The prospect that Toshiba will withdraw from the nuclear power business after its embarrassing and expensive experience with the American company Westinghouse poses a serious problem for the UK’s plans to make new nuclear the core of future energy supply. If those plans are to be delayed, as looks almost certain now, the government will have to come up with an alternative. Hinkley Point is still in doubt because a new French government after elections in May could decide that subsidies to the state-owned company hoping to build Hinkley are unsustainable. EDF is deeply indebted and its finances have continued to deteriorate since its finance director, Thomas Piquemal, resigned last spring. A recapitalisation of the company is essential and for that to succeed drastic change is necessary. The management, imposed by President François Hollande in 2014, could be turfed out and a radical restructuring launched. The questions around the technical integrity of the EPR reactor and the ability of the company to complete a construction project remain unresolved. If Hinkley itself is in doubt so, too is Sizewell. Beyond Hinkley the next planned project is at Wlyfa in North Wales. Hitachi is in better shape to lead the project, and the technology is simpler. But the financing of the construction remains an open question. The Japanese government could provide funding, perhaps as part of a restructuring of the country’s nuclear sector which brings together the scattered elements of expertise from different companies, but may be reluctant to do so if the UK itself remains adamantly opposed to putting in any public money. And then there’s China. China’s nuclear design is being examined by the UK’s industry regulator. That will take four to five years. All this suggests a serious risk of delay to the programme. That will be compounded by Britain’s decision to leave Euroatom. Additional capacity backed by investment has to be put in place to cover a gap that will open up as each old station is closed. Plan B is urgently required.
FT 6th 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 long-awaited nuclear ‘renaissance’. Meanwhile, nuclear utilities are in crisis, and no major commodity had a worse 2016 than uranium.
Renew Economy 6th Feb 2017 read more »
During the recent stage 2 consultation on Sizewell C run by EDF, the company expressed a desire to maximise the use of rail and marine transport options in order to minimise the quantities of freight delivered by road. The consultation document sets out various scenarios for rail and marine freight, and concludes that at least 60% (by weight) of the total materials required for construction could either be sourced from within the main development or delivered to the site by sea or rail. This would be better for the environment and for people living in the area. It goes on to say that the implementation of either a marine or rail maximised transport strategy would remove up to 250 HGV’s per day over the peak construction phase, and these estimates are used to calculate the number of lorries that are expected on the roads during construction. Whilst the reliance on rail and marine solutions is commendable, there is a caveat that they will only be used if they are considered to be “cost-effective” The governments Overarching National Policy Statement for Energy (EN-1) allows for this as it states: “5.13.10 Water-borne or rail transport is preferred over road transport at all stages of the project, where cost-effective”. However there is no reference to any equation within the consultation document or the NPS EN-1 that demonstrates how the cost effectiveness is worked out.
Peter Lux 5th Feb 2017 read more »
The fate of a nuclear power station planned for the Cumbrian coast is caught in a tussle between Korean, American and Japanese investors. Toshiba, the Japanese technology giant, is preparing to retreat from its involvement in NuGen — the name of the consortium building the 3.8 gigawatt plant that is due to power 6m homes. An unravelling financial crisis at Toshiba prompted it to announce last week it would “reconsider the future of its overseas nuclear business”. Toshiba’s struggles are an unwelcome development for Whitehall, which is banking on a string of new nuclear power stations to replace Britain’s ageing coal plants. NuGen is already in crisis. Engie is also thought keen to sell up. Pressure is mounting on NuGen’s boss, Tom Samson, to sign up new investors, which could include Korea Electric Power Corporation (Kepco), Japan’s Bank for International Co-operation and the US Export- Import Bank. Britain is also likely to pump in taxpayer cash. Sources said Chinese investors were circling but were seen as a long shot. Japanese giant Hitachi is locked in talks with the government over funding its own Horizon venture to build nuclear plants in Anglesey and Gloucestershire.
Times 5th Feb 2017 read more »
Janine Allis-Smith: My trip down memory lane…..an elusive virus, dodgy radioactive discharges, and an Emperor who changed his clothes. The Children’s Cancer and Leukaemia Group and other cancer charities united on World Cancer Day. The event brought back memories of not only having to face childhood leukaemia within our families, but also the ongoing battle to find out what caused the cancer. For us living in the shadow of Sellafield in West Cumbria, those charged with researching the cause appear willing to accept the Kinlen virus hypothesis and exonerate Sellafield, while other independent experts simply tell us to “forget this whole infection hypothesis. these hypotheses have arisen primarily to explain away any risk of radiation.”
CORE 5th Feb 2017 read more »
Federal regulators killed a rigorous examination of cancer in millions of Americans living near nuclear plants because they were convinced the study couldn’t link reactors to disease and would be too costly, newly released records show.
Orange County Register 3rd Feb 2017 read more »
The French state group building Britain’s new nuclear plant does not have enough cash to dismantle its domestic reactors, according to an official study. A French parliamentary committee said that EDF would need a public bailout to meet the cost of closing ageing power stations. The warning was issued after unions expressed fury about an announcement that EDF plans to cut 3,900 jobs in France over the next three years. Jean-Marc Sylvestre, an economics commentator, said that the group was on the “edge of a precipice” and faced a choice between privatisation and bankruptcy. He described EDF’s situation as a “catastrophe foretold”. EDF’ s critics say that the company, which has debts of more than 37 billion euros lacks the financial resources to meet its commitments in France, let alone embark upon the Hinkley Point scheme. Their concerns were fuelled with the publication of a report by the committee for sustainable development, which accused EDF of failing to plan for the dismantling of its plants. EDF has set aside has 36 billion euros to pay to clean up reactors at the end of their working lives.
Times 6th Feb 2017 read more »
Sue Ferns: As the union that represents specialists in the nuclear industry – from regulation to research – we endorse the points made in Tom Greatrex’s letter (January 31), but the government has just made this unnecessarily more difficult. The untimely decision to leave the European atomic energy community will also have an economic impact. For example, the Culham Centre for Fusion Energy (the fusion research arm of the UK Atomic Energy Authority) signed 283m euros contract in 2014 for running the Joint European Torus facility until 2018, with similar contracts expected in the future. This accounts for more than a quarter of the overall European Fusion Programme budget over the same period – a budget funded in part by the Euratom Horizon 2020 programme. The UKAEA also brings Euratom money directly to the region and UK industry by winning ITER (global fusion project) contracts. The movement of fissile material through Europe will also be significantly affected by the absence of a Euratom agreement. This, in turn, will affect badly needed nuclear new build projects.
FT 6th Feb 2017 read more »
We were keeping our eye on 1984. But it’s Brave New World we should have feared instead. Over the last year, as the presidential campaign grew increasingly bizarre and Donald Trump took us places we had never been before, I saw a spike in media references to Amusing Ourselves to Death, a book written by my late father, Neil Postman, which anticipated back in 1985 so much about what has become of our current public discourse. What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture.
Guardian 2nd Feb 2017 read more »
“Radiation brain” was a pun that made the social media circuit after March 11, 2011, deriding people whose brains (nō) had become unduly contaminated with fears about radiation after the disaster at Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant. They had, people claimed, “radiation brains” (hoshanō), a kind of soft-minded hysteria that made them figures of fun but also figures of potential danger to society and the economy. Their lack of confidence in government regulation of foodstuffs, people argued, became the source of harmful rumors that hurt farmers and dairy producers in disaster-affected areas. Such citizens, usually mothers in charge of providing meals for their children, were reckless in their caution. Immediately after the disaster, many expected a surge of specifically anti-nuclear political activism in Japan, and indeed protests and demonstrations flourished in the spring and summer of 2011. However, just five years on from the worst nuclear disaster in decades, political activism remains a fringe activity. Part of what interested Kimura was why citizens seemed to be “more concerned than outraged.” As she noted recently, “so many seem to be perplexed why Japan, after the major nuclear accident, has not seen transformative politics.” Her book offers some answers to that question.
Japan Times 4th Feb 2017 read more »
Whoever succeeds Francois Hollande as France’s president may find one of their first tasks in office will be selling off some of the nation’s prized assets to prop up the state’s nuclear industry. That’s because the government is as much as 3 billion euros ($3.2 billion) short of the 7.5 billion euros it has said it needs this year to fix the financial problems of Areva and EDF, said two government officials with direct knowledge of the matter. Hollande will try to find an answer before he leaves office in June, one of the people said. If he can’t, his successor must decide how to plug the gap, said the other person. France is preparing to rescue its nuclear industry after EDF was weakened by falling European power prices and Areva lost billions on a long-delayed project in Finland. The president must either increase the national debt or weigh politically sensitive privatizations of holdings in anything from automakers such as Renault to the former phone monopoly — a tall order with the first round of presidential elections just three months away. All three leading presidential candidates have said they will support the nuclear industry, at least in the medium term, as the best guarantee of energy security and a low-carbon future. Hollande’s spokesman didn’t answer messages seeking comment for this story. Representatives of Francois Fillon, the Republican Party candidate, Socialist Benoit Hamon and Emmanuel Macron, an independent, also declined to comment. Marine Le Pen of the National Front wouldn’t sell state assets but instead ask state-controlled Caisse des Depots et Consignations to invest in Areva, her economic adviser Bernard Monod said in a text message.
Bloomberg 3rd Feb 2017 read more »
French Minister of Finance and Economy Michel Sapin has urged the South African authorities to adopt a “fully transparent” approach to the procurement of new nuclear capacity, arguing that the France is not afraid of transparency, or competition. Speaking through a translator in Pretoria on Friday at the conclusion of a working visit to South Africa, Sapin expressed optimism that the process would be fair, despite ongoing reports that Russia’s Rosatom had already been selected by the South African authorities.
Engineering News 3rd Feb 2017 read more »
The nuclear industry has been waiting for two bills as a way to break the logjam of bureaucratic nonsense that has hamstrung developing and building the new-design reactors and creating a central place for used fuel that can be burned later in some of these new reactors. These are not so difficult scientifically but are very difficult politically and legally.
Forbes 5th Feb 2017 read more »
SECRECY is part of Britain’s nuclear deterrent, Sir Michael Fallon, has insisted as he made clear that there were certain things the public had to trust the UK Government on and Trident “is one of them”. In an interview with The Herald, the Defence Secretary also declined to comment in detail on what the cost was to the taxpayer of the fall in sterling in terms of buying military equipment, saying that any suggestion it could be £1 billion a year was “speculation”. He insisted the public should be reassured that the Ministry of Defence took “precautions” against currency fluctuations but declined to elaborate.
Herald 6th Feb 2017 read more »
Atlantis Resources, the tidal-energy group behind the MeyGen project in the Pentland Firth, has set up a new division to “extend its skills base”. Its Atlantis Energy subsidiary will look to develop sub-sea interconnectors, tidal-barrage and lagoon projects, floating offshore-wind opportunities and pumped-storage projects on behalf of infrastructure funds, investment banks and private developer.
Machinery Market 5th Feb 2017 read more »
An international summit on the hydrogen supply chain is to be held in Aberdeen next month. The summit, which is taking place during European-wide Hydrogen Week, will bring together bus operators and re-fuelling companies to present study findings of large scale hydrogen re-fuelling. The event will further show the economic benefits of hydrogen to the area, and local businesses are invited to attend to further understand the potential for supply chain opportunities that are emerging from this sector. Aberdeen has the first hydrogen buses in Europe, two dedicated hydrogen refuelling stations, and hydrogen-fuelled vehicles as part of a car club scheme. The city is also looking wider than transport, with plans for hydrogen training, business diversification, and trials of H2 vehicles for the private sector.
Scottish Energy News 6th Feb 2017 read more »
Energy Action Scotland – the national charity which aims to combat fuel poverty – has warned that the inflation-busting energy price-rises by Npower has ‘set alarm bells ringing’ for many people already struggling to afford their fuel bills. Npower is to increase electricity and gas prices for customers next month by up to 15 per cent – and some other energy companies have already said they also expect to increase prices this spring.
Scottish Energy News 6th Feb 2017 read more »
Energy-saving street lights should be dimmed or turned off altogether because they are harmful to insects and other wildlife, according to academics. A study by Exeter University found that LED street lights acted as a draw for predatory spiders and beetles, destroying vegetation and damaging other species. Pests were more likely to be attracted to grassland patches lit by cold white energy-efficient lighting than those with conventional sodium street lamps, the researchers said. The number of spiders and beetles drawn was drastically cut when lights were dimmed by 50 per cent, or switched off between midnight and 4am. However, the study said that “averting the ecological impacts of night-time lighting may ultimately require avoiding its use altogether”. Thomas Davies, from the university’s environment and sustainability institute, warned that LEDs could have “potentially profound consequences” for the natural environment. Many local authorities have recently scrapped traditional sodium bulbs in favour of LEDs, which burn less electricity and provide more directional light. Transport for London announced plans three years ago to convert all lights on its major roads to LED bulbs to cut energy consumption by 40 per cent and save almost £2 million.
Times 6th Feb 2017 read more »