Cracks have been discovered in bricks which make up the core of one of two nuclear reactors at the Hunterston B power station in Ayrshire. Operator EDF Energy said the cracks in three graphite bricks were found during planned maintenance on Reactor Three. The firm insisted there were no safety implications and the finding had no impact on the operation of the reactor. A similar issue – known as “keyway root cracking” was identified in Hunterston’s other reactor last year. EDF Energy said it was publicising the latest findings “as part of its commitment to openness and transparency”. “The level of cracking which is considered reasonable is far below anything which would affect the reactor’s safe operation. “It is accepted by our regulators and materials experts that cracks will occur in some of the bricks and that the core will lose some of its mass as part of the normal ageing process.” Mr Weir added: “The observations were anticipated and are in line with our understanding, so our view of the best estimate lifetime planning date of 2023 has not changed.”
BBC 19th Nov 2015 read more »
A spokesman for the UK Office of Nuclear Regulation – the industry watchdog – said: “It is acknowledged that graphite within the core is subject to weight loss and cracking and that these phenomena do not necessarily pose an immediate safety risk. “We require the licensee, EDF Energy Nuclear Generation to demonstrate through their safety case that they have adequate understanding of the graphite behaviour to justify safe operation of the core in a clear, evidence-based manner. “We require EDF NGL to clearly define conservative limits of operation based on the extent and adequacy of their understanding of graphite core ageing.”
Scottish Energy News 19th Nov 2015 read more »
Cracks have been discovered in the core of one of two nuclear reactors at the Hunterston B power station in Ayrshire. Operator EDF energy said inspections on the station’s other reactor found similar results in October 2014 but that the cracks were predicted to start happening at this point in the station’s lifetime and were well within safety limits. The graphite core of the reactor is composed of 6,000 graphite bricks. EDF said the structure is designed to contain many redundant bricks, meaning a very large number of bricks would need to crack before there were any significant safety concerns. Energy minister Fergus Ewing said: “The reactor operator has provided assurances that there are no immediate safety implications affecting Hunterston-B, and that it is safe to continue generating electricity. At the same time, this development does illustrate that Scotland’s nuclear facilities have a limited lifespan and we need to put in place longer term energy alternatives.” While EDF sought to allay concerns, WWF Scotland warned the fact that cracks had been found in both Hunterston reactors was a sign “the problem is spreading and that we can expect this facility to become even more unreliable in the future”. The station began operations in 1976 and was originally planned to close in 2011. Its working life has since been extended to 2023. WWF Scotland director Lang Banks said: “News of more cracks in the country’s ageing fleet of nuclear power stations underscores why we’re right to be taking steps to harness cleaner, safer forms of energy. It also highlights the need for us to be shifting our focus from relying on large energy generation like coal and nuclear power to capturing the hidden value of managing our demand better – this is an essential tool that we must use if we are to cut bills and realise our full renewable potential.”
Holyrood 19th Nov 2015 read more »
Cracks have appeared in bricks surrounding the core of a nuclear reactor at Hunterston B power station, sparking a row over the security of the UK’s energy supply. EDF Energy, the plant’s operator, said that the cracks had “no safety implications” and the reactor would continue to operate normally. However, the development prompted an attack on UK policy from Fergus Ewing, the Scottish energy minister, who suggested that the UK government was failing to “put in place longer- term energy alternatives” to replace ageing nuclear power stations. Cracked bricks were also found in Hunterston B’s other reactor last year. The plant is due to be decommissioned in 2023. The Scottish Green party criticised the Scottish government’s backing for extensions to Hunterston B’s lifespan last night, claiming that ministers were “relaxed about creaking nuclear plants”. Patrick Harvie, MSP, said: “Rather than taking a swipe at the UK government, the Scottish government should be objecting to life extensions of outdated plants such as Hunterston and Torness with their toxic legacies.”
Times 20th Nov 2015 read more »
STV 19th Nov 2015 read more »
Daily Record 19th Nov 2015 read more »
National 20th Nov 2015 read more »
Herald 19th Nov 2015 read more »
Dundee Courier 19th Nov 2015 read more »
Scotsman 19th Nov 2015 read more »
World Nuclear News 19th Nov 2015 read more »
Cracks found in nuclear power plant that is less than 60 miles from Ireland.
Sunday World 19th Nov 2015 read more »
Letters: Recent tragic events in Paris have reminded us all of the seemingly never-ending terrorist threat to innocent lives and national security. In West Cumbria, Sellafield unfortunately could be a target which would have incomprehensible devastation should these extremists achieve their abhorrent aim. Thankfully Sellafield is installing perimeter and inner security fences comparable with Alcatraz which is an undoubted deterrent. However, there are upwards of 6,000 private vehicles bypassing the security fences daily. There seems to be a reluctance for Sellafield management to address this. Are they simply hesitant to upset the mollycoddled nuclear worker who can’t degrade themselves by catching buses or sharing their car journeys? There are vehicles literally abandoned on the Sellafield site daily, parked illegally. Is this the behaviour of nuclear professionals? It is becoming a laughing stock how Sellafield routinely portray nuclear professionals as role models yet the basics of parking aren’t followed. There are simply too many cars driving through the gates and each vehicle is a potential security risk.
Whitehaven News 18th Nov 2015 read more »
THE development phase of NuGen’s Moorside Project – the UK ‘s largest nuclear power station in Cumbria – will be masterminded in Manchester. This follows a deal between Salford-based technical recruitment and engineering group Morson and the North West nuclear build developer. It will see Salford-based Morson as the prime supplier of labour to the Project on the West Cumbrian coast near the Sellafield site.NuGen – a joint venture company between Toshiba and ENGIE (formerly GDF Suez).
Business Desk 20th Nov 2015 read more »
The UK has announced its intention to close all unabated coal-fired power stations by 2025 and restrict their usage from 2023. This new deadline for the UK’s most carbon-intensive energy source has been largely welcomed by campaigners and analysts. However, concerns and questions remain about what will replace coal. Rudd stressed that the space left by the demise in coal should be filled by gas — less polluting than coal, but a carbon dioxide-emitting fossil fuel no less. Many observers criticised this approach, suggesting that it was neither cost-effective, nor consistent with meeting the UK’s legally binding climate targets. Academics have argued that gas is only effective if used as a “bridge” fuel, in the transition to a fully low-carbon future. This means that gas use must fall in the late 2020s and early 2030s, with widespread use only possible after 2035 if its emissions are captured and stored. Paul Ekins, professor of resources and environmental policy and director of the UCL Institute for Sustainable Resources, said in a statement that most of the UK’s coal stations would have closed anyway by 2025, and questioned the efficacy of replacing them with gas. Strong words from the secretary of state will not necessarily precipitate a renewed dash for gas, according to Dave Jones, carbon and power analyst at think-tank Sandbag. He said: As renewables and new nuclear are built, gas is likely to play a reduced role for power generation in the longer term, regardless of how strong the government rhetoric on gas is today. Amber Rudd has promised that the government will support 10GW of new offshore wind projects in the 2020s, holding three auctions this Parliament, with the first taking place by the end of 2016. But this is only on the condition that the technology moves to cost competitiveness. “If they don’t there will be no subsidy,” said Rudd. The Guardian points out that this means it must be able to compete with nuclear — a technology that received strong support in the speech.
Carbon Brief 19th Nov 2015 read more »
Announcing the closure of a third of UK power stations within 10 years is a brave call, particularly given current concerns over tightening capacity margins. But it is the right call. As odd as it sounds, the closure of these stations will help with capacity margins because it provides the clarity that investors need to invest in alternative technologies. The next question is what will replace it. The government want the gap filled with new gas stations. Green groups want more renewables and demand-side technologies. Householders and businesses just want the lights to stay on, however that’s achieved. Inevitably it will be a muddle somewhere between these. What must be considered as this is played out over the coming months and years is that the electricity system is going digital. Smart technologies will bring a whole new level of flexibility to the system. Dramatic cost reductions in solar and batteries will mean that householders no longer rely on the grid. Whatever happens to UK energy policy in the short-term these technologies will become ubiquitous because the trend is far bigger than this country. We need the building blocks in place to deal with this inevitable development. What is needed is flexibility. Gas stations can do that to a degree and we will certainly need some of them as a backstop. However, smart demand-side technologies have the potential to achieve it far more efficiently and at far less cost. The closure of the UK’s old coal stations is a very welcome development. Let’s take the opportunity it provides to bring forward a balance of kit to keep the lights on over the long term.
Business Green 19th Nov 2015 read more »
The energy secretary Amber Rudd announced sweeping changes to the UK’s energy policy yesterday, phasing out ‘dirty’ coal-fired power stations by 2025 in favour of a fleet of new gas and nuclear facilities. However, the plans to reduce carbon emissions through greener generation made little mention of reducing the demand for power through greater energy efficiency. Hywel Davies, Technical Director of the Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers, said: “The announcement of the new policy focusses solely on energy supply, and makes no reference to the opportunity to drive energy efficiency and so reduce the need for new generating capacity. “Using less energy also puts consumers first, reduces the burden on bill-payers and ensures enough electricity generation to power the nation, so why is this not included in the statement?”
CIBSE 19th Nov 2015 read more »
Energy consumers are flocking to independent utility companies such as Ovo Energy and First Utility in the past few years as they become increasingly dissatisfied with the “big six” energy groups that dominate the sector. But analysis by the Financial Times suggests that while revenues among the new entrants are rising fast, profits are not. Revenues among the eight biggest independent suppliers have risen almost tenfold in the past five years. But over the same period, profits have slumped from a total of £4m to losses of more than £14m. The decline in profits has been exacerbated in the past 18 months by the slump in the oil price, which has driven down the costs of electricity consumption. Analysts say one reason for the disconnect between profits and revenues may be that customers of the independent providers are more price-sensitive and less loyal than those buying energy from the established players. If prices begin to rise, they are more likely to switch provider.
FT 19th Nov 2015 read more »
Low gas prices are here to stay for the rest of this decade, new official forecasts suggest, raising the prospect of lower fuel bills for consumers. The Department of Energy and Climate Change has slashed its projections for wholesale gas prices for the second year running, cutting its estimate of gas prices for 2020 by 14pc, new figures released on Wednesday show. Wholesale electricity price forecasts, which are linked to gas, have also been revised down again, with 2020 projections cut by 12pc on last year’s – making subsidised renewable energy even more expensive by comparison. Experts said the fall in gas prices has been driven by a combination of the plunge in oil p rices, increased global supplies of liquefied natural gas (LNG), and mild winters in Europe. DECC’s latest projections assume average gas prices for this year of 47 pence per therm, down from the 62p it projected last year.
Telegraph 19th Nov 2015 read more »
Dismantling Europe’s old, uneconomic power plants will impose heavy costs on Europe’s biggest operators, something which could strain their balance sheets, and hit their credit rating. Nuclear liabilities of the largest eight nuclear plant operators in Europe totaled €100bn at the end of last year, representing around 22 per cent of their aggregate debt, according to credit rating agency Standard & Poor’s. Operators are legally responsible for decommissioning nuclear power plants, a process which can take several decades to implement, meaning the associated costs are high. Europe’s main nuclear operators include France’s EDF, Germany’s E.ON and RWE. They are legally responsible for decommissioning nuclear power plants, a process which can take several decades to implement, meaning the associated costs are high. While the analysis by S&P treats nuclear liabilities as debt-like obligations, it recognises that several features differentiate them from traditional debt. But given the size of the liabilities against a company’s debt, they can impact a company’s credit metrics, and their credit rating.
City AM 19th Nov 2015 read more »
Freedom of Information
Five years ago, David Cameron promised to lead the most transparent administration in history, declaring that “sunshine is the best disinfectant”. But now the Prime Minister is drawing the blinds on open government. The Tories want to water down the Freedom of Information Act, one of the most effective pieces of legislation Parliament has ever passed. It has been used by campaigners, journalists and members of the public to uncover data breaches, discover how many criminals are on the run and reveal that our nuclear power stations are in a shocking state of disrepair. It should be extended and strengthened.
Independent 19th Nov 2015 read more »
Researchers from Fraunhofer ISE have published a new report investigating the net cost of Germany’s energy transition. The good news is that the German government’s current goals are likely to be affordable. The bad news is that 100 percent renewable energy is less so.
Renew Economy 20th Nov 2015 read more »
Moscow and Cairo signed an agreement on Thursday for Russia to build a nuclear power plant in Egypt, with Russia extending a loan to Egypt to cover the cost of construction. A spokesman for Russia’s state-owned nuclear firm Rosatom said the plant, Egypt’s first, would be built at Dabaa in the north of the country and was expected to be completed by 2022. Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, speaking on state TV, gave few details but said the project would involve the building of a ‘third-generation’ plant with four reactors.
Egypt Independent 19th Nov 2015 read more »
Energy Business Review 20th Nov 2015 read more »
Daily Mail 19th Nov 2015 read more »
Renewables – wind
Wind energy could be the largest power supply source in the EU by 2030 as long as governments drive ambition in climate and energy policies, according to a new European Wind Energy Association report.
Edie 19th Nov 2015 read more »
Renewables – Geothermal
A tropical fish farm, medical facility and computer servers could be powered by “hot rocks” underneath the Eden project if plans to create one of the UK’s only geothermal plants get underway.
Edie 19th Nov 2015 read more »
Renewables – offshore wind
The UK has the biggest offshore wind industry in the world, by far. But if predictions from some wind farm builders come true, it will become even more enormous—both in its capacity to produce power and by sheer size of the machines involved—over the next 15 years. The country has built 3.7 gigawatts of offshore wind power generating capacity in the last five years alone: enough to power three million homes, according to Benj Sykes, who leads asset management at Dong Energy’s wind business for the UK, Germany, and Denmark. He told Quartz that there were enough projects in the pipeline to more than double that amount to between 10 and 11 gigawatts by 2020. Ten years after that, the company envisages wind turbines will have a capacity of 30 gigawatts, generating 35% of the UK’s electricity. That’s an “aspirational number” Sykes said, but it’s achievable, so long as costs continue to fall, he said.
Quartz 19th Nov 2015 read more »
The pipeline of UK heat infrastructure projects currently in development will require up to £2 billion of capital investment over the next ten years, the government has said. The Department for Energy and Climate Change (Decc) said in a report that UK heat infrastructure is a “significant and growing investment opportunity” for heat network operators and third party financers. There are currently 280 projects in the pipeline, but Decc says “additional opportunities” have been identified by local authorities at energy masterplanning stage and a number of projects are also being developed by wider public bodies and the private sector. Through the report the government hopes to “start a conversation” about how the market might evolve to “deliver the step change in deployment levels” suggested by the size of the current pipeline.
Utility Week 18th Nov 2015 read more »
Big six supplier Eon has called on the government for policy clarity on energy efficiency as Ofgem figures reveal the first target for the current Energy Company Obligation (ECO) period have been hit more than a year early.
Utility Week 19th Nov 2015 read more »
The cost of energy storage is expected to “rapidly decline” over the next five years, bringing the technologies down to a cost-competitive level with conventional grid-support alternatives, according to investment bank Lazard.
Utility Week 18th Nov 2015 read more »
Critics of renewable energy always cite the fact that the sun does not always shine and the wind does not always blow. As such, the intermittency of renewable energy needs to be backed up by baseload power, which would need to come from natural gas, coal, or nuclear power. The key to resolving the intermittency problem is energy storage, but batteries have thus far been too expensive to offer a viable solution. But that is quickly changing. Energy storage technologies are now cost-competitive with conventional grid electricity in certain markets. That is not the claim of some environmental outfit, but the conclusion of an in-depth study from asset management firm Lazard.
Oil Price 19th Nov 2015 read more »
More than 100 world leaders will still travel to Paris on November 30 for the start of a conference on climate change, the UN has said. Security concerns mean, however, that a mass march through the city on November 29, planned by campaign groups seeking a strong global deal on cutting carbon emissions, has been banned, the French government said. Demonstrations planned for December 12, the day after the two-week conference is due to conclude, have also been banned for the same reason.
Times 20th Nov 2015 read more »