Andy Stirling and Philip Johnstone (SPRU): The starkly differing nuclear policies of Germany and the UK present perhaps the clearest divergence in developed world energy strategies. Under the current major Energy Transition (Energiewende), Germany is seeking to entirely phase out nuclear power by 2022. Yet the UK has for many years advocated a “nuclear renaissance”, promoting the most ambitious new nuclear construction programme in Western Europe. A close look at what’s happening makes the contrast look very odd indeed. Nowhere is that difference more obvious than in the impending decision of British energy minister Amber Rudd, over arguably the most expensive single infrastructure project in British history: the Hinkley Point C power station. Both nuclear and renewables offer low carbon strategies. But the performance of renewable energy is now manifestly superior to nuclear power and continuing to improve. The position of nuclear power, by contrast, is rapidly declining worldwide. In 2013, new global investments in renewable electricity capacity overtook those in all fossil fuels combined. So, why does UK policy making and public debate on these issues remain so distinctively biased towards nuclear? It is extraordinarily difficult to understand why Germany rather than the UK should be moving away from nuclear power, without being drawn to the relative qualities of democracy in the two countries. Whether this is right or wrong, it is very significant that it is Germany that has been able to mount an effective challenge to the concentrated power and entrenched interests around nuclear energy. Also perhaps relevant, is the fact that Germany has a track record of consistently making these kinds of enlightened decision earlier than the UK (on issues like acid rain, pesticides, recycling and clean production) – whilst remaining arguably the world’s most successful industrial economy. So the practical message seems quite profound. General British debates over directions for innovation – around nuclear energy as in other areas like GMOs – are presently not primarily seen as matters for democracy; in effect they are not deemed suitable for public debate. Yet the troubled history of nuclear power itself – as with other technological issues like asbestos, phthalidomide and chemical pollution – shows how accountabilities neglected earlier, have a habit of being strongly asserted later. Perhaps this is something Amber Rudd might bear in mind, when making her impending momentous decision on Hinkley Point.
The Conversation 8th Sept 2015 read more »
Plans to build the UK’s first nuclear power plant since 1995, which are mired in delays and facing mounting criticism over costs, are likely to be confirmed in October in a major deal that will also herald the UK’s first Chinese-designed and operated reactor. The Sunday Times reports that an agreement, “part of a wide-ranging civil nuclear pact between Britain, France and China”, is likely to be signed during a state visit by Chinese premier Le Keqiang next month. It will see China’s state power companies, China General Nuclear and China National Nuclear Corporation, take a large minority stake at Hinkley Point, Somerset, and a follow-up project at Sizewell in Suffolk, both of which are being led by French state-backed producer EDF. In return, the Chinese companies will acquire from EDF the rights to develop a reactor at Bradwell, Essex. The French company “would become a minority partner and assist the Chinese through Britain’s approval process for a new reactor design, a process that is among the most arduous in the world”.
The Week 7th Sept 2015 read more »
Energy giant EDF has dismissed reports construction of its first new nuclear power station has been delayed and said its business plan remained firmly on track. According to The Telegraph online the Gloucester-based French-owned company had admitted to delays with Hinkley Point C, in Somerset, which was now not expected to generate electricity until 2023. It was a line picked up and run with by the BBC and prompted Unite union national officer for energy Kevin Coyne to call on energy secretary Amber Rudd ‘to get her skates on’. All of which will have pricked up the ears of the scores of South West firms like Gloucester-based Gleeds which are set to benefit as from contracts secured with EDF. Writing for The Telegraph, Emily Gosden, said in 2013 EDF announced it planned to be creating electricity by 2023, subject to a final decision in July 2014. “But that decision has not yet been taken, following a protracted EU state aid inquiry and extended negotiation with the UK Government over subsidies and with Chinese investment partners,” said Ms Gosden. She argued Mr Lévy’s comment that the decision had been “pushed back” was an admission of the 2023 start date would no longer be met. Not so according to EDF.
Western Daily Press 7th Sept 2015 read more »
Serious questions are now being asked about the wisdom of the Hinkley deal. The first point is that this is almost entirely a foreign venture. The project is being developed by the indebted state-owned French energy company EDF, with a reactor made by Areva of France (whose EPR model has run into difficulties elsewhere) and with investment finance partly provided by China. At one point the plant was due to go on line by the end of 2017 but was put back until 2023. Then last Friday, EDF said that deadline would not be met either but declined to offer another one, though Jean-Bernard Levy, the head of EDF, said he still had “full confidence” in the project’s eventual success. Who in their right mind would proceed on this basis, especially when a massive taxpayer subsidy will be tied up in the deal and the 2023 timetable was supposed to fill the energy gap caused by decarbonisation? Yet it appears the Government remains committed to Hinkley Point C, and David Cameron is expected to sign a financial deal when President Xi of China visits the UK next month. It is not (yet) too late to step back and acknowledge that however much we need to revive this country’s nuclear power industry, it must be done sensibly; and the case for a rethink is now overwhelming. A recent report from analysts at HSBC bank saw “ample reason for the UK Government to delay or cancel the project”. In a recent debate in Parliament, Lord Howell, the pro-nuclear former Energy Secretary in Mrs Thatcher’s first government, said Hinkley Point “must be one of the worst deals ever for British households and British industry”. He added: “I would shed no tears if it were abandoned in favour of smaller and possibly cheaper nuclear plants a bit later on.” This is good advice: the Government should take the opportunity of EDF’s dithering to rethink the country’s nuclear power strategy. Its commitment to conventional, large-scale reactor development was just about defensible for as long as there was a realistic prospect of it actually happening on time and at reasonable cost. But yet another delay at Hinkley Point, together with all the other uncertainties surrounding the project, changes everything. We risk being saddled with a white elephant while leaving our nuclear future at the tender mercies of the political agendas operating in other countries.
Telegraph 8th Sept 2015 read more »
Mace has been selected by EDF Energy as the preferred bidder for construction work, management services and NEC contract management. The proposed contract relates to the Hinkley Point C nuclear plant, which is set to produce enough energy for 5 million homes when it becomes fully operational.
Consultancy UK 7th Sept 2015 read more »
GMB Call On MPs To Force Government To Halt Plans For Chinese Nuclear Reactor In Essex Linked To Funding Hinkley And Sizewell Nuclear Decommissioning Authority should be re-tasked and renamed the Nuclear Development Authority and be given authority to borrow money to partner EDF in Hinkley and Sizewell says GMB. GMB, the union for nuclear workers, commented on a report in the Times that the UK Government plans next month to give the go ahead for Chinese nuclear reactor in Essex in return for Chinese funding for new nuclear stations ast Hinkley Point C and Sizewell. See notes to editors for copy of article from the Times dated 7th September and copy of GMB press release on this issue dated 29th June 2015.
GMB 7th Sept 2015 read more »
The UK Prime Minister David Cameron is set to sign a new deal, allowing China to construct a new prototype nuclear reactor in Bradwell of Essex. Part of a civil nuclear treaty between Britain, France and China, the deal is expected to be signed in October this year. The new plant is being built based on China’s support for two new plants to be constructed by French firm EDF Energy, including one at Hinkley Point in Somerset and the other at Sizewell in Suffolk, reported the Express. Beijing’s state power companies China General Nuclear and China National Nuclear are expected to own a minority interest in Hinkley Point.
Energy Business Review 7th Sept 2015 read more »
The electronics and industrial giant Toshiba faces a huge uphill struggle to repair its tattered corporate reputation as it reported a much-delayed annual loss of 37.8bn yen (£207m) yesterday. Toshiba had missed two deadlines to report its results after failing to get a handle on an £850m accounting scandal. The company, which will build one of Britain’s new nuclear reactors at Sellafield, also revealed that it had overstated profits for the past seven years by 224.8bn yen, roughly triple its initial estimate. The accounting scandal, which broke in July, has wiped more than a third off the company’s value. Toshiba shares jumped almost 5 per cent in Tokyo yesterday on hopes that it has drawn a line under the debacle. Toshiba also said yesterday there was no need to write down the value of its US Westinghouse nuclear operation.
Independent 8th Sept 2015 read more »
RWM Ltd is currently consulting on proposals for assembling, and presenting to the public, information on the geology of England, Wales and Northern Ireland. These proposals form the draft National Geological Screening (NGS) Guidance. The 12 week consultation is an important step to ensuring that the public plays a central role in the government and RWM programme of work to plan for, build, and operate a geological disposal facility (GDF) deep underground, providing a permanent solution for the country’s most radioactive waste. The approach for this will be based on working with communities that are willing to participate in the siting process. The consultation will run until Friday 4 December 2015.
NDA 8th Sept 2015 read more »
The notion that nuclear is cheaper outside the UK is a myth, writes David Toke. Yes, it looks more expensive here – but only because new stations like Hinkley C have to compete in an electricity marketplace, making it harder to conceal the true costs like we used to.
Ecologist 7th Sept 2015 read more »
Infant Mortality; Stillbirths; Unborn Girls, Near Hinkley Point Nuclear Power Station in Somerset England: An Investigation.
Mining Awareness 7th Sept 2015 read more »
Power firms expect new Energy Secretary Amber Rudd to take account of changes in technology that will see the need for fewer power stations as households cut energy use. Rudd, who cut subsidies for wind and solar power after both grew faster than expected, is due to outline her plans for the sector later this autumn. Energy sources say she will focus on how technology could transform the industry.The changes we see coming at an extraordinary pace will result in central power generating capacity becoming redundant. It will mean fewer of everything including fewer big power stations,’ said a high-ranking energy source, speaking after a further delay was announced to the building of a new nuclear reactor at Hinkley Point in Somerset.
Mail on Sunday 5th Sept 2015 read more »
Nuclear power advocates cling like limpets to the idea of ‘baseload’ power, writes Michael Mariotte. No surprise there – it’s the only selling point they’ve got. It’s just too bad the idea is obsolete. Variable renewables combined with stronger grids, energy storage and responsive demand can do a better job for less money. No wonder the shills are getting desperate. The old grid, beholden to massive, polluting baseload power plants, is being replaced by a nimbler, high-tech 21st century system oriented toward variable renewable energy. A grid based on smaller, distributed variable power sources can be just as reliable, and even more resilient and secure, than a grid reliant on baseload power. Variable does not mean unreliable: as long as it can be reliably projected with sufficient advance time what the wind will do and thus how much wind power will be available where, and the same for the sun, then a variable grid can be highly reliable. And those can be and are, in fact, reliably projected.
Ecologist 7th Sept 2015 read more »
Nuclear terrorism is, in the words of US President Barack Obama, “the gravest danger we face”. But while few would dispute this characterisation, the world has unfinished business in minimising the threat. Ten years after world leaders agreed to amend the landmark 1987 Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material to make it harder for terrorists to obtain nuclear material, the new measures have yet to enter into force. The resulting vulnerability needs to be ¬addressed urgently.
The Australian 7th Sept 2015 read more »
Japan – Fukushima
After the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant (F1NPP) in March 2011, much attention has been paid to the biological consequences of the released radionuclides into the surrounding area. We investigated the morphological changes in Japanese fir, a Japanese endemic native conifer, at locations near the F1NPP. Japanese fir populations near the F1NPP showed a significantly increased number of morphological defects, involving deletions of leader shoots of the main axis, compared to a control population far from the F1NPP. The frequency of the defects corresponded to the radioactive contamination levels of the observation sites. A significant increase in deletions of the leader shoots became apparent in those that elongated after the spring of 2012, a year after the accident. These results suggest possibility that the contamination by radionuclides contributed to the morphological defects in Japanese fir trees in the area near the F1NPP.
Nature 28th Aug 2015 read more »
Forget Japan’s sushi restaurants, historic shrines, and geisha tea rooms – and make way instead for leprosy islands, nuclear disaster towns and Second World War landmarks.
Telegraph 7th Sept 2015 read more »
At first glance, the metals that give atom bombs their destructive fury might seem interchangeable: Uranium and plutonium are both more valuable than gold. Both captivate would-be atomic powers. And both fueled bombs that leveled Japanese cities — uranium at Hiroshima and plutonium at Nagasaki. But to see them as equal is to ignore a crucial difference: Of the 15,000 or so nuclear warheads on the planet, atomic experts say, more than 95 percent rely on plutonium to ignite their firestorms. As a fuel for weapons, plutonium packs a far greater punch than uranium, and in bulk can be easier and cheaper to produce. Which is why some nuclear experts voice incomprehension at what they see as a lopsided focus on uranium in evaluations of the deal reached with Iran — under which Tehran would forsake the production of plutonium.
New York Times 7th Sept 2015 read more »
In July last year, me and Nikki Clarke from Bridgwater were arrested for blocking the gate of Devonport Docks, where the Trident nuclear weapons fleet is serviced. This was part of our long-running commitment to raise awareness about the proposed Trident renewal and to challenge it’s legality through peaceful protest. There is due to be a one or two day trial this week at Plymouth Magistrates Court on Tuesday Sept 8th.
Theo Simon 6th Sept 2015 read more »
Two anti-nuclear protesters who allegedly chained themselves to a car outside the entrance to Devonport Naval Base in Plymouth will appear before Magistrates. Nicola Clark and Theo Simon were arrested for aggravated trespass during a protest last July. The protest caused huge traffic jams in the area.
ITV 8th Sept 2015 read more »
A local council has set up a not-for-profit energy supplier that it hopes can sign up 10,000 customers a month and save them each up to £237 a year on bills. Nottingham city council said Robin Hood Energy, which employs 30 staff, was the first local authority-owned energy company run on a not-for-profit basis since the market was nationalised in 1948. The council said the first customer, who signed up with the new firm on Monday, had cut their annual energy bill from £2,000 to £1,400. The company will use energy generated from the city’s incinerator, solar panels and waste food plants and also buy in gas and electricity from the market. Alan Clark, Nottingham city council’s portfolio holder for energy and sustainability, said: “The UK’s domestic energy market has been hit with fluctuating government policies and subsidy cutbacks. In recent years, the cost of utility bills has spiralled as the profit-hungry ‘big six’ energy companies have exploited their monopoly. We have decided to take the bold step of setting up Robin Hood Energy so that energy can be provided to customers across Nottingham and beyond at the lowest possible price, run not for profit, but for people.”
Guardian 7th Sept 2015 read more »
It seems that merely stealing from the rich to give to the poor was not a big enough challenge. Now Robin Hood — or at least his modern-day namesake — is taking on the Big Six energy companies. Robin Hood Energy, which opened for business yesterday, will be the first not-for-profit company of its kind since the industry was nationalised in 1948. Its owner, Nottingham City Council, said that the provider would save customers about £200 each per year on gas and electricity. And in the true spirit of Robin Hood, the cash that would have gone to the giants of the industry will find its way back to the masses. “That money will get ploughed back into the local community,” Alan Clark, the the council’s head of energy and sustainability, said. To satisfy Ofgem its services will eventually be available across the country, although there will be a special tariff for those living within the city council s boundaries. This is not the first time Nottingham has acted as a pioneer in the British energy market. Since 1962, the city has been piping hot water directly to local homes and businesses from a central heating plant. The system, which is fuelled mainly by the incineration of 160,000 tonnes of municipal rubbish, is the largest of its kind in Britain, supplying more than 4,000 homes. Low wholesale energy prices have encouraged other local authorities to consider similar energy initiatives. Cheshire East Council recently launched Fairer Power, a partnership with Ovo Energy. Southend is considering a similar tie-up.
Times 8th Sept 2015 read more »
Amber Rudd: Moving to a low carbon economy is key to our long-term economic and environmental prosperity. But as I have stressed repeatedly since the election, this government’s priority is to do so in the most cost-effective way possible, getting a grip so sensible, affordable policies are implemented that keep bills as low as possible for hardworking families and businesses across the country. Our latest projections show that subsidies paid through schemes such as the feed-in tariff (FiT), where we announced a consultation on changes recently, are likely to significantly exceed the £7.6bn limit that was originally set by 2020. Part of this overspend is because industry has been so successful at responding to the incentives government put in place. Our initial ambition was to support 750,000 installations under the FiT by 2020. Take-up has been so great that we expect to achieve this ambition by the end of this year. But this has meant the overall cost of the scheme has also exceeded expectations. At the same time, the technologies being supported have seen dramatic reductions in costs. In solar, this fall has been spectacular.
Business Green 7th Sept 2015 read more »
Amber Rudd, the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, has defended the latest government proposals to cut spending on clean energy subsidies, claiming it was right to review the feed-in tariff (FiT) scheme in light of the “spectacular” fall in the cost of solar power. Writing exclusively for BusinessGreen, she said the review into the scheme was necessary as falling costs and higher-than-expected installation rates added significant pressure on clean energy budgets.
Business Green 7th Sept 2015 read more »
Thermodynamic panels have been touted as “a free source of natural, clean and inexhaustible energy providing 100% of your hot water needs, 365 days of the year”. For around £5,000 to buy and install, they sound too good to be true – and the first independent tests suggest they are. Thermodynamic panels are similar to air-source heat pumps and work like refrigerators in reverse. The panels absorb heat from the atmosphere to convert a refrigerant into a gas. That then passes through a compressor – which boosts its temperature – and is used to heat water. The refrigerant enters the panel at a temperature of between -20C and -30C, so even on cold days the panels can absorb relative warmth from the air. The compressor runs on electricity, however, so claims of free hot water are false.
Guardian 7th Sept 2015 read more »
Canary Wharf Group has carried out a major lighting upgrade on its property portfolio, saving more than £400,000 and over 1,951 tons of carbon annually. The property management firm has installed 9,260 LED bulbs at its Canada Place, Jubilee Place and Cabot Place malls. The installations are expected to save 3.7million kwh of energy annually, enough electricity needed to light 5,140 homes in the UK.
Edie 7th Sept 2015 read more »
Putting cities on a course of smart growth – with expanded public transit, energy-saving buildings, and better waste management – could save as much as $22tn and avoid the equivalent in carbon pollution of India’s entire annual output of greenhouse gasses, according to leading economists. The Global Commission on Climate and Economy, an independent initiative by former finance ministers and leading research institutions from Britain and six other countries, found climate-smart cities would spur economic growth and a better quality of life – at the same time as cutting carbon pollution. If national governments back those efforts, the savings on transport, buildings, and waste disposal could reach up to $22tn ($14tn) by 2050, the researchers found. By 2030, those efforts would avoid the equivalent of 3.7 gigatonnes a year – more than India’s current greenhouse gas emissions, the report found. The finding upends the notion that it is too expensive to do anything about climate change – or that such efforts would make little real difference. Not true, said the researchers.
Guardian 8th Sept 2015 read more »