A four year programme to support £40bn of private investment in infrastructure leaves taxpayers with unquantifiable risks and is the most “lender-friendly” in the EU, says the UK spending watchdog. The UK guarantee scheme was introduced in 2012 to encourage lending to projects which had stalled during the financial crisis. It has been used to support £1.7bn investment in seven ventures so far, including the London Underground Northern Line extension to Battersea. But a further 39 projects including up to £17bn for the Hinkley Point C nuclear power plant have been identified as eligible for the programme, taking the total to £34bn. The National Audit Office found the scheme cost taxpayers an extra £35m-£120m a year — depending on whether Hinkley Point C is included — as opposed to direct lending by government.
FT 28th Jan 2015 read more »
Letter David Lowry: You report Keith Parker, chief executive of the Nuclear Industry Association, as saying of the Westminster government decision to support a new nuclear power plant in Wales: “This is a positive step in securing the UK’s long-term electricity supply and carbon-reduction targets.” (“Decision paves the way for further decisions that could see go-ahead given for Wylfa power station in 2018,” January 29). Western Mail readers deserve to know the nature of the Parliamentary scrutiny that has taken place to endorse this ministerial decision by the Secretary of State for Energy, Ed Davey. On 21 January, a committee of the House of Commons ( The 9th Delegated Legislation Committee) spent a grand total of 17 minutes examining the decision in favour of the merits of Wylfa Newydd on Angelsey. A few days later, on January 27, the matter was “examined” in the House of Lords, led by Junior Energy Minister, Baroness Verma, who observed of the project: “It must first undergo a high-level assessment to determine whether its economic, social or other benefits outweigh the health detriment that it may cause.” The entire Lords examination lasted 12 minutes, that is, less than 30 minutes between two Houses of Parliament. That is surely a scandal!
Western Mail 3rd Feb 2015 read more »
Sizewell B has received approval from the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) to continue operation for the next 10 years. The industry regulator approved the periodic safety review (PSR) of Sizewell B, meaning it can continue delivering low-carbon power to more than 2 million customers until 2025. The nuclear power station’s director Jim Crawford said: “It takes five years of planning and 200 people from within and outside the business to scrutinise every area of Sizewell B to ensure it meets current standards of operation.”
Utility Week 3rd Feb 2015 read more »
Ipswich Star 3rd Feb 2015 read more »
Radiation & Health
I am concerned for two reasons: these serious matters have been missing from the public debate. Our own official health protection watchdog, Public Health England, write in their Review of the Potential Public Health Impacts of Exposure to Chemical and Radioactive Pollutants as a Result of Shale Gas Extraction, issued in November 2014: “If the natural gas delivery point were to be close to the extraction point with a short transit time, radon present in the natural gas [from fracking] would have little time to decay … there is therefore, the potential for radon gas to be present in natural gas extracted from UK shale.” Hence there is undoubtedly a risk of radon gas being pumped into citizens’ homes as part of the shale gas stream. Unless the gas is stored for up to a month to allow the radon’s radioactivity to naturally reduce, this is potentially very dangerous.( a half-life of 3.8 days. Using the general rule of thumb of 10 half-lives to decay to 1/1000 of original concentration, that would be 38 days, or roughly one month, depending on how radioactive it was to start.)
Guardian 3rd Feb 2015 read more »
Nasa scientists are developing new nuclear powered rockets that they hope could be used to travel the huge distances needed to take astronauts to Mars and explore the solar system. They believe the rockets, powered using nuclear fusion rather than traditional chemicals, could dramatically cut the time it takes to travel through the solar system. Engineers at the space agency have now been drawing up plans to use nuclear thermal propulsion in a mission to Mars in 2033.
Daily Mail 4th Feb 2015 read more »
China Power Investment Corp is merging with the State Nuclear Power Technology Corp, as Beijing drives consolidation in its rapidly expanding nuclear power sector with the aim of eventually exporting reactors. The Chinese power producer currently controls about a tenth of China’s nuclear power market, while the State Nuclear Power Technology Corp was formed in 2007 to handle nuclear technology transferred from U.S.-based Westinghouse Electric Co. China Power Investment, parent of Hong Kong-listed China Power International Development, is one of China’s top five independent power producers with total installed capacity of around 90 gigawatts, a fraction of which is nuclear power. The tie-up is logical given China Power Investment’s relatively weak nuclear expertise but financial muscle, said analysts. Consolidation of the nuclear sector is seen as a key to Chinese companies acquiring the scale to compete abroad. Similar mergers are being contemplated for China National Nuclear Corporation and China General Nuclear, which could lead to the development of an export market for their joint reactor design, the Hualong I model. China General Nuclear is the state-owned parent of CGN Power , which raised $3.2 billion in an initial public offering in Hong Kong in December. The group is currently the largest nuclear power producer in China with a 44 percent share of the market, followed by China National Nuclear Corporation with 18 percent and China Power Investment with 10 percent, according to Jefferies research report.
Reuters 4th Feb 2015 read more »
The $30 billion earmarked for the US Department of Energy (DOE) in the 2016 budget proposal is 9% up on the amount it received for 2015. The $1 billion budget requested by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is nearly 3% down on the previous year as its new reactor workload decreases. The budget proposal includes nearly $5 billion for research and development in “critical” technology areas, including nuclear safety, plus $5.3 billion to support DOE’s role in the country’s research community. Some $908 million of the funding is earmarked for nuclear energy research and development in advanced reactor and fuel cycle technologies as well as small modular reactor licensing and technical support. The National Nuclear and Security Administration’s (NNSA) portion of the DOE’s proposed budget stands at $12.6 billion, about 10.2% up from the funding received in fiscal 2015. Funding for the construction of the MOX Fuel Fabrication Facility (MFFF) at Savannah River will continue at the same level as in fiscal 2015 pending the outcome of further studies on the path to plutonium disposition. The partially built facility, a key component of the country’s plutonium disposition program, was effectively cut out of the 2015 budget request but its construction licence was extended to 2025 in November.
World Nuclear News 3rd Feb 2015 read more »
A contractor in the US has been fined $243,750 for violating nuclear safety and radiation protection rules. The US Department of Energy (DOE) said Fluor B&W Portsmouth (FBP) was “responsible for decontamination and decommissioning activities” at the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant located in Ohio. The DOE has issued the company with a Preliminary Notice of Violation (PNOV). “The violations are associated with the improper alteration of Radiation Protection (RP) documents and other RP violations at the Portsmouth decontamination and decommissioning project in Piketon, Ohio that occurred in April 2013”, it added.
Energy Live News 4th Feb 2015 read more »
The US Nuclear Regulatory Agency is investigating “safety system and equipment problems” during the unplanned shutdown of Entergy’s 688MW Pilgrim nuclear power plant in Plymouth, Massachusetts when a major winter storm hit New England on 27 January. The single-reactor plant shut safely and the outage has not affected New England’s wholesale power markets. But the US nuclear agency is concerned about the loss of two off-site 345kV transmission lines connecting Pilgrim to the regional grid during the storm. The first of the lines tripped in the early hours of 27 January as a result of the storm. The power plant started to power down according to a protocol but the loss of the second 345kV line forced the reactor to shut fully at 4am ET. Access to external sources of power is a crucial safeguard for nuclear plants, which in their non-generation mode still consume significant amount of energy for safe reactor operations.
Argus Media 3rd Feb 2015 read more »
A German nuclear fuel tax is compatible with EU law, a European court adviser said on Tuesday, in a preliminary decision that could thwart efforts by utilities to recover billions of euros and sent their share prices tumbling.
Reuters 3rd Feb 2015 read more »
President Hassan Rouhani has said that a nuclear deal with the west is getting closer, as a report emerged of a possible compromise between American and Iranian negotiators over uranium enrichment. After meeting the heads of the country’s parliament and judiciary, Rouhani was quoted by the Mehr news agency as saying: “We have narrowed the gaps,” adding that although “some issues and differences remain … The west has realised that it should recognise the rights of the Iranian people.” Even Ali Larijani, the parliamentary speaker and a noted hardliner on nuclear talks, declared himself “not pessimistic” about the trajectory of the negotiations. Nuclear talks between Iran and six major powers are due to resume later this month in Geneva ahead of a March deadline for arriving at a basic framework agreement. A comprehensive permanent settlement would be reached by the end of June.
Guardian 3rd Feb 2015 read more »
Iran’s parliament is considering a bill requiring the government led by Hassan Rouhani, the president, to halt implementation of the interim nuclear agreement with the west if the US imposes further sanctions.
Guardian 3rd Feb 2015 read more »
MPs will join CND General Secretary Kate Hudson at 10 Downing Street tomorrow to hand in a letter urging the UK to take the lead amongst nuclear weapon states and commit to scrapping Trident. MPs Jeremy Corbyn (Labour) and Mike Weir (SNP) will join Kate Hudson as the letter is handed in. Civil society organisations will simultaneously hand in letters at UK embassies in Washington DC, Tokyo and New Delhi. Representatives of the UK, US, China, France and Russia – the five permanent members (P5) of the UN security council – who are committed to nuclear disarmament under the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), are gathering for their sixth meeting specifically on this issue since 2009. This meeting of the P5 is taking place just three months ahead of this year’s NPT Review Conference.
CND 3rd Feb 2015 read more »
A COURT hearing regarding two anti-nuclear protestors who allegedly chained themselves a to car at the entrance of Devonport Naval Base, was adjourned after no prosecutor appeared. District Judge Kevin Gray said the case of Nicola Clark, aged 39, of Bridgwater, Somerset and 56-year-old Theo Simon, of Shepton Mallet, Somerset, would have to be adjourned to a later date so a trial date could be fixed.
Plymouth Herald 3rd Feb 2015 read more »
Renewables – solar
Solar power is already competitive with electricity from fossil fuels and no long requires subsidy support, according to a surprise statement from Italy’s deputy minister for economic development Caludio De Vincenti last week. When renewable energy incentives are announced later this month, they will not include provisions for new solar projects, De Vincenti said. Expectedly, Italy’s renewable energy association – AssoRinovabili – disagreed with this view, saying it would lobby to have solar incentives included in the renewable energy decree. Germany announced that it would invite bids from companies seeking subsidies for large-scale solar plants. Bundesnetzagentur, the regulator of the power grid, will offer support for 500MW of ground-mounted solar, with developers able to place bids until 15 April, the economy ministry said in an e-mailed statement. These PV ‘pilot tenders’ are a way to test whether auctions are a cheaper way of supporting renewables in Germany than feed-in tariffs. “That’s how we want to reach our renewable energy expansion targets in a more projectable and cost-efficient manner,” economy minister Sigmar Gabriel said.
Renew Economy 4th Feb 2015 read more »
Renewables – wind
January 2015 provided a “flying start” for wind power output in Scotland according to new figures published today (4 February). Analysis by WWF Scotland of data provided by Weather Energy found that last month wind turbines alone provided an estimated 1,307,629MWh of electricity to the National Grid, enough to supply, on average, the electrical needs of 146% of Scottish households (3.5 million homes) – This represents an increase of 27% compared to January 2014, when wind energy provided 1,033,130MWh.
Scottish Energy News 4th Feb 2015 read more »
Herald 4th Feb 2015 read more »
Public opposition to onshore wind farms has fallen to a three year low of just 10 per cent, according to new government survey today that casts doubt over David Cameron’s claim that people are “fed up” with the technology. The Prime Minister claimed late last year that people are “basically fed up” with onshore wind farms. “Enough is enough and I am very clear about that,” he said, defending Conservative plans to effectively block future onshore wind farm developments.
Business Green 3rd Feb 2015 read more »
The announcement of public support for Britain’s w-industry is backed up by a recent pro-wind demonstration in Sutherland for SSE’s Strathy South wind farm proposal. SSE project manager Nicki Small said: “It was fantastic to see such visible local support for Strathy South at the pre-inquiry meeting. “We are a responsible developer with an established Highland heritage and we have set out to design the wind farm to deliver positive environmental gain overall – that is, to both generate clean energy whilst restoring and positively managing thousands of hectares of damaged peatland. “We also intend to create significant investment in the local and wider Highland economy, as is already happening through Strathy North wind farm.”
Scottish Energy News 4th Feb 2015 read more »
Renewables – offshore wind
Renewable energy in Scotland received a positive boost in October 2014 when Scottish Ministers approved plans for four offshore wind farms proposed by Scottish Renewables. The four projects, called Neart Na Geoithe, Inch Cape, Seagreen Alpha and Seagreen Bravo, are planned to be positioned east of the Fife Ness coastline and off the Angus coastline. Ultimately, these projects will generate enough energy to power 1.4 million homes, increasing the share of clean reliable energy included in Scotland’s energy portfolio. Given the staunch NIMBY, or “Not in My Backyard,” opposition that exists in Scotland and throughout the United Kingdom, it is a great accomplishment on the part of Scottish Renewables to have successfully achieved project approval. Despite the strict conditions that Scottish Ministers implemented on the projects at that time, Scottish Renewables was able to secure the support of some environmental groups, including Friends of the Earth Scotland and WWF Scotland, due partly to these groups’ belief that climate change is a significant threat that must be addressed sooner rather than later. However, other environmental groups do not consider the Scottish Ministers’ conditions, which sought to limit the range of potential impact to birds and other environmental considerations, to be strong enough to protect wildlife. This disconnect in terms of the perceived costs versus the benefits of the offshore projects is now causing Scottish Renewables to divert attention to the legal challenge filed by Wildlife Conservation Charity and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB).
Environmental Leader 3rd Feb 2015 read more »
Inefficient and unambitious Government programmes have resulted in a dramatic 80% decrease in help available for those with freezing homes. Fuel poor households will be some of the worst hit, with the number of major energy efficiency delivered dropping from 112,000 in the winter of 2011/12 to a mere 22,000 this winter, a new report has revealed. The big drop occurred after the introduction of two new energy efficiency programmes, the Green Deal and the Energy Company Obligation. The research by the Association for the Conservation of Energy, commissioned by The Energy Bill Revolution, the world’s largest anti-fuel poverty campaign group found that, at current rates, less that 30% of 6 million poorly insulated low income homes will receive energy efficiency support in the next decade. The news comes as Cold Homes Week, set up to highlight the woefully insulated homes and high bills of Britain’s fuel poor, enters its second day, and temperatures drop to -3°C. This month the Government trumpeted its success at hitting its target of improving 1 million homes ahead of schedule. However fuel poverty campaigners have slammed this as little more than political spin. Had the level of delivery seen in 2011/12 continued, the figure would be nearly 2.8 million.
ACE 3rd Feb 2015 read more »
Since the collapse in oil prices began in the middle of last year, all eyes have been on how the oil industry responds. Already, some $200 billion of projects have been either axed or deferred, mostly because they cannot compete on costs. The US shale oil industry is also suffering. This graph below from industry analysts Baker Hughes shows the dramatic fall in the number of rigs operating in the US shale industry.
Renew Economy 3rd Feb 2015 read more »
The public remains divided on whether the UK should exploit its shale gas resources, new government polling shows. The statistics come a week after Lancashire council delayed a decision on whether to permit fracking at two sites, due to concerns over noise and traffic. The shale gas circus has been in town for a couple of years now. In that time, protesters have taken to the streets and gone home again, companies have fired up their drills and shut them down, and Scotland cautiously welcomed and then banned the industry. It seems such drama has split the public, with similar numbers of people opposing and supporting fracking. The data shows that, of all the UK’s energy options, shale gas remains the most divisive.
Carbon Brief 3rd Feb 2015 read more »
Scots oppose fracking and believe it is unsafe and damaging to the environment, despite expert evidence to the contrary, a poll for The Times reveals. The technology is more unpopular north of the border than in the rest of the UK – and is particularly opposed by independence supporters, according to the research by YouGov. The findings pose a headache for SNP ministers, who are under pressure from business to allow unconventional gas extraction. The onshore oil and gas industry says it is vital to the country’s future energy security. Ineos, the petrochemical giant, says it is necessary for the future of its Grangemouth plant. Last week, Fergus Ewing, the Scottish energy minister, imposed an indefinite moratorium on fracking until he receives the results of a new public consultation and expert analysis of the public health and environmental effects of the technology. Today’s poll suggests that public opinion may be at odds with the academic findings – which would give ministers the tough task of prioritising one over the other. It shows that 56 per cent of Scots believe that Scotland should not start extracting shale gas. Only 23 per cent think it should.
Times 4th Feb 2015 read more »
Prof Paul Younger: Let me first declare two things: Firstly, I voted “yes” in the referendum. Secondly, I have no links at all with any shale gas fracking companies: I own no shares in them, have never held any positions with them and have no research funding from them. My experience and reputation as an engineering academic were hard-won in the battle to save the former coalfield areas of the UK from massive water pollution following the widespread abandonment of mines. No one works in collieries, as I did, without learning about the safety issues surrounding methane. Thus I had the right credentials for a panel of academics convened by the Scottish government in 2013 to take a long, dispassionate look at the many claims and counter-claims surrounding the environmental impacts of shale gas fracking. As a fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering, I had previously served on the pa nel the Academy had convened jointly with the Royal Society to provide a similar service to the UK government. Both appointments were unpaid. I knew nothing of shale gas before I sat on these panels, but I brought a vast international perspective on the environmental misdemeanours of the extractive industry. What I learned on that committee convinced me that the fracking furore is a typhoon in a tea cup. The number of genuine environmental problems attributable to shale gas operations is tiny, and highly localised in any objectively demonstrable effects. The impacts are trivial compared to those I spent my career combating. Yet the fuss which has greeted UK shale gas proposals has portrayed it as an apocalyptic development with unfathomable scope for damage. This is simply wrong.
The Times 4th Feb 2015 read more »
The year 2015 is going to be a momentous year. It is the culmination of a quarter of a century of tortuous twists and turns in global debates about what, if anything, should be done about society’s unintentioned emissions of greenhouse gases. The outcome of intergovernmental negotiations in Paris at the end of this year will determine the political will to deliver change (or not) at a global level for a generation. Collectively in Scotland – can help. We are beginning to demonstrate that you can make the transition to low carbon forms of energy, without excessive cost; and have thriving communities and a robust economy routed in resource efficiency. While there is natural reticence in Scotland to shout about our achievements, other countries are beginning to notice. This week, the Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Innovation will lead a group of businesses and academics from Scotland – together with a group from London – to share our low carbon experiences with Shanghai city authorities at a summit in China.
Scotsman 2nd Feb 2015 read more »