The government’s decision to quit the Euratom treaty has put the future of the UK’s nuclear industry at risk, the House of Lords has been warned. Speaking during an upper house debate on the Parliamentary bill triggering the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, former trade and industry secretary Lord Hutton described parallel moves to pull out of Euratom as a potential “catastrophe”. Lord Hutton warned his fellow peers that it will not be possible for the UK to continue trading in nuclear materials and services unless it is able to replace the arrangements laid out in the Euratom treaty. “We face this rather grim and desperate situation where we might find ourselves without any internationally recognised nuclear safeguards operating in the UK.”
Utility Week 2nd March 2017 read more »
Perched on a remote stretch of coastline in north-west England is Europe’s most dangerous building. Inside the innocuous-sounding Product Finishing and Storage Facility at the Sellafield nuclear plant is enough plutonium for about 20,000 nuclear bombs. It is the world’s largest stockpile of civilian plutonium – one of the most toxic substances on the planet – accumulated from decades of reprocessing nuclear fuel from power stations not only in the UK but also Germany, France, Sweden and other countries. When Britain voted to leave the EU last June few voters contemplated what the decision would mean for this deadly stash of radioactive material. Yet, as officials in Whitehall and Brussels prepare to negotiate Brexit, regulation of nuclear energy is emerging as one of the most difficult and pressing issues to resolve. One senior negotiator simply called it “a nightmare”. Britain’s plutonium stockpile is overseen by inspectors from Euratom, the pan-European body that regulates the use of nuclear energy. The organisation has a permanent presence at Sellafield and owns the cameras, seals and testing laboratory used to monitor Europe’s largest nuclear facility. Brexit threatens to upend this decades-old arrangement because the UK’s departure from the EU will require withdrawal from Euratom, a separate legal entity but one governed by EU institutions. At stake is not just the safeguarding of Sellafield but also critical pillars of UK energy security, scientific research and even medicine. All trading and transportation of nuclear materials by EU countries, from fuel for reactors to isotopes used in cancer treatments, is governed by Euratom. The UK now faces a scramble to assemble a new regulatory regime to uphold safety standards, while negotiating dozens of international agreements needed to maintain access to nuclear technology. Rupert Cowen, a nuclear specialist at Prospect Law, a London law firm, told a parliamentary hearing this week that the UK was “sleepwalking” to disaster. “If we do not get this right, business stops,” he said. “If we cannot arrive at safeguards and other principles which allow compliance [with international standards] no nuclear trade will be able to continue.” The potential consequences of failure – from the shutdown of nuclear power stations to the loss of radiotherapy for cancer patients – seem implausible, but coming up with a fix will not be easy. New nuclear projects involve foreign technology from companies such as EDF of France and Hitachi of Japan and Mr Cowen said the UK’s withdrawal from Euratom would plunge them into doubt. “Those that are building new nuclear reactors want to be sure they can get their fuel, their components and their people. When you come out of Euratom, if you have not put transitional arrangements in place, we will not be able to do any of those things.” Critical to replacing the Euratom regime will be a bilateral deal with the International Atomic Energy Agency, which oversees global nuclear safety and security. Euratom reports into the IAEA on behalf of its members and the UK would need to replicate this relationship. One option would be for IAEA inspectors to replace those of Euratom in the UK, although industry leaders questioned whether the global body would want its resources diverted from its non-proliferation monitoring in places such as Iran.
FT 2nd March 2017 read more »
Hinkley B and Hunterston B
The Nuclear Free Local Authorities (NFLA) are concerned with the decision of the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) to approve EDF’s Periodic Safety Reviews for the Hinkley Point B and Hunterston B nuclear reactors. A key concern for the NFLA and other groups has been around EDF’s revised graphite core safety case for both sites and the increased levels of cracks found in the graphite bricks around the reactor pressure vessel. For example, the independent nuclear engineering consultant John Large has said that if the cracks get any worse it could jeopardise the reactor’s stability in the event of a significant disaster – such as a small earthquake – and make it impossible to lower control rods to shut the reactor down. He said: “These keyways are beginning to fracture… that means the locking together – the way that force can be transferred from one brick to another – is lost, so it becomes a very loose stack of bricks.” In a local BBC ‘Inside Out’ documentary Allan Jeffrey of the group Stop Hinkley added: “This weakness in the graphite core could end up distorting the channels the fuel and the boron control rods use. In cases of emergency there are sudden changes in temperature and pressure which could all end up starting to deform these channels. If you can’t get the control rod down then you can’t control the temperature inside the reactor and you’re heading for accidents – possibly even meltdowns.” A report also undertaken in an independent capacity by the NFLA Scotland Policy Advisor for the Scottish Green Party notes that it is probably illegal under the international Espoo Convention to approve the safety assessment without a full environmental impact assessment. As such the Scottish public are being denied a say in the decision to keep the oldest nuclear power station in Scotland running.
NFLA 2nd March 2017 read more »
Ross Greer, Scottish Green MSP for West of Scotland, today (2 March) criticised the UK’s Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) for giving the green light to increased cracking in the reactor of the Hunterston B nuclear power station in Ayrshire. The ONR says the Periodic Safety Review for Hunterston by operators EDF is adequate. It allows for a doubling in the amount of cracked graphite bricks, which safety experts have warned could lead to nuclear fuel overheating, potentially resulting in a radiological release. In January, Ross Greer published a report authored by an independent expert on nuclear safety, which concluded that despite it being probably illegal under international law, the Scottish public were being denied a say in the decision to keep Scotland’s oldest nuclear power station running.
Scottish Greens 2nd March 2017 read more »
Ross Greer, Scottish Green MSP for Wwest of Scotland, last night hit out at the lack of public consultation on the matter. In January, Greer championed a report authored by an independent expert on nuclear safety, which concluded that despite it being probably illegal under international law, the Scottish public were being denied a say in the decision to keep Scotland’s oldest nuclear power station running. The MSP said: “News that EDF are to be allowed more cracking within Hunterston’s reactor will concern residents across North Ayrshire, the West of Scotland and further afield. The lack of public consultation is simply unacceptable.
Energy Voice 2nd March 2017 read more »
The UK could realise long-term strategic benefits from taking a leading role in the development of small modular reactors (SMRs), delegates were told at a Nuclear Industry Association (NIA) conference in London this week. The country could harness SMRs to help it meet its own energy needs, but could also compete in the global market for the technology, they said.
World Nuclear News 2nd March 2017 read more »
Improving the understanding of the politics of sustainable energy transitions has become a major focus for research. This paper builds on recent interest in institutionalist approaches to consider in some depth the agenda arising from a historical institutionalist perspective on such transitions. It is argued that historical institutionalism is a valuable complement to socio-technical systems approaches, offering tools for the explicit analysis of institutional dynamics that are present but implicit in the latter framework, opening up new questions and providing useful empirical material relevant for the study of the wider political contexts within which transitions are emerging. Deploying a number of core concepts including veto players, power, unintended consequences, and positive and negative feedback in a variety of ways, the paper explores research agendas in two broad areas: understanding diversity in transition outcomes in terms of the effects of different institutional arrangements, and the understanding of transitions in terms of institutional development and change. A range of issues are explored, including: the roles of electoral and political institutions, regulatory agencies, the creation of politically credible commitment to transition policies, power and incumbency, institutional systems and varieties of capitalism, sources of regime stability and instability, policy feedback effects, and types of gradual institutional change. The paper concludes with some observations on the potential and limitations of historical institutionalism, and briefly considers the question of whether there may be specific institutional configurations that would facilitate more rapid sustainable energy transitions.
IGov 2nd March 2017 read more »
On Wednesday 1 Mar and Thursday 2 Mar 2017, the Supreme Court hears the appeal of Nuclear Decommissioning Authority v Energy Solutions EU Ltd. The appeal arises in the context of a claim by the Respondent, Energy Solutions, for damages arising from an unsuccessful bid for a nuclear decommissioning contract. The appeal raises two issues which correspond to the preliminary issues raised by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (“the NDA”)’s defence to Energy Solutions’ claim for damages. The Court will consider whether an award of damages under the Public Contracts Regulations 2006 is discretionary and in particular whether such an award is subject to the Francovich conditions imposed by the EU Courts, including that any breach must be “sufficiently serious” to warrant the award of damages. The Court will also consider whether a failure to seek interim relief preventing the conclusion of the contract with the successful bidder pending determination of a claim for damages could not, as a matter of law, break the chain of causation between breach and loss.
UK Supreme Court Blog 2nd March 2017 read more »
Engie, the world’s biggest non state-owned electricity group by sales, said it had booked €3.8bn worth of impairments in 2016 due to low power prices as the group reported a fall in full-year operating profit. Under chief executive Isabelle Kocher, who took over a year ago, the company has promised to sell as much as €15bn of assets in a bid to reshape the business and reduce its exposure to unregulated gas and power markets in the US and Europe. Ms Kocher plans to use much of the cash from the €15bn asset sales to expand in the areas where prices are regulated. She plans to invest in renewable energy, gas networks, gas storage and LNG terminals as well as in energy services such as heating and cooling networks. Engie said the impairments for 2016 included €1.9bn related to power production in Europe, €1bn for the revision of its nuclear decommissioning provisions in Belgium and €600m related to the market environment on some of its global businesses. The company also announced on Thursday the £330m acquisition of UK company Keepmoat Regeneration.
FT 2nd March 2017 read more »
House builder Keepmoat has signed an agreement to sell its regeneration arm to French energy services giant ENGIE for £330m. The £800m turnover Keepmoat regeneration business has long-term relationships with more than 170 local councils and many of the largest housing associations. In the UK, ENGIE employs 17,000 people and is a major provider of property services and energy management, including district heating, to local authorities and businesses. Wilfrid Petrie, CEO of ENGIE in the UK & Ireland, said: “ENGIE aims to be the number one partner for cities and places in the UK and with the Keepmoat regeneration business we are extending and deepening our relationships with local authorities right across the country. “By combining our energy expertise with an expanded services capability we can make a bigger impact, as we help to improve the lives of the communities we serve. “Today, buildings account for 30% of UK carbon emissions and our investment in Keepmoat underlines our long-term commitment to the UK as it transitions to a lower carbon economy.”
Construction Enquirer 2nd March 2017 read more »
France’s Engie booked a multi-million euro writedown today due to low power prices and high nuclear costs, but investors remain confident in the firm’s overhaul strategy. The firm also today agreed to acquire the regeneration business of Keepmoat for £330m. Keepmoat is the UK’s leading provider of regeneration services specialising in refurbishing buildings.
City AM 2nd March 2017 read more »
Human resources in the UK’s nuclear sector is a challenge for both the regulator and the industry, but there has been “real movement and innovative approaches” to improving skills as the country prepares for a potentially significant expansion of nuclear energy, a House of Lords committee was told today. Dr Richard Savage, chief nuclear inspector at the Office for Nuclear Regulation, told the Lords’ science and technology committee that collaborations such as the National Skills Academy for Nuclear and the Nuclear Innovation and Research Advisory Board are “bearing fruit”. He said the regulator now accepts graduate trainees and apprentices. “This has not been our traditional way, but has proved very effective,” he said. Dr Savage warned, however, that there is still a question mark over whether enough is being done and called for efforts to be redoubled. Dr Adrian Simper, technology and strategy director at the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, told the committee: “We cannot rely on the market and interventions are required. We need to have continual intervention on this matter.” Dr Simper also said the number of people working on advanced reactor systems in the UK remains very low.
Nucnet 28th Feb 2017 read more »
[Machine Translation] After radioactive contamination with americium, a radioactive substance was detected by the Association for the Control of Radioactivity in the West (ACRO), on land around the site of Areva La Hague (Manche), of plutonium, Who just revealed it Thursday, March 2, 2017. Plutonium has been detected on land northwest of the Areva plant in La Hague, Manche, the Association for the Control of Radioactivity in the West (ACRO) revealed Thursday, March 2, 2017. Information confirmed by Areva that the presence of this radioactive substance “does not pose a health risk to humans”. At the origin of this discovery, samples had already been discussed in October 2016. The ACRO had indeed highlighted a radioactive pollution linked to the presence of americium-241 near the site Areva la Hague, Not far from the source of the Landes stream. A pollution recognized in January 2017 by Areva which had announced a plan to collect and treat contaminated land.
La Manche Libre 2nd March 2017 read more »
China will complete construction of five nuclear power reactors and start construction of eight more in 2017, according to plans released by the country’s National Energy Administration (NEA). Planning for a further eight reactors will also be progressed this year.
World Nuclear News 2nd May 2017 read more »
The UK will dramatically fall short of its 2020 renewable energy and transport targets, according to a recent report from the European Commission. The EU’s Renewable Energy Directive (RED) reports that the UK is targeted to source 15% of its total energy consumption from renewables by 2020. Although the UK is on track to meet its power percentage generation targets, with 20% of the UK’s electricity needs provided from renewable sources, it appears that we are unlikely to hit targets in other areas – by quite some margin. According to a report from the Energy and Climate Change Select Committee released in September 2016, the UK is less than half way towards meeting its heat targets. Transport targets are even less in sight, with the renewable share flat-lining at just 4.75%. Last month, the Commission issued a “final warning” to the UK over its consistent breach of air pollution levels. The renewable energy sector has been propped up by Government incentives, which in light of these new figures, are clearly not working. If we want to reach the targets set out in the EU’s RED, the Government needs to reconsider its approach to renewables. My company, Greener for Life, has built and operates eight anaerobic digestion (AD) plants across the South West, with a similar amount in development. AD has the potential to reduce the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions by 4%, which would save £1.2bn in carbon abatement costs and could supply the gas and electricity needs for 30% of the UK’s homes. The AD plants use a mix of feedstocks, including agricultural and food wastes, to generate biomethane. This can be used for heat and production of electricity, injecting back in to the mains gas grid, and as green fuel to power trucks. Last year, the combined output of all our plants put 600,000kWh gas and 120MWe electricity into the UK grid every day – and 320,000 tonnes of ammonia-free fertiliser as a bi-product of AD has been provided to farmers. As well as contributing to the energy targets, AD could improve the transport targets. The aim for my business by 2020 is to be in a position to fuel 20 million road miles with green fuel from AD. We see a huge potential in the development of compressed biomethane that is a clean alternative to diesel in HGVs. Gas from AD could fuel 80% of heavy goods vehicles while emitting 70% less CO2, and is far cheaper and quieter than diesel.
Edie 1st March 2017 read more »
Renewables – tidal
A European consortium, led by Edinburgh-based tidal energy firm Nova Innovation, has secured 4.4 million euros in funding to help towards commercialising technology designed to significantly cut the costs of generating energy from the sea.The funding from the European Commission will pay for the construction and testing of a device to convert the mechanical power in a tidal turbine rotor into electricity that is exported into the grid. Partners in the project, which will run for 36 months, include Siemens, the University of Edinburgh, Wood Group and SgurrEnergy. Simon Forrest, managing director of Nova Innovation, said: “This will be a major step forward for the global sector and significantly drive down the lifetime cost of tidal ¬energy.”
Scotsman 3rd March 2017 read more »
Renewables – solar
Lancaster, California, is located northeast of Los Angeles near Edwards Air Force Base. It lies at the edge of the Mojave Desert, where abundant sunshine is the order of the day. The city has been a leader in clean, renewable energy since 2011 and has been requiring builders to install solar panels on all new homes since 2014. Its policies have served as a model for other California communities, including Sebastopol, Santa Monica, and San Francisco. Now, the city seeks to raise the bar by requiring each new home to have a rooftop solar system large enough to meet its full energy needs.
One Step Off the Grid 3rd March 2017 read more »
A petition urging chancellor Philip Hammond to stop the business rates hike on solar installs, signed by more than 200,000 people, has been delivered to HM Treasury this morning. Greenpeace started the petition last year, asking the chancellor to intervene in a proposed increase in rateable values attached to rooftop solar installations which could see payable business rates soar by as much as 800%. The campaign to halt the increase has been waged since last summer and is now approaching its final throes, with Hammond preparing to deliver his maiden spring budget as chancellor next Wednesday.
Solar Portal 2nd March 2017 read more »
The newly-completed Gateshead District Energy Centre is the first of its kind and scale in the North East and will generate and supply low-carbon, low cost energy for up to 350 local homes and businesses in the area. On a tour of the new centre Minister for Industry and Energy, Jesse Norman said: This investment in local energy supplies is intended to deliver low carbon energy at competitive prices for local customers. It is a great example of the kind of local initiatives our new Industrial Strategy is looking to support. Through our ambitious Industrial Strategy Green Paper, the Government is working hard to promote growth across the North East and the rest of the UK, and to ensure the supply of secure, affordable and low-carbon energy for businesses and households.
BEIS 2nd March 2017 read more »
At a time when business and residential consumers are being hit with rapidly rising energy bills, one local authority in Wales has found a way to cut to energy bills and carbon emissions. Fuel Cell Micro Combined Heat and Power technology is well established, with many thousands of installations completed in Japan and Germany – but it is a lot less well known in the UK. The first product to apply this technology in the UK and receive Feed In Tariff is called BlueGEN. BlueGEN generates electricity as efficiently as the best large modern gas-fired power station – but unlike a power station the heat that is generated can be used as well so providing the most efficient method of using gas to create usable energy. In Wales, Rhondda Cynon Taf County Burgh Council has found a way to cut to energy bills and carbon emissions – thanks to BlueGEN.
Scottish Energy News 3rd March 2017 read more »
Steve McNab and Sarah-Jane Denton warn the huge potential of the energy storage market risks being held back by legislative uncertainty.
Business Green 2nd March 2017 read more »
VLC energy announces plans for two of the UK’s largest lithium ion energy storage projects in Cumbria and Kent The UK’s nascent energy storage sector received a further boost this week, after a new venture announced it is to invest a ‘multi-million pound’ sum in delivering two of the country’s largest battery storage projects. VLC Energy, a newly created joint venture between green investment group Low Carbon and combined heat and power plant operator VPI Immingham, said its first two energy storage projects would come online by the end of this year at sites in Cleator in Cumbria and Glassenbury in Kent.
Business Green 2nd March 2016 read more »