Tom Burke warns the UK’s new nuclear programme may go up in flames if China’s ‘overwhelmed’ nuclear regulators fail to prevent an accident. The prospect of the Chinese becoming owners, managers and even constructors of nuclear power stations in Britain has caused anxiety in some unexpected places. Both the right and the left, united in their determination to press ahead with more nuclear, have raised objections. Carefully wrapped in a blanket of security rhetoric, their argument boils down to an Augustinian ‘Bring me nuclear, but not by them’. Meanwhile, a truly substantial reason why we should worry about Chinese involvement in the nuclear industry is yet to be noticed by anyone but the French Nuclear Safety Authority. They have just complained publicly about the lack of communication with their Chinese counterparts. Explaining this to the French Parliament they pointed out that ‘one of the difficulties in our relations is that the Chinese safety authorities lack means. They are overwhelmed’. This led one of the French regulators to worry that ‘It’s not always easy to know what is happening at the Taishan site’, where Areva are constructing a reactor of the same type as they want to build in Britain. Another French inspector reported seeing big machinery such as steam generators and pumps not being maintained at ‘an adequate level’. If the already stretched Chinese nuclear regulators prove unable to prevent a nuclear accident in China it will have direct repercussions here. This compounds the gamble that the British government is taking with Hinkley. Not only are we selling 35 years of index linked tax receipts to the French government in return for electricity at twice the price we are currently paying for it but we are also placing the security of our future electricity supply into the hands of China’s ‘overwhelmed’ nuclear regulators.
Business Green 30th June 2014 read more »
A British government scheme to reward energy companies for keeping power plants available for back-up electricity generation will put £2 on the average annual household fuel bill, according to the minister in charge of the measure. The disclosure to the FT, by Ed Davey, energy secretary, highlights the extent to which government policies designed to keep the UK’s lights on are producing higher energy costs for consumers. Mr Davey stressed in an interview that the competitive nature of the scheme, in which companies bid for capacity payments in an auction, will minimise the cost to households. He denied that the payments amount to a transfer of funds from consumers to the “big six” energy suppliers, who have come under fierce attack for their pricing policies. They were last week referred by the regulator Ofgem to the Competition and Markets Authority for a full investigation.
FT 29th June 2014 read more »
France has a new energy policy. Although some saw the statement presented for debate in the National Assembly ten days ago as simply political rhetoric designed to draw green support behind the Government, beyond the fine words and long term aspirations some of the tough immediate steps being taken suggest that the shift could be more serious. If so the statement will mark the beginning of a gradual but inexorable run down of the French nuclear business. The statement from Segone Royal the new energy Minister certainty lays out some ambitious objectives: a 50 per cent cut in total energy demand by 2050; a target of 40 per cent of power supply to come from renewables by 2030; an increase in the number of electric vehicles from 10,000 today to 7 million by 2030; a cap on nuclear production at the current level of 63 GW; a reduction in the share of nuclear in French power generation from around 75 per cent today to 50 per cent by 2025. Such big objectives don’t usually mean much unless they are backed by hard policies. The UK’s Climate Change Act of 2008 entrenched the UK Government’s objectives in law which means that the Government must follow those objectives in everything it does – often to their considerable discomfort. There will be no such Act in France. That is why many of the people I met in Paris last week shrug and say don’t take any of it too seriously. Life will go on. The statement doesn’t force anyone to do anything. The Greens with whom Ms Royal wants to make common cause might be a little happier but the existing energy mix – dominated by nuclear since the early 70s – will remain in place. The Fessenheim nuclear plant, which is most often mentioned as being under threat of closure will stay open, even if Flamanville – the latest but unfinished reactor f inally manages to start working.
FT 29th June 2014 read more »
North Korea has yet again insisted it will press ahead with its nuclear programmes even as the Chinese President Xi Jinping is set to visit the isolated nation’s neighbouring rival South Korea. As part of its chest-beating exercise, Pyongyang said South Korea is in “stupid delusion” if Seoul thinks it can make North Korea abandon its contentious nuclear ambitions.
IB Times 30th June 2014 read more »
While Shia leaders in Tehran have strained relations with Sunni rulers of Saudi Arabia due to their intense rivalry in sectarian conflicts in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, the government of Hassan Rouhani has reached out to smaller Gulf states calling for strengthened business ties.
FT 29th June 2014 read more »
Renewables – Scotland
MOST people are relaxed about living close to a solar farm, a survey has revealed, as planners consider an application to build one of the country’s largest solar energy parks. More than one-third of people in Scotland would be happy to live near one of the projects, with half of those surveyed saying they had no strong opinion about them. The poll of more than 1,000 people comes as a planning appliction is prepared for Scotland’s first and largest sun-powered energy farm, capable of supplying the electricity needs of 2,500 homes.
Herald 30th June 2014 read more »
The owner of the Grangemouth chemical site is considering bidding for shale gas exploration acreage in the government’s licensing round next month. Ineos, which came close to closing part of the site in Scotland last autumn, is interested in securing its own supplies of domestic shale gas in an attempt to reduce its energy bill. The company could form a joint venture with the US shale gas companies that have already agreed to supply it with gas from America. If Ineos does take part, it would be the first industrial company to become involved in efforts to develop the UK’s vast shale gas deposits. The industry had been made up exclusively of small explorers until last year when companies such as Centrica, the owner of British Gas, and Total and GDF Suez of France took stakes in the UK’s most promising shale gas acreage.
Times 30th June 2014 read more »
British households should be given ownership of the oil and gas beneath their homes so that they have a commercial interest in supporting fracking, Boris Johnson has said. The Mayor of London said that the law should be changed so that “mineral rights” belonged to the landowner, rather than the Crown. Currently, the Government grants licences to companies to explore for and produce oil and gas, while the owners of the land beneath which it lies have no right to share in the proceeds.
Telegraph 30th June 2014 read more »