French watchdog deepens probes into Areva nuclear parts. Concerns about quality and documentation could have knock-on effect on Hinkley Point. Investigators are widening probes into potentially faulty nuclear reactor components made at a factory operated by Areva, the French manufacturer, after the problems contributed to multiple shutdowns of power plants this year. Julien Collet, deputy director of the ASN, France’s nuclear regulator, said he wanted to “go much further” with investigations into Areva’s components, including one probe into the falsification of documents that certified the quality of certain parts. Separately, the ASN is expected to issue a report next year about issues with components made by Areva for a new nuclear power plant at Flamanville in France. The report’s findings could have a big impact on the proposed Hinkley Point C nuclear plant in the UK, because it is due to use the same technology as Flamanville. The ASN is leading investigations into two scandals relating to Areva’s supply of components for France’s existing nuclear power stations. First, French investigators said in June that some steel components made at Areva’s Le Creusot factory – notably parts used in steam generators – had excessive carbon levels, which could make them vulnerable to cracking. Second, Areva announced in May that it had found evidence suggesting employees had doctored quality-assurance documents relating to many different nuclear reactor components made at Le Creusot for up to 40 years. Both affairs have contributed to French nuclear power plants run by EDF, the utility, being shut down. David Emond, head of Areva’s component manufacturing business, said employees at Le Creusot appeared to have altered documents relating to certain components in a way that was “unacceptable practice” from as early as 1972. He said employees would sometimes round numbers up or down – for example, about chemical levels – so that they fell within technical safety limits. Mr Emond said that the inspection of 6,000 documents, or about 2.4m pages going back to 1965, would take until the end of 2017. Currently no doctored documents had been found after 2013, but “that does not mean we will not find some next year”, he added. Mr Emond stressed that while 70 components with falsified documents had found their way into French nuclear reactors – and 120 into overseas power plants – no safety problems has so far been discovered. Beyond Areva’s potentially faulty components in France’s existing nuclear power stations, there is another – potentially even larger – issue looming. In 2014, the reactor vessel at the planned new nuclear power plant at Flamanville – which was made at Areva’s factory in Chalon/Saint-Marcel – was found to have potentially critical structural weaknesses as a result of excessive carbon levels. It is not yet known how serious these weaknesses are. The results of an investigation by EDF, which is leading the construction of Flamanville, will be delivered to the ASN in the coming weeks. The regulator will then analyse the findings and issue a report in the first half of 2017. Any significant problems with the reactor vessel could be catastrophic for EDF, however, as redoing this important piece of the plant would mean restarting much of the construction work, which is already billions of euros over budget and years late. Any further delays at Flamanville could pose significant problems for Hinkley. This is partly because the financial support package the UK government has offered for Hinkley is premised on Flamanville being operational by 2020. If Flamanville’s reactor vessel is found to be flawed, it could push back the completion date – currently scheduled for the end of 2018 – beyond 2020.
FT 4th Jan 2017 read more »
The shareholders of Chinese coal miner Wintime Energy have approved its proposed investment in Hinkley Point C – EDF and China General Nuclear’s project to build two European Pressurised Water reactors (EPRs) in Somerset, England. Wintime Energy, known as Wing Tai Energy in Chinese, announced its plan to invest up to three billion yuan ($440 million) in HPC through a wholly owned subsidiary of New Energy, Huayuan New Energy, on 13 December. In a statement on 31 December, Shanxi-based Wintime said the agreement between China Guangdong Nuclear Power, China Nuclear Power, Yongtai Energy and Huayuan New Energy had been approved at an extraordinary shareholders meeting three days earlier by representatives of China Nuclear Power, Zhongtai Holding, Yongtai Energy, Huayuan New Energy and Yi Sheng Company. The agreement was published at the Shanghai Stock Exchange on 13 December, it added. In November, Wintime and China General Nuclear signed a framework agreement to form a partnership aimed at developing nuclear power and other clean energy projects worldwide. The two companies will initially develop two AP1000 units at Lufeng in China’s Guangdong province. EDF plans to invest £12 billion in Hinkley Point C and its Chinese partner CGN committed at the end of 2015 to invest £6 billion. Under a Strategic Investment Agreement announced in October that year, EDF’s share in the project will be 66.5% and CGN’s will be 33.5%.
World Nuclear News 3rd Jan 2017 read more »
A controversial decision to transport spent fuel from Caithness to Sellafield has boosted turnover and profits at the company tasked with decommissioning the Dounreay nuclear power station. Dounreay Site Restoration (DSR), which is undertaking the £1.6billion decommissioning of the site for the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA), said it was undertaking “significant additional work” repackaging fuel for transportation to Cumbria following the NDA’s decision to move so called “exotic” fuels to Sellafield in 2013. DSR, which is owned by a consortium led by industrial engineering and aerospace giant Babcock International, saw turnover rise 10% to £209.5million in the year ended March 2016. Pre-tax profits rose 47% to £15.6million in the year, according to accounts filed at Companies House. The company also delivered a £7.1million dividend to shareholders – up from around £5million in the prior year.
Energy Voice 3rd Jan 2017 read more »
Why nuclear energy is not an answer to global warming by Dr Alex Rosen – IPPNW.
Nuclear Free Local authorities 3rd Jan 2017 read more »
World Nuclear Capacity
Global nuclear generating capacity increased slightly in 2016 to 391.4 GWe net, up from 382.2 GWe at the end of 2015, according to data from the World Nuclear Association. Construction of three large reactor projects also started during 2016, while three units were permanently shut down. Ten new nuclear power reactors with a combined generating capacity of 9579 MWe came online in 2016. Five of these – Ningde 4, Hongyanhe 4, Changjiang 2, Fangchenggang 2 and Fuqing 3 – were in China. Unit 3 of South Korea’s Shin Kori plant was also connected to the grid, as were India’s Kudankulam 2, Pakistan’s Chashma 3, Russia’s Novovoronezh 6 and the USA’s Watts Bar 2.
World Nuclear News 3rd Jan 2017 read more »
Toshiba is facing such horrific cost-overruns with its US nuclear power plant projects it may have to sell assets, such as its flash memory business, to cover them. Its US subsidiary, Westinghouse Electric, is building four AP1000 power-generating reactors in the United States and costs are getting out of hand, with multi-year construction delays and billions of dollars involved. As part of its attempt to deal with this, Westinghouse Electric agreed to buy CB&I Stone & Webster, a nuclear construction and services business, and the transaction closed in December 2015 with a goodwill component having an estimated cost of $87m. However the estimated cost is now several billion dollars, an astronomical difference. The problem is, according to a Toshiba statement, the AP1000 contracts. Westinghouse has found that the cost to complete the US projects will far surpass the original estimates, mainly due to increases in key project parameters, resulting in [a] far lower asset value than originally determined, leading to a possible recognition of goodwill far exceeding the original December 2015 estimate of US$87 billion. Financial analysts suggest Toshiba, which is recovering from a costly accounting scandal, may have to sell assets to pay for this staggering goodwill cost. Its hard disk drive business could be a candidate for a sale, although competition concerns could prevent either Seagate or Western Digital, the obvious potential acquirers, from buying it.
The Register 3rd Jan 2017 read more »
Energy Policy – Scotland
Power generated in Scotland has a significantly smaller impact on climate change when compared to the UK average, a conservation body has claimed. WWF Scotland said its analysis showed that in 2014, the climate change impact of generating a unit of electricity in Scotland was 196g of CO2 per kWH. This compared to 400g of CO2 per kWH in the rest of the UK, WWF Scotland said. The organisation analysed the most recent Scottish government figures on energy production. According to WWF Scotland, the data also showed the climate change impact of electricity production in Scotland dropped by 38% between 2010 and 2014, while the UK saw a reduction of 12% over the same period. WWF added that electricity accounted for just one quarter of our energy use and said the Scottish government “must build on progress” to meet future climate targets.
BBC 4th Jan 2017 read more »
Herald 4th Jan 2017 read more »
The National 4th Jan 2017 read more »
Dr Richard Dixon is director of Friends of the Earth Scotland: Many people would rather forget 2016 and its catalogue of mistakes, disasters and deaths. But Scotland provided one of the few good examples at Marrakech: a country which is reducing emissions and planning to increase its already ambitious climate targets. Tidal power is racing ahead, renewable energy is providing almost 60 per cent of our electricity and we banned Underground Coal Gasification – the first time Scotland has said no to new fossil fuels. Longannet power station, once the largest in Europe, closed in March – for the first time in 115 years, no coal is being burned in Scotland to make electricity. For a country which virtually invented the Industrial Revolution, this is huge. 2017 is going to be very busy. Early in the new year we will see a public consultation on whether to ban unconventional oil and gas extraction methods, including fracking. No doubt Grangemouth owner Ineos will throw piles of cash at newspaper adverts, “expert” opinion and public meetings to try to persuade people to love fracking. Even with their resources, they face an uphill fight, with communities across Scotland already gearing up for this struggle. At the same time we should see a new climate change plan, spelling out how Scotland can meet future targets in all sectors. The plan will be the results of a computer model of all sectors in Scotland. This has been good at focusing attention on sectors which have not contributed much to reductions in the past, such as transport, but a big test of the results will be whether they are credible. Too much reliance on technical fixes sets us on a path to fail, as the VW emissions scandal demonstrated.
Scotsman 3rd Jan 2017 read more »
Professor Jack Ponton: We must not be swept away by politicians’ current enthusiasm for tide power. Power from tides, like that from wind or sun, would be both intermittent and seasonal. However, tidal power is a more plausible source of reliable electricity than either of these. The short-term variation of tidal flow, between high and low tide, is six hours compared with half a day for solar and unpredictable periods of several low wind days . The “season” for tidal flows, between spring and neap tides is seven days, compared with summer to winter variation for solar. Finally, for the Pentland Firth even the neap tide season could provide a sensible level of power, unlike solar in wintertime Britain. The costs are unknown but the Scottish taxpayers’ grant of £23 million to Meygen for “up to” 6MW suggests that to provide the same effective capacity as Hinkley C nuclear station would need 8,250 turbines at a cost of around £22 billion. Hinkley will cost £18bn but would be operational for at least 60 years, whereas the predicted life of the tidal turbines is 25 years. Although the SNP Government has generously allowed us to pay for these first turbines this capital would presumably be provided by the developer. What is significant is the cost of the electricity to the consumer. At present this would be dominated by the mandated subsidy for tidal power which is five times that for onshore wind. So the cost on the grid would be around £270 per megawatt hour, nearly three times that for Hinkley. But this would only be part of what consumers would have to pay. Under present arrangements consumers, and not the developer, are liable for the costs of storage or backup to make the supply reliable and grid expansion to bring power from the most remote part of Britain. The estimated cost of a new pumped storage scheme, for which a site at Loch Lomond was surveyed in 1971 was then £35m which would now be between £450 and £750m. Grid expansion comparable to the £600m cost of the Beauly-Denny link would bring the total additional capital cost to be recovered through consumers’ bills to around £1bn. A nuclear power station on an existing site like Hinkley would incur none of these extra costs.
Scotsman 3rd Jan 2017 read more »
New nuclear: we know now it’s much more expensive than other options. But Central and Eastern European countries are investing in new projects (and the costs will be subsidized by tax payers). Policymakers argue that on the European grid, these prices make sense–but Jan Ondrich thinks otherwise. According to the World Nuclear Association, there have been close to 15GW of new nuclear projects announced in Central and Eastern European countries over the past 5 years. All those projects will benefit from some form of state subsidy if they are ever going to be commenced and commissioned. The most popular subsidy scheme to enable construction of nuclear power plants is a mix of guaranteed power price at which the plant sells power to the power grid combined with state guarantees for debt and equity financing.
Energy Transition 2nd Jan 2017 read more »
Steve Thomas: China’s civil nuclear industry expanded strongly from 2008 onwards and nearly half of reactor construction starts worldwide since then are accounted for by the Chinese home market. Increasingly China is turning its attention to the export market using its own designs, which it claims emulate the safety standards of the latest designs of the established nuclear reactor vendors. Its export efforts would be greatly strengthened if it were to win an order from an established user of nuclear power and its best opportunity appears to be the UK where it is at the early stages of negotiating the construction of nuclear reactors. The financial collapse of the French nuclear company, Areva, gives it the opportunity to take a stake in the rescued companies giving it access to important fuel cycle technologies and perhaps the large French reactor service market. Its other export prospects in Europe are in Romania and Turkey. There are a number of issues European governments need to examine before committing to allow in Chinese nuclear companies. These include national security concerns about dependence on China for key infrastructure, issues of quality control and regulatory competence and the lack of construction experience with China’s modern reactor designs.
Energy Policy February 2017 read more »
RenewableUK hails growth of wind sector after new half-hourly, daily and weekly power generation records are set over Christmas period A trio of fresh records for wind power generation set over the recent Christmas period reflects the “great success story” of the UK’s wind energy sector over the past 25 years, according to trade body RenewableUK. The latest National Grid figures, released yesterday by the trade body, reveal wind power performed strongly during the Christmas week, with new half-hourly, daily and weekly UK records set on 23, 24 and 25 December. Wind power supplied a new high of 41 per cent of the UK’s electricity needs during a half-hour period on Christmas Day, eclipsing the previous record of 34 per cent set in January 2016, according to the data. And, during those 30 minutes, 47 per cent of the UK”s electricity came from renewable sources.
Business Green 4th Jan 2017 read more »
The renewable energy future will arrive when installing new solar panels is cheaper than a comparable investment in coal, natural gas or other options. If you ask the World Economic Forum (WEF), the day has arrived. Solar and wind is now the same price or cheaper than new fossil fuel capacity in more than 30 countries, the WEF reported in December. As prices for solar and wind power continue their precipitous fall, two-thirds of all nations will reach the point known as “grid parity” within a few years, even without subsidies. “Renewable energy has reached a tipping point,” Michael Drexler, who leads infrastructure and development investing at the WEF, said in a statement. “It is not only a commercially viable option, but an outright compelling investment opportunity with long-term, stable, inflation-protected returns.”
Quartz 26th Dec 2016 read more »
More than one in ten small businesses now generates electricity on-site, according to new figures that underscore the increasing shift towards localised power production in the UK. The Federation of Small Businesses said that 12% of its members generated their own power, primarily using solar panels, which have boomed in recent years thanks to Government subsidy schemes. However, the group said ministers must do more to encourage other firms to follow suit to help meet the UK’s climate change targets while also addressing fears about Britain’s reliance on energy imports. Some 86% of FSB members were concerned about import dependence, with just over half calling for the UK to aim for full self-sufficiency, it said. It called on the Government to “urgently” produce a new strategy, known as a “carbon plan”, setting out how it would ensure secure energy supplies and also hit climate targets that require the UK to slash its emissions.
Telegraph 4th Jan 2017 read more »
Renewables – solar
In excess of 200MW of solar has been installed in Scotland across more than 50,000 installations. The Scottish government has been urged to throw its weight behind the country’s solar industry after what WWF Scotland labelled a “landmark year” for renewables. Throughout the course of 2016 WWF Scotland said the country’s renewables industries set a number of new records and firsts, with solar enjoying a particularly fruitful year. Scotland’s largest solar farm in Tayside came on-stream, while the UK’s largest community-owned rooftop solar project was completed in Edinburgh. Those projects contributed towards Scotland’s total solar capacity, which industry body Scottish Renewables said now totalled more than 200MW spread across 50,000 separate installations. And WWF Scotland has urged the Scottish government not to turn its back on the various renewables industries operating in Scotland, even if the UK government has done so through cuts to subsidy support.
Solar Power Portal 3rd Jan 2017 read more »
Aberdeen’s new exhibition and conference centre is to be heated and powered by the biggest low-emission facility of its kind in the UK. The city council has struck a deal with UK energy engineering specialist Doosan Babcock to supply the fuel-cell technology for an on-site energy centre. It will install three of its 460kW Purecell units for the new venue at Bucksburn, which is due to open in 2019. The local authority is arguing the scheme is on a par with the largest fuel-cell projects across Europe and will help cement the Granite City’s “energy capital” status. Council leader, Jenny Laing, said: “The new AECC will be a modern and fit-for-purpose facility, attracting bigger names in entertainment and major international events and conferences to the north-east. “So it is fitting that it will be leading in fuel-cell technology. It is great that such an experienced company as Doosan Babcock will be a part of our city’s future.” Fuel cells have become an increasingly popular means to provide heat and power to large commercial, industrial and civic venues without producing such harmful emissions. They work by converting oxygen and hydrogen – usually obtained from natural gas – into “clean” electricity and thermal energy, which is regarded as a more efficient process than producing each separately. Doosan Babcock chief executive, Andrew Hunt, added: “We are thrilled to be involved in such an exciting and transformative project.
Press & Journal 4th Jan 2017 read more »
A record number of oil and gas companies became insolvent last year, according to a new study which environmentalists said highlighted the need for the UK to prepare for the move to a low-carbon economy. They warned that the loss of jobs in the sector when it becomes clear that fossil fuels can no longer be burned because of the effect on global warming would lead to “desolate communities” unless people were retrained to work in the “new industries of the 21st century”. The study by accountancy firm Moore Stephens found 16 oil and gas companies went insolvent last year, compared to none at all in 2012.
Independent 3rd Jan 2017 read more »
Tackling climate change is good for the economy, good for business and good for people. This is the narrative often pushed out by campaigners, researchers and governments around the world. But while measures to curb emissions and reduce the impacts of rising temperatures will be good for the many, the few who work in industries affected by climate policies risk losing their livelihoods as the economy leans increasingly upon renewable energy. Around the world, there is a growing movement demanding a “just transition” for the workforce, so that workers are not left in the cold as fossil fuels become consigned to the past.
Carbon Brief 4th Jan 2017 read more »
A major breakthrough has been made in the quest to turn harmful CO2 emissions into something useful. A new technology that captures planet-warming carbon dioxide and converts it into baking powder has been launched in southern India at a thermal power station in the industrial port of Tuticorin in the state of Tamil Nadu. It is the first industrial scale deployment anywhere in the world of a “carbon capture and utilisation” (CCU) facility and has raised hopes that this – and other similar technologies – may be opened all over the world.
The i Newspaper 3rd Jan 2017 read more »