An 18-month battle to discover the true cost to consumers of building the Hinkley Point C nuclear reactors is to come to a climax in London. The information commissioner has been blocking freedom of information requests to publish subsidy documents held by the Department of Energy and Climate Change. However, it has finally agreed to hold an oral hearing on the issue. The decision comes just days before EDF’s chief executive in Britain, Vincent de Rivaz, faces a grilling from MPs about the £18bn cost of Hinkley, which is underwritten through subsidies and customer bills. EDF is yet to make a final decision on whether to go ahead with the project and MPs have said there are “serious questions” to answer about Hinkley’s viability. EDF’s finance director quit over concerns about Hinkley’s impact on the already heavily indebted company. However, David Cameron and Francois Hollande have strongly backed the project as “a pillar of the bilateral relationship” and “a key aspect of Britain’s energy policy”. The government has agreed to pay £92.50 a megawatt hour for Hinkley’s electricity, double the wholesale price when the deal was reached. Greenpeace and Request Initiative, a Freedom of Information Act specialist, has been trying since 2014 to obtain the contents of seven documents that are understood to contain further details about the subsidies for Hinkley. They were submitted to the European commission as justification for the need to provide state aid, which is generally against competition rules. Greenpeace said it was extraordinary that the information commissioner had been supporting DECC’s wish to keep vital information away from the public. The environmental group now hopes progress can be made at an Information Tribunal hearing expected to take place in London in May. Doug Parr, policy director at Greenpeace, said: “Bizarrely, the Information Commissioner and DECC are hell bent on keeping the evidence showing Hinkley is a good idea for Britain a secret. The reports we have been trying to see for 18 months illustrate the assumptions that DECC used to decide that Hinkley is the best bet to power Britain in the future.
Guardian 20th March 2016 read more »
EDF’s new nuclear power station in France faces years of further delays if tests confirm that the steel used in its reactor is flawed, the country’s atomic watchdog has warned. It is one of the clearest signals to date of the scale of the setback faced by the French utility. The flagship plant at Flamanville in Normandy has already been subject to years of delays and cost overruns, which have made it difficult for EDF to fund the identically designed £18bn reactor at Hinkley Point in the UK – a key element in Britain’s energy strategy. Initially, Flamanville was expected to cost 3.3bn euros and start operations in 2012 – it is now planned to start in 2018 at a cost of 10.5bn euros. But Julien Collet, the deputy director of France’s Nuclear Safety Authority, has said that it could be delayed further by several years, depending on the results of tests started last year and due to end this summer on the steel being used in the reactor core. If the steel fails the tests, regulators could order EDF to rip out and replace the top and bottom of the reactor vessel.
FT 20th March 2016 read more »
Building what is meant to be an ultra-safe reactor has proved extremely difficult in France and Finland. If there is a single person responsible for the troubled efforts to build the UK’s first new nuclear power station in a generation at Hinkley Point, it might be Jane Fonda. When French and German scientists began in the mid-1990s to design a new reactor, they were also seeking to engineer public opinion. The fruit of their work, the European Pressurised Reactor, was designed to be safer than any that had gone before. “The basis of the EPR is to make sure Chernobyl could not happen in Europe,” says a French nuclear veteran, who declines to be named. It is those very safety features, say critics, that are responsible for making the EPR, in the words of Greenwich University energy expert Steve Thomas, “a bastard to build”. Projects to construct EPRs in France and Finland have been fraught with difficulty, although another in China appears to be progressing better. Hinkley Point would be the fourth – and perhaps the make-or-break – EPR project. ony Roulstone, a Rolls-Royce veteran now lecturing in nuclear energy at Cambridg e university, said: “The government is testing its concept of getting private money to pay for nuclear plants to destruction. “You’ve got to fund [nuclear projects] publicly or make smaller [reactors].” Since Tony Blair, the former UK prime minister, announced his government’s plans for a new generation of nuclear power stations in 2006, ministers have remained committed to making this a reality using the private sector. But even some nuclear industry executives said that building a reactor exclusively through the private sector was proving almost impossible. “The government is happy for our energy infrastructure to be state-owned – as long as it is French or Chinese rather than British,” said one executive. Mr Roulstone argued that Toshiba and Hitachi, which are leading plans to build nuclear power plants in the UK, will struggle to fund their projects.
FT 20th March 2016 read more »
The furore surrounding the planned Hinkley Point nuclear power station in Somerset is likely to go, er, nuclear on Wednesday when MPs question the UK chief executive of EDF, the debt-laden, state-controlled French utility that is meant to be building the plant. Here are some questions for the energy and climate change committee to ask Vincent de Rivaz.
Guardian 20th March 2016 read more »
The French government is poised to give energy firm EDF the funds it needs to move forward with its Hinkley Point C nuclear project in Somerset.
Utility Week 18th March 2016 read more »
Greenpeace has challenged the case for a new nuclear power station in Wales and cast doubt on whether the plans for Wylfa Newydd will ever become reality. The campaigning charity has submitted evidence to Westminster’s Welsh Affairs committee in which it warns that the project is based on an “outdated” concept. Greenpeace is opposed to new nuclear power because of concerns including what to do with the waste, the danger of accidents and the risk of terrorist attack. It insists it is also “questionable, at the very least” that nuclear is the most effective way to deliver low carbon power. It also questions whether the necessary investment will be secured to build the planned UK Advanced Boiling Water Reactors (ABWRs) at the Anglesey site and challenges the argument that the UK needs a new era of nuclear generation.
Wales Online 21st March 2016 read more »
Toshiba Corp. is reportedly under investigation by the U.S. government over allegations of fraud in its Pennsylvania-based Westinghouse Electric nuclear business unit. The U.S. Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission are looking into whether Toshiba hid $1.3 billion in losses, multiple news agencies have reported. Japan’s securities regulator found Toshiba had falsified financial statements and documents involving its issuance of corporate bonds. Toshiba published an internal review in 2015 that said management went along with falsifying the documents that said Westinghouse Electric had made more than $1 billion in profits since 2008. The unit had, in fact, lost $1.3 billion mostly due to a downturn in business following the 2011 Fukushima disaster.
Power Engineering 17th March 2016 read more »
Glance back to the Government’s ‘Energy Challenge’ White Paper of 2006 which promoted the importance of having more nuclear power and you will see that the Government projected that between 2005 and 2015 electricity generation would increase by around 12 per cent. In reality – it has decreased by 13 per cent! Consistently UK governments ignore and underplay the importance of reducing energy consumption, and in their projections, having said a few soothing words about the importance of saving energy (to please our feminine side), revert to the ‘real’ world macho importance of increasing electricity generation. So we achieve energy reductions by hardly trying! Just imagine what could happen if we started our policies by out thinking of how to save our energy! Instead, now we’re seeing an immense shift to please Rolls Royce and the male-dominated engineering lobby who want us to waste money on ‘small nuclear reactors’ (SMRs). Never mind that big ones can’t even be delivered with massive support both sides of the English (-EDF) Channel or indeed that the only reason we got big ones in the first place is that building small ones was hopelessly uneconomic.
Dave Toke’s Blog 20th March 2016 read more »
Roger Bolton asks if Desert Island Discs allowed itself to become too political when it invited nuclear scientist Dame Sue Ion to be a castaway.
BBC 20th March 2016 read more »
European researchers have identified a new “fuel”that by 2030 will be more important than oil. It’s called energy efficiency − the drive to get more bang from each buck spent on power. If the European Union member states adopt a 40% energy efficiency target, the sum of energy savings and power from renewable sources such as wind and photovoltaics together would overtake the sum of all imported coal, oil and gas by 2030, according to a new study from the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre. With government encouragement, energy efficiency could become a “niche fuel” for investors at a time when fossil fuel prices are low. The drive to wean the community off carbon-based fuels could also lead to the creation of jobs and economic growth if the right investments were made in low-carbon technologies.
Climate News Network 20th March 2016 read more »