Just as George Osborne is hoping to get China to invest billions in EDF’s Hinkley C nuclear plant in Somerset, news from EDF’s Flamanville nuclear site threatens to sink the project. French regulators are to demand another lengthy round of tests on its flawed reactor vessel. And if Flamanville isn’t working by 2020, £17 billion of UK finance guarantees for Hinkley C will collapse. A meeting of French nuclear safety experts that took place this week has determined that there are still important safety questions to be resolved over the nuclear reactor at Flamanville. The concerns centre on the steel reactor vessel at the heart of the reactor, which as it was revealed last year is metallurgically flawed owing to large areas of excess carbon in the steel causing structural weaknesses. Similar problems apply to the vessel head. ASN, the French nuclear safety inspectorate, is now expected to follow the advice of the Permanent Group of Experts on Pressurised Nuclear Equipment (PGEPNE) and, within weeks, order another round of safety tests that could take until mid-2016 to complete. The last thing EDF needs is yet another delay, additional cost and more uncertainty – and that’s exactly what it is getting. It also forces the company to make a very dangerous decision. Should it cut its losses, put contruction on hold, send its armies of workers home – and in the process lose critical momentum that will assure that its completion targets will be missed? Or should it push ahead with construction at the site, and risk putting good money after bad in the event of the ‘nightmare’ possibility: that at the end of all the tests on the Flamanville reactor vessel, it will be found irremediably deficient and require total replacement. Chinese president Xi Jinping will be on a state visit to Britain this month from 20th to 23rd October during which EDF is relying on a complex multi-party deal being signed between itself, Xi Jinping, Chinese state nuclear companies and the UK government to fully finance Hinkley C’s construction, estimated to cost almost £25 billion. The continuing problems with the Flamanville reactor vessel could turn the Chinese off altogether – because Hinkley C is to use exactly the same EPR (European Pressurised Reactor) design as Flamanville, using two of the Le Creusot-forged pressure vessels. The Chinese are also increasingly worried about their own two EPR reactors under construction at Taishan 1 and 2. Their reactor vessels and heads were also forged by Le Creusot and while test results have been released, they probably suffer from the same or metallurgical defect of ‘carbon aggregation’ would result in long delays and cost escalations. In which case the last thing they would want is yet another failed EPR project on their hands!
Ecologist 2nd Oct 2015 read more »
Two of the world’s biggest ratings agencies have warned that EDF and its Chinese partners face credit-rating downgrades if they press ahead with a £16 billion nuclear power station at Hinkley Point in Somerset. Amid growing doubts about the deal, Moody’s said the project would have a “credit negative effect” on the companies because of the dangers of big cost overruns and delays to EDF’s untested EPR French reactor technology. The Times has learnt that the Chinese have rebuffed EDF’s request for them to take a 40 per cent equity stake in the project to build a 3.2 gigawatt nuclear plant at Hinkley, which would generate 7 per cent of UK electricity. The two Chinese groups – China General Nuclear Power Corp and China National Nuclear Corp – are holding out for a combined stake of 30 per cent or less. In return, they would receive a share o f the Hinkley station, a second project at Sizewell, Suffolk and the right to build a third reactor at Bradwell, Essex, using a Chinese technology. People close to the talks, which have been under way in Beijing and London for months, said the disagreement over terms was so wide that there was little hope that a final investment decision could be made by both sides in time for a visit by Xi Jinping, China’s president, to Britain on October 20. Instead, they said a “heads of agreement” may be announced, which would fall some way short of a final go-ahead for the scheme. A similar agreement was announced a year ago. Negotiations over the final terms are likely to take “several weeks or perhaps months” they said. Another ratings agency, Standard & Poor’s, has also warned of the impact on EDF’s balance sheet of the Hinkley project. S&P said: “A decision to go ahead with the Hinkley Point C nuclear new build will likely lead to a downgrade, given the embedded high execution risks and significant investment needs.”
Times 3rd Oct 2015 read more »
The French owned power company EDF finds itself back at the top of the hit parade as the designer of, potentially, the UK’s largest energy white elephant. The question arises following the recent visit to China of chancellor George Osborne and energy secretary Amber Rudd on a trade mission. In 2013 EDF won the contract to build the first of Britain’s new generation of nuclear plants at Hinkley Point on the coast of Somerset in south-west England. It would take 10 years to build starting in 2013. It would cost £24.5bn which seemed exorbitant since for just slightly more (£26mln) China built the 1.5-mile long Three Gorges Dam across the Yangtze River. The Sunday Times said recently: “There is a real risk that Hinkley will come to be seen as a monumental blunder, the most expensive white elephant in British history.” As the project appeared to stall the Financial Times, in an editorial, added the UK should think again about Hinkley point. In the period since 2010, the price of some renewables has plummeted. The cost of solar panels has fallen by 67%, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. The cost of onshore wind power has also fallen.
ProActive Investor 2nd Oct 2015 read more »
EDF Energy Chief Vincent de Rivaz says he believes two state-backed Chinese investors will increase the size of their stake in the Hinkley Point nuclear power station project, allowing it to go ahead after delays over funding. De Rivaz told the UK’s Financial Times in an interview that EDF, whose reactor will be used at the power station in the southwest county of Somerset, has increased its share to 60 percent, and he was confident China General Nuclear Corporation and China National Nuclear Corporation would increase their joint stake to 40 percent to allow the 24.5 billion pound project to go ahead. His remarks followed months of negotiations after France’s Areva pulled back from taking a 15 percent stake because of financial difficulties.
China Daily 2nd Oct 2015 read more »
The Hinkley Point C nuclear power plant is edging closer to reality, with backing from China. But the nearer it gets to going ahead, the greater the opposition gathering against it. Can the industry finally start believing it will happen? Expectations that the long-delayed project might be finally achieving financial close intensified last month when Osborne told the House of Lords’ economic affairs committee that he was “pretty confident” that the deal, under which the two Chinese companies – China General Nuclear (CGN) and China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) – will invest up to 40% of the £24.5bn funding, will happen. Alistair Smith, chairman of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers’ (IME) power division, says he is now “pretty sure that [Hinkley] is going to go ahead”. “George Osborne’s statement is as positive as anything you get out of the Treasury,” he added. However, progress has been slow since January 2008 when the last Labour government published a white paper backing the construction of a new generation of nuclear power stations (see timeline below). “It’s taken nearly eight years to get where we are on a single new plant,” says Malcolm Grimston, senior research fellow at the Centre for Environmental Policy, Imperial College, London. But even this close to sign-off, the latest diplomatic push masks the fact there are still significant doubts about it going ahead.
Building 2nd Oct 2015 read more »
The UK’s first nuclear plant in decades is close to being agreed by France’s EDF and two state-backed Chinese investors. But critics say the project is too expensive and complicated. The FT’s Christopher Adams reports from the Hinkley Point C site. Includes interviews with Peter Atherton and Doug Parr. Chinese being asked to invest 40% in Hinkley and Sizewell. The ball is in the court of the Chinese.
FT 2nd Oct 2015 read more »
A RETIRED oyster fisherman has voiced his concerns about the future of marine life in the Blackwater estuary if plans for a Chinese power station at Bradwell go ahead. Last week it was revealed a £2billion deal could “open the door” for the Chinese to build a new nuclear power plant at Bradwell. Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne said the Government’s approval of a multi-billion pound guarantee to underwrite Chinese financing of the Hinkley Point nuclear power station in Somerset would pave the way for “majority Chinese ownership” of the Bradwell site. Retired Blackwater fisherman Alan Bird said: “If a new power station is built that will destroy the Blackwater.”
Braintree & Witham Times 3rd Oct 2015 read more »
The central control room at Dungeness A has fallen silent for the first time in half a century as it moves towards full closure. The facility has been at the centre of site operations since 1965 but staff will now work from other areas of the station.
Folkestone Herald 1st Oct 2015 read more »
CONTRACTORS building a proposed new nuclear power station near Sellafield must live in Copeland’s towns and cannot be housed closer to the site, a meeting has heard. Some concern was raised at the Whitehaven meeting, chaired by Copeland mayor Mike Starkie, about the impact on towns of the 4,000 contractors bound for the area if the Moorside new-build gets the go-ahead. Glenn Taylor, who has worked at Sellafield for 35 years and farms in St Bees, asked the meeting if the contractors “could be based at Moorside” rather than building housing for them elsewhere. Pat Graham, Copeland Council’s director of economic growth and a panelist at the meeting, responded: “For site evacuation and security reasons, contractors are not permitted to live on the other side of the fence.
Whitehaven News 2nd Oct 2015 read more »
SDLP South Down MP Margaret Ritchie has announced she is “appalled” that Northern Ireland is being included in consideration for locating a geological disposal facility. Ms Ritchie has also raised concerns about early moves to identify NI as a spot for dumping Britain’s Nuclear Waste. Radioactive Waste Managament Ltd have launched a consultation on proposals for the draft National Geological Screening Guidance which will be used as the basis for locating a geological disposal facility for underground storage of nuclear waste. She said: “The North does not want nuclear waste. It doesn’t matter if it comes from indiscriminate discharges from the Sellafield Plant, from underground disposal facilities or from new nuclear sites. We will not become a backwater dumping ground for Britain’s nuclear waste.”
Consruction Ireland 2nd Oct 2015 read more »
There are about 45 small modular reactor (SMR) designs under development around the world, half of them under preparation for deployment over the next 10 years, and the first three expected to become operational over the next four years, an International Atomic Energy Agency meeting heard. At a side event to the 59th IAEA general conference in Vienna, delegates were told that the first three SMRs with advanced technologies expected to become operational are the KLT-40S in Russia, the HTR-PM in China, and the Carem-25 in Argentina. The KLT-40S is a 150-megawatt (thermal) pressurised water reactor unit designed for floating nuclear power plants. It is based on the standard KLT-40 icebreaker reactor, but with advanced features aimed at increasing safety and reliability, with upgraded components and safety systems, including use of passive features and low-enriched uranium for fuel. China’s HTR-PM is a high-temperature gas-cooled reactor. Construction of the first demonstration unit began last year at Shidaowan in China’s Shandong province. Carem-25, a domestically-designed and developed 25-MW small pressurised water reactor with natural coolant circulation, is under construction on a site next to the Atucha nuclear power station in Lima, about 100 km northwest of Buenos Aires. SMR designs and technologies that are under development in many IAEA member states offer an option for improving security of energy supply in both expanding and embarking countries, the IAEA said in a statement after the event.
NucNet 17th Sept 2015 read more »
Researchers have managed to peer into a nuclear reactor to track the amount of plutonium inside – without needing access to data from the control room. Although the technology is still at an early stage, it could open up new ways of keeping tabs on whether reactors are being used to make material for nuclear weapons.
New Scientist 2nd Oct 2015 read more »
Japan – Fukushima
The Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant No. 2 nuclear reactor fuel is missing from the core containment vessel. Where did it go? Nobody knows. Not only that but the “learning curve” for a nuclear meltdown is as fresh as the event itself because “the world has never seen anything like this,” Never. Utilizing cosmic ray muon radiography with nuclear emulsion, researchers from Nagoya University peered inside the reactors at Fukushima. The nuclear fuel in reactor core No. 5 was clearly visible via the muon process. However, at No. 2 reactor, which released a very large amount of radioactive substances coincident with the 2011 explosion, little, if any, signs of nuclear fuel appear in the containment vessel. A serious meltdown is underway.
Global Research 1st Oct 2015 read more »
The home region of battered utilities RWE and E.ON has suggested the companies should receive state aid if their provisions for nuclear decommissioning prove too small. North Rhine-Westphalia’s economy minister Garrelt Duin told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung: “If we should eventually arrive at the conclusion that the nuclear provisions of 38 billion euros are not enough, then this will not be a question that the utilities would have to solve.” Duin said both the companies and the state share responsibility for the nuclear clean-up. “There were no retroactive changes to the feed-in tariffs for renewable energies, and there must not be any regarding the question of the nuclear provisions.” Duin said it was “probable” that the provisions were too small. “In this case, the only way out is for the state to take on responsibility”.
Clean Energy Wire 2nd Oct 2015 read more »
Steam billows from an energy plant in a stretch of Kenya’s Great Rift Valley, about 180km north of the capital, Nairobi. But the white clouds rising from the tidy grid of pipes aren’t a sign of polluting greenhouse gas emissions contributing to climate change. They are a signal that the country of more than 44 million, where some 65% of the population does not have access to electricity, is one giant step closer to delivering clean, reliable, renewable power to its people. The first phase of the $746m Menengai geothermal development project is well under way, with already proven steam resources capable of generating 130 megawatts of electricity and working toward commissioning the first power plants in 2016. Across Africa and around the world, low-carbon renewable energy is emerging as the go-to green growth and poverty reduction strategy. Kenya’s neighbours Ethiopia and Tanzania are also pursuing geothermal power, while countries in the Middle East and north Africa are focusing their efforts on expanding solar power. Still others are exploring mini-grid and off-grid solutions in wind and solar to supply the poorest and hardest-to-reach rural communities.
Guardian 2nd Oct 2015 read more »
Jeremy Corbyn’s statements about scrapping the Trident nuclear weapons system has again resulted in responses that such ideas are naive and a gut reaction that have not been thought through. I have previously written more extensively about this here but I am just going to re-iterate one of the argument. First of all I would like to point out that many people advocating nuclear disarmament cannot be described as naive or thought of as not thinking things through. For example the British philosopher Bertrand Russell, who took several hundreds of pages just to prove that 1+1 = 2 dedicated a lot of time to nuclear disarmament as did Albert Einstein. In fact over 52 Nobel laureates signed the Mainau Declaration against nuclear weapons in 1955.
Peter Lux 2nd Oct 2015 read more »
David Lowry: The Labour Party conference this week closed with a row between shadow cabinet members over the renewal of the Trident nuclear WMD system. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn sanely asserted he would never launch nuclear weapons if he became prime minister. But shadow defence secretary Maria Eagle and shadow foreign secretary Hilary Benn said that such affirmations were “unhelpful” — thereby indicating that they might support pressing the nuclear button, and immolating several million people in a split second. In Tony Benn’s Letters to my Grandchildren, published in June 2010, he argues against developing Trident. He describes how our nuclear weapons are dependent on the US — because we use their technology — and thus the “nuclear deterrent” is far from independent. He questions whether nuclear weapons work as a deterrent for war anyway, and cites the Falklands war and various others. He also mentions the vast sums of money spent on Trident and the planetary disaster of a nuclear war, explaining that any person with good sense would not sanction the use of nuclear weapons.
Morning Star 2nd Oct 2015 read more »
Has Jeremy Corbyn just blown his hopes of election with his Trident nuclear weapons declaration, asks Rhodri Morgan.
Wales Online 3rd Oct 2015 read more »
ABERAVON MP Stephen Kinnock has defended his leader Jeremy Corbyn over his stance on Britain’s nuclear deterrent.
South Wales Evening Post 2nd Oct 2015 read more »
Renewables – solar
A company backed by billionaire Elon Musk on Friday said it will produce the world’s most efficient solar panel. The new panel by SolarCity, the biggest US home solar power installer, will convert sunlight into electricity at a 22.04 per cent rate, topping the 21.5 per cent made by rival SunPower, the company said. The industry average stands about 16 to 17 per cent.
FT 2nd Oct 2015 read more »
Renewables – Tidal
Work to build a £1bn tidal energy lagoon in Swansea Bay has been delayed until 2017 as negotiations over the level of UK government funding for the project continue. The Tidal Lagoon Power (TLP) project received backing from the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) in June. TLP said it had taken a “pragmatic” decision to delay construction, because talks were ongoing over how much electricity subsidy would be paid. Work was due to start in 2016.
BBC 2nd Oct 2015 read more »
Guardian 2nd Oct 2015 read more »
Wasted energy at electricity power stations is adding hundreds of pounds to the cost of household bills, a report warns. More than half of the energy generated at electricity plants is lost before it gets to households because massive amounts of heat is allowed to escape uncaptured. The waste adds £9.5 billion a year to energy bills and equals the power generated by 37 nuclear power stations or wind turbines covering two fifths of Scotland, the report says. Signed by a coalition of business leaders and green groups, the document says that too much taxpayer support is given to expensive green energy projects, such as biomass boilers, heat pumps and solar thermal panels, when the money would be better spent on making power plants more efficient. The report, signed by EEF, the manufacturers organisation, and Greenpeace , the environmental campaign group, calls on the government to address generating waste as the quickest and most cost-effective way to cut bills for households and businesses and reduce carbon emissions. It concludes that at least a third of the wasted energy could be captured cost-effectively and doing this alone would cut £116 from the every household energy bill. Tim Rotheray, of the Association of Decentralised Energy, and author of the report, says that fewer than one power station in ten captures heat lost from cooling towers.
Times 1st Oct 2015 read more »