Britain’s plans to reward nuclear plant operators through fixed prices for low-carbon energy are illegal under existing EU rules and efforts to adapt them are likely to draw opposition from other member states, EU and legal sources said. “Neither under the current (…) nor under possible future frameworks could the CfD scheme for nuclear generators be declared compatible with European state aid rules,” said Doerte Fouquet, a lawyer specialised in EU law at Becker Buettner Held in Brussels. The European Commission said it had not yet received a formal notification from Britain, but added that, in general, state aid is only authorised when the benefits of aid outweigh the distortion of competition brought about.
Reuters 21st March 2013 read more »
Globe & Mail 21st March 2013 read more »
A leading EU lawyer, backed by the Vice Chair of the European Group of Green MEPs, has declared the British plan to subsidise nuclear power as ‘illegal’.This challenge follows ‘hints’ in the Treasury’s budget statement that nuclear power could receive underwriting of its costs under the Treasury Infrastructure Finance programme. This presages a battle over whether the European Commission will give state aid clearance to the British plans to subsidise nuclear power. Under existing EU law, while renewable energy has a state aid exemption on the basis that it is an environmental measure, nuclear power does not. We have seen, to use Tom Burke’s words a process of ‘salami slicing’ demands, so that bit by bit EDF moves towards enjoying what would be (I suspect) ultimately a full blown blank cheque (full underwriting of construction risk) passed on by the Government with British taxpayers as the donors. Even not counting underwriting, EDF’s (desired) subsidies will look gargantuan compared to what premium subsidies will be offered to both onshore and ofshore wind under the CfD arrangements. Onshore wind will get no more than around £80 per MWh for a 15 year contract, so EDF’s payment of, say, £95 per MWh for 35 years would mean that they would get well in excess of twice the subsidy paid to onshore wind. Offshore wind may get offered around £100 a year according to Government plans, but only for a 15 year contract.
Dave Toke’s Green Energy Blog 21st March 2013 read more »
The president of the European Liberal Democrats has defended the UK government’s right to offer hefty state aid support for new nuclear reactors, but insisted it must be matched by equal support for renewable energy technologies such as wind and solar power. Speaking to BusinessGreen in Brussels yesterday, Sir Graham Watson, MEP for the South West, maintained the nuclear industry has a fair case for “subsidies” because fossil fuel suppliers also receive generous government support. However, he maintained that he would rather all energy subsidies were scrapped to create a level playing field in which renewable energy would have the chance to flourish.
Business Green 21st March 2013 read more »
Electricite de France SA (EDF.FR) on Tuesday called on the U.K. authorities to make a swift decision on a guaranteed electricity price for the company’s new nuclear reactor at Hinkley Point, south-west England, which was granted planning permission by the U.K. government earlier in the day. Reaching agreement on a guaranteed electricity price is crucial to the project’s success, as it gives the French utility and any other potential investors certainty on future revenue from new power plants, allowing them to make investment decisions on the multi-billion-dollar project. It will also make it easier to bring in additional partners on the project to share the construction risk. Early last week, people with knowledge of the discussions told Dow Jones that the U.K.’s negotiations with EDF had stumbled over the rate of return for the French energy group, with EDF demanding at least 10% and the U.K. government offering less. “Nobody [at EDF] sees how additional investors, which are necessary to make the project viable, could be lured into it at such a level,” one person had said, on condition of anonymity.
Fox Business 19th March 2013 read more »
Investment in renewable energy in the UK could be at risk if construction on EDF’s Hinkley Point nuclear power station – the first nuclear power station to receive planning approval in the UK since Sizewell B over two decades ago- is allowed to proceed, according to environmental group Greenpeace.
Renewable Energy Focus 21st March 2013 read more »
Forget for a few minutes whether you are extremely pro-new nuclear or utterly against it. Just look as objectively as possible over the negotiations between EDF and the Government on building the first civil nuclear plant since 1995 and the sole conclusion is that politics, not concerns over the environment or energy, will decide whether or not £14bn will be spent at Hinkley Point. Earlier this month, The Independent on Sunday reported that a strike price, which is the guaranteed minimum that EDF will get for the electricity it generates at Hinkley, had been provisionally agreed at £96-£97 per megawatt hour. That means is that producing electricity from nuclear will be a bit cheaper than from windfarms, which in turn means that the Government can claim it was right to pursue a radioactive path. The Government, it is understood, has also committed to this strike price being in place for 35 years. EDF wanted a 40-year deal and the Government half that, so the French giant can surely be declared the winner on points, not that a deal that is good for both parties should have a loser. However, another Sunday newspaper keeps reporting that the Government wants a strike price of 80-odd quid. Our sources are impeccable and our rival rarely makes mistakes. The one thing we seem to agree on is that finalising a deal is far from definite. EDF has set a rather arbitrary deadline of the end of this month of either agreeing to build Hinkley or pulling out altogether; the Government had hoped to give the go-ahead by Wednesday’s Budget, but only managed to confirm planning permission for the power plant this week. Piecing things together, it seems that the environment department and EDF have broadly agreed those terms over the st rike price and length of the contract. The problem is that in recent weeks the Treasury has convinced itself that the strike price should be closer to £85. With such an emphasis on the development of shale gas projects in the Budget, and notwithstanding power plant capacity cuts such as SSE unveiled today, it seems that the Treasury believes there are alternatives to nuclear, which weakens EDF’s hand.
Independent 22nd March 2013 read more »
The decision to give the green light to the first of a new generation of nuclear power plants will restore confidence to the Norfolk and Suffolk supply chain, according to chamber of commerce chief executive Caroline Williams. Mrs Williams said yesterday’s announcement by energy secretary Ed Davey would provide certainty to the region’s businesses looking to capitalise on opportunities presented by Hinkley Point C – although a strike price from the government has still yet to be agreed.
Eastern Daily Press 21st March 2013 read more »
Did comic art save Cumbria from the nuclear dump? Earlier this year, Cumbria county council woke up to the reality behind decades of government propaganda and nuclear industry spin and rejected a plan to bury radioactive waste in England’s Lake District.
Open Democracy 21st March 2013 read more »
The government has been urged to reassess its approach to dealing with the country’s huge plutonium stockpile. A new policy statement from the Institution of Mechanical Engineers calls for the UK to adopt a portfolio of options to address the different types of plutonium stored in the UK, and highlights the urgent need for the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) to categorise these stocks. The IMechE said the government should also consider using ‘fast reactors’ like those in development by GE Hitachi in the US and the Astrid project in France. “There are estimates that it currently costs the UK taxpayer £80 million a year to safely store the country’s 112 tonnes of civil held plutonium,” said Dr Tim Fox, Head of Energy and Environment at the IMechE. High-grade plutonium should be considered for manufacture into MOX fuel. Lower-grade plutonium should be identified for potential recycling in a fast reactor. The government, through the NDA, should fund modest assessment and development of the available fast reactor technologies; at this stage future licensing decisions cannot be prejudged, but the sodium-cooled fast reactor route is sufficiently attractive to merit significant immediate UK support. Poor-quality material should be earmarked for safe disposal, with investment required.
Engineering & Technology 21st March 2013 read more »
A Welsh nuclear energy historian has called on the UK Government to declare that plutonium from a new generation of nuclear power stations would never be used to fuel nuclear weapons. Neath-born David Lowry, who has carried out research on nuclear issues for many MPs, said:“The British nuclear power and weapons programmes were born as Siamese twins –and have yet to be separated.” In 1958 Labour’s Roy Mason, who later became Defence Secretary, asked in a parliamentary question why the UK Government had “decided to modify atomic power stations, primarily planned for peaceful purposes, to produce high-grade plutonium for war weapons, and to what extent this will interfere with the atomic power programme”. Paymaster General Reginald Maudling responded: “At the request of the Government, the Central Electricity Generating Board has agreed to a small modification in the design of Hinkley Point and of the next two stations in its programme so as to enable plutonium suitable for military purposes to be extracted should the need arise.” A month later, The UK signed a detailed agreement about co-operation on nuclear weapons development with the United States in 1958. Dr Lowry points out that despite several months of Congressional hearings in Washington DC, there was no oversight whatsoever in the UK Parliament. He said: “As this formed the basis, within a mere five years, for the UK obtaining the Polaris nuclear weapons system from the US, and some 20-odd years later for the UK to buy American Trident nuclear weapons, the failure of Parliament to at least appraise the security merits of this key bilateral atomic arrangement was unconscionable.”
Wales Online 19th March 2013 read more »
The projected cost of the mixed oxide fuel plant at Savannah River Site has risen by $2.8 billion – to $7.7 billion – and will take three years longer than planned to complete, according to a Government Accountability Office report.
Augusta Chronicle 20th March 2013 read more »
The price tag for a South Carolina project intended to turn weapons-grade plutonium into fuel for nuclear reactors has risen by nearly $3 billion, according to the General Accountability Office. David Trimble, the GAO’s natural resources and environment director, said Wednesday in written testimony submitted to a congressional committee that the National Nuclear Security Administration project is now estimated to cost $7.7 billion. In 2008, its cost had been estimated at $4.9 billion. Trimble also said the project wouldn’t be complete until November 2019 – more than three years later than originally expected.
Herald Tribune 20th March 2013 read more »
There are now so many divisions around the Cabinet table that it is hardly surprising that the rift between the Prime Minister and the Chancellor over the green economy is rarely commented upon. But the rift is real, it is undermining any hopes of the UK delivering a sustainable economic recovery, and, if yesterday’s evidence is anything to by, it is getting wider. David Cameron has done a good job of concealing his differences with George Osborne on a wide range of environmental issues, having spent much of his first two and half years in office ducking any public debate on his fondness for huskies and wind turbines. But when push has come to shove he has blocked the Chancellor’s more blatant assaults on the green economy, defying his closest ally to accept the Committee on Climate Change’s carbon budget recommendations and brokering the uneasy truce between DECC and the Treasury in a manner that protected support for renewables.
Business Green 21st March 2013 read more »
The cold snap in March could lead to Britain’s gas supplies running out next month, forcing the nation to pay higher prices for fuel from elsewhere. Forecasts suggest that gas supplies in the UK could theoretically be exhausted by 8 April, requiring Britain to turn to imports from Norway and Russia. The warning came on the day Scottish and Southern Energy, one of the UK’s biggest power suppliers, warned that there could be electricity blackouts in the country within three years. A lack of gas storage facilities, and rapid depletion at the UK’s North Sea gas fields, has led to the UK having as little as two days’ supply of the fuel in reserve. Demand spiked during the coldest March in 50 years.
Guardian 21st March 2013 read more »
Telegraph 21st March 2013 read more »
Britain has only two days’ worth of gas left in reserve as the country braces itself for another spell of wintry weather that will force up energy bills. Stocks of gas have been drained in recent weeks as households have turned up the heating because of the unseasonably cold weather, pushing demand to 20 per cent higher than normal. Last night storage facilities were only 10 per cent full, compared with 49 per cent this time last year. Britain is already importing gas from Europe at full pelt while cargoes of liquefied natural gas are being diverted from the UK to Asia, where gas prices are even higher. With the rapid construction of wind farms, a new fleet of gas plants will soon be needed for when the wind does not blow. Because the gas plants will operate only some of the time, energy companies say that they need subsidies to make them economic to build. But the Governmnent has not told the industry when this “capacity mechanism” will be made available or how much it will be worth.
Times 22nd March 2013 read more »
SSE, one of the Big Six energy suppliers, warned there was a risk of the “lights going out” in Britain because of lack of clarity on energy policy, and said it was cutting capacity and delaying investments in gas-fired electricity until at least 2015. After completing a review of its assets, it had decided to close 2,000 megawatts of thermal generation capacity during the next year, SSE said. It also said it would not take final investment decisions on building gas-fired power stations until at least 2015, “unless there is a significant change in government policy” on electricity market reform. The announcement echoes a similar move by Centrica last month. “It appears the government is significantly underestimating the scale of the capacity crunch facing the UK in the next three years, and there is a very real risk of the lights going out as a result,” said Ian Marchant, SSE’s chief executive, in a statement. The energy bill is supposed to help investors in gas by introducing capacity payments, in which power capacity is auctioned and winners are obliged to deliver energy at times of peak demand. But the first capacity auction is not expected before 2015. Centrica said last month it would be able to make a final investment decision on a new gas-fired plant only after the first auction, meaning such a facility would not be in service before 2017.
FT 21st March 2013 read more »
BBC 21st March 2013 read more »
Independent 21st March 2013 read more »
Herald 22nd March 2013 read more »
MSPs have pressed the Scottish Government to step up its efforts to tackle climate change. Four committees are publishing reports on the same day, praising the aims of the Climate Change Act but warning ministers that they need to foster a “step change” in public opinion. Without more detailed proposals the government risks missing some of its annual targets. Environment minister Paul Wheelhouse outlined new measures in January after Scotland missed its carbon emissions targets for 2010. The setback was attributed to high demand for fuel during the bitterly cold winter that year. In the first of the four Holyrood reports, Rob Gibson, convener of the Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment Committee, said Scotland was over-reliant on the EU changing its emissions targets and the Government should “beef up” its report to address concerns. “The committee i s concerned that, going forward, some of the annual targets set out in the draft RPP2 report will be missed unless all policies and proposals are implemented,” he said.
STV 22nd March 2013 read more »
Scotsman 22nd March 2013 read more »
Scotsman 22nd March 2013 read more »
The Scottish government will today face fresh calls for it to ensure local authorities are taking appropriate steps to help deliver on the country’s ambitious climate change targets. The Scottish Parliament’s Local Government and Regeneration Committee is to publish a report that examines the Edinburgh government’s latest climate change strategy – known as Draft Second Climate Change Report on Proposals and Policies (RPP2) – and concludes that not enough is being done to ensure local authorities play a full role in the country’s decarbonisation plans. The Scottish government has adopted a series of widely-praised environmental targets that aim to ensure the country generates 100 per cent of its electricity from renewable sources, achieves “zero waste status”, and cuts emissions 42 per cent against 1990 levels by 2020. But today’s report warns there is a lack of clarity on how local authorities should support these targets.
Business Green 22nd March 2013 read more »
A federation of power firms has given up on devising a plan by March 31 on how to use 0.6 tons of fissile plutonium to be extracted by reprocessing spent nuclear fuel in the new fiscal year from April, sources said. The Federation of Electric Power Companies of Japan cannot meet the end of March deadline because prospects are bleak that the nation’s nuclear reactors will be rebooted anytime soon, including those that run on fuel containing plutonium, in view of the Fukushima disaster, the sources said Thursday.
Japan Times 22nd March 2013 read more »
Kansai Electric Power Co. said Thursday that its controversial plutonium-uranium mixed oxide fuel, or MOX, will soon be shipped from France to the Takahama power plant in Fukui Prefecture because the reprocessor is tired of storing it. The hybrid fuel, which contains discarded weapons-grade plutonium, is scheduled to be burned under the Takahama plant’s fledgling pluthermal (plutonium-thermal) power generation project using reactor 3. It will be the first MOX delivery since the Fukushima No. 1 power plant was crippled by three core meltdowns after the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
Japan Times 21st March 2013 read more »
Two years since a shudder in the Earth’s crust devastated Japan, the country’s scientists and engineers are still attempting to develop technologies to make Fukushima safe from radiation. But progress has been slow and—because of institutional failings—more advanced technologies have not been available to workers at the site. A country known as a technological superpower ultimately had to rely on low-tech methods during the disaster, including dumping water from the air to cool the raging reactors. High radiation levels prevented engineers from approaching critically damaged areas at the plant two years ago—and still does so today. Robots that some expected to be on call were conspicuously absent. The country faces a bill of between $1 billion and $2.5 billion dollars to dismantle the Fukushima plant, and 40 years until it is safely decommissioned.
CNN 20th March 2013 read more »
The BBC’s Panorama this week revisited the false WMD evidence that was used to launch the Iraq war. It discussed the forged documents saying that Saddam Hussein was trying to buy uranium from the mines of Niger in west Africa. However, neither Panorama nor any of the world’s newspapers know that the US actually tried to hide one of the documents from weapons inspectors. US analysts judged this document “funky” and “clearly a forgery.” The US seem to have hidden the paper from inspectors at the International Atomic Energy Agency because it sounded as convincing as Dr Evil’s plans and would have automatically discredited the Niger uranium claims.
Morning Star 21st March 2013 read more »
North Korea has threatened to launch a nuclear attack on US bases in Japan and Guam after Washington used B-52 bombers in a joint military drill with the South.
Telegraph 21st March 2013 read more »
Shocking new details of Iran’s nuclear enrichment programme have come to light following a report by a former Iranian Revolutionary Guard member and CIA operative ‘Reza Kahlili’ (pseudonym). Kahlili, who recently broke the news of the explosion at Iran’s Fordow reactor, reported late last night on further developments which ‘cross red lines’ with regard to Iran’s nuclear programme. According to Kahlili, Iranian scientists are working on nuclear warheads at an underground site previously unknown Western intelligence services. The source of the new information is a “high-ranking intelligence officer of the Islamic regime” in Iran.Regime scientists are also said to be working on a plutonium bomb as a second path to a nuclear weapon, the source said, who went on to explain that Iran has 24 kilograms of plutonium at the site, enough for ‘several atomic bombs’. There is also reason to believe that the collaboration between Iran and North Korea goes deeper than previously imagined. Iranian scientists, aided by North Koreans, are said to be working on new ways to have “more miniaturized and more powerful atomic bombs”.
The Commentator 21st March 2013 read more »
The Supreme Court – the UK’s highest court – has sat in secret for the first time to hear a case involving an Iranian bank and the government. According to nine Supreme Court justices a private hearing needed to be held so that material relating to national security could be considered. Only two lawyers joined justices at the private hearing. One was a barrister representing the Treasury – the other a barrister who represented the interests of the bank but was not allowed to reveal what went on to bank bosses.
Huffington Post 21st March 2013 read more »
I talked a bit about the question of thorium reactors and proliferation in a previous post. I try not to talk too much about pie-in-the-sky nuclear technologies and keep to what is actually happening i.e. the PWR reactors which they are actually thinking of building at Sizewell and Hinkley. However, there has been a video posted on some facebook pages. For thorium advocates this is quite reasonable and does mention some of the problems – in fact I agree with a lot that is said.
Peter Lux 21st March 2013 read more »
For 44 years, the U.K. has stored its nuclear weapons in western Scotland. It now could be faced with finding the Trident missiles in a foreign country should Scottish nationalists win their bid for independence. A vote for full sovereignty in the referendum set yesterday for Sept. 18, 2014, will lead to a demand for the removal of the four submarines and dozens of warheads, according to theScottish National Party. The base at Faslane was picked during the Cold War for its deep water and secure location.
Bloomberg 22nd March 2013 read more »
Bruce Kent: The government says we have to tighten our belts and make massive cuts, but we are actually on the verge of spending our way to disaster. That is exactly what committing £100 billion to building and running a replacement for the Trident nuclear weapons system – as our Government intends – would be: a disaster for all those whose real human needs are not going to be met; those who are now suffering from the harsh effects of cuts to pensions, education, health, public travel provision and even our prison system.
New Statesman 21st March 2013 read more »
The government needs to act urgently to give equivalent terms for renewable energy development to community renewable companies as are being given to the big electricity companies. Proposals that could do this in a competitive manner have been put forward by Alan Whitehead MP, but have so far been ignored by the government. It is remarkable that the media is full of special pleading from EDF for outrageously bloated subsidies (Report, 15 March), but meanwhile there is silence about the plight of independent renewable generators. Community renewable companies will have access to far lower incentive levels than the Big Six energy companies will get for their renewable schemes.
Guardian 19th March 2013 read more »
Readers of this blog are urged to write to your MP urging that the Government ensures, as part of the Energy Bill, that community and independent renewable energy generators are given equivalent income streams for renewable energy projects as will be available to the major electricity companies. A letter, signed by over 30 academics and NGO leaders, appears today in the Guardian with this objective in mind.
Dave Toke’s Green Energy Blog 20th March 2013 read more »
Google isn’t investing billions into clean energy projects only to feel good and make employees happy. The company is doing it because the bottomline results are supported by data. “While fossil-based prices are on a cost curve that goes up, renewable prices are on this march downward,” said Rick Needham, director of energy and sustainability at Google, during a presentation at the Cleantech Forum taking place in San Francisco. Even if you factor in how fracking has reduced the cost of gas in many regions, the pricing trends generally point toward renewables.
Forbes 20th March 2013 read more »
The UK should go ahead with fracking for shale gas in order to reduce emissions from the energy sector, according to media reports on a study by leading climate change experts. But it turns out not to be that simple. While the new report argues that the country could cut emissions by burning natural gas instead of coal, it warns significant amounts of UK shale gas may not commercially available until the late 2020s – and emissions will only come down with carbon capture technology.
Carbon Brief 19th March 2013 read more »