The chief executive of EDF Energy will leave Britain if the French company’s £14 billion Hinkley Point reactor project collapses. Vincent de Rivaz, the longest-serving boss of Britain’s Big Six energy companies, has staked his credibility on getting the plan to build Britain’s first new reactors for decades off the ground. However, the chances of the project going ahead are receding, with EDF Energy and the Government in a stand-off over the level of subsidies — funded by levies on consumers’ bills — that the company will receive. One source said that the Government had made several minor concessions in recent days, but the two sides remained far apart. According to well-placed industry sources, Mr de Rivaz would seek a new role within the parent EDF Group, which is majority-owned by the French Government and is based in Paris, if the project were to collapse. With EDF Energy spending £1 million a day to keep the project going, it is thought that the group will walk away if no deal is struck by the summer.
Times 6th May 2013 read more »
The UK Government believes that nuclear power is an essential part of the country’s energy mix in order to help it to cut greenhouse gas emissions. That is partly why it has so much plutonium, with all its attendant problems. Britain’s plutonium stockpile is the biggest in the world and has just grown by another three tonnes as the German and Dutch governments have handed over their stores, apparently glad to be rid of it. This man-made metal was once thought to be the most valuable substance in the world because 10 kg could make a nuclear bomb, or for generating electricity. But plutonium is now widely seen as a major liability, particularly if you have 118 tonnes of it, as the UK now does. The British Government, however, believing it may still find a peaceful use for the plutonium, still regards it as an asset. It keeps its stockpile under 24-hour armed guard at the Sellafield nuclear plant in Cumbria in the north-west of England. It argues that the energy the plutonium contains should be harnessed to produce low carbon electricity as part of the battle against climate change. Anyone who comes up with a scheme to do this would make billions of pounds from British taxpayers. But experience has shown that exploiting plutonium is not for the faint-hearted. Despite previous setbacks there are companies who believe they can provide a solution using techniques similar to past failures. Several nuclear states – Russian, Japan and France – have tried to develop fast breeder reactors using plutonium, but all have abandoned them as unworkable, uneconomic or both. The British Government ran a successful prototype in the 1980s but concluded a scaled-up version, even if it could be made to work, would be hopelessly uneconomic. The second option, of burning plutonium in normal reactors by mixing it with uranium to create a fuel called MOX (mixed oxide) is complex. It is always expensive and in Britain has been an economic disaster. Sellafield’s MOX plant was designed to use up the plutonium stockpiles and produce 120 tonnes of fuel a year, but repeated technical difficulties proved insuperable. After five years the plant had produced only five tonnes of usable fuel.
Climate News Network 5th May 2013 read more »
Radioactive materials have gone missing from businesses, hospitals and even schools more than 30 times over the last decade, a freedom of information request to the UK’s health and safety authorities has revealed. Nuclear experts have warned that some of the lost material could be used by terrorists and said there should be a crackdown by the regulators to ensure such “carelessness” is brought to a speedy halt. Among the big names that have lost potentially dangerous materials are Rolls-Royce at a site in Derby, the Sellafield nuclear plant in Cumbria and the Royal Free hospital in London. Some organisations have been prosecuted but others have got away with little more than a warning notice, papers released by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) reveal.
Guardian 5th May 2013 read more »
The radioactive Romanians! Pair stopped at Austrian border test positive after storing their food and drinks alongside nuclear material. Austrian police discovered two radioactive Romanians during a routine check at the border after the pair decided to keep their food and water cold by storing it next to potentially deadly chemicals. Gheorge Ionescu, 43, and Dorin Nicolea, 38, were travelling to Romania when they were pulled over. The police, who wanted to check what they were carrying at the Nickelsdorf border crossing with Hungary, used a special detection device to reveal that the vehicle was radioactive.
Daily Mail 5th May 2013 read more »
Are we premature with our fear of this energy source, particularly now in this crucial time when fossil fuels are rapidly depleting? Solar panels and wind turbines are cosy and sustainable ideas, but depend on a certain environment to operate to full potential. You’d still need turf for the fire on those dark nights of an Irish winter. But perhaps we are not being premature in our nuclear panic. I have been to Chernobyl. I have seen the abandoned city of Pripyat, once a beacon of Soviet show-boating. I have seen first hand the devastation caused by a nuclear fallout.
Irish Independent 5th May 2013 read more »
India’s Supreme Court has ruled that the controversial Kudankulam nuclear plant in Tamil Nadu state can start operations.
BBC 6th May 2013 read more »
The cleanup after the catastrophic nuclear accident two years ago at the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan is not going well. Radioactive cooling water is leaking into the ground from at least three vast storage tanks, and the vulnerability of the plant to further accidents was revealed when a rat chewed through an electric cable, cutting off vital cooling. Those setbacks came as a 12-man team from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna toured the stricken plants to assess the country’s efforts to make safe, clean up and eventually dismantle the crippled reactors.
Renew Economy 6th May 2013 read more »
Do you remember the sandal-wearing hippies from the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament back in the Eighties? Well, they are attempting a comeback. Their most famous protest was the women’s peace camp at Greenham, set up to oppose the siting of Cruise missiles nearby. Now CND is advertising online for an army of volunteers to take its ‘peace’ message into primary and comprehensive schools in London, the South-East, Essex and East Anglia.
Daily Mail 5th May 2013 read more »
Jacky Aignel, the leader of Saint Gouéno council in Brittany, looks at the cranes hoisting blades to the top of a wind-mast: “We’ve been waiting so long for this,” he sighs. The wind turbine is finally nearing completion, the result of a lengthy struggle by this small locality in Côtes d’Armor. The Enercon E53, with a rated capacity of 850kW and the first of a series of seven, is no ordinary beast. It is the result of a clever financial package that allows local residents to invest in the scheme and aims to invest the benefits in the local economy. The co-operative investment company Cigale was established in 2008, and there are now 127 individuals who collectively own a 30% share in the venture. But the participatory windfarm is just one aspect of the energy policy being deployed by Mené district council, which represents Saint Gouéno and six other nearby localities (overall population 6,500). In this largely rural area you can see a wood-fired boiler at Le Gouray, fed by nearby forests and powering a collective central-heating network, then the Geotexia methanisation plant at Saint Gilles du Mené, followed by an oil mill and biofuel production unit at Saint Gouéno, and finally a house fitted with solar panels at Plessala. All these facilities should help Saint Gouéno towards its goal of being energy self-sufficient by 2025.
Guardian 5th May 2013 read more »
A total of £1,146,614 was handed out to the operators of 13 Scottish wind farms, including almost £300,000 for a development built on land owned by the Duke of Roxburghe. The money, which ultimately comes from electricity consumers’ bills, was given to wind farm companies to compensate them for not producing power during periods of high generation and low demand. This can happen when it is too windy so as not to overload the National Grid. Anti-wind farm campaigners fear the payments will only increase thanks to Alex Salmond’s drive for a large expansion in the number of turbines north of the Border.
Telegraph 5th May 2013 read more »
Imagine there are suddenly 10 million EV owners who all want to charge their EVs after work. This is a nightmare: 80GW of power, or the entire generating capacity available for the UK, would be needed to charge this fleet. Mass EV ownership is simply not viable without an overhaul of the electricity network. Therefore it’s incumbent on EV owners to push for a smart grid revolution, too. But let’s go back to the future. As petrol gets dirtier (for example requiring oil to be squeezed from tar sands at huge ecological cost), EVs will get cleaner, and easier to produce. Meanwhile the mix of renewables in the UK is supposed to increase (by 2020 coal will provide just 11% of energy). Plus, you can already begin to see the shape of a network of fast-charging points. Institutions such as MIT are working on improving the EV performance to get greater range per unit of electricity (such as working on a cooling/heating system that isn’t reliant on battery power).
Guardian 5th May 2013 read more »
Next week, the White House will hear evidence from Australian scientist, Carlos Duarte, that the Arctic sea ice is on such a downward spiral that we may see a dramatic decline of sea ice over the next two years. Evidence was given to the UK government last year from British scientists, Peter Wadhams and John Nissen, that we could see minimal sea ice by September 2015, simply extrapolating the sea ice volume trend. Evidence from recent satellite images suggests that a record melt is in progress this year. The plight of the Arctic was highlighted to MPs and the Met Office in a recent showing of the film “Chasing Ice” at the House of Commons, London. The Arctic has recently become an issue in the European Parliament.
Arctic Methane Emergency 5th May 2013 read more »