The advice of Chris Huhne, the energy secretary, for families to shop around to save money on power bills has been undermined by research that found most households would save only £1 a week by changing supplier. Some may even end up paying more. The figure is only a quarter of the sum Huhnes Department for Energy and Climate Change claimed last week could be saved after a summit between the secretary of state and the six biggest power providers. A household using less than 2,000 kilowatt hours of electricity or gas equivalent to less than 11,000kwh a year is charged an average of 15% more per unit than consumers who use twice that amount. In the case of Npower, the lowest energy users are paying as much as 23% more for a unit of electricity and 27% more for gas. Alan Whitehead, Labour MP for Southampton Test and a member of the energy and climate change select committee, said: Its perverse for the government to be telling people they have to save money and insulate their homes, when the energy companies will have free rein to penalise them for doing so.
Sunday Times 23rd Oct 2011 more >>
Britains liberalised energy market still charges some of the lowest prices in Europe. Gas prices here are not actually that high the oil price equivalent of $60 (£38) a barrel. On the Continent they are $80-$100. The price rose because of demand from Asia, which is continuing to grow just as Europe looks likely to fall back into recession. Britain now has the choice of falling further behind in competitiveness or persuading Europe to take a new direction based on the discovery of secure supplies of gas. For the truth is that the thing most likely to put up consumers bills over the next decade is Europes target of 20% of all energy consumption coming from renewables by 2020. This is calculated to add about 30% to customers bills. Once, it looked sensible to hedge our bets against ever-spiralling gas prices with clean coal, offshore wind and nuclear power at the equivalent of $130-$180 a barrel. That was before the shale gas revolution, which has cut gas prices in America to the equivalent of $22 a barrel. The discovery of shale gas in Britain and Poland and new discoveries in the northern North Sea means there could soon be a credible, alternative way of meeting Britains 2050 environmental targets at lower cost, by moving from coal to gas. Eventually, the shale gas revolution will hit China, displacing coal, which could be the single best thing for the planet.
Sunday Times 23rd Oct 2011 more >>
In just 10yrs shale gas has transformed the market in the US – it is so abundant that prices have collapsed. And there are thought to be trillions of cubic metres of it in Britain, including 5.6 trillion cubic metres in the Blackpool area. The shale fine-grained rock formed from compressed mud and other deposits, including dead creatures that collected on the seabed when Britain was covered by water 320m years ago extends from near the Scottish border to Derbyshire, with a younger layer from the East Midlands all the way to the south coast. Until recently it was too expensive to tap. Then came a technological revolution that is now poised to be exploited in Britain. Could it be our own cheap energy of the future? In a traditional gas field the fuel is tapped by drilling in the right place, releasing the gas to flow to the surface under its own pressure. Shale gas, however, is stuck in more challenging rock and needs a more aggressive approach. A mixture of water, sand and chemicals is pumped down the bore at high pressure to create small fractures in the rock. When the pumping stops, the sand keeps the small fractures open and the gas starts to flow. The process is called hydraulic fracturing or fracking. The quantities are so large some experts believe it is time to rewrite the rule book on energy. According to the International Energy Agency, the world has enough unconventional gas to last for 250 years and it is a cleaner fuel than coal, still a significant energy source in many countries. For Britain, the implications are profound. The arrival of commercial shale gas on world markets could make nuclear power and offshore wind look very expensive. Dieter Helm, professor of energy policy at Oxford University, believes a rapid switch to electricity generation by gas, which has about half the emissions of coal, could save the taxpayer billions, cut household bills and bring about faster falls in emissions. He said: Were going to spend £100 billion on offshore wind, and my guess is that it would cost £10 billion or less to achieve the same carbon dioxide emissions if you closed lots of coal and built gas instead. The costs are high partly because of the big subsidies for renewable energy. He added: If shale gas really delivers, there could be substantial falls in price. Environmentalists, who like high energy prices because they make renewable energy seem less expensive and spur changes in behaviour, are horrified. They point out that in America lax regulation has led to problems. Some householders found they could set light to their water taps because methane got into the supply. There are worries about the contamination of ground water by chemicals. France, Switzerland and some US states have banned fracking.
Sunday Times 23rd Oct 2011 more >>
Letter Marianne BIRKBY, Radiation Free Lakeland: The plan to build new reactors at what is already the most dangerous nuclear site in Europe and to find a solution to the waste problem has ratcheted up a gear following the findings of the Weightman report. For the plan for new build at Sellafield and other chosen sites to go ahead there needs to be seen to be a solution to the nuclear waste problem. The DECC solution is to dig a 1,000-metre hole to dump the high level wastes and spent fuel in Cumbrias leaky geology. The resulting slag heap(s) ripped from Lakeland geology could be the equivalent of up to several Great Pyramids. Link to Prof David Smythes presentation on Rock Spoil (http://mariannewildart.files.wordpress. com/2011/10/rock-spoil-great-pyramids-in-cumbria-11oct11.pdf): No possible underground repository site can be found within the area of Allerdale and Copeland district councils, that would be geologically safe. In addition to the insurmountable geological problems, the NDA (Nuclear Decommissioning Authority) is misleading the elected officials and the general public of West Cumbria as to the scale of environmental blight to be caused, were such a repository to be excavated. The MRWS: (Managing Radioactive Waste Safely) partners need to ask some searching questions of the NDA; in particular, why the figures from the NDAs own environmental assessment, used herein, have not been presented in a more honest and transparent way.
Whitehaven News 20th Oct 2011 more >>
OLDBURY nuclear power station will finally close in February 2012 when the second of its two reactors is shut down for good. It will bring 44 years of generation at the plant near Thornbury to an end three years more than initially anticipated. Industry regulators gave approval for continued operation during that extra time, despite objections from the anti-nuclear sector, and recently agreed that reactor one could keep running until the end of 2012 but no longer. Reactor two was closed a week after the announcement and its unused fuel which is no longer made was transferred to reactor one. Operators Magnox and site owners the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, in conjunction with the Office for Nuclear Regulation, said the decision to close reactor one was taken on economic grounds, with further operation of one of the world’s oldest nuclear reactors no longer viable.
Bristol Evening Post 22nd Oct 2011 more >>
DEVELOPERS have unveiled the details of a £120m holiday park on Anglesey plus plans for more than 400 homes and housing for Wylfa B workers.
Daily Post 22nd Oct 2011 more >>
Mile after mile of giant pylons strung across some of Britains most picturesque countryside or high-voltage power lines buried in a trench at a cost of £1 billion? That is the choice facing the residents of Somerset and Britains taxpayers as the government pushes ahead with a controversial plan to build the UKs first new nuclear power station in nearly two decades. The plan to construct a 37-mile link from the proposed plant at Hinkley Point C to Avonmouth drew more than 8,000 complaints. Liam Fox, the former defence secretary and the MP for North Somerset, wrote to Chris Huhne, the energy secretary, accusing him of short-termism of the worst sort for failing to support the trench option, which, he argued, could be cheaper in the long term.
Sunday Times 23rd Oct 2011 more >>
Since the beginning of the Fukushima nuclear disaster, Greenpeace has been working on the ground in Fukushima prefecture, providing independent information on contamination levels. More recently, weve been testing fish and shellfish from five supermarket chains in seven Japanese cities, and what we found gives cause for concern. We found radioactive contamination in just over half the samples highlighting problems with the official government monitoring of Japans seafood, and again underscoring its inadequate efforts to protect the health and safety of its people. Up to 88 becquerel per kg of caesium was found in 34 of the 60 samples thats well below Japans official limits of 500 becquerel per kg, but not so far from the 150 becquerel limit set in Ukraine following Chernobyl.
Greenpeace International 21st Oct 2011 more >>
In the next few days, inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency are due to arrive in Damascus for the first time in more than three years to talk about the Dair Alzour site, bombed by Israel in 2007. In May, the IAEA declared that the site was ‘very likely’ a covert nuclear reactor under construction, and has referred the issue to the Security Council.
Guardian 23rd Oct 2011 more >>
Two days of U.S.-North Korea talks opening on Monday in Geneva are aimed more at managing tensions on the tense Korean peninsula than resuming regional talks on ending the North’s nuclear programs.
Reuters 23rd Oct 2011 more >>
It’s almost five years since Alexander Litvinenko, a former KGB officer living in Britain, was poisoned with radioactive polonium after drinking tea with Russian contacts at a London hotel. His widow, Marina, has been campaigning ever since for a further investigation into claims that he was killed at the behest of the Russian state – and 10 days ago was rewarded when the St Pancras coroner said he would reopen the case and commission a wide-ranging inquiry. She talked to Sally Williams about what this means for herself, her son, and her long search for the truth about her husband’s death.
Telegraph 23rd Oct 2011 more >>
PHILIP Hammonds appointment as defence secretary has once again thrown open the debate over the future of Britains independent nuclear deterrent. Outwardly the argument is whether Mr Hammond, pushed by budgetary concerns and appeasing the Lib Dems, will reduce our submarine-based Trident system, or replace it with something different. The real question for those who appreciate that Britain can never be without a robust nuclear deterrent is much more delicate: will a US-centric Trident system be replaced by a joint Anglo-French policy to shore up European defence? Mr Hammond, successor to Dr Liam Fox, is viewed with ¬trepidation by senior military and defence experts, who rate him a budget man, not a deep defence thinker.
Sunday Express 23rd Oct 2011 more >>
Two hundred people, most of them elderly, will die in Britain of cold-related diseases every day this winter, according to calculations by Britain’s leading advocacy group for old people, Age UK. “The fact that these ‘excess’ deaths occur in winter makes it clear that they are due directly to cold,” the organisation’s research manager, Philip Rossall, said. “And the fact that other, colder countries have lower excess winter deaths means that there is no reason that they are not preventable. The cost of heating an adequately sized house is estimated to be £1,300 a year, so if you are on pension credit of £7,000, you are very fuel-poor indeed. Why is this not a national scandal?
Observer 22nd Oct 2011 more >>
With thousands of jobs promised by the fledgling industry, First Minister Alex Salmond has vowed to fight on to ensure the planet-saving technology is developed in this country. But Wednesdays shock revelation has left industry experts asking: what next for CCS in Scotland? Attention is now shifting to six smaller projects that the coalition government has put forward for a share of ¤4.5bn (£3.9bn) in European Investment Bank (EIB) funding. The UK schemes including plans to retrofit Scottish & Southern Energys gas-fired power station in Peterhead for CCS are up against six similar proposals from France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland and Romania. Up to three British programmes could receive funding from the EIB, with the winners due to be announced next year. While four of the British projects are in north-east England, Scotland could have a second bite at the cherry in the form of John Whittakers plan to build a coal-fired power station at Hunterston, in Ayrshire, which is also on the shortlist.
Scotland on Sunday 23rd Oct 2011 more >>