Britain’s nuclear watchdog faces what shocked industry insiders are calling “unbelievable” conflicts of interest, The Independent can reveal. The Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) is receiving technical advice from several of the very companies that it is supposed to be monitoring, including the US engineering conglomerate Jacobs and the Ftse 100 stalwart Amec. This has led to accusations that the advice cannot be viewed as independent. ONR inspects nuclear sites across the country, including the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) in Berkshire and Hinkley Point civil energy reactors in Somerset. It recently issued formal cautions to two workers on Cumbria’s Sellafield, one of the world’s most complicated decommissioning sites, for an incident that could have exposed themselves or their colleagues to heightened levels of radiation. But there are fears that ONR’s efforts to oversee these hazardous sites could be compromised by contracts it has dished out for technical support in its assessment work. In early April ONR handed Jacobs a five-year deal to help the watchdog in areas like assessing external hazards and decontamination in relation to its work on existing nuclear sites and future reactor designs. Amec gives advice on complicated issues such as reactor chemistry and radiation protection, while the consultancy Arup and building firm Sir Robert McAlpine help on civil engineering issues. All have extensive nuclear interests in the UK. Jacobs is part of the consortium that owns AWE, which builds and maintains the UK’s nuclear defence deterrent, Trident. Amec is in the consortium looking after the clean-up of Sellafield. Both of these huge firms are supporting Horizon Nuclear Power with engineering expertise on proposed plants at Wylfa on the Isle of Anglesey and Oldbury in south Gloucestershire. Arup worked for the operator RWE Npower on assessing potential sites for new nuclear power stations in Cumbria. Sir Robert McAlpine built 13 of Britain’s nuclear plants, such as Sizewell B in Suffolk.
Independent 27th May 2014 read more »
EDF Energy says 50,000 students in Somerset have benefited directly from the financial windfall from Hinkley Point C. EDF has pumped more than £10 million into training and education throughout the county to prepare potential future workers. The 50,000th student will be one of 26 year nine girls from schools in Bridgwater and Taunton attending a ‘’ event at the Construction Skills and Innovation Centre in Cannington.
This is the West Country 25th May 2014 read more »
EDF have already stated preparing the site in southwest England for the UK’s first nuclear power station for 25 years. The French company is expected to partner on the project with CGN, the Chinese group, whose Taishan plant is expected to be the first of the EPR reactors to come online. The FT’s Lucy Hornby visits the Chinese site. (Video)
FT 26th May 2014 read more »
When Chinese planners decided to build a nuclear power plant on a rain-lashed cove in the south of the country, they simply moved more than 1,000 villagers to nearby towns. Contrast that with EDF, a French utility, which is building a similar plant in southwest England. To minimise disruption to the neighbours, human and otherwise, it had to build a bypass road around the nearest town, relocate bat roosts and create man-made burrows for about 60 badgers. Despite the differences, EDF hopes to learn a lot from Taishan, where state-owned China General Nuclear is constructing two European pressurised reactors (EPRs). The main lesson: how to build a nuclear power station fast and on budget. It is a lesson that is crucial for the future of the EPR. Each reactor is an enormous structure designed to withstand a direct hit by an aircraft, or the kind of flooding that devastated the Fukushima reactor during Japan’s 2011 tsunami. But building such safety margins into the design is expensive. The other two EPRs that are under construction – in Olkiluoto, Finland, and Flamanville in France – have been hit by severe delays and cost overruns. That’s allowed Taishan, which started third, to pull ahead, although it has been delayed by about two years from its original end-2013 commissioning target by slower than expected construction, and a safety review of all reactors in China. “We thought we would be able to learn from Finland and France, because they started before us,” says Olivier Bard, deputy general manager at Taishan. “But now we are the ones who have to figure everything out for the first time.”
FT 26th May 2014 read more »
The value of Europe’s top 20 utilities has halved in the past six years and their credit ratings have been downgraded, despite a recent upward trend. The situation is most stark in Germany where the utilities, the traditional suppliers of power largely through their fossil-fuelled plants, were caught out by the surprise phase out of nuclear power, the sharp decrease in the cost of solar and the rise of renewable generation capacity. One day last week Germany generated two thirds of its power from wind and solar. German utility CEO, Peter Terium, recently declared the situation the “worst structural crisis in the history of energy supply”. So is there a future for these once mighty actors? There is – but it will require a massive change in their thinking and business model. Utilities must put themselves at the heart of what the German government, borrowing nomenclature from Silicon Valley, is calling Industry 4.0. This new stage of industrial development will be based on Information Communication Technology (ICT) – smart industry enabled by smart infrastructure. There will be resource efficiency gains from managing information flows, analysing data and managing the distribution of increasing amounts of renewable energy. Information, not energy, will be the driver.
Guardian 27th May 2014 read more »
NIAMEY: French nuclear group Areva will sign a long-delayed renewal of its uranium production deal with Niger today, according to sources close to the company and the Niger presidency. State-owned Areva’s CEO Luc Oursel met with Niger President Mahamadou Issoufou today, presidency sources said. The official signature of the deal was due to take place later at the mining ministry.
Economic Times 26th May 2014 read more »
Japan paid 16.938 billion yen ($166 million) for high-level radioactive waste generated during reprocessing in Britain for the government’s trouble-plagued nuclear fuel-recycling program, a customs declaration report showed. The cost was a record 128 million yen for each of the 132 vitrified nuclear waste containers that arrived at the Rokkasho reprocessing plant in Aomori Prefecture in April. That was triple the price when reprocessed nuclear waste was first returned to Japan in 1995. The increasing cost is believed to stem partly from tighter security on management and transportation to protect the nuclear waste from terrorists and other forces. The added financial burden is expected to be passed on to consumers in their electricity bills. Under the government’s recycling program, spent nuclear fuel originating at domestic nuclear power plants is sent to overseas companies for reprocessing. The procedure extracts plutonium and processes it with uranium into mixed oxide (MOX) fuel. The MOX fuel is then returned to Japan for use in nuclear power generation.
Asahi Shimbun 26th May 2014 read more »
South Korea and China agreed on Monday that recent nuclear activity by North Korea posed a serious threat to the peace and stability of the region and Pyongyang must not conduct a nuclear test, Seoul said after a meeting of their top diplomats. Renewed activity at North Korea’s nuclear test site has indicated Pyongyang may be preparing a fourth nuclear test in contravention of U.N. sanctions. Analysis have suggested the North may be close to miniaturizing a nuclear warhead to mount on a missile, alarming regional powers that have for two decades tried to rein in Pyongyang’s atomic program.
Reuters 26th May 2014 read more »