EDF Energy is locked in secret negotiations with the Treasury over the fee to secure a crucial £10 billion government guarantee for the French group’s Hinkley Point nuclear reactor project. The Treasury has demanded that EDF Energy pay between £225 million and £250 million, the minimum it believes to be deemed a commercial rate. Officials argued that if payment was set any lower, the guarantee scheme would risk falling foul of European state aid laws. Whitehall sources insisted that the negotiations were unlikely to scupper the £16 billion project to build the UK’s first new nuclear reactors in a generation. The haggling is the latest in a long line of hurdles that need to be overcome by EDF Energy before it can give the project the go-ahead, potentially as soon as October or November. It also underlines the sensitivity on both sides to avoid further accusations from the European Commission that government support of the project constitutes illegal state aid. Under the Treasury guarantee, the government would underwrite up to £10 billion of loans made to the project to reduce the risk to investors and EDF Energy’s financing costs. Lenders would be protected from default under the guarantee. The guarantee, state aid approval from Brussels and backing from EDF Energy’s Chinese partners are all needed for the project to get the go- ahead. This would then allow construction work on the project, due to come online in 2023, to start soon afterwards.
Times 9th June 2014 read more »
When the UK’s favourite celebrity scientist is roped in alongside a Government Minister to open a local museum you know something big is afoot. The local museum is The Beacon, formerly run by Copeland Council. Copeland, like councils across the country have had their funding cut by central government. You might think that with Copeland being home to Sellafield, this area would be best placed to withstand the worst of the economic downturn. Instead it seems to be the very worst placed. All essential services have been mercilessly cut. From public toilets to the closing of The Civic Centre, nothing spared. Whitehaven’s popular Civic Centre was used by everyone from local theatre groups to Government led public meetings such as Managing Radioactive Wastes Safely.
Radiation Free Lakeland 8th June 2014 read more »
A 220-page document entitled “Commission Staff Working Document: In-depth study of European Energy Security” is hardly designed to be a best-seller. Few outside Brussels will read the European Commission paper in full, which is a pity because it is an excellent piece of work. It also provides the basis for a series of proposals contained in an accompanying document, which if accepted and carried through could create a common energy policy for the EU comparable in scale, scope and cost to the Common Agricultural Policy. A common energy policy does not mean that every country will be required to use the same sources of supply. Germany will not be required to build a new generation of nuclear power stations. The French will not be forced to develop shale gas. But then the CAP has never required everyone to grow the same crops or to farm the same cattle. Instead, this version of a common policy is about the integration of objectives across the 28 member states. Different countries will make different contributions, but all will come within a framework driven by the twin objectives of security of supply and the reduction of emissions. Alongside the focus on energy security is a reiterated plan for the reduction of emissions. To align the two objectives, the authors focus on the ways in which Europe can produce more of its own energy. Shale gas and new nuclear are included – for those who want them – but the main emphasis is on renewables such as wind and solar. This is where the echoes of the CAP are loudest. It is a short step from saying that Europe should meet more of its own needs to providing support payments for production. There is a glaring omission in all this. There is almost no mention of costs or the impact on European competitiveness. Shale gas is giving the US a dramatic competitive advantage, and Europe is losing market share and jobs in all the energy intensive industries. But as with the CAP, the fact that supplies could be imported more cheaply is not the driving concern and therefore goes unmentioned.
FT 8th June 2014 read more »
Japan has failed to mention having about 640 kg (1,411 lbs) of unused plutonium in reports it submitted to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in 2012 and 2013. The unreported amount is enough to make about 80 nuclear bombs. The missing 640 kilograms Japan kept as Mixed oxide (MOX) fuel, a plutonium-uranium mixture that could be burned in a reactor. It was found in an offline reactor in a nuclear plant in Saga Prefecture in the southern Japanese town of Genkai.
Russia Today 7th June 2014 read more »
A mother and son are turning an isolated Irish island into an unlikely supplier of edible seaweed to Japan, after stocks were hit by the Fukushima nuclear disaster. Kate Burns and her son Benji McFaul are growing thousands of tonnes of kelp on ropes that extend out from the shoreline into the sea around Rathlin, an island with a population of around 100. The pair are attempting to exploit the gap in the market caused by the contamination of the waters around the ruptured Fukushima reactor. After the disaster, Japanese seaweed sales plummeted over fears that the plants might be faintly radioactive.
Telegraph 8th June 2014 read more »
US – Plutonium
Officials have been unable to control costs at the multibillion-dollar MOX (mixed-oxide) nuclear fuel production project at the Savannah River Site near Aiken, South Caroline in the United States according to a new internal U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) audit released in May 2014. The audit recalls that a March 2012 construction project review conducted by the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) had already concluded that “the MOX Facility had a very low probability of being completed according to the approved baseline.” The 2014 audit concluded: “Despite project expenditures of about $4 billion and a proposal to place the MOX Facility construction project into cold standby status in FY 2015, we remain concerned with the project management issues observed during the audit.”
International Panel on Fissile Materials 7th June 2014 read more »
With negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, plus Germany) over the fate of its nuclear program appearing to lose steam, the Obama administration is floating a radical new proposal to break the deadlock. Already prepared to let Iran retain sufficient enrichment capacity to produce the fissile core of a bomb in as little as six months and no longer insisting that it dismantle excess centrifuges or close a subterranean enrichment bunker purpose-built to withstand air attacks, Washington is now willing to relax the once inviolable demand that Iran come clean about past illicit nuclear activities.
Eurasia Review 7th June 2014 read more »
Iranian, US and European Union officials will start two days of talks about Tehran’s nuclear programme on Monday, Iran said, giving its first word about what appears to be an attempt to rescue faltering wider negotiations on ending a decade-old dispute.
Guardian 8th June 2014 read more »
Sky News 8th June 2014 read more »
This month, the US Environmental Protection Agency proposed new rules designed to cut carbon dioxide emissions by 30 per cent from 2005 levels by 2030. The rules, which the Obama administration called the largest step the country has ever taken to fight climate change, would give states much greater flexibility in how they meet the reduction targets. Any impact is probably years away, but “you may see some utilities start to develop a solar or clean energy business model in that timeframe”, says Rhone Resch, head of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), a trade group. The rules are meant to wean the US off coal, the dirtiest fossil fuel, and will force power plants to produce ever more energy from renewables, including solar. In proposing the new rules, the EPA has provided a boost to the solar industry just as its explosive growth may be on the verge of being snuffed out. At the end of 2016, the 30 per cent investment tax credit that has helped drive growth in the industry will expire after eight years, raising questions about whether solar is ready to compete against its subsidised fossil fuel rivals. But the new EPA rules could push some traditional utilities, which have grown increasingly hostile to solar as it has grown from a niche product to a legitimate competitor, to back the movement to renew the investment tax credits.
FT 8th June 2014 read more »
Renewables – offshore wind
UK generation of offshore wind power is expected to more than triple in the next six years, according to figures due to be unveiled at a conference in Glasgow this week. The projections are based on a report by RenewableUK – the trade and professional body for the UK wind, wave and tidal energy industries – which details the expected delivery date for every offshore wind project in UK waters until 2027. The full report, whose publication will coincide with the opening of the Global Offshore Wind 2014 on Wednesday, predicts that between now and 2020, offshore wind generation capacity will increase from around 4% of the UK’s total electricity generation to 13%. As a result of several massive offshore wind farms coming onstream in the next few years, the UK’s production of offshore wind power will, for first time, match and may even overtake the proportion of electricity from onshore wind farms. The Offshore Wind Project Timelines report projects that installed capacity for offshore wind generation will increase from 3.65 giga-watts to between 13GW and 14GW by the end of the decade. Over the same timescale, the amount of power from onshore wind is expected to rise from 7.26GW to 13GW. Next week’s conference is expected to feature an announcement from UK Energy Minister Michael Fallon on reducing the costs of offshore wind and the supply chain.
Sunday Herald 8th June 2014 read more »
Renewables – solar
The prospect of large-scale solar energy farms being built in the British countryside has been dealt a devastating blow following an intervention by Eric Pickles, the Communities Secretary. Two major projects will now have to be scrapped, while future solar farms might never be built. Mr Pickles judged that a solar farm the size of 75 football pitches in Suffolk should not be given planning permission because it was unsightly and was a waste of arable land. A planning application for a second large-scale solar farm also in Suffolk was rejected last week after a campaign led by Griff Rhys Jones. The comedian told The Telegraph that the planning refusal repres ented a “victory for all our backyards”. The effect of the two decisions, made within a fortnight of each other, is likely to scupper large-scale solar farms elsewhere in the British countryside. The solar industry is already reeling from major changes to the generous subsidy system due to start next April. The industry currently receives about £600million a year in consumer subsidies added to household electricity bills.
Telegraph 8th June 2014 read more »
The Chris Blackhurst Interview: A fashion guru with a conscience, Vivienne Westwood is convinced that vested interests are behind the fracking revolution – and she wants them exposed.
Independent 8th June 2014 read more »
The chairman and chief executive of Cluff Natural Resources says there could be huge coal reserves under the Firth of Forth which could provide a new source of gas for power stations and industry.
Telegraph 9th June 2014 read more »
Coal exports, a lifeline for the besieged US mining sector, are faltering. After hitting a record high in 2012, they declined last year. Some analysts see further weakness to come. Coal sales are encountering difficulties from a variety of sources. The US and rival exporters such as Indonesia, Australia, South Africa and Colombia are stuck with a glut. A bulky commodity that costs a lot to ship, the US’s relative distance from Asia puts it at a disadvantage. Volumes shuttled through old ports on the US Atlantic coast are running below capacity, thanks to the tepid economy and rise of renewable energy in Europe. Proposals to ship coal to Asia via the Pacific coast face roadblocks from environmentalists seeking to reduce carbon emissions that cause global warming. In the past decade outbound US coal shipments almost trebled to an all-time high of 126m “short” (imperial) tons in 2012.
FT 8th June 2014 read more »