EDF shareholders will gather in the Carrousel du Louvre on Thursday for the company’s general meeting. Not that many people present will be thinking about the delights of Paris in the springtime. The focus, instead, will be on EDF’s long-delayed plan to build an £18 billion nuclear power station at Hinkley Point. It is a project that has bedeviled Jean-Bernard Lévy, the company’s chairman, and has sent shockwaves through the French state to the Élysée Palace a kilometre up the road. Until two weeks ago, shareholders in EDF had been expected to offer final approval for Hinkley Point this week. Instead, amid a fresh delay until September and opposition from EDF employees, they will get a chance to air their views and grill the company’s board, which remains divided. “It’s clear that EDF’s top management and the French government are still backing the project,” Yves Marignac, director of WISE-Paris, an energy research group, said, “but neither has the means to solve all of the problems and push it forward.” EDF requires a €4 billion bailout led by the French state, its 85 per cent shareholder. Paris is expected to pay for this by selling stakes in other state-owned businesses, including Renault and airports at Nice and Lyons. This, though, will take time, as will a separate, €5 billion bailout of Areva, the bankrupt developer of the EPR technology, in which EDF is expected to participate by taking a 75 per cent stake. Areva collapsed last year amid big debts linked to the botched construction of earlier EPRs in Finland and Normandy. “Who would bet 60 to 70 per cent of his equity on a technology that has not yet proven that it can work and which takes ten years to build?” Mr Piquemal asked French MPs this week. With French presidential elections due in a year’s time, big decisions may become increasingly difficult to make, adding to the likelihood of further delay. “They are likely to postpone the decision again,” Mr Marignac said. He believes that a final decision is unlikely before the end of 2017.
Times 7th May 2016 read more »
When he was elected president in 1958, Charles De Gaulle chose to make France a military and civil nuclear power. His followers believe that his glorious legacy, at least in the civil field, will come undone if the state-owned electricity giant fails to build two of its new-generation reactors at Hinkley Point in Somerset. Of the 72 reactors being built around the world, only four are French: one at home, one in Finland and two in China. The country staked its nuclear future on its powerful new European pressurised reactors, but developing nations have shown a preference for smaller, cheaper models.
Times 7th May 2016 read more »
A report in The Times today could mean that nuclear reactors in Somerset contain faulty French components. The Times reports that plans for Hinkley Point C have been thrown into chaos after the admission that engineers have falsified vital safety tests on parts supplied to reactors in France and possibly the UK. Power Magazine says France’s nuclear sector has been rocked to its core. Roy Pumfrey, spokesperson for Stop Hinkley, said: “What little credibility France’s nuclear sector had left has now completely evaporated. Surely now an end to Hinkley Point C is inevitable. If the Government doesn’t call a halt to this soon we will become the laughing stock of Europe.” Roy Pumfrey added: “As Albert Einstein is thought to have said ‘the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results’. At the stroke of a pen David Cameron could launch projects sufficient to save or generate the same amount of electricity as Hinkley Point C which are capable of delivering long before 2025. And studies have shown that scrapping Hinkley Point and building renewable power instead could save the UK tens of billions of pounds.”
Blue Green Tomorrow 5th May 2016 read more »
Burnham-on-sea.com 6th May 2016 read more »
Stop Hinkley Press Release 5th May 2016 read more »
Life has changed considerably for Tom Greatrex over the course of the past year. He has gone from debating the minutiae of government energy policy to sharing a conference hall with Stormtroopers. “It was science fiction meeting science fact,” jokes the now chief executive of the Nuclear Industry Association (NIA). Sharing the corridors of Birmingham’s NEC with Star Wars characters camew a year after he departed the corridors of power in Westminster having lost his Rutherglen and Hamilton West constituency seat, and almost four months after starting in his new role at the NIA. It could be argued that he has left the frying pan and leapt into the fire, because nuclear power is a hot, and often controversial, topic. It is even more controversial right now with rumour and conjecture swirling around the question of when – and Greatrex is sure it’s a when and not an if – Hinkley Point C will get the final go-ahead from EDF. Greatrex also rubbishes claims that EDF is stalling over Hinkley Point C so that it can find an excuse to abandon the £18 billion project. “I went down to Hinkley Point the other week and a lot of work has been done, and is being done, in preparation,” he says. “Lots of things have happened down at the site, and if the suggestions were serious that EDF is just playing for time and is not committed to the project, I don’t think we’d have all the work going on.”
Utility Week 6th May 2016 read more »
NUCLEAR bosses are drawing up plans for the first major phase of work on Wylfa Newydd. Horizon Nuclear Power wants to start preparing and clearing the site of the proposed new nuclear power plant at Cemaes Bay by spring 2017. The work will last about 18 months, with around 80 workers on site during peak periods. Five consultation events will be held on the island between Monday, May 16 and Tuesday, May 31, before the firm applies for planning permission to Anglesey Council.
News North Wales 6th May 2016 read more »
North Wales Chronicle 6th May 2016 read more »
New Reactor Types
A wave of innovation is sweeping across the nuclear sector – so much so that it is difficult for financiers to pick winners at this stage. But the biggest innovation in nuclear energy may come in the form of a new investment paradigm that involves private investors much more than in the past, writes specialised nuclear energy reporter Dan Yurman.
Energy Post 5th May 2016 read more »
The government has been accused of burying bad news during an election period after publishing a report saying an emergency scheme to keep the lights on could add £38 a year to each household bill. The cash is going towards the cost of a “capacity market” scheme, under which energy companies have been paid to keep their power stations on standby for times of peak demand. A new capacity market auction is planned by the government for next year, following two already held, and the impact assessment report suggests that the cost could be as much as £3bn in 2018, or £38 per household. The government has previously slashed subsidies for wind and solar projects on the grounds that they were driving up consumer bills, but it said the latest initiative would guarantee electricity needs for 2017-18, while protecting against price spikes by securing electricity in advance. Lisa Nandy, the shadow energy and climate change secretary, said the capacity market scheme was a “massive waste of money” because previous payments ended up going to nuclear facilities and other plants that would have stayed open regardless. Catherine Mitchell, a professor of energy policy at the University of Exeter, said the scheme highlighted the shortsighted nature of energy policies. “The capacity market system inherently favours fossil fuel generation, damaging the environment while delaying the widespread rollout of a flexible grid based on renewables, demand management, storage, interconnection and more efficient practices, as the national infrastructure commission and Energy UK have recently recommended,” she said.
Guardian 6th May 2016 read more »
Consumers could pay up to £38 more for their energy next year after the government accelerated plans to prevent electricity shortages. Britain is facing the risk of a power deficit over the next few winters as ageing coal and nuclear power stations are retired from service. The government announced plans yesterday to bring forward a new system, under which plant owners will be paid to supply back-up electricity at short notice. According to documents published by the energy department, the cost of the scheme will be £2 billion to £3 billion, enough to push up bills by £28 to £38 per household.
Times 7th May 2016 read more »
Telegraph 7th May 2016 read more »
Britain’s nuclear bomb test veterans suffered severe genetic damage from radiation, writes Chris Busby, and their case for compensation is being heard in the High Court today. Key to their case is evidence of similar damage inflicted on in utero babies exposed to radiation from the Chernobyl disaster, and how the dreadful health impacts of radiation cascade down to future generations.
Ecologist 6th May 2016 read more »
These days, projects and agreements that were once flagships of US-Russia cooperation can suddenly give rise to bitter dispute. The most recent controversy involves a cooperative program that commits Russia and the United States to eliminating a significant part of their weapon-grade plutonium stocks. Experts knew there was potential for tension, but it still came as a surprise when Russian President Vladimir Putin, speaking at a meeting with journalists in April, launched a broadside against the United States, accusing it of not living up to its side of the deal. Not only is the United States not fulfilling its agreed obligations, he said, it is also trying to change the way it deals with plutonium in such a way that the material “can be retrieved, reprocessed and converted into weapons-grade plutonium again.” At that moment, it became clear that the future of the plutonium disposition program will be a serious irritant in the US-Russian relationship.
Bulletin of Atomic Scientists 28th April 2016 read more »
The idea behind the Nuclear Security Summits was to prevent terrorist groups such as the Islamic State from gaining access to nuclear weapons, fissile materials, and nuclear facilities. But nuclear security is never “done”—not as long as fissile and radiological materials exist—so even now, with the summit process complete, the threat of nuclear terrorism is not necessarily diminishing. Truth is, the risk of nuclear terrorism cannot be eliminated. But if states make the utmost commitment to protecting nuclear materials, nuclear security can be continuously improved. The 2016 summit in Washington eased the way toward continuous improvement by establishing a set of nuclear security mechanisms that all states can join and all can implement—even without summits.
Bulletin of Atomic Scientists 5th May 2016 read more »
Building new nuclear power stations is becoming hugely more expensive by the day, but decommissioning old ones might prove to be even more costly. The authorities at Ignalina say the whole decommissioning process, including the decontamination of thousands of tons of equipment and building materials, is likely to cost at least €3 billion. Much of the cost has so far been funded by the EU. But Lithuania − one of the less economically developed countries within the EU, with under three million people − will in future have to take on more of the financial burden of dismantling the plant. A plant spokeswoman says the decommissioning process will take the 2,000 workers at present on site until 2038 to complete. In addition, there is the problem of the disposal of long-term nuclear waste, initially to be stored on site in a series of steel casks.
Climate News Network 7th May 2016 read more »
The Yucca Mountain nuclear waste site could have a “small” environmental impact on groundwater over a million-year timeframe, nuclear regulators predicted. In a 300-page analysis of the proposed nuclear waste repository, staff from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) said the Department of Energy (DOE) did not properly account for radioactive contamination of groundwater and the impact if that groundwater reaches the surface. The DOE’s study was completed in 2008 as part of the congressionally mandated and since stalled preparation for Yucca. The Obama administration cut off most preparation for Yucca in 2010 in response to opposition in Nevada and elsewhere. But congressional Republicans hope to provide funding for Yucca at some point, and the NRC is still obligated to conduct its analysis of the application that President George W. Bush’s administration submitted.
The Hill 6th May 2016 read more »
World Nuclear News 6th May 2016 read more »
A group of children who are battling cancer as a result of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster have visited the UK. Staying with host families in Endon, near Stoke-on-Trent, they enjoy activities and outings they could never dream of at home. As these photographs show, one of the highlights was going to the seaside in North Wales, a rare privilege for people in landlocked Belarus. They also enjoyed trips to Alton Towers, Chatsworth House and Poole’s Cavern in Buxton, Derbyshire.
Mirror 6th May 2016 read more »
Chugoku Electric Power Company has submitted an overview of its decommissioning plan for unit 1 of the Shimane nuclear power plant in Japan’s Shimane prefecture to the country’s nuclear regulator. The company expects dismantling of the plant to take 30 years to complete.
World Nuclear News 6th May 2016 read more »
Critics of renewable energy sources like wind and solar claim that they are inefficient, unreliable and need to be backed up by coal and gas, writes David Elliott. But we have the technology to match green power supply and demand at affordable cost without fossil fuels – by deploying the ‘smart grid’, using ‘green gas’ made from surplus power, and raising energy efficiency. In his new book, Green Power Balancing, Elliott looks at the issues and concludes that there are many ways in which large contributions from variable renewables can be balanced – so it’s not a major problem. Moreover it may not cost too much. Indeed some of the balancing options can save money. For example smart grid systems can shift demand peaks to times when green energy is cheaper, while supergrids can shift green power from where it’s available and cheap to where its scarce and expensive. A recent ‘Smart Power’ study by the UK government’s National Infrastructure Commission claimed that such an approach might actually save £8 billion per year by 2050. At present most grid balancing is done by ramping fossil fired gas plants up and down, but in future some of these can use green fuels, including storable green gas produced using surplus electricity from wind and solar. The variable output from renewables, with too much being produced sometimes too little other times, can thus be turned from a problem into a solution. Several studies suggest it can. For example, one high renewables 2050 UK scenario, produced by Poyry consultants, had a large wind capacity in place, 198GW, this along with other renewables, being sufficient to meet most demand most of the time. The wind plants would generate around 120 TWh surplus energy over the year, nearly enough, if converted to hydrogen, to meet low-wind shortfalls at other times. The remaining gaps, including during peak demand times, could be easily dealt with by a bit of pumped hydro storage, demand side adjustment and supergrid imports. For longer term balancing, the Pyory scenario also retained around 34GW of gas fired plants, just over 11% of the total capacity on the grid. A more recent study, by the Energy Research Partnership, came up with a similar figure- there would be a need for around 12% of fossil input to balance a notionally 100% renewable system. However, as a study by the UK Pugwash group argued, if more renewable capacity was added, this residual fossil gas input could be replaced by green gas produced by the extra surplus and from biogas sources. So assuming demand has also been tamed, with a major energy saving programme, problem solved.
Ecologist 6th May 2016 read more »
It is technically and economically feasible to run the US economy entirely on renewable energy, and to do so by 2050. That is the conclusion of a study last year in the journal Energy & Environmental Science, authored by Stanford scholar Mark Z. Jacobson and nine colleagues.
VOX 3rd May 2016 read more »
A senior executive at Western Australia network operator Western Power says that high levels of renewable energy pose no great technology challenges to the grid, although it may change the way that networks are managed.
Renew Economy 6th May 2016 read more »
Renewables – solar
Now that the spring sunshine has finally arrived, I thought I would revisit a chart that I showed at an STA conference last year and which was subsequently picked up by Ofgem Chief Exec Dermot Nolan in a speech to Energy UK (and misattributed to Cornwall Energy…). Ofgem has also used it more widely as part of their narrative on energy system change, including talks on their innovation plan and smart energy. It is all to do with the dangers of underestimating the potential pace and power of power system transformations. By the end of 2015 we had almost 9GW of solar PV, an outcome that was supposed to be reached in Ofgem’s high scenario only by 2026, and that is way above total deployment in 2030 in the low and medium scenarios. there is a danger in taking a conservative view on technology take-up. Governments, regulators and network companies have a bias towards a concern with stranded assets that has made so-called ‘anticipatory investment’ difficult in the past. But the solar PV story shows that when tipping points are reached, things can change very quickly. It is not inconceivable that what happened with solar PV will also happen with electric vehicles. If Elon Musk really can accelerate the existing downward trend in battery costs, we may well see a sudden surge in people buying, and charging, EVs. For networks, that will make the solar PV boom look like a walk in the park.
IGov 6th May 2016 read more »
This week’s Micro Power News.
Microgen Scotland 6th May 2016 read more »