A radical plan to dispose of Britain’s huge store of civil plutonium – the biggest in the world – by “burning” it in a new type of fast reactor is now officially one of three “credible options” being considered by the Government, The Independent understands. However, further delays have hit attempts to make a final decision on what to do with the growing plutonium stockpile which has been a recurring headache for successive governments over the past three decades. Ministers had pledged to resolve the plutonium problem in a public consultation but are sitting on a secret report by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) which is believed to confirm that there are now three “credible options” for dealing with the plutonium stored at the Sellafield nuclear reprocessing plant in Cumbria. The original “preferred option” was to convert the plutonium into a form of nuclear fuel called mixed oxide (Mox) and then to burn this in conventional nuclear reactors. However, serious questions have been raised about this proposal in the light of the expensive failure of a previous £1.4bn Mox plant at Sellafield, which had to be closed in 2011. Two other options are now on the table, according to the NDA report. One involves a Canadian nuclear power plant called a Candu reactor which will burn a simpler form of Mox fuel. The other more radical proposal is to burn the plutonium directly in a fast reactor built by GE-Hitachi. The NDA report, which is classified as commercially confidentially, was itself delayed by several months before being submitted in August to the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC). The Government’s response to it was supposed to have been published within weeks but has now been delayed until next year – to the consternation of the companies involved in the consultation process. It is understood that the NDA has been impressed by proposals from GE-Hitachi to build a pair of its Prism fast reactors on the Sellafield site.
Independent 28th Nov 2013 read more »
Tom Burke: Consistency is becoming the rarest of phenomena in public discourse. We have a government that is simultaneously increasing the planning constraints on wind farms and loosening them on fracking. It complains loudly about a proposal to freeze energy bills for two years while simultaneously planning to sign a contract for new nuclear that would freeze wholesale electricity prices at double their current level for over thirty years. It loudly proclaims itself a friend of business and desperate for investment while managing its energy and environment policies so inconsistently as to maximise the policy uncertainty business loathes and chills investment. The Prime Minister made his now famous pledge for his to be ‘the greenest government ever’ because he understood something real about British voters. They care about the environment. His Chancellor, however, desperate for some explanation as to why his economic policies were not working, has consistently attacked protecting the environment as an obstacle to growth.
Tom Burke 27th Nov 2013 read more »
Ministers have begun to look at ways of reducing energy bills in the wake of Labour’s promise to freeze prices. Sources say the aim is to achieve an overall annual saving of about £50 from the average energy bill. David Cameron says he wants to roll back the green and social levies that have added to the cost. But the largest levy, a scheme giving free insulation to low-income homes, will be saved despite reports the prime minister wanted to get rid of it. The Tories and Lib Dems have yet to agree all the details but expect to have a deal before the chancellor’s autumn financial statement next week. Ministers want to implement the Energy Companies Obligation (ECO) scheme that gives free home insulation to low income households more slowly, over four years instead of two. This would cut the annual cost by half. They plan to fund another levy, the warm homes discount, out of tax rather than customers’ energy bills.
BBC 28th Nov 2013 read more »
When the chancellor stands up in the House of Commons on Thursday, 5 December, he is expected to announce details of what he is likely to call a cut in energy bills. This is the result of what the prime minister originally described as the “rolling back” of green levies, although he was later accused of using a rather more vernacular phrase to officials in No 10. But how big, and how genuine, is that reduction likely to be? If the levies are taken off energy bills and transferred to general taxation, most people would end up paying the same amount, but by a different method. But one strong possibility is that the chancellor could decide to shift the burden onto the power generation side of the business. Figures just published by the regulator, Ofgem, show that profit margins in the generation industry were no less than 20% in 2012. As things stand, the environmental and social levies on our energy bills amount to an average of £112 per household per year, according to the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC). But some of the green levies are enshrined in legislation, so cannot be easily shifted into general taxation. As a result, the chancellor is looking most closely at the Energy Companies Obligation (ECO), and the Warm Home Discount (WHD). The Renewables Obligation (RO) is likely to remain untouched.
BBC 28th Nov 2013 read more »
Ministers are failing to properly assess whether billions of pounds of levies charged to consumer energy bills are actually achieving desired policy aims, the National Audit Office has said. A joint Treasury-Energy Department board tasked with monitoring spending is neglecting its remit to assess the “energy policy outcomes” of the levies, the watchdog said in a report. The NAO also criticised the cap on levies as ill-defined – deterring investors in new power plants, lacking sufficient transparency, and potentially underestimating the true costs of green subsidies. Ministers established the Levy Control Framework (LCF) in 2011 to monitor and control the costs of policies funded through levies on energy suppliers, who pass on the cost to consumers on bills.
Telegraph 27th Nov 2013 read more »
Ireland has abandoned an auction of Bord Gáis Energy, rejecting bids from companies including British Gas owner Centrica as too low. The Irish government announced plans to sell off the supplier – which had an estimated value of up to £1bn – last year as part of a divestment programme to meet the terms of its EU-IMF bailout. Bord Gáis has about 775,000 customers in Ireland and owns a modern gas-fired power station, 13 operational wind farms and several wind farms under development. “None of the final bids received for (Bord Gais’) energy business were at an acceptable value,” the Irish energy ministry said in a statement.
Telegraph 27th Nov 2013 read more »
Times 28th Nov 2013 read more »
Amec was the biggest faller in the FTSE 100 after The Times reported that the company is stalking its American rival Foster Wheeler with a view to potentially pulling off a deal to create a £5 billion energy services group.
Times 27th Nov 2013 read more »
The leading plaintiffs in a lawsuit that put all licensing decisions for U.S. nuclear power plants on ice a year ago have been hinting in recent weeks that the legal battle over the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s so-called “waste confidence” rule is far from finished. In a 2012 ruling, a federal appeals court found that the commission – the federal entity through which all commercial reactors must seek permission to operate — had not done enough analysis to justify the “confidence” it professed that radioactive waste generated by U.S. plants ultimately would be disposed of safely. The court said that the commission had not adequately considered the prospect of catastrophic, terrorism-instigated spent-fuel pool fires at reactor sites in the interim. Nor did it thoroughly weigh the fact that the Obama administration had canceled the Yucca Mountain repository project in Nevada without yet identifying a replacement, according to the appeals bench.
National Journal 27th Nov 2013 read more »
U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz has reported that the final shipment of low enriched uranium (LEU) derived from Russian weapons-origin highly enriched uranium (HEU) under the 1993 U.S.-Russia HEU Purchase Agreement, commonly known as the Megatons to Megawatts Program has taken place. Under the agreement, Russia downblended 500 metric tons of HEU, equivalent to 20,000 nuclear warheads, into LEU. The resulting LEU has been delivered to the United States, fabricated into nuclear fuel, and used in nuclear power plants to generate nearly ten percent of all US electricity for the past fifteen years, roughly half of all commercial nuclear energy produced domestically during that time.
Nuclear Energy Insider 27th Nov 2013 read more »
An abandoned fairground, a school hall covered with gas masks and a deserted nursery – these are the haunting images of a town devastated by nuclear disaster nearly 30 years ago caught on camera by a British photographer. Amateur photographer, Ryan Field, 26, from East Sussex, took the photos in Pripyat, the city famous for the Chernobyl disaster which shook the world in 1986. Mr Field, who works as a window fitter had always wanted to photograph Pripyat and hoped that it would be snowing when he planned his visit.
Daily Mail 27th Nov 2013 read more »
South Korea – closed reactors
A “safety-related action” automatically shut down one of South Korea’s 23 nuclear reactors on Thursday, the country’s nuclear operator said, bringing the tally of those closed to six and hiking the chances of power blackouts this winter.
Reuters 28th Nov 2013 read more »
Saudi Arabia – new reactors
A delegation of 30 senior managers from 20 leading Saudi industrial companies headed by Eng. Walid Abukhaled, the Deputy Minister for Industrial Affairs, was in France to participate in a five-day industrial tour focused on nuclear supply chain development. It is anticipated that the nuclear sector creates billions of euros worth of business opportunities for Saudi companies and generate tens of thousands of skilled jobs in Saudi Arabia. The industrial tour comprised a full day workshop in Paris where Saudi and French officials encouraged the companies to develop the nuclear industrial sector in the Kingdom through partnerships and joint ventures between companies from both countries. The Saudi and French companies then engaged in B2B bilateral meetings to explore partnership opportunities before participating in industrial visits across the country. The visits included the Flamanville-3 EPR construction site, and manufacturing plants for heavy components, handling equipment, cables, electrical switchgears, piping, etc.
Albawaba 27th Nov 2013 read more »
India – new reactors
The 9,900-Mw Jaitapur nuclear power project in Maharashtra is caught in a cobweb of mandatory legislative requirements due to the civil nuclear liability regime, slow decision-making, a surge in cost due to the weak rupee and more safety applications. The negotiations between the state-run Nuclear Power Corporation and French nuclear reactor supplier Areva, which started after they signed an early work contract in December 2010, are progressing at a snail’s pace as cost sharing has become a major bone of contention.
Business Standard 27th Nov 2013 read more »
Police are investigating whether anti-nuclear activists were behind bomb blasts that killed six people near the Kudankulam nuclear power plant which started production in October despite protests by villagers.At least two crude bombs exploded on Tuesday in a house just a kilometre (half a mile) from the Russian-built plant on India’s southernmost tip in the district of Tirunelveli.
Reuters 27th Nov 2013 read more »
BBC 27th Nov 2013 read more »
South Africa – new reactors
Nuclear energy companies in the United States, Russia, China, South Korea and Japan are lining up for the South African government’s lucrative nuclear contract, estimated at R1 trillion. The government is expected to open the bidding process for a tender to build a new nuclear power station by the middle of February next year.
SABC 25th Nov 2013 read more »
The South African Nuclear Energy Corporation SOC Limited (NECSA) has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with United Company NIAEP-ASE and Nukem Technologies to develop projects and initiatives in South African nuclear industry. Signed during the Rosatom organized-Nuclear Industry Suppliers Forum, ATOMEX Africa, the agreement marks the companies’ commitment to develop strategic cooperation in engineering, design, procurement and construction of complex capital projects and facilities.
Energy Business Review 27th Nov 2013 read more »
Germany – energy costs
German renewable energy association AEE has produced a simple chart comparing average household expenses for electricity, motor fuel, and heating oil. While everyone is focused on the rising cost of power, it turns out that the other two items have increased faster since 2000. Craig Morris investigates.
Energy Transition 27th Nov 2013 read more »
Craig Morris is the lead author of German Energy Transition, a website that explains Germany’s Energy Transition to the world in English. Born and educated in the US, he founded Petite Planète translation service in 2002 and has been working in the renewables sector ever since. In 2006, he published Energy Switch, the English edition of his German book from 2005 entitled Zukunftsenergien. Since 2010, he has written every workday for Renewables International. Based in Freiburg since 1992, he publishes in both English and German. In this interview, Craig Morris will be discussing his new documentary, Welcome to the Energiewende, which can be seen at http://welcometotheenergiewende.blogspot.de/
Solar Server 27th Nov 2013 read more »
Iran – nuclear talks
In the early years of the confrontation over Iran’s nuclear programme, Kofi Annan visited Tehran in 2006 and warned against the course which America and its allies seemed set upon. “I do not believe that sanctions are the solution to all problems,” he said. Now that a deal has been reached after ever-tighter sanctions were imposed on Iran, it’s worth looking again at the judgement that embargos are an ineffective way of forcing regimes to change their behaviour.
Telegraph 28th Nov 2013 read more »
Hans Blix: The interim agreement just reached in Geneva committing Iran to a number of restraints in its nuclear programme and providing some relief in the pressures against Iran should be welcomed by all. Above all, it should remove – at any rate, for six months – the threat of unilateral military action and the potentially grave consequences such action would have for the world and the authority of the UN. The interim agreement now gives the negotiating states six months working space – renewable – to achieve a comprehensive peaceful settlement.
Guardian 27th Nov 2013 read more »
More than 100 veterans of Britain’s nuclear weapons tests during the 1950s and 60s have protested at Parliament today. Many of the servicemen and their children have suffered health problems, which they blame on their exposure to the radiation.
ITV 27th Nov 2013 read more »
Renewables – offshore wind
A vast wind farm in the Bristol Channel could eventually be built with floating turbines, the Crown Estate said yesterday after a German company abandoned plans for 240 fixed turbines at the site. The National Trust welcomed RWE’s announcement that it was stopping work on the Atlantic Array, which would have been visible from dozens of miles of scenic coastline in North Devon and South Wales. However, Huub den Rooijen, head of offshore wind at the Crown Estate, which leases sites around the coast for development, said that floating turbines tethered to the seabed could allow the strong winds in the Bristol Channel to be exploited. Last week the Crown Estate granted Statoil a lease to locate five large floating turbines off the coast of Peterhead in Aberdeenshire.
Times 27th Nov 2013 read more »
Fracking holds “inherent” risks of contaminating water or causing shortages, but these can be mitigated through tough regulation, the water industry body Water UK said on Wednesday as it signed a co-operation agreement with shale gas industry.
Telegraph 27th Nov 2013 read more »
Guardian 27th Nov 2013 read more »