The Government has admonished the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority for “inappropriately” withholding information from the public, after backing the findings of a heavily critical MPs’ report into the management of Sellafield. Overseeing the Cumbria nuclear facility is one of the most hazardous detoxification jobs in the world and the NDA has entrusted a US-led private sector consortium, Nuclear Management Partners (NMP), with managing the clean-up. However, the House of Commons’ influential Public Accounts Committee was dismayed to find that costs have been soaring, with the final price-tag estimated at over £70bn. The NDA stunned the industry when it handed NMP a five-year extension to its contract in October – it was widely thought the group would be axed for poor performance. A review by accountants KPMG only seemed to confirm how badly NMP had managed Sellafield, stating that the project was run in the interests of the consortium’s shareholders rather than those of the taxpayer. But great swathes of the highly detailed, 292-page document – obtained in a Freedom of Information request by nuclear-issues expert Dr David Lowry – were blacked out. PAC chairwoman Margaret Hodge was furious that the NDA had redacted pages of vital information on the basis of commercial confidentiality. In the committee’s own report earlier this year, it concluded: “The Authority should revisit its approach to disclosing information to ensure it does not use grounds such as commercial confidentiality inappropriately to withhold information on performance on its sites and by its contractors.” The Department of Energy and Climate Change has said it agrees with this, and other committee recommendations, such as asking the National Audit Office to investigate whether there has been any improvement in the management of Sellafield a year into the contract extension.
Independent 20th April 2014 read more »
Maldon District Council will campaign for a new nuclear power station by the end of the year in a bid to boost the district’s economy. In an Economic Prosperity Strategy report, the council revealed the hope to secure a new power station on land beside the redundant one already in Bradwell. The site, which is currently owned by EDF Energy, has been previously earmarked by the Government as a preferred location for the next generation of reactors. A council spokesman said that the council will prepare a lobbying plan by December, which will be presented to councillors in early 2015.
Maldon Standard 17th April 2014 read more »
An internal Ministry of Defence report detailing more than 260 nuclear safety incidents at the Clyde naval bases in less than five years has been described as “shocking” and “chilling”, the Sunday Herald can reveal. Three-quarters of the incidents are blamed on human error, and are likely to include fires, leaks and procedural blunders. There have been “issues” with a system meant to protect an explosives store from lightning strikes, as well as problems caused by staff and resource shortages. The MoD has also revealed it is planning a new conventional explosives handling facility at Coulport to deal with the extra nuclear submarines due to be based there over the next few years in the event of a No vote in the independence referendum. The Scottish National Party’s defence spokesman, Angus Robertson MP, called the revelations on safety “chilling”, “shocking” and “simply unacceptable”. However, the MoD said it was “entirely misleading” to focus on the number of reported incidents.
Sunday Herald 20th April 2014 read more »
The government proposal has sparked a storm of objections from people on Anglesey Nuclear waste from across the British Isles could potentially be shipped and stored on Anglesey as part of new plans unveiled by the Government. But the resulting fallout from the proposals has already generated a storm of objections on the island, with one politician saying that residents should make every effort to stop it turning into a “nuclear waste depository”. The UK Government’s Energy and Climate Change department is looking for communities to come forward and “volunteer themselves” in order to establish a new site from scratch, that would store nuclear waste from all over Britain. And it is understood that Anglesey is one of the sites under consideration by the UK Government, with a public meeting set to take place to discuss the matter later this year.
Cumbria Trust 20th April 2014 read more »
Robots may be needed to probe a radiation leak inside a nuclear waste disposal site beneath the New Mexico desert after a team of inspectors was forced to turn back due to high radiation levels, facility managers said on Thursday. The Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, where drums of plutonium-tainted refuse from nuclear weapons factories and laboratories are buried in salt caverns 2,100 feet (640 meters) underground, has been shut down since unsafe radiation levels were first detected inside on Feb. 14. An initial group of inspectors descended into the repository on April 2, once radiation readings had declined. But a team that ventured farther into the mine on Wednesday was forced to retreat after contamination levels rose sharply as the inspectors neared the presumed source of the leak.
Reuters 18th April 2014 read more »
Ignacio Galan: The cost of energy has become an increasing concern for households and industry alike right across Europe. Indeed, the UK regulator Ofgem’s recent proposal to refer the energy supply and generation market for a full competition review has been just the latest manifestation of this. We welcome this proposal and it is now crucial that the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority is left free from distraction, free from attempts to pre-empt its findings and able to conduct a thorough review with an authoritative outcome. energy policy and regulation are driven to a large extent by European Union directives. In this sense, we must not forget that in continental Europe, energy bills are at least double the level of those seen in the United States. They are also generally higher than the UK, as confirmed by widely published research. Why have bills in Europe increased so much? And more importantly, is there a solution? Political decisions relating to improperly designed subsidies for low-carbon energy and other social charges are one factor. In Europe, such costs have been largely funded through adding them to electricity bills, which some governments see as a convenient catch-all for all kinds of charges. In some countries, including Germany, Italy and Spain, among others, more than 50pc of consumer energy bills have no connection with the cost of producing or delivering energy. Meanwhile in the US, such charges are instead largely funded from general taxation and account for less than 10pc of bills. Interestingly, the US power price advantage driven by the difference in non-energy costs is far more substantial than that created by the shale gas revolution in America. Nonetheless, we also need Europe to further optimise its procurement of gas, including the development of its own resources – whether they are conventional or unconventional gas – and making use of this relatively clean, efficient fuel by encouraging development of gas power stations.
Telegraph 19th April 2014 read more »
Japan – nuclear weapons
Although Japan does not have nuclear weapons, it has a nuclear weapons policy. The strategy was set out by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1969 in an internal document whose existence was kept secret until the daily Mainichi Shimbun published it in 1994. That paper states that “for the time being we will maintain the policy of not possessing nuclear weapons” but also “keep the economic and technical potential for the production of nuclear weapons, while seeing to it that Japan will not be interfered with in this regard.” Known as “technological deterrence,” this posture is inherently ambiguous, and has been made more so still by the ministry’s insistence that the document was a research paper rather than a statement of policy.
New York Times 13th April 2014 read more »
Japan – Fukushima
The manager of the Fukushima nuclear power plant admits to embarrassment that repeated efforts have failed to bring under control the problem of radioactive water, eight months after Japan’s prime minister told the world the matter was resolved. Tokyo Electric Power Co, the plant’s operator, has been fighting a daily battle against contaminated water since Fukushima was wrecked by a March 2011 earthquake and tsunami. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government pledged half a billion dollars last year to tackle the issue, but progress has been limited.
Reuters 18th April 2014 read more »
France’s oldest nuclear power plant, Fessenheim, was shut down on Saturday following an incident at the facility away from the reactor which did not pose any danger, operator EDF said.The accidental closing of a valve controlling the steam supply to the turbine generator automatically shut down Fessenheim’s reactor 2. Technicians were working on the issue and a restart date had yet to be determined, an EDF spokeswoman told Reuters.
Reuters 19th April 2014 read more »
Iran will redesign its Arak heavy water reactor to greatly limit the amount of plutonium it can make, the country’s vice-president said on Saturday, marking a major concession from the Islamic Republic in negotiations with world powers over its contested nuclear programme. The comments by Vice President Ali Akbar Salehi comes as the talks face an informal 20 July deadline to hammer out a final deal to limit Iran’s ability to build nuclear arms in exchange for ending the crippling economic sanctions it faces.
Guardian 19th April 2014 read more »
Renewables – biofuel
Fat and grease poured down drains is being sucked out of sewers in north-west England and used to fuel cars, under trials being conducted by United Utilities (UU). The waste and water giant said that 108 tonnes of fat extracted from one of its sites in Manchester was converted into biodiesel – producing enough to fuel more than 400 cars for a week. The company said the process had “huge potential” and it was considering the possibility that in future it could sell the fat to companies wishing to turn it into fuel.
Telegraph 19th April 2014 read more »
Britain’s shale gas and oil industry could create tens of billions of pounds worth of opportunities in the supply chain, a major report is expected to say this week. But the country currently lacks the equipment and skilled workers needed to support fracking, presenting a potential obstacle to the expansion of shale development. Firms must start equipping themselves to ensure they capitalise on the potential for tens of thousands of jobs the industry could create, the report, backed by ministers and the industry, is likely to say.
Telegraph 19th April 2014 read more »