A damning report by safety experts has revealed that staff at Britain’s most important nuclear site did “not have the level of capability required to respond to nuclear emergencies effectively”. In response to a freedom of information request, the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR), an arm of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), said errors by senior fire officers in a preparedness exercise at Sellafield “could have led to delays in responding to the nuclear emergency and a prolonged release of radioactive material off-site”. The initial report from the ONR led to an improvement notice being issued to the Cumbrian site, ordering it to improve its training and wider preparedness to deal with emergencies. Two HSE fire specialists had watched a safety exercise in December 2011 which tested the Sellafield fire and rescue service’s ability to search for two people after a fictional accident that led to the spillage of radioactive liquid and an aerial release of radioactivity. Although the exercise presented “simple scenarios under ideal conditions”, the service’s “resources were stretched” and “there were insufficient numbers of firefighters to achieve the objectives”, according to the HSE report.
Guardian 26th Dec 2012 more »
MANUFACTURER Independent Forgings and Alloys is to provide components for two nuclear reactors in the UK. Sheffield-based IFA said the memorandum of understanding with AREVA marked another step in its plan to become a key supplier within the nuclear new build programmes in the UK and overseas. The agreement relates to plans for two nuclear reactors planned for a nuclear site developed by EDF Energy at Hinkley Point, Somerset.
Business Desk 27th Dec 2012 more »
Japan’s “nuclear village” appears to be back in business. During earlier decades in power, LDP governments backed nuclear energy to the hilt, brushing aside worries about safety. In the two days after the election the shares of Tokyo Electric (TEPCO), the owner of the Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear power plant, surged by 56%. Investors bet that the new government would allow Japan’s reactors, almost all of which have been idle since being struck by an earthquake in 2011, to restart. That may be wishful thinking. Mr Abe may want to steer clear of the sensitive nuclear issue until upper-house elections in mid-2013. If so, a time frame agreed with TEPCO’s 77 banks for restarting the first of its seven Kashiwazaki-Kariwa reactors in Niigata prefecture may be missed. TEPCO says each stalled reactor costs it 100 billion yen ($1.2 billion) in lost profit each year. Furthermore, the nuclear industry now has an independent watchdog, the Nuclear Regulation Authority, which is showing teeth. Its investigators have so far issued seismic warnings against two nuclear power plants, which may lead to their permanent mothballing. By law, even an LDP government should be unable to boss the watchdog around.
Economist 22nd Dec 2012 more »
In their policy agreement, the Liberal Democratic Party and its coalition partner Komeito have failed to declare that they will aim to eventually end nuclear power generation in Japan. They have agreed only to gradually decrease Japan’s reliance on it, without indicating the year in which all of Japan’s nuclear power plants should stop operating. if nuclear power generation resumes, radioactive waste storage facilities at nuclear power plants will be full in several years. In addition, the technology to safely store high-level radioactive waste on a permanent basis does not exist. Moreover, active faults have been found beneath or very near several nuclear power plants. Given these factors, continuing to rely on nuclear power seems more irresponsible. The LDP should not forget the dire consequences caused by the Fukushima nuclear disaster. In addition, the development of renewable energy sources could stimulate local economies. The LDP should not assume that its victory in the Dec. 16 election means that people have given carte blanche to its nuclear power policy.
Japan Times 26th Dec 2012 more »
Japan-based engineering company Hitachi said it is positive over its plans to build a nuclear plant in Lithuania, after the country’s newly elected government announced that it could abandon nuclear projects. Hitachi chief executive Hiroaki Nakanishi was quoted by Reuters as saying, “There might be a slight lag in the time period, but the talks have not been completely suspended.” The company which designs and builds nuclear power plants with General Electric intends to build nuclear plants overseas, as Japan is now turning away from using power from nuclear plants.
Energy Business Review 26h Dec 2012 more »
The head of the Royal Navy’s submarine programme has told the Guardian that his team discovered design faults, technical problems and flaws in the construction of the multibillion-pound Astute class boats, but said he was still confident it would enter service on time next year. In a frank interview in which he spoke in detail for the first time about the challenges of launching the submarines, Admiral Simon Lister also admitted the military should not have boasted about the boats’ top speed. It was not unusual, he said, for the first of a class to be “a difficult birth”, but he added that the Astute was now the most tested boat in the navy. Lister insisted that lessons were being learned and that changes were already being made to Astute’s sister boats, which are due to come into service over the next decade.
Guardian 26th Dec 2012 more »
What does 2013 hold for the UK’s Climate Change Committee? This worthy body was established in 2009 and is responsible for advising the government on emissions targets and reporting to parliament on the progress being made on reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The remit sounds reasonable but the reality is that the committee has been written off in Whitehall. The committee’s advice is blatantly ignored and its chief executive, despite his obvious knowledge and capability, has been dismissed by no less than the prime minister as too inexperienced and unqualified to be appointed as permanent secretary of the energy department. For a serious public servant that is pretty damning. The annual cost of the committee is about Â£3.5m, which is nothing in government terms, but cuts are forcing the committee to slim down its operations. The danger if the cuts go further is that the committee will become no more than a token entity.
FT 27th Dec 2012 more »
Households will have to pay hundreds of pounds more to insulate their homes if Britain loses a legal battle over VAT with Brussels. The row threatens to further undermine the Government’s “Green Deal” energy efficiency programme, which ministers have billed as the biggest home improvement project since the Second World War. Many energy-saving measures are charged at the lower VAT rate of 5 per cent, covering products such as controls for heating and hot water systems, as well as having solid wall or loft insulation installed. But the European Commission has ordered the UK to apply the standard higher rate of 20 per cent, claiming that the 5 per cent charge breaches European Union legislation to remove what it sees as tax distortions.
Times 27th Dec 2012 more »