Areva’s €7bn shortfall and the limits of state aid. Of all the things not to drop, 465 tonnes of machinery perched above a nuclear reactor ranks high. Such are the perils, however, of refurbishing the nuclear power plants which supply most electricity to France, where in March a steam generator toppled over at one EDF facility as attempts were made to remove it. This week the reverberations were financial, after the French nuclear regulator reported irregularities in components made by Areva, the state-owned reactor maker. Areva bonds — due in 2021 — dropped from 88 cents on the euro to 78, as the market searched for a price. European rules governing public support for industry were updated in 2014, and they exist to protect the continent’s free market from distortion, by preventing member states from using public resources to subsidise or protect national industries. Areva may bring the rules into focus because its need for more capital is clear. EDF may pay Areva €2bn for the company’s reactor unit, called Areva NP, although the energy group is yet to sign on the dotted line. That would leave around €5bn to be raised from investors such as the French government.
FT 5th May 2016 read more »
France’s nuclear sector was rocked to its core on May 4 when the country’s Nuclear Safety Authority (ASN) announced that state-owned nuclear manufacturer Areva had confessed to “irregularities in the manufacturing checks” on about 400 parts produced since 1965, about 50 of which are still in service in France. ASN said in a statement that the irregularities “comprise inconsistencies, modifications or omissions in the production files, concerning manufacturing parameters or test results.” The problems came to light as the result of an audit ASN began last year after defects were discovered in the Flamanville EPR reactor vessel head and a review of the manufacturing work performed at Areva’s Creusot steel forging plant. That audit uncovered enough problems that ASN ordered Areva to review its records going back to 2004 when manufacturing for the EPR began.
Power Magazine 5th May 2016 read more »
Following the detection of an anomaly on the Flamanville EPR reactor vessel, and at the instigation of ASN, AREVA initiated in April 2015 a quality review on the manufacturing work carried out in its Creusot Forge plant. Its conclusions were sent to ASN in October 2015. ASN considered that this relatively superficial review, which only went back as far as 2010, was insufficient and did not give a complete picture of the organisation and practices at Creusot Forge, the quality of the parts produced and the safety culture prevailing within the plant. At the end of 2015, ASN asked AREVA to take the process further and go back to at least 2004, which was when the first parts intended for the EPR were manufactured. On 25th April 2016, AREVA informed ASN of the initial results of this additional analysis. They revealed irregularities in the manufacturing checks on about 400 parts produced since 1965, about fifty of which would appear to be in service in the French NPPs. These irregularities comprise inconsistencies, modifications or omissions in the production files, concerning manufacturing parameters or test results. ASN asked AREVA to send it the list of parts concerned as rapidly as possible, along with its assessment of the consequences for the safety of the facilities, jointly with the licensees concerned. The review process will need to be seen through to completion in order to assess all the anomalies which may have affected past manufacturing operations and draw any relevant conclusions regarding the safety of the facilities.
ASN 4th May 2016 read more »
Bradwell Power Station’s cost-cutting means site grows “more precarious” with time, warn campaigners. A nuclear disaster could hit Bradwell because of cost-cutting measures during the power station’s decommissioning process, it is claimed. Magnox, in charge of making the site safe, decided it could shave 12 years off the project’s timescale and cut costs by keeping the boilers in situ, This is despite a report by regulatory body the Office of Nuclear Regulation (ONR), advising it would be cheaper, safer and more efficient to remove the boilers. Its inspector stated that the proposal to leave the boilers in place presented: “a risk of [them] toppling, leading to release of contamination from other parts of the plant”. It also stated: “A seismic event could cause the boilers’ concrete support plinths to collapse leading to the boilers falling over. Professor Andy Blowers, of the Blackwater Against New Nuclear Group (BANNG), said: “These boilers are really something to be seen. They’re gigantic so I would think the main reason they left them in place is logistics and cost. “They would be very expensive and difficult to move so they’re leaving that for future generations. “But if you’ve got these boilers on old concrete plinths, it’s plausible that the weight of the boilers alone could cause them to crack. This, in itself, means the building could certainly fail. “We only have to look at Fukushima to see that when accidents can happen they will happen. “What looks quite passive is actually very sinister and dangerous. In the long term that site becomes more precarious.”
Essex Chronicle 4th May 2016 read more »
The nuclear industry is due a refund of more than £30 million after winning a business rates appeal. The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) and Sellafield Ltd lodged an appeal in 2013 to the Valuations Office Agency (VOA) that it should pay lower rates to Copeland Council. The VOA has now ruled in favour of the NDA/Sellafield Ltd and the reduced rate (from around £30m a year to £25m) is backdated to 2010. Although Copeland council collects the business rates from all firms in the borough, this money is then transferred to central government to be distributed nationally. Forty per cent of the nuclear refund (£12.6m) is now due from Copeland council, 50 per cent (£15.75m) from central government and 10 per cent (£3.1m) from Cumbria County Council. Talks are ongoing as to how this money will be repaid.
Carlisle News & Star 5th May 2016 read more »
Whitehaven News 5th May 2016 read more »
The Planning Application PL1508 5 (4/15/9012): “The phased construction of additional vaults, higher stacking of containers..capping.. ” was due to be heard “in early 2016.” First we were told this would be in April, then May – now the decision has been put back once again. The next possible time it may be heard is June 23rd ….but we will not know for sure until 7 days ahead of the meeting by the Development Control and Regulation Committee of Cumbria County Council. The toothless Environment Agency have already given their blessing and the operators have already poured tonnes of concrete over coastal land precariously near to the Drigg dunes for more “vaults” despite planning approval having not been given. Try doing that with a tiny porch in Cumbria and the planners are down on you like a ton of bricks…but acres of “vaults” to stack shipping containers full of radioactive wastes….no problem.
Radiation Free Lakeland 5th May 2016 read more »
Humble insects may be called as witnesses to the next nuclear accident. Shining UV light on their wings reveals how much radiation they have absorbed. Staff at nuclear plants carry dosimeters, instruments that take real-time measurements of radioactive exposure, usually expressed in grays (Gy). Civilians in the surrounding areas probably won’t have these devices. In the event of an accidental release of radioactive material, this leaves a gap in the data on its dispersal and resulting radioactivity doses, making it hard to estimate health effects by location.
New Scientist 5th May 2016 read more »
More than £1.1 billion was lost from the value of Centrica yesterday as the owner of British Gas scrambled to shore up its balance sheet with an unexpected share placing. Shares fell by 10 per cent after the £700 million placing of 350 million shares at £2 each, which the FTSE 100 company said was necessary to pay for two “attractive acquisitions” and cut its £4.4 billion debt pile. Centrica is battling to avoid a ratings downgrade in the face of a steep drop in wholesale energy prices and fierce competition in the retail gas and electricity market. British Gas lost almost 250,000 customers in the first three months of the year.
Times 6th May 2016 read more »
Exactly 30 years ago today Pravda, the official Communist party newspaper, published its first substantial report on the nuclear explosion at Chernobyl, ten days after the worst man-made accident in history. This was the first formal indication that anything was seriously amiss. In the days after the explosion at the nuclear power plant in northern Ukraine, 120,000 people were evacuated from a 22-mile exclusion zone, as frantic efforts were made to drain the plant of radioactive water and encase the site in concrete. More than 200 people died from acute radiation sickness, and thousands more would suffer the debilitating and life-shortening effects from a spew of radioactivity 400 times greater than the Hiroshima bomb. Of this, the vast majority of Soviet citizens knew nothing. The Chernobyl meltdown devastated thousands of lives, but the fallout from the ensuing cover-up was historically more significant: it poisoned relations between Moscow and its satellites, undermined faith in Communist rule and brought down the Soviet Union. It also demonstrated, in the most dramatic way, what happens when a state tries to contain and conceal unpleasant truth in a concrete covering of lies.
Times 6th May 2016 read more »
China’s CAP1400 reactor design has successfully passed the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA’s) Generic Reactor Safety Review (GRSR), the Shanghai Nuclear Engineering Research and Design Institute (SNERDI) announced today.
World Nuclear News 5th May 2016 read more »
State-owned energy producer Vattenfall has issued another warning about the impact of the country’s nuclear tax on Sweden’s energy supply. Announcing a five percent year-on-year increase in profit to SEK8.1bn (USD1bn) in the first quarter of 2016, Vattenfall’s President and CEO, Magnus Hall, said that nuclear power generation in Sweden increased in the first three months of the year. However, he warned that its operations in Sweden remain “challenged as a result of the nuclear tax.”
Tax News 5th May 2016 read more »
Renewables – wind
Spanish wind turbine manufacturer Norvento has launched a new model of its medium-scale nED100 turbine at a UK renewables event in Glasgow. This re-engineered unit introduces a number of innovations that will simultaneously increase the efficiency of the machine and reduce its upfront and long-term generation costs. With its smaller and more compact generator, as well as its lighter, redesigned nacelle and a more efficient 12m blade design, the new 100kW model will enable landowners and commercial users to maximise financial returns and savings in the post-subsidy UK medium wind market.
Scottish Energy News 6th May 2016 read more »
Renewables – offshore wind
Fife-based BVG Associates has been appointed to help Scottish companies to make the most of £60 billion worth of renewable energy opportunities via the Scot-Govt’s Offshore Wind Expert Support Framework. Scotland is leading the world in floating offshore wind development and has helped the UK become a market leader in offshore wind in general. Scotland already boasts a strong, capable and dynamic offshore supply chain. With seven major renewable energy projects planned for the waters around Scotland, Scottish companies are ideally placed to make the most of the local, national and international business opportunities presented by the growth of the sector.
Scottish Energy News 6th May 2016 read more »
Sainsbury’s is now generating 10 per cent of its energy consumption from leftover food waste. Ten of the supermarket’s outlets are running on energy collected from Sainsbury’s depots in in Sherburn-in-Elmet and Haydock in a partnership with Refood, a UK food waste recycle initiative. The food is used to generate carbon-neutral electricity for power and heating.
Independent 5th May 2016 read more »
Series of high profile deals suggest innovations in energy storage are starting to push down costs and push up commercial viability. A series of deals have this week underlined growing investor interest in the expanding energy storage market, as a number of leading firms announce progress in their pursuit of more cost-effective energy storage systems. UK-based battery start-up Nexeon became the latest energy storage specialist to pique investor interest yesterday, announcing it has successfully completed a £30m funding round to support its ambitious expansion plans.
Business Green 5th May 2016 read more »
Tesla’s chief executive Elon Musk has accused politicians of bowing to the “unrelenting and enormous” lobbying power of the fossil fuel industry, warning that a global “revolt” may be needed to accelerate the transition to more sustainable energy and transport systems. Speaking at the World Energy Innovation Forum at the Tesla Factory in California on Wednesday, Musk claimed that traditional vehicles and energy sources will continue to hold a competitive edge against greener alternatives due to the vast amounts of subsidies they receive. The solution to this energy dilemma, Musk says, is to introduce a price on carbon by defining a tax rate on greenhouse gas emissions or the carbon content of fossil fuels.
Guardian 5th May 2016 read more »