Chris Huhne: The current row between the coalition partners about energy bills and onshore wind is a case in point. George Osborne and the Conservatives have made a great play of trying to cut energy bills by axing the green levies that fund exactly the measures – energy-saving and cheap renewables – that will do most to protect households long term. In theory, the cuts will save about £50 this year if fully passed on by the big six energy companies. That may or may not happen. Add to this bizarrely short-termist decision the desire of the Conservatives to put every possible obstacle – planning controls and subsidy cuts – in the way of onshore windfarms, which is being blocked thankfully by my successor, Ed Davey. David Cameron is now being urged to declare an onshore wind moratorium in the Tories’ 2015 manifesto. Onshore wind enjoys more than 60% support in polls, and offshore wind is even more popular (presumably because fish do not yet have the vote). But I even had a delegation of Conservative MPs complain about offshore wind turbines spoiling the sea vista from Bournemouth guest houses. Given that we have an EU legal commitment, which the last Labour government agreed in 2009, to meet 15% of all our energy consumption from renewable sources by 2020, we should be installing as much onshore wind as we can. Every obstacle that boosts more expensive solutions will add to consumer costs: going offshore costs £155 per MWh or 63% more than onshore. Conservative policy – cheaper bills by axing energy saving and pushing for luxury renewables – does not add up.
Guardian 6th April 2014 read more »
Energy complaints in the first quarter of 2014 more than tripled compared to the same period last year to their highest level ever recorded, the energy sector’s ombudsman said on Monday. The figures are likely to put further pressure on energy companies, already under fire from consumer groups and politicians about rising bills and soaring fuel poverty, which now afflicts 4.5 million Britons. Energy regulator Ofgem said last month that it was referring the sector to the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), a review which could see the big six electricity suppliers forced to separate their power stations and supply businesses.
Guardian 7th April 2014 read more »
Independent 7th April 2014 read more »
Telegraph 7th April 2014 read more »
The rest of the UK needs Scotland to keep the lights on and electricity bills down, according to a Scottish government report intended to counter concerns that independence would hurt power producers and consumers north of the border. The report, published on Monday, is scathing about the UK government’s handling of energy policy and insists that while an independent Scotland would seek a continued shared British electricity market, Edinburgh would demand much greater oversight and stronger safeguards over security of supply.
FT 7th April 2014 read more »
CoRWM have now sought to clarify that Workington is not the only meeting venue planned. There will be two other meetings for the UK, in Thurso and Anglesey. Contrary to their own statement, they now claim that the Workington meeting is not specifically about finding a burial site for nuclear waste, but about the committee’s work in general.However, it seems clear from DECC’s sham consultation process that they intend to press ahead with the search for a burial site in West Cumbria by cutting out Cumbria County Council, even though nobody suggested that to the consultation, beyond a couple of vested interests. It seems likely that they will keep changing the rules of engagement until they get the answer they want. Cumbria Trust would encourage people to go along to the CoRWM meeting in Workington on 30th April and make it clear to the committee that Cumbrians have said NO to a GDF, and NO means NO.
Cumbria Trust 6th April 2014 read more »
US scientists are proposing that the source of one controversial energy programme could provide a solution to the problems of another. Nuclear waste – that embarrassing by-product of two generations of uranium-fuelled power stations – could be stored indefinitely in the shale rock that right now provides a highly contentious source of natural gas for utility companies.
Climate News Network 6th April 2014 read more »
South-easterly winds have coated Britain in a toxic Saharan dust cloud. Combined with domestic pollution, the sand has caused air quality to plummet and engulfed many parts of the country in smog-like conditions. But one unreported aspect of the Saharan dust is that it could be radioactive. French nuclear testing in Algeria, conducted during the height of the independence struggle, spread radioactive fallout across southern Europe in the early 1960s – and the radioactivity that settled on the desert could have been resuspended in this natural fallout event over Britain. It’s recently been revealed that atmospheric spread of the radioactive fallout was much larger than the French army admitted at the time.
Morning Star 4th April 2014 read more »
Three Nobel prize winners are throwing their weight behind an anti-radiation belt developed by an Israeli company that protects first-responders from exposure to radiation after nuclear accidents. The ”StemRad 360 Gamma” belt is designed to be worn around the waist to protect vulnerable bone marrow from atomic radiation.
Reuters 6th April 2014 read more »
Officials in the United States and Russia soon might have to negotiate over a hot-button energy issue — and it’s not related to natural gas. At issue is a Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility, or MOX, project in Aiken, S.C., that is supposed to convert weapons-grade plutonium into commercial nuclear fuel. The Energy Department has mothballed the project, citing cost overruns that put the total bill at $30 billion by the time it is constructed in 2019, and is exploring other options.
Washington Examiner 4th April 2014 read more »
Americans remain at higher risk for a radiological disaster as long as the Nuclear Regulatory Commission remains under the influence of the nuclear-power industry, an expert on nuclear safety and security said in Chicago Thursday. “It’s common knowledge in Washington that anyone nominated to be a commissioner to the NRC has to be pre-approved by the nuclear industry,” said Edwin Lyman, a physicist turned senior scientist for the Union of Concerned Scientists. “In order to get a more independent mindset, you’ve got to break that stranglehold.” Lyman’s comments arrived amid criticism of the NRC for doing too little to implement seismic safety upgrades recommended after the Fukushima disaster three years ago. He just published a book, “Fukushima: The Story of a Nuclear Disaster,” written with David Lochbaum, director of the Union’s Nuclear Safety Program, and Philadelphia Inquirer journalist Susan Q. Stranahan, who covered the Three Mile Island accident. The book describes the Fukushima disaster as it unfolded, implicating reactor design in the meltdowns, explosions, and radioactive emissions that followed the earthquake and tsunami in Japan three years ago.
Forbes 6th April 2014 read more »
Jacobs Engineering Group has secured a framework agreement to provide technical support to the UK’s Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR). Under the agreement, the company will support the ONR in its program of work relating to the safe operation of UK’s current licensed nuclear facilities and the safety assessment of future facilities, including new reactor designs. In addition, the company will provide technical support in the areas of civil engineering, internal and external hazards, radwaste and decommissioning.
Energy Business Review 7th April 2014 read more »
Europe – Energy Subsidies
Brussels will this week bend to intense pressure from Berlin and relax planned curbs on subsidies for clean energy, clearing the way for the German government to pass a crucial renewables law. The European Commission is watering down its draft state aid rules, allowing subsidies for renewables to be phased out far more gradually than originally intended. Contentious rebates shielding companies from green energy costs will also be largely allowed to continue. The new EU proposals have attracted sharp criticism from environmental groups, who fear they will stall the shift to clean energy. Frederic Thoma, Greenpeace EU energy policy adviser, said: “Instead of levelling the playing field, these rules would make it harder for renewables to compete with the big energy companies who are still wedded to fossil fuels and nuclear power.”
FT 6th April 2014 read more »
The crisis in Ukraine has led to talk of a new cold war between Russia and the West. But, of course, the real Cold War was different. For more than 40 years from the end of World War Two, the world stood on the precipice of a catastrophe. A fear that East-West tensions could spill over into nuclear war. In Scotland, as elsewhere, civil authorities had to prepare plans for the unthinkable. Files, once secret, are kept in the archives of Glasgow’s Mitchell Library. They give some idea of how Scottish councils would have responded to the threat of a nuclear attack and what they feared would happen.
BBC 7th April 2014 read more »
It’s not just natural gas that keeps Ukraine under Russia’s thumb. Almost all the fuel for Ukraine’s 15 nuclear reactors comes from Russia, too. But just as Ukraine is struggling to diversify away from Russian natural gas, it is also eager to break Moscow’s virtual monopoly over its nuclear fuel. Pennsylvania-based Westinghouse Electric Co. told various media outlets this week it will renew a contract with Ukraine’s Energoatom that will extend and expand its flow of nuclear fuel to the struggling nation. The deal is valued at $100 million.
Christian Science Monitor 5th April 2014 read more »
Iran hopes sufficient progress will be made at talks with major powers this week to enable negotiators to start drafting an accord settling a dispute about Tehran’s nuclear programme, Iranian media quoted a top Iranian negotiator as saying.
Reuters 7th April 2014 read more »
Having lost confidence in the umbrella of US security the Saudis are developing their own capabilities. The dangers for the region and for the world’s energy markets are enormous. The issue is set out in an excellent new paper for the Belfer Center at Harvard by Olli Heinonen and Simon Henderson. The Saudis’ explanation of their newfound interest in nuclear technology is that they want to use it to produce electric power and to converse oil supplies which can be exported. There is a core of truth in this of course – Saudi Arabia’s domestic oil consumption is rising inexorably and is now more than 3 mbd, or 3,000 barrels a day. But, of course, this is exactly the argument used by Iran for its own nuclear research. Heinonen and Henderson believe the Saudis are preparing the way and giving themselves the option of being able to move beyond civil nuclear power to the point where they could within a matter of months produce some form of weapon. The country undoubtedly has the money to buy whatever is needed and they have close and dangerous allies within Pakistan, a country which is already a nuclear state.
FT 7th April 2014 read more »
Lorna Arnold, who has died aged 98, was the official historian of Britain’s nuclear project and the author of landmark books on the Windscale reactor accident of 1957, on British nuclear testing in Australia and on the development of the hydrogen bomb. She brought to these controversial subjects the highest standards of official history writing, and as a result was able to command the respect of both opponents and supporters of the nuclear deterrent, at times when the two could agree on little else.
Guardian 27th March 2014 read more »
Lorna Arnold on nuclear weapons: Talkworks film from 2012.
Talkworks (accessed) 7th April 2014 read more »
Radio 4 6th April 2014 read more »
The boss of Unilever is to deliver a withering attack on business leaders who fail to wake up to climate change by criticising high-carbon industries for pushing the global economy towards a “cliff edge”. Paul Polman, head of the ice cream-to-deodorant multinational, hopes to position himself as a leading proponent of environmentally friendly business. In a message clearly aimed at oil industry bosses and at financiers who baulk at green technology, he has urged his fellow corporate leaders to stop dragging their feet on climate issues.
Times 7th April 2014 read more »