Plans for a new nuclear power station in Cumbria are likely to be scrapped after a key backer pulled out, creating a major hole in the government’s nuclear strategy. Two industry sources close to the process said Toshiba had privately decided to quit the consortium behind the planned Moorside plant, echoing sources who told Reuters and the Wall Street Journal that the Japanese company was withdrawing from new nuclear projects in the UK. Toshiba said last month it was reviewing all its nuclear business abroad after suffering a multibillion-dollar writedown on its US business. It has promised to provide more details about its intentions when it publishes results on 14 February. The French energy firm Engie, which is Toshiba’s partner in the NuGen consortium, has long been seen as wanting to get out of the project. Its chief executive said last year the future did not lie in nuclear power. The company said that, along with Toshiba, it was seeking new investors to finance the Moorside plant, which are reported to include Korea Electric Power Corporation (Kepco). Unions called for the government to step in with funding to save the plant if Toshiba pulled out. “It looks increasingly like bad business investments may have busted Toshiba’s role in a new nuclear facility at Moorside in Cumbria,” said Justin Bowden, the GMB’s national secretary for energy.
Guardian 3rd Jan 2017 read more »
Toshiba Corp plans to withdraw from its lead role in projects to build nuclear plants in Britain and India, sources with direct knowledge of the matter said, marking a retreat as it wrestles with an imminent multi-billion dollar writedown. Such a move would leave Toshiba’s U.S.-based Westinghouse focused on the much narrower field of nuclear reactors and services, rather than civil engineering for nuclear power plants, or their construction, the sources said. But it would throw into question the future of a key plank in Britain’s plans to replace ageing nuclear reactors, and the future of India’s biggest nuclear project to date. NuGen, a Toshiba-led venture with French utility Engie, was set up to build three AP1000 nuclear reactors designed by the Japanese conglomerate’s Westinghouse unit at the Moorside site on the coast of Cumbria. But the $15 billion-$20 billion investment is now an impossible financial burden for Toshiba to help shoulder, one of the sources said, adding it had not yet notified the UK government. Two of the sources said Engie also wants to pull out of NuGen, as new Chief Executive Isabelle Kocher does not want to invest in new nuclear projects. Engie declined to comment. That could leave Britain searching for new backers. One of the sources said Toshiba was considering a full exit from the NuGen project, in which it currently has a 60 percent stake, but would take a firm decision once it had completed the sale of a stake in its memory chips business. That sale was announced last month but started on Friday.
Reuters 3rd Feb 2017 read more »
FEARS continue to grow over plans for Cumbria’s planned new power plant, after it was reported a key mover is “unlikely” to get involved in future building work outside Japan. New reports though – from American financial newspaper The Wall Street Journal and the Reuters news agency – have quoted unnamed executives who have said the company will abandon the nuclear industry altogether.
In Cumbria 4th Feb 2017 read more »
The future of one of Britain’s biggest nuclear power stations has been thrown into doubt after Toshiba looked set to pull the plug on the £10billion project. The Japanese giant, which has a 60 per cent stake in the planned NuGen nuclear project in Moorside, Cumbria, plans to withdraw from its lead role in the venture, according to sources. The company is embroiled in an accounting scandal that has left it wrestling with a multi-billion dollar write-down of its US-based nuclear subsidiary, Westinghouse Electric.
Daily Mail 3rd Feb 2017 read more »
Hinkley – Politics
A shadow minister is being funded by a law firm with links to the Chinese state, an investigation by The Times has established. Barry Gardiner, shadow international trade secretary, has received more than £180,000 in staff costs from the firm that acts as chief legal adviser to the Chinese embassy. At the same time Mr Gardiner, 59, has been employing the son of the firm’s founder in his Westminster office. Parliamentary records show that the donations partly fund the son’s salary. Mr Gardiner has generally taken a pro-Beijing stance in his shadow portfolios. In his previous role as shadow energy secretary, he supported Chinese involvement in Britain’s nuclear power industry. He has spoken out strongly in favour of the Hinkley Point power station, which is being built in financial partnership with a Chinese state energy giant. Mr Gardiner has been an enthusiastic supporter of the Chinese community in Britain. A Labour source said that he strongly opposed internal party criticism of Chinese involvement in the Hinkley Point project. He has also called on Theresa May to tell Beijing that Britain wanted strong Chinese investment in infrastructure projects.
The Times 4th Feb 2017 read more »
When Theresa May postponed the deal on a new nuclear plant at Hinkley Point last year, the Labour MP Barry Gardiner criticised her for “offending the Chinese government”. This was only one of numerous interventions on China made by Mr Gardiner, now the shadow trade secretary, over the past 18 months. That makes it all the more worrying that, as The Times reveals today, he has received payments of more than £180,000 from a firm with links to the Chinese state, while the son of its founder was working in his Westminster office. Mr Gardiner declared the payments and denies any impropriety. The parliamentary authorities will doubtless want to investigate. According to official records, Mr Gardiner started receiving donations from Christine Lee & Co, a Birmingham-based law firm, shortly after he was appointed to his previous post of shadow energy minister in 2015. Ms Lee’s son, Daniel Wilkes, has also for many months been working as a researcher in the MP’s office. The firm represents Chinese companies and boasts of its links to the Chinese government. Ms Lee has provided legal services to the Overseas Chinese Affairs Office, and is a member of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference. If the commercial relationship and Mr Gardiner’s positions on China were merely coincidental, it betrays not venality so much as naivety. China has repeatedly demonstrated its appetite for covert interference in the domestic affairs of other countries in order to further its commercial interests and buttress its ambitions for global superpower status. Its world-beating credentials in cyberespionage and penchant for intellectual property theft are well established. It is precisely for this reason that the involvement of a Chinese state-controlled company in the Hinkley Point project was a cause for concern in the first place. Chinese investment in industry is not, in itself, objectionable. Indeed it is welcome. The involvement in critical infrastructure of a state that flouts international law and snatches secrets with abandon is another matter. Mr Gardiner should have known better than to embroil his office with its associates.
Times 4th Feb 2017 read more »
Hinkley Point Funds to be spent on Bridgwater Station revamp.
Somerset Live 2nd Feb 2017 read more »
For most of my life I’ve been a supporter of nuclear power as a reliable green alternative to shoving carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, writes Paul Geater. Sizewell power stations are an important part of the Suffolk economy and I could not see any reason not to build a third plant on the coast there. However the sheer scale of what is being proposed and the impact it will have on the area is making me change my mind – and to question some of the underlying assumptions behind EDF’s case. The more I see and hear of the plans for Sizewell C the more worried I become – why does it have to be so large and so disruptive? The idea of building a huge “campus” between Leiston and Theberton would totally change the character of an area that has become well known for its beauty and wildlife value thanks to television programmes like Springwatch and the marketing efforts of tourist organisations. And it’s interesting that wildlife groups, including the RSPB which manages Minsmere and other nature reserves in the area, have major concerns – when Sizewell B was built they took a neutral stand despite all the controversy surrounding the project.
Ipswich Star 2nd Feb 2017 read more »
More than 3,500 people have taken part in Stage 2 of the Sizewell C public consultation which ends on Friday, February 3 after ten weeks of events, exhibitions and meetings. Among those handing their submissions in as the consultation ended were Theberton & Eastbridge Action Group on Sizewell C (TEAGS) the B1122 Action Group, Minsmere Levels Stakeholder Group and Theberton and Eastbridge Parish Council.
East Anglian Daily Times 2nd Feb 2017 read more »
Global nuclear power capacity grew slightly in 2016, writes Jim Green, but it was more a dead cat bounce than the promised ‘nuclear renaissance’. The collapse of Toshiba, the direct result of its failing nuclear ventures, is indicative of the crisis faced by nuclear contractors and utilities worldwide. Another sign of the industry’s poor outlook: no major commodity had a worse 2016 than uranium. The ripple-effects of Toshiba’s latest problems will be many and varied. Japan’s ambitions to develop a large nuclear export business are in tatters. As recently as last year, Toshiba said it hoped to win 50 contracts to build new nuclear plants in India and China over the next decade. Also up in the air are reactor construction projects being planned in the UK, Turkey, and elsewhere. Toshiba says it is “re-examining its relationship” with Westinghouse, its struggling US subsidiary. Delays and cost overruns on nuclear construction projects in the US will be expressed as write-downs that could be as high as US$7 billion. In Europe, energy giants EDF, Engie (France), E.ON, RWE (Germany) and Vattenfall (Sweden), as well as utilities TVO (Finland) and CEZ (Czech Republic), have all been downgraded by credit rating agencies over the past year. All of the utilities registered severe losses on the stock market. The decision to go ahead with two EPR reactors at Hinkley Point in the UK may be a blessing or a curse for the industry. Other EPR projects face mounting problems – long delays; spectacular cost increases; ongoing inquiries into the integrity of EPR pressure vessels; and in the case of the EPR under construction in Finland, litigation. EDF faces additional problems as a result of Brexit, the UK’s impending withdrawal from the European Union, which will, significantly, include withdrawal from the Euratom treaty. The post-referendum fall in the value of Sterling will cut its income, while costs will remain roughly level; EDF’s ability to import skilled workers to build the reactors is also in doubt. And the Euratom exit creates a host of additional uncertainties. And even if construction at Hinkley Point goes to plan and to budget, the obscene subsidies will turn the British public against nuclear power for decades to come. Eight of the UK’s 15 power reactors are scheduled to be shut down over the next decade, and it’s unlikely that new reactors will keep pace with closures.
Ecologist 3rd Feb 2017 read more »
Costly delays, growing complexity and new safety requirements in the wake of the triple meltdown at Fukushima are conspiring to thwart a new age of nuclear reactor construction. So-called generation III+ reactors were supposed to have simpler designs and safety features to avoid the kind of disaster seen in Japan almost six years ago. With their development, the industry heralded the dawn of a new era of cheaper, easier-to-build atomic plants. In 2015, the investment cost to develop a new nuclear plant was $5,828 per kilowatt, up from $2,065 in 1998, according to a World Nuclear Association report. In Europe, construction of a new nuclear facility in France seen costing $7,202 per kilowatt, compared with $2,280. Toshiba isn’t alone. France’s Areva SA is seeking a 4.5 billion-euro bailout from the French government after running into delays and escalating costs at its next-generation EPR reactor at Olkiluoto in Finland, which is almost a decade late. It’s also selling its nuclear reactor construction business to Electricite de France. An Areva spokeswoman declined to comment Wednesday. One fundamental problem facing developers is the slowed pace of construction since a nuclear building boom in the 1970s and 1980s, according to Mark Hibbs, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace’s Nuclear Policy Program.“You get better at building reactors when you can keep at it,” Hibbs said by e-mail. “At some point Areva and Westinghouse may get to the point of doing that with generation three, but they would have to get up to speed first.”
Bloomberg 2nd Feb 2017 read more »
Energy regulator Ofgem has said Npower must “justify” to its customers why it is introducing one of the largest energy price rises for years. The government also said it was “concerned” by the increase, while a former boss of Npower called the rise “shocking”. The company will raise standard tariff electricity prices by 15% from 16 March, and gas prices by 4.8%. A typical dual fuel annual bill will rise by an average of 9.8%, or £109. Npower said the changes would only affect about half of its customers. The other half are on fixed-term deals and will see no price rise. The rise in electricity prices is thought to be the largest since 2008, when some suppliers increased charges by up to 19%. Some gas prices went up by a similar amount in 2011.
BBC 3rd Feb 2017 read more »
Npower faced heavy criticism yesterday after announcing that it was raising energy prices by an average of 10 per cent, adding £109 a year to the typical bill of 1.4 million households. The company blamed a combination of rising wholesale gas and electricity costs and government policies for the increase, despite Ofgem, the regulator, saying that its analysis showed no “obvious reason” for major suppliers to raise their standard tariff. The government said that Npower’s customers were “already paying more than they need to” and threatened to intervene over the price rises.
Times 4th Feb 2017 read more »
Theresa May has threatened to intervene over NPower’s “shocking” price hikes, which will push up 1.4 million households’ energy bills by over Â£100 a year. The energy giant is putting up the cost of standard tariffs by 10.4pc from March in a move which represents the biggest rise in energy costs for consumers since 2013. NPower is blaming costs attached to the Government’s own “smart meter” policy and higher wholesale energy prices as key factors in its “hugely difficult” decision to make loyal customers pay more for gas and electric. Similar price rises from other “Big Six” energy providers are expected to follow, with experts predicting that by the end of April all six will have raised prices by between 5pc and 10pc.
Telegraph 3rd Feb 2017 read more »
Consumer groups are urging people to check their energy bills following news that millions of Npower customers will see bills rise by nearly 10 per cent on average – equivalent to £109 a year. One of the “big six” energy providers, Npower said that half of its 2.8m customers would be affected by the planned rise in mid-March, when electricity prices will go up by an average of 15 per cent and gas by 4.8 per cent. Describing it as a “hefty rise” that would make a “significant dent to customers’ wallets”, Stephen Murray, energy expert at the price comparison website Moneysupermarket, said he hoped it would spur more people to switch energy providers. However, only a fraction of consumers ever bother. Those who do often complain about the overly complicated pro cess, as there are about 140 different energy tariffs to choose from. But the process of switching is simpler than people might think.
FT 3rd Feb 2017 read more »
Npower has increased average energy bills by almost 10 per cent for half its customers in defiance of a warning from the industry regulator against price rises. The utility blamed rising wholesale costs and government policies, such as subsidies for renewable power, for contributing to its first rise in more than three years. Npower, part of Innogy of Germany, is the second of Britain’s “big six” energy suppliers to raise prices this winter after EDF of France. But the average 9.8 per cent increase facing about 1.4m Npower customers on standard “dual fuel” gas and electricity tariffs is much higher than the average 1.2 per cent increase announced by EDF in December.
FT 3rd Feb 2017 read more »
Radiation levels inside a damaged reactor at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station are at their highest since the plant suffered a triple meltdown almost six years ago. The facility’s operator, Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco), said atmospheric readings as high as 530 sieverts an hour had been recorded inside the containment vessel of reactor No 2, one of three reactors that experienced a meltdown when the plant was crippled by a huge tsunami that struck the north-east coast of Japan in March 2011. The extraordinary radiation readings highlight the scale of the task confronting thousands of workers, as pressure builds on Tepco to begin decommissioning the plant – a process that is expected to take about four decades. The recent reading, described by some experts as “unimaginable”, is far higher than the previous record of 73 sieverts an hour in that part of the reactor. A single dose of one sievert is enough to cause radiation sickness and nausea; 5 sieverts would kill half those exposed to it within a month, and a single dose of 10 sieverts would prove fatal within weeks. Tepco also said image analysis had revealed a hole in metal grating beneath the same reactor’s pressure vessel. The one-metre-wide hole was probably created by nuclear fuel that melted and then penetrated the vessel after the tsunami knocked out Fukushima Daiichi’s back-up cooling system.
Guardian 3rd Feb 2017 read more »
Daily Mail 3rd Feb 2017 read more »
Sweden has committed to completely phase out greenhouse gas emissions by 2045 and called for all countries – including the US – to “step up and fulfil the Paris Agreement”. In one of the most ambitious emissions plans published by a developed nation, the Swedish government has reaffirmed the urgency of tackling climate change, ignoring uncertainties about global policies under Donald Trump’s administration. Plans also include a 70 per cent cut to emissions in the domestic transport sector by 2030. The Government said the target would require domestic emissions to be cut by at least 85 per cent and the remaining emissions would be offset by planting trees or by sustainable investments abroad. The law is expected to enter into force as early as 2018. Britain has committed to cut its emissions by 57 per cent by 2032 but so far, the government is nowhere near on track to meet its goal and the latest report predicts the target would be missed by the equivalent of all the greenhouse gases currently produced by industry.
Independent 4th Feb 2017 read more »
Although a court case against the project will not be heard until end February, the South African government has announced that Rosatom (Russia), KEPCO (S. Korea), EDF (France), China State Nuclear Power Technology – all majority owned by their respective governments- have expressed interest in a South Africa Nuclear Power project, demonstrating that nuclear power is non-competitive in a free market. Nuclear Power can, and has only, survived due to taxpayer and ratepayer subsidies. Although the South African government alleges that 27 companies have expressed an interest, probably most are either subsidiaries of the above companies, or other government owned nuclear entities. Additionally, this number might include contractors and subcontractors to the above. Japan’s Toshiba, which owns Westinghouse, has announced that it wants to get out of the nuclear power business. Toshiba is not government owned, and nuclear energy has proven a money-losing endeavor.
Mining Awareness 2nd Feb 2017 read more »
For those interested in the economics of energy, there is a much more significant question to answer than Trump’s designs on the Paris accord: whether climate change is a hoax or not, does it any longer matter? Put more succinctly, is it actually necessary to have binding national targets for carbon emissions in order to move to a low-carbon economy? If not, then Paris will eventually be seen as of little importance, a well-intentioned, but largely pointless talk-fest of backslapping mutual governmental congratulation barely deserving of a footnote in the history books. We may not be there quite yet, but we are close. Green technologies are reaching a tipping point of take-up, cost and efficiency which make their eventual wholesale adoption virtually inevitable, regardless of anything that might be done to reinvigorate fossil fuel industries in the meantime. It is the economics which will in future drive the transition to a low emissions environment, not government intervention and carbon taxes. Never mind electric cars and LED light bulbs, peering into the future, we can already see a world of virtually cost free energy, of smart phones powered by radiant light alone, and of office blocks and houses that derive all their energy from the sun, the wind, and their own waste. In terms of cost, longevity, and efficiency, all these technologies are showing almost exponential rates of improvement. Ironically, much of the cutting-edge research and development, from Elon Musk’s Tesla to thin-film solar cells and the latest in long-life battery storage, takes place in America. Mr Trump might be on to something politically in the sentimentality of his appeal to the coal miners of Pennsylvania and West Virginia, but in terms of the hard-headed economics, no amount of environmental deregulation can turn back the clock and save these industries. Coal isn’t yet entirely dead. It’s got some years left, particularly in the developing world. But its cost effectiveness is already under siege from the new technologies. Clean energy has developed an unstoppable momentum. Even oil industry stalwarts are beginning to see the writing on the wall. Remember “peak oil”? This was the idea popularised by a geologist at Shell back in the 1970s that fossil fuel reserves were finite and would soon reach maximum production potential, after which they would go into precipitous decline. By now, we were meant to be running out, resulting in sky high oil prices, rationing and descent into international conflict for scarce resources. So spare the righteous indignation when Trump pulls out of the Paris accord; beyond the symbolism, it’s not going to make a great deal of difference. The power of markets is much more likely to deliver results than the meaningless public relations of a self-congratulatory government target.
Telegraph 2nd Feb 2017 read more »
Renewables – onshore wind
SCOTTISH energy minister Paul Wheelhouse has given the go-ahead for a new 10-turbine wind farm in the Highlands which is forecast to power almost 20,000 homes and generate a community benefit of up to £4 million. The Millennium South site, five miles west of Fort Augustus, is part of the currently-operational Millennium Wind Farm. Italian company Falck Renewables Wind is behind the project, and has said the benefit will be divided equally between local communities. The project is estimated to support the creation of up to 50 full time equivalent (FTE) jobs during construction, but only one or two when it becomes operational. Its generating capacity will be around 35MW. Millennium South was granted planning approval following a public inquiry, which found that consent should be given.
The National 4th Feb 2017 read more »