A SENIOR energy executive has condemned Britain’s first nuclear power plant in a generation as an “expensive mistake” that could haunt our “children’s children”. The broadside from Paul Massara, chief executive of energy supplier RWE Npower, is the highest profile attack yet on the controversial £24bn project. It comes as the government inches toward a deal with EDF Energy, the French nuclear giant, and two Chinese state energy companies, to finance and build two reactors at Hinkley Point, Somerset. Massara has called for an “Office of Energy” to assess whether Hinkley and other big policy bets make sense given the changes sweeping through the energy industry, from the rapid fall in green energy costs to efficient homes and appliances that are reducing demand. Massara said: “We will look back and think that nuclear was an expensive mistake. It’s one of those deals where my children, and my children’s children, are going to be thinking, ‘Was that a good deal?’ These big central planning bets are likely to be the wrong answer.” British energy consumption, meanwhile, is falling by 1%-2% a year thanks to better insulation and more efficient white goods. Cables under the Channel open the possibility of a surge of cheap electricity from the Continent. Amid those changes, making a half-century bet on a single plant looks questionable, Massara said. He added: “We must allow innovation and new technology to find its way.”
Sunday Times 9th Aug 2015 read more »
IT HAS been nearly two years since Ed Davey sat between a pair of grinning Frenchmen to announce a historic deal to build Britain’s first new nuclear power plant in a generation. Davey, then the energy secretary, hailed the £16bn plan for two reactors at Hinkley Point in Somerset as “an excellent deal for Britain and British consumers”. Since then, the oil price has plummeted, renewable technologies have bloomed and British energy consumption has fallen. The all-in price for Hinkley has ballooned to £24bn, while troublesome complications to its reactor design have emerged. All of which has prompted more critics to question whether, in a changed world, Hinkley Point makes economic sense. Amid the rumblings, rival energy company bosses have remai ned conspicuously silent. Until now. Paul Massara, head of RWE Npower, has broken ranks. Hinkley, he said, risks being “an expensive mistake” that will be questioned “by my children and my children’s children”. Why? Because the famously slow-moving industry is in the middle of rapid and fundamental change that is likely to turn the old utility model on its head. In that context, betting so much on a single project that we will be paying off for the next half-century seems a risk not worth taking, he argued. “The energy industry in 10 years is going to look very, very different because of the pace of technological change,” Massara said. “We’ll need to release some of those big bets we’re making because I think they will turn out to be very expensive for customers.” He is not alone. Last month HSBC published a 60-page report focusing on several factors, from falling energy demand to soaring imports, that provide “ample reason for the UK government to delay or cancel the project”. On HSBC’s most conservative forecasts, interconnection capacity will more than double to 7.4GW by 2020 – equivalent to roughly 1.3 Hinkleys – at a fraction of the cost. The bank wrote: “There is every reason to believe that the UK will become a very substantial net importer.” EDF dismissed the HSBC report, claiming that relying on electricity flowing in from the Continent “doesn’t solve our need for energy security”. The company added: “Nuclear power is still the choice that gives reliable baseload power at the same time as helping Britain meet its carbon emission targets. Energy secretary Amber Rudd has slashed renewables subsidiesEnergy secretary Amber Rudd has slashed renewables subsidies. Yet they are unlikely to stop the revolution in Britain, especially in solar energy. Massara reckons that within three years, solar power will not need any support to be competitive. Peter Atherton, an analyst at Jefferies, reckons that “the UK now seems to be where Germany was in 2011 – when the share of wind and solar generation crossed the c ritical 10% level in 2014”. The British market has already had moments when prices have dipped into negative territory. Atherton said: “While expected, these effects are perhaps happening several years earlier than many anticipated.” Massara reckons this is just a taste of things to come.
Sunday Times 9th Aug 2015 read more »
The Chinese are planning to come to the rescue of a European nuclear industry so short of money that it cannot build any new stations without outside help. The problem is that EDF, the giant electricity utility owned by the French government, does not have the £25 billion (US$38.5bn) needed to build the two huge nuclear reactors in England that it has already agreed to construct, because it is in debt and its partners have pulled out. The British government, despite its critics’ accusation that the proposed power station at Hinkley Point in the west of England will be an expensive white elephant, still wants to go ahead and is to sign an agreement with the Chinese to finance the deal. China’s President, Xi Jinping, is due in London in October and is expected to agree with David Cameron, the UK’s Prime Minister, to fund the deal. The Chinese generosity in helping out is because they will gain an important toehold in Europe, and hope to build their own nuclear reactors on British soil. This extraordinary reversal in fortunes for the European nuclear industry − which always looked to sell its nuclear reactors to China, rather than the other way round − has come about because new-build nuclear in the west has become impossible to finance in a free market, where it is seen as too risky by investors wanting an early return on capital. Critics of the government’s policy include Alan Whitehead, an opposition Labour party Member of Parliament and a member of its climate change committee. He said the government’s plans for a new raft of nuclear stations by 2025 had as much likelihood of success as a “snowball’s chance in hell”. The Hinkley Point plant had already been delayed five years, and would probably be delayed further. .“Time, you might think, for a plan B,” he said.“What about filling in the now almost certain low-carbon generation gap, at the very least, with much more easily deployable, speedily buildable, better financeable, lower subsidisable real renewables?”
Climate News Network 8th Aug 2015 read more »
AN AMERICAN engineering giant has broken into Britain’s renascent nuclear industry by winning a deal to build a power station on Anglesey. Bechtel is understood to be in exclusive discussions to run the engineering, procurement and construction of Horizon’s new nuclear plant at Wylfa. The company, which is at work on the £14.8bn London Crossrail tunnel, saw off competition from rivals including Chicago Bridge & Iron Company and Fluor, said sources. While a contract is yet to be signed, the deal puts Bechtel in prime position on one of the first of a new generation of atomic power plants. Horizon was bought by Japan’s Hitachi from Germany’s Eon and RWE almost three years ago for about £700m. It also plans to build a plant at Oldbury, near Bristol.
Sunday Times 9th Aug 2015 read more »
South Australia’s emerging nuclear ambitions may ultimately prove to be a significant development, politically and economically, for the state and the nation. In the hopes of nuclear industry advocates, a technological alliance with Japan, South Korea and Taiwan on nuclear power, fuel recycling and waste storage could bring in $28 billion for South Australia. It’s a bold vision in which the state could be transformed into the “Saudis of the South.” If nothing else, it’s likely to generate plenty of political heat.
The Saturday Paper 8th Aug 2015 read more »
Japan’s nuclear regulator said an accident on the scale of the 2011 Fukushima disaster would not occur under new safety rules imposed on reactors such as Kyushu Electric Power’s Sendai No.1, set to be the first to restart since Fukushima, Japan’s Nikkei business daily reported on Saturday.
Reuters 8th Aug 2015 read more »
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Sunday marked the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Nagasaki by renewing his commitment to a nuclear weapons free Japan, following criticism for not making the same pledge on the anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing last week.
Reuters 9th Aug 2015 read more »
BBC 9th Aug 2015 read more »
The scars of nuclear war: Japanese pensioner who survived the Nagasaki bomb shows off the remains of his ribs and the horrific wounds on his back 70 years on from the blast that killed more than 70,000.
Daily Mail 8th Aug 2015 read more »
A letter has emerged purporting to show a bomb disposal expert threatening to fire 100 nuclear bombs before his Dunton Green home was raided by the army this week. Mike Barker’s London Road home has been a hive of activity this week as police, forensics teams, soldiers and firefighters spent several days searching it and digging up the garden. The 74-year-old former Ministry of Defence employee who was previously appointed MBE for gallantry, was arrested on suspicion of making threats to cause criminal damage and harassment and subsequently bailed. Today, the Chronicle can reveal the contents of a 14-page letter, dated July 6, which appears to show Mr Barker threatening to fire nuclear weapons in an apparent bid to make the world a safer place.
Sevenoaks Chronicle 8th Aug 2015 read more »
A cancer-stricken Royal Navy veteran says 60-year-old photos prove that being forced to watch nuclear bomb tests destroyed his health. As an 18-year-old National Serviceman, Roger Grace was involved in Operation Mosaic, a series of experiments off the north-west coast of Australia that helped build Britain’s nuclear deterrent. He told the Sunday Mirror, which has campaigned since 2002 for nuke test veterans: “Not only did our government lie to the Australians about the bombs we were going to explode, but they left us to live in the fallout for four months protected only by cotton shorts.
Mirror 8th Aug 2015 read more »
It’s exactly a decade since the government began publishing the UK fuel mix disclosure – official statistics of where our electricity comes from. We thought we’d take a look at how things have changed over that time, and have a guess at where things are likely to go in the future. Renewables have seen an incredible increase in the UK, rising from just 3.8% of electricity in 2005 to 19.3% now, thanks to new sources including our own wind and solar farms.
Good Energy 6th Aug 2015 read more »
Renewables – onshore wind
THE announcement of the exclusion of onshore wind projects from the Contract for Difference (CfD) regime has been met with a nervous reception by the renewable energy community. The onshore wind industry is now widely anticipating that jobs are at risk. Since the announcements from the Conservative government we have been in regular contact with all the major developers of wind and solar projects in the UK. A number of these clients have cancelled scheduled interviews and new roles have been shelved on the back of this uncertainty. Many have told us that they may have to reduce current team sizes. Many of our clients have abandoned all hope in the UK and are focusing their efforts overseas. This means our best minds and talent are part of a “brain drain” in this country that will make regaining our world-leading position once this government has gone almost impossible. Ending onshore wind farm subsidies is a major step backwards in the battle against global warming and will irreparably damage the jobs and investment opportunities in this industry in the UK. We have the best wind resource in the world and it is one the cheapest of all established renewable technologies, which makes onshore wind energy one of our main allies to fight climate change. It does not have to be this way. The government’s political and financial support is essential in strengthening the UK energy market and helping to meet the EU renewables target set for 2020 and beyond. The ultimate aim is for renewable energy projects to become non-subsidised. However, the short-term view being taken by the present government is jeopardising the substantial work done to date by the industry to make this a reality
Scotland on Sunday 9th Aug 2015 read more »
FRACKING applications will be fast-tracked through the planning system under new rules intended to kick-start the shale gas revolution. The guidance, to be issued this week, will strengthen the power of ministers to step in and wrest decisions from local authorities if planners are perceived to be obstructive. While the government is braced for a row with environmental campaigners, local government leaders and some MPs over the plans, ministers have become frustrated at the failure to get the UK fracking industry off the ground. An application by the shale gas firm Cuadrilla to drill wells on the Fylde coast was rejected by Lancashire county council in June, more than a year after it was first submitted. Amber Rudd, the energy secretary, said this weekend that the UK could not afford to miss out on billions of pounds in revenue and the 60,000 new jobs that the technology could potentially create.
Sunday Times 9th Aug 2015 read more »
The government’s energy policy will guarantee supply, create jobs and power the north, says Amber Rudd. In our manifesto, we said that if elected we would support the safe development of shale gas – and that is what we will do, because it is good for jobs and it is part of our plan to ensure we realise the potential of every part of the UK. It is also good for our energy security. This government is dealing with the problems of an energy system that for too many years faced a lack of investment and where vital decisions were put off because they were seen as too difficult. But a responsible, long-term energy policy demands a willingness to take decisions today for the good of tomorrow. What is clear is that we have a national need to explore shale gas. In the years ahead, many of our coal and nuclear plants will stop generating electricity as they come to the end of their operational lives or because they simply create too much pollution to be viable. We need a replacement – an energy system that is fit for the 21st century. One that powers the economy with cutting-edge technology and makes sure Britain reaps the economic benefits of a global clean-energy revolution. That means renewable energy, nuclear and a transition away from coal, our dirtiest energy source. And that’s where gas has a huge role to play, because moving too quickly to zero-carbon energy risks driving the bills of hardworking people too high. Lots of new low-carbon generation cannot be relied upon in the same way that gas-fired power stations can. Having a reliable electricity supply is non-negotiable.
Sunday Times 9th Aug 2015 read more »
Labour MSP Claire Baker has welcomed the news that Fife Council is backing her calls to close the UCG loophole in the Scottish Government’s fracking moratorium. The MSP revealed the fact that underground coal gasification was not included in the Scottish Government’s moratorium last January and has been campaigning to have it closed since. She has been working with Fife councillor Tom Adams and local and national environmental charities and campaign groups, including WWF and Friends of the Earth Scotland, in calling for the loophole to be closed, backing the campaign for a Frack Free Fife.
Dundee Courier 8th Aug 2015 read more »
Letter: I read with interest Christine Metcalfe’s comments on the proposal for a North Sea electricity grid (Supergrid a pipe dream, Letters, July 26). Her critique rested primarily upon a single point, that “electricity is most economically generated as close as possible to where the demand is”. She advances an argument proffered by successive UK Governments since the 50s: if you are to build a power plant, build it near consumers. This makes sense if you are constructing a major power plant, where you import raw materials to generate electricity. However, it makes little sense if you are seeking to capture a natural resource, whether it be wind, wave or tide. That is why the UK transmission charges must distinguish between ‘major’ point source power generation and small-scale renewable power generation. In the next decade ahead, Scotland will experience electricity shortages. Climate change legislation, cert ain to be tightened after the December UN gathering in Paris, will see the end of Longannet and like coal-fired power plants (unless the Scottish Government is willing to commit to carbon capture technology). The Scottish Government, for political reasons, has also decided that Scotland’s two remaining, zero carbon-emitting, nuclear power plants will close. As a result, Scotland will become a net electricity importer. Renewables are part of the solution, but they are bedevilled by issues of intermittency, and the reality that not everyone wants a windmill in their garden. Setting windmills offshore will address some – but by no means all – of these problems. However, sharing electricity across European grids mitigates against renewable intermittency (as indeed do pump action hydro plants which can store the ‘excess’ electricity). In Metcalfe’s world Scotland would become an energy island, isolated from all, neither benefitting from the export of its electricity nor from its import. In such a world, the hills will indeed be alive with the whirr of turbines, for we shall need many, many more. And there will be pylons aplenty. A North Sea grid has costs, but it offers extraordinary opportunities for Scotland. Sharing electricity across the North Sea addresses renewable intermittency, reduces excess electricity generation, helps address climate change, provides employment in ports across Scotland and in the medium term will moderate the ever increasing cost of electricity. Surely worth exploring?
Sunday Herald 9th Aug 2015 read more »