Generation IV ‘fast breeder’ reactors have long been promoted by nuclear enthusiasts, writes Jim Green, but Japan’s decision to abandon the Monju fast reactor is another nail in the coffin for this failed technology. Fast neutron reactors are “poised to become mainstream” according to the World Nuclear Association. The Association lists eight “current” fast reactors although three of them are not operating. That leaves just five fast reactors ‒ three of them experimental. Fast reactors aren’t becoming mainstream. One after another country has abandoned the technology. Nuclear physicist Thomas Cochran summarises the history: “Fast reactor development programs failed in the: 1) United States; 2) France; 3) United Kingdom; 4) Germany; 5) Japan; 6) Italy; 7) Soviet Union/Russia 8) U.S. Navy and 9) the Soviet Navy. The program in India is showing no signs of success and the program in China is only at a very early stage of development.” The latest setback was the decision of the Japanese government at an extraordinary Cabinet meeting on September 21 to abandon plans to restart the Monju fast breeder reactor. A 2010 article in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists summarised the worldwide failure of fast reactor technology: “After six decades and the expenditure of the equivalent of about $100 billion, the promise of breeder reactors remains largely unfulfilled. … The breeder reactor dream is not dead, but it has receded far into the future. In the 1970s, breeder advocates were predicting that the world would have thousands of breeder reactors operating this decade. Today, they are predicting commercialization by approximately 2050.” Allison MacFarlane, former chair of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission, recently made this sarcastic assessment of fast reactor technology: “These turn out to be very expensive technologies to build. Many countries have tried over and over. What is truly impressive is that these many governments continue to fund a demonstrably failed technology.”
Renew Economy 5th Oct 2016 read more »
In February 1983, Mayor Koichi Takagi of Tsuruga, Fukui Prefecture, spoke to residents in the town of Shiga, Ishikawa Prefecture, who were hoping the town would be chosen as the site for a new nuclear power plant. Tsuruga already hosted two conventional reactors and, just a couple weeks before Takagi’s visit to Shiga, preparations began for the construction of a new fast-breeder reactor called Monju, named after the bodhisattva of wisdom. An old Japanese saying goes: “out of the counsel of three comes the wisdom of Monju,” meaning that, by putting their heads together, even those of ordinary intelligence can think up an idea as good as one from Monju. Thirty-three years later, the Monju plant appears heading for the scrap heap. Its history has been one of controversy and scandals, including a 1995 sodium leak and fire, and subsequent cover-up attempt. Last month, the government decided on an overhaul of the Monju project, looking to decommission the idle facility. Tsuruga is unhappy that the cash cow, which meant billions of yen to the local economy over the decades, is drying up, while the central government faces questions about the entire future of Japan’s nuclear fuel cycle program.
Japan Times 4th Oct 2016 read more »
Advanced, unconventional nuclear reactors could shake up the industry as soon as 2030, according to a new reports by leading scientists. If the government promoted advanced nuclear technology and streamlined the permitting process, such reactors could become operational in the next 15 years, according to Britain’s government-backed Energy Technologies Institute and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). The report found that the biggest hindrance to unconventional reactors is bureaucratic delays in government approval processes and the public’s fear of nuclear power. “Like any other nuclear power technology, this one is potentially compelling because the world desperately needs carbon-free sources of non-intermittent power,” the MIT Technology Review report states. “But fears about the safety of nuclear plants have made them so costly as to discourage investors.”
Daily Caller 3rd Oct 2016 read more »
Greg Clark has delivered his first speech to the Conservative Party conference as secretary of state for the department of business, energy and industrial strategy (BEIS), but has drawn criticism for his failure to outline specific energy or climate change related policy.
Solar Portal 3rd Oct 2016 read more »
FIREFIGHTERS working at a key nuclear site could go on strike if bosses push through plans for mass sackings, their union warned yesterday. Twenty-five emergency response and rescue staff at Urenco’s uranium enrichment plant in Capenhurst, Cheshire, have been threatened with dismissal. General union GMB, which represents the firefighters, said the firm was planning to offer some of them a role on inferior terms and conditions.
Morning Star 5th Oct 2016 read more »
Property experts say the closure of a nuclear power plant on the Suffolk coast has led to an increase in house prices which has not been dampened by the continuing operation of Sizewell B.
East Anglian Daily Times 4th Oct 2016 read more »
NDA sites have wastes which are not suitable for treatment in existing processing plants (or those currently planned at a detailed level). These wastes can be referred to as ‘problematic wastes’. Currently, all nuclear Site Licence Companies and non-NDA estate radioactive waste generating organisations manage their own problematic radioactive wastes to fit with their own Lifetime Plans and business plans. Collaboration between waste producers, on technical issues, has improved in recent years, but there may be a potential to introduce further efficiencies when considering waste management across the nuclear industry as a whole. If an estate wide strategy for problematic radioactive waste is developed in the near-term, there is a potential to not only save time and money on the treatment of these wastes, there is also a potential to remove these activities from the site critical path, bringing further significant savings and earlier solutions.
NDA 30th Sept 2016 read more »
Building nuclear power plants isn’t cheap or easy. Just ask France and the U.K. Now Germany is showing that leaving the atomic-power game is harder than it sounds. Following the 2011 disaster at Japan’s Fukushima plant, Germany’s government decided to exit nuclear power generation. It’s negotiating with reactor operators over the costs of decommissioning plants and the lingering liability for nuclear waste. About 14 percent of the electricity produced in Germany came from reactors in 2015.
Bloomberg 3rd Oct 2016 read more »
Letter Tor Justad: I NOTE your report on the recent transfer of a cargo of highly enriched uranium by air from Wick Airport to the Savannah River nuclear site in South Carolina as part of a deal reached at an Obama/Cameron nuclear summit earlier this year. It has emerged that the runway at Wick Airport is not long enough for the US Air Force C17 Globemaster aircraft being used and the flights are having to land at RAF Lossiemouth, so the risks of accident are being increased considerably. Highlands Against Nuclear Transport (Hant) has, since 2013, been campaigning to stop transfer of all nuclear materials from the Dounreay site to Sellafield by sea and rail and now to the US by air. We maintain that storing the materials under constant monitoring and security at Dounreay is the safest solution, given a National Audit Office report which concluded that parts o f the Sellafield site “pose significant risks to people and the environment”. One official review published in The Lancet concluded that, at worst, an explosive release at Sellafield could kill two million Britons in an area from Liverpool to Glasgow.
Herald 5th Oct 2016 read more »
A 22-year effort by Russia and the United States to permanently dispose of tons of plutonium that once fueled thousands of their nuclear weapons experienced a new setback this week, when Russian president Vladimir Putin abruptly announced his country’s withdrawal from an agreement spelling out how the work was to proceed. Putin’s Oct. 3 announcement blamed the withdrawal in part on “unfriendly actions by the United States,” without specifying any. But the Obama administration hasn’t been bashful with the Russians, or with the public, about its own desire to step away from the agreement, because of the work’s high costs and technical challenges – not because of notably worsening relations. The disposal method that Washington has been pursuing – and which is spelled out in the now-cancelled agreement – involves building a plant at the Savannah River Site nuclear installation in South Carolina to convert 34 tons of weapons-usable plutonium into fuel for commercial nuclear power plants while Russia converted a like amount. But a report by the Department of Energy and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers last month said construction of the so-called Mixed Oxide (MOX) plant alone would not be complete until 2048 and that it would cost more than $17 billion, or roughly four times the cost promised in 1994, when the deal with Russia was initially struck.
Public Integrity 3rd Oct 2016 read more »
Russia has suspended its 2000 agreement with the USA to reduce their surplus weapons-grade plutonium. The suspension was made via a presidential decree issued yesterday ‘on the management and disposition of plutonium designated as no longer required for defence purposes and related cooperation in this area and the protocols to this agreement’.
World Nuclear News 4th Oct 2016 read more »
In 2011, German Chancellor Angela Merkel drew the world’s attention to Germany’s energy transition ― or Energiewende ― when she ordered the shutdown of eight nuclear reactors in the aftermath of Fukushima. But, in all of that new attention one thing about the Energiewende was sorely overlooked: its history as a grassroots movement. By 2011 Germany already had a world-class renewable energy law, which triggered massive investments in biogas, wind and solar power. Yet most of that investment did not come from the big utilities, as one might commonly think. As late as 2012, Germany’s four largest utilities made up only 5.5 percent of investments in renewables. Citizens and community groups accounted for nearly half, with the remainder being largely newcomers to the energy sector.
Huffington Post 3rd Oct 2016 read more »
NEW computer generated images of what Barrow-built Successor submarines may look like have been released by MoD chiefs. The pictures came as the defence secretary, Sir Michael Fallon, prepared to travel to BAE Systems today to officially mark the start of work on the boats. He used the government’s commitment to replacing the UK’s continuous at-sea nuclear deterrent as political collateral yesterday, as the Conservative Party conference continued.
NW Evening Mail 4th Oct 2016 read more »
Renewables – wind
Wind power output in Scotland rose by more than a third in September compared with the same time last year, according to renewable energy analysts. WeatherEnergy also estimated it was the first time all of Scotland’s electricity needs had been met by wind on two days in a month. The company said turbines provided the equivalent of 127% of demand on 24 September and 107% on the 29 September. There were high winds across Scotland on both days, the Met Office said.
BBC 5th Oct 2016 read more »
The National 5th Oct 2016 read more »
RENews 4th Oct 2016 read more »
Renewables – offshore wind
The Glasgow-based Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult (OREC) has called for companies operating in the N. Sea oil and gas industry to look for new commercial opportunities in offshore wind. Scotland has the biggest offshore wind resources – about 25% – in Europe and, according to an OREC manager: Britain’s world-leading experience in oil and gas could be harnessed to put the country at the forefront of the growing offshore renewables market, which is set to spend £210 billion in the coming decade, according to Andrew Tipping, the Commercialisation Manager at OREC.
Scottish Energy News 5th Oct 2016 read more »
The levelised cost of energy from offshore wind farms in Europe could be reduced by as much as a third by 2030 if a range of technological innovations such as larger turbines and more efficient rotors are deployed. That is the conclusion of a new report released last week by sustainable energy technology investor KIC InnoEnergy and technical consultancy BVG Associates. The study used KIC InnoEnergy’s offshore wind cost model to analyse the extent to which 51 innovations could help cut the cost of wind energy through changes to design, hardware, software or processes.
Business Green 3rd Oct 2016 read more »
Renewables – solar
A new study shows that the cost of ‘integrating’ the variable power output of large scale solar PV is surprisingly affordable, writes Oliver Tickell, at just a few pence per unit. Costs will fall further as more wind power, batteries and ever-cheaper solar drive the transition to a 100% renewable power system.
Ecologist 4th Oct 2016 read more »
Electricity generated by solar panels on fields and homes outstripped Britain’s ageing coal power stations over the past six months in a historic first. Climate change analysts Carbon Brief found more electricity came from the sun than coal from April to the end of September, in a report that highlighted the two technologies’ changing fortunes. Solar had already eclipsed coal for a day in April and then for the whole month of May, with coal providing zero power for the first time in more than 100 years for several days in May. The latest milestone saw an estimated 6,964 gigawatt hours (GWh) generated by solar over the half -year, or 5.4% of the UK’s electricity demand. Coal produced 6,342GWh, or 4.7%. The trend will not continue into winter because of solar’s seasonal nature, but the symbolic records reveal the dramatic impacts solar subsidies and environmental penalties for coal have wrought.
Guardian 4th Oct 2016 read more »
Independent 4th Oct 2016 read more »
Renew Economy 5th Oct 2016 read more »
Renewables – Pumped Hydro
Economic barriers are standing in the way of “valuable” new pumped hydro storage power schemes in the UK. A major new report for industry body Scottish Renewables said there was a risk that “under-delivery” of pumped hydro (PSH) could result in a higher-cost, higher carbon energy system. PSH involves the pumping uphill of water during low drawdown periods to then be released and create power during peak power demand. The study was produced by DNV GL and part-funded by the Scottish Government, SSE and ScottishPower. The report lays out 20 benefits of the furtherance of pumped hydro, but warns the market and policy framework around it must change if the potential of the technology is to be realised. There are four operational pumped hydro schemes in Scotland at the current time and two with planning. The largest of those consented is SSE’s £800 million Coire Glas scheme. SSE development director Mike Seaton said: “At a stroke, SSE’s consented 30GWh Coire Glas project would more than double the total amount of current pumped storage capacity in the UK. “We’d like to see all parties working closely together to examine what steps can be taken to remove investment barriers which prevent new pumped storage projects being built.”
Dundee Courier 5th Oct 2016 read more »
SSE keeps 600MW Highlands hydro project on ice as new report shows prospects for large-scale new UK pumped storage power plants are bleak.
Scottish Energy News 5th Oct 2016 read more »
More than a quarter of a million Europeans could be producing their own energy by the middle of the century if certain policies are pursued, a new report has found. According to calculations by Dutch consultancy CE Delft, households and businesses could meet 45% of the continent’s power demand using their own solar panels and wind turbines. The study, commissioned by Greenpeace, the European Renewable Energy Federation, Friends of the Earth and REScoop.eu, sees so-called ‘energy citizens’ producing 611 TWh of electricity by 2030 — a fifth of Europe’s forecast demand. That number could grow to 1,557TWh over the subsequent two decades, boosting energy independence and supporting countries’ renewable energy and climate change targets.
Energydesk 26th Sept 2016 read more »
Half of Europeans could have solar panels on their roofs by 2050 and be self-sufficient when it comes to their energy needs. And the trend won’t stop there as small-scale energy cooperatives bring in eight times more revenue to local authorities than big utilities, argues Dirk Vansintjan. Dirk Vansintjan is President of the European Federation for Renewable Energy Cooperatives (REScoop.eu). He spoke to EurActiv.com’s publisher and editor, Frédéric Simon.
Euractiv 28th Sept 2016 read more »
Home battery storage company Moixa has launched a solar storage offer to protect households from rising prices. The package allows customers to benefit from the smart power revolution and claims to save them £350 per year in electricity costs. It includes a 2kWh Moixa smart battery with a 2kW solar PV system, costing £4,995 to buy and install. Customers will also receive £50 annual payments for making their battery capacity available through Moixa’s grid share aggregation platform – helping to balance demand and reduce the need for back-up power from coal, oil and gas.
Utility Week 4th Oct 2016 read more »
Edie 4th Oct 2016 read more »
Business Green 4th Oct 2016 read more »
The UK now boasts 35 standalone grid-scale storage projects and at least 1,500 residential storage units, according to new industry data. A report released today by trade body the Renewable Energy Association (REA) found that as of August this year there was a total of 3.23GW of storage capacity in operation across the country, with technologies spanning from lithium-ion batteries to pumped hydro systems.
Business Green 4th Oct 2016 read more »
GOVERNMENT-commissioned research on fracking has been delayed until after the SNP conference, angering critics in the party who want to debate the controversial issue. Ministers said last year that six expert reports on the safety and science of the gas extraction technology would be published by “summer 2016”. The First Minister said last month they were due out “over the next few weeks”, followed by a public consultation on fracking, which involves pumping pressurised water and chemicals into shale beds to release gas, something critics say risks pollution and worsens climate change. Now government sources have told the Herald the reports are not scheduled to appear this week or over the two-week Holyrood recess that runs until October 23. That puts their publication beyond the SNP annual conference in mid-October, where there will be a debate on energy, as well as scope for topical resolutions.
Herald 5th Oct 2016 read more »