not taking tidal lagoons forward, they’ve undermined investment on energy efficiency and they’ve closed down Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS), another low-carbon technology. They’re betting the nation on gas and nuclear and that is irresponsible.”
Edie 19th Sept 2016 read more »
Hinkley Point C is not a magic bullet – the UK also needs a dash for gas to plug the looming energy gap. “Approval of Hinkley C is necessary but not sufficient to avoid a future supply crunch,” said Jeremy Nicholson, director at the Energy Intensive Users Group (EIUG). “We do need new, secure baseload to replace retiring coal fired power stations, and intermittent renewables simply can’t provide this, regardless of cost. We need action to ensure new gas fired power stations get built quickly during the ten years or more that it will take before Hinkley Point is built.”
City AM 18th Sept 2016 read more »
Energy Policy – Wales
“The UK Government’s decision to give the go-ahead to the Hinkley Point C nuclear power station in Somerset could have knock-on benefits for Welsh construction. But it also highlights the need to start planning now to make sure we have the skills for all the projects in the pipeline. “Hinkley could bring other nuclear projects closer, including the £14bn Wylfa Newydd power station on Anglesey. This would be one of the main drivers of Welsh construction growth over the next decade. “However, it could also drain construction skills from Wales at a time when we need to build such major projects as the Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon, the South Wales Metro and the Celtic Manor Convention Centre. “With so much on the horizon, it’s imperative that the new National Infrastructure Commission for Wales maximises the sector’s potential through careful planning and finance of major Welsh projects.
CITB 16th Sept 2016 read more »
Energy Policy – Scotland
The Scottish Government should support new nuclear power stations and give the go-ahead to unconventional (shale) gas to meet the challenges ensuring stability and security of baseload electricity supply. In his Scottish energy policy paper which truly lives up to the name of its sponsor – Reform Scotland – Stuart Paton, former Chief Executive of Dana Petroleum – now an independent Scottish energy advisor – also calls for the Scot-Govt to lift its bans on nuclear Scottish nuclear and shale gas energies.
Scottish Energy News 19th Sept 2016 read more »
Ineos boss Jim Ratcliffe has claimed an independent Scotland would end up needing a “Greek-style” bail out. The founder of the chemical giant, who just days ago urged the Scottish Government to change its stance on fracking, said the country simply wouldn’t have the “balance sheet” to survive economically. According to the Sunday Time, he said an independent Scotland would be operating a “very large” trade deficit. He said Scotland would need to be bailed out, with only the European Union equipped to do so. Ratcliffe said a second referendum on independence would be a matter for Scottish people but criticised First Minster Nicola Sturgeon and her handling of the economy. He said investment in fracking would see more investment coming into Scotland and said his company has now “abandoned” the country looking towards England where there is more support.
Energy Voice 19th Sept 2016 read more »
A Chinese consortium is eyeing up the business that distributes gas to nearly half of British homes. National Grid, which also runs Britain’s high-voltage electricity network, is selling a majority stake in its network of pipelines that deliver gas to 11 million homes. A new Chinese group, thought to include the acquisitive consortium Fosun, is joining two big groups of investors in considering a bid, according to a weekend report. The Chinese interest could be a litmus test of the prime minister’s pledge to block acquisitions of British assets by overseas buyers if they are deemed against the national interest. Final bids are due this month. The business is worth about £11 billion.
Times 19th Sept 2016 read more »