Thursday, 24 October 2013

Nuclear costs blow as taxpayers will underwrite new plant with no guarantee of lower energy bills

22 Oct 2013 00:00

French energy firm EDF and its Chinese partners, who are
building the generator, are guaranteed an income of £80billion
from the project
Cam he fix it? No he can't Cam he fix it? No he can't

Taxpayers will underwrite the Hinkley Point nuclear generator
to the tune of up to £1billion a year – with no guarantee of lower
power bills.

Energy Secretary Ed Davey also failed to say how many people
would get work from the construction of the £16billion plant in
Somerset, visited yesterday by David Cameron.

But French energy firm EDF and its Chinese partners, who are
building the generator, are guaranteed an income of £80billion
from the project.

The Department for Energy and Climate Change calculated
that with new nuclear power bills could be £77 a year lower by
2030 than they would otherwise be.

But when quizzed about that figure, Mr Davy said: “There’s a
huge amount of uncertainty here.”

He also came under pressure to explain why taxpayers were
subsidising the cost of Hinkley Point.

The Government has agreed a “strike price” – the amount it will
pay for energy from the plant – of £92.50 per megawatt hour,
which is double the current cost for electricity.

This price will be linked to inflation and remain in place for 35
years after the station opens in 2023.

Energy expert Dr Paul Dorfman said: “It is essentially a subsidy of
between £800million to £1billion a year that the UK taxpayer
and energy consumer will be putting into the pockets of Chinese
and French corporations.”


Tuesday, 22 October 2013

On 21st October, EDF issued a press release titled: “Agreement reached on commercial terms for the planned Hinkley Point C nuclear power station.”
My aim in this article is to examine exactly what has been “agreed” and its implications for the likelihood of Hinkley C being built and if so, when. 
In the first paragraph of the press release, the claim in its given title above is qualified, when we read that “EDF Group and the UK Government have reached in principle an agreement on the key commercial terms for an investment contract of the planned Hinkley Point C…” [my emphasis here and in the quotations below.]
The release then goes on to list other “agreements” that have been arrived at, in addition to the “key commercial terms”.  These are
  • “Confirmation that the project will benefit from the Government’s Infrastructure Guarantee under terms and conditions to be agreed on.” 
·         “Letters of intent with equity partners.”
·         “The four main contracts for engineering and construction.”
·         “Terms for a Funded Decommissioning Programme for Hinkley C.”  This is not expanded on in the press release; it would be interesting to examine the terms.
The document then adds: “Finalisation of these agreements and construction of the plant are subject to a final investment decision.  The Government and EDF Group will work together to address the remaining steps which must be taken before that final decision can be taken.”
At the end of the document these remaining steps are listed:
  • “Agreement of the full investment contract.”  I suppose this means the contract being agreed in concrete rather than just, as at present, “in principle”.
·         “EDF Group to finalise agreements with industrial partners for equity funding and with Infrastructure UK for debt funding.”  I’ll come back to this later.
·         “A decision from the European Commission on state aid.”
So a final investment decision by EDF and any partners it may or may not acquire will only be taken after all the above steps are achieved. 
Nevertheless the document says, “Subject to a final investment decision by July 2014, the power station is expected to complete commissioning of the first unit [ie Hinkley C; the document envisages the possibility of Sizewell C being also commissioned in the future] in 2023.
But this is a big “if”, especially as required the steps two and three above are out of EDF and the Government’s hands.  As we have seen potential investment partners with EDF have not actually agreed investment in the project but only signed “letters of intent” to do so.  And it seems extremely optimistic to suppose that the European Commission will come to a decision on the Government’s proposal of state aid for the project in nine months, let alone that it would be favourable.  Some sources have suggested it might take years.
And what’s this with Hinkley C being built in 9 years from the final investment decision anyway?  Just two other EPR reactors of the type to be built at Hinkley are being built elsewhere in Europe.  In Finland the EPR began construction in 2005 with an estimate that it would begin operation in 2009; currently the estimate is that it will not begin operation until 2015 at the earliest; in France, the EPR started construction in 2007 with the estimate that it would begin operation in 2012; the latest estimate is that it won’t be completed until at least 2016.
By the “key commercial terms for an investment contract” is meant it seems the mechanism of “Contract for Difference”, which involves, the document helpfully explains, that once the plant is operational, “If wholesale prices rise above an agreed “strike price”, consumers will not pay extra.  If they fall below this price the generator will receive a top-up payment.”
So it is crucial what the “strike price” is to be set at and for how long.  Here the document is precise: it is set at:
  • “£89.5/MWh if Sizewell C goes ahead” and
·         “£92.5/MWh…if Sizewell C does not go ahead.”
This strike price, “indexed to inflation through the Consumer Price Index” will be maintained “for 35 years from the date of commissioning”.
It cannot be over-emphasised what a potential enormous financial burden this agreement places on future consumers and/or taxpayers.
The current wholesale price of electricity is just over half the £92.5/MWh figure and there is no way of predicting how electricity prices will move by the date Hinkley C is commissioned.  Indeed the prices of electricity from renewables are tending to fall at present.  Unless the wholesale price rises near the £92.5/MWh by 2023 or whenever Hinkley C is commissioned, consumers/taxpayers are locked in to paying enormous subsidies to EDF and whatever other foreign firms own Hinkley by then for a period of 35 years!
The document reports: “DECC forecasts…electricity from Hinkley Point C will be competitive with future gas generation as well as all low carbon energy sources.  It is estimated that the UK new nuclear programme will save households £74 a year in today’s prices by 2026-2030.”
They would, wouldn’t they?  But how can they possibly know?  The game is given away by the suspiciously precise figure of £74 a year.  When Edward Davey was tackled on this on Channel 4 News on October 1st he was forced to admit he could not defend the figure and that any such claim was problematic.  And he should know – he is after all the Secretary of State at DECC.  It seem to me that the status of the £74 claim is much that of the claim in the “Iraq dossier” that Iraq could deploy chemical weapons within 15 minutes, a claim that sounds impressive but actually has no basis in fact whatever.
What about the question of “equity partners”?  EDF had previously said it wanted to sell a 49% stake in the Hinkley project after the UK Centrica sold out its 20% stake in it in January this year.
The document says that “Agreement in principle on the scope of the UK Guarantees scheme [see below] and on the key terms of the investment Contract allow EDF Group to move ahead to secure partners for the financing of the project.  The share of the equity is expected to be: EDF Group: 45-50%; AREVA [the designers of the EPR planned to be built at Hinkley]: 10%; China General Nuclear Corporation and the China National Nuclear Corporation: 30-40% [between them].  Discussions are also taking place with a shortlist of other interested parties who could take up to 15%.”  So nothing is actually signed and delivered on this front yet.
The costs of constructing Hinkley C (including £2Bn costs already incurred) is estimated in the document as £16Bn.  65% of this cost is to be guaranteed by the Government under the “UK Guarantees scheme”.  Of course, another enormous subsidy since it will be financed by government debt.                                                                                      David Polden

Monday, 21 October 2013

China to control British Nuclear Power stations

Undemocratic State to control British nukes
Stop Hinkley Campaigners today labelled George Osbourne's coalition deal with China as 'reckless. China is experiencing significant home-grown opposition to it's nuclear plans with officials cancelling a significant nuclear project amidst protests back in July.
Said spokesperson Nikki Clark “The coalition government having dug themselves into a hole - desperate as they are to implement their half-baked energy strategy, it seems don't know when to stop digging - they'll go to any lengths to create more nuclear power stations. They claim we need nuclear for climate change but as well as as the long predicted construction delays translating into carbon target delays, the nuclear establishments green credentials are highly contested. The coalition government also claim that we need nuclear power to keep the lights on but this latest move is akin to giving away the light switch! Since when is Russia having control of our gas taps more problematic that the largest most powerful authoritarian state in the world having control of our most dangerous technology – nuclear?”
China is a nuclear weapons state, and has NO basic nuclear safety laws and very limited regulations, despite generally accepted global standards of 20 to 40 people (regulators) per station, China's regulatory body has less than a 1,000 staff to regulate it's 17 operational reactors and 30 planned reactors. According to the World Nuclear Association the nuclear power workforce in China is “another factor affecting nuclear safety in China”.
In 2011 Prof He Zuoxiu, a Chinese atomic bomb scientist called Chinese plans for a 20-fold increase in nuclear power by 2030 as potentially 'disastrous' saying China is 'seriously under-prepared on the safety front' whilst in the same year wikileaks revealed that there were serious concerns held by the global nuclear establishment over China's weaknesses in management and regulatory oversight.
Ms Clark said “It's not just investment that the Chinese are looking to make by getting involved in nuclear technology in the UK – they want a say in the day to day operations of any future Hinkley or Sizewell C. The government can't have it all ways – on the one hand they claim we need to renew Trident the Nuclear so-called deterrent, and on the other, they now want to give control of our most dangerous technology to precisely the kind of regime that many of the British public would feel the need to be protected from - an unaccountable, undemocratic, authoritarian regime. This raises serious security issues and can't possibly be in the public interest.”
Successive governments have been influenced by the power of the nuclear establishment and it's never-to-be-realised promises. Nuclear power is being revealed to be the same way it always has - dirty dangerous and expensive and now the government want to give the Chinese control over it. We feel that bringing an authoritarian regime such as China is a step to far, the prospect of their being brought in with no approval from the public, when all along the country has been promised that government energy policy is going to give us energy security is a recipe for disaster. Said Nikki “We think the coalition are going to have a fight on their hands.”
Notes to editor
First the labour government and now the coalition government have claimed that we need nuclear to keep the lights on:
see here for why we don't:
nuclear green credentials contested:

Friday, 18 October 2013

Nuclear Waste Train being loaded

Angela Paine shared Southwest AgainstNuclear's photo.

Nuclear Waste Train being loaded this 

morning next to Eastover Primary School 

at Bridgewater St

Second one this week

EDF Signs a historic agreement with London

Nucléaire: EDF signe un accord historique avec Londres

Par Veronique Le Billon | 17/10 | 13:20 | mis à jour à 18:55

L’électricien public a scellé un accord avec le gouvernement britannique pour construire deux EPR sur le site de Hinkley Point dans le Somerset. Areva et les chinois CGN et CNNC deviennent partenaires minoritaires et Londres ouvre la voie à de futures participations majoritaires chinoises.

French Electricity provider signs an agreement with the British Government to construct two EPR nuclear power plants at Hinkley Point in Somerset. Areva and the Chinese become partners.

China General Nuclear Power Corp. and Areva to join Hinkley Point UK nuclear consortium

Date: 17-Oct-13
Country: FRANCE
Author: Geert De Clercq

French nuclear group Areva is ready to join the EDF-led consortium that
plans to build a nuclear plant at Hinkley Point in the UK, Bloomberg
reported on Wednesday, quoting people with knowledge of the matter.

Bloomberg said China General Nuclear Power Corp. would also become a
shareholder and that Areva and EDF's boards would meet next week to
approve the deal.

Areva and EDF declined to comment on the report.

Areva would take a stake in the project from French utility EDF, allowing
EDF to share the cost of building two Areva-designed EPR reactors
estimated at 14 billion pounds (16.5 billion euros).

On Sunday, British Energy Minister Ed Davey said Britain was "extremely
close" to sealing a deal with EDF unit EDF Energy to build the country's
first new nuclear power station since 1995, adding there would also be
Chinese involvement in the talks.

The British government and EDF have long been in talks over financial
terms to build a new nuclear plant at Hinkley Point in Somerset, southwest

The Financial Times reported on Saturday that British Finance Minister
George Osborne would sign a memorandum of understanding this week to back
Chinese General Nuclear Power Group (CGNPG) entering a deal with EDF for
the planned Hinkley Point plant.

(Reporting by Geert De Clercq; editing by David Evans)
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© Thomson Reuters 2013 All rights reserved

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

EU energy guidelines leave out nuclear in blow for Britain (Reuters) -

(Reuters) - Britain's plans to use public money to subsidise a new generation of nuclear power suffered a setback on Tuesday when EU policy-makers decided to exclude atomic electricity from a list of funding guidelines.

An early draft raised expectations the Commission was preparing to sanction public support for nuclear power and whipped up a storm of protest, especially in the biggest EU economy Germany.
Germany is phasing out nuclear power and replacing it with renewable sources, such as wind and solar, whereas Britain wants to build new nuclear plants with the help of public funds.
Commission spokesman Antoine Colombani said EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia proposed that guidelines, expected to be published in November, should not include specific criteria on nuclear power. The other commissioners agreed with him at an internal meeting on Tuesday, he said.
Omitting nuclear energy from the guidelines does not necessarily mean that using taxpayers' money to help finance nuclear power would be illegal under EU law.
"This simply means that state aid notifications by member states will continue to be assessed directly under (EU) treaty rules and the standard in this field will be determined by the Commission's case practice," Colombani said.
In reality, any decision on the legitimacy of Britain's plans to use public money to help finance the Hinkley Point nuclear plant in southwest England is likely to set a legal precedent, EU sources said.
The level of public support for the new plant, to be built by French firm EDF, is seen as vital to its success.
Environment campaigners and Green politicians welcomed Tuesday's news.
"It is a major setback for the legal certainty of nuclear energy," said Claude Turmes, a member of the European Parliament representing the Green party.

The issue of whether the general public should subsidise nuclear as well as other forms of energy has been divisive within the European Commission, the EU executive, as well as at the level of national governments.
Internal documents seen by Reuters showed objections from within the Commission to an earlier draft version of the guidelines under review.
"The impression given in the draft is that the Commission opens up aid to fossil fuel energy and nuclear while becoming much stricter on aid to renewable energy," an internal document from the Commission's climate service said.
It also questioned why nuclear should need state aid, given that it is a mature technology. In principle, EU law says subsidies should be reserved for new technology, such as solar.
A separate document from the energy service says a proposed phase-out of renewable subsidies requires "a longer transition period".
EU sources said the Commission would continue to debate how to tackle "the distorting effect" of overly generous renewable subsidies.
State aid guidelines differ from other EU law in that they do not have to be approved through lengthy consultation with member states and parliament and the Commission has said they will be finalised early next year.
(Additional reporting by Tom Koerkemeier; editing by Foo Yun-Chee and William Hardy)

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Planned ice wall at Fukushima will make soggy ground worse, risking nuclear reactors collapsing

Asahi: Buildings at Fukushima plant can start floating from too much groundwater — Expert: Blocking groundwater with ice wall may weaken soil and cause buildings to topple (AUDIO
Asahi Shimbun,, Sept. 18, 2013: [...] The site receives so much groundwater that special equipment–rendered useless by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami–was set up to prevent the plant’s buildings from floating on the continuous flow. [...] The original site of the Fukushima No. 1 plant was a cliff more than 30 meters high. But 20 meters was lopped off [...] putting the groundwater level only a few meters below the surface. The plant itself was constructed on land containing gravel layers through which water can easily pass through. In the past, a brook trickled by the No. 4 reactor. [...] Without that pumping, the buildings faced the danger of being buoyed by rising groundwater. [...] TEPCO officials have pinpointed only two locations, including the turbine building of the No. 1 reactor, where groundwater is entering the building basements. They believe there are many more breaches. [...]
Atsunao Marui,, head of Groundwater Research Group at the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology: “About 4 million tons of rain falls on the plant site over the course of a year. Of that figure, it is believed that between 1 million and 1.5 million tons seep into the ground.”
Gordon Edwards, nuclear expert (at 39:45 in): This underground river that we talked about flowing ice-wall-Fukushimathorough — the problem with this is they don’t really know how to stop it. […] They really don’t know how to stop this flow because it’s a major aquifer. One of the plans that they are talking about is… a wall of ice a mile long to act as a barrier to prevent the groundwater from going in to the cores of these damaged reactors, in order to try and solve the problem… And nobody knows if it’s actually going to work. In fact, some of the experts in Japan have said that by diverting the groundwater around the sides of the building, you may weaken the soil to the point where the buildings themselves topple — and that could be a far worse problem. So, they really don’t know what they’re going. They literally don’t know what they’re doing.

Russia’s Nuclear Reactors Could Take over the World, Safe or Not [Preview]

The federation is aggressively selling reactors to countries with little nuclear experience, raising safety concerns

<b>EXPORT:</b> Russia's VVER reactors

EXPORT: Russia's new VVER reactors, under construction in Novovoronezh, are being ordered worldwide.Image: STRIHAVKA JAKUB AP Photo

In Brief

  • Russia is preparing to sell unconventional reactors to developing countries that have little nuclear power experience.
  • The models include breeder reactors that make plutonium, mini reactors meant to float on the ocean and pressurized-water reactors equipped with passive safety features intended to stop a reactor meltdown without human intervention.
  • Western experts say some of the models may not be as safe as Russian officials maintain and could increase the chance that weapons-grade material would spread worldwide.

More In This Article

For any country that may be considering acquiring its first nuclear reactor, Russia's annual ATOMEXPO offers a seemingly simple solution. At a recent event, thousands of people from around the world flocked to a giant, czarist-era exhibition hall. A visitor could hear vendors such as Rolls-Royce talk about steam generators, watch reporters interview experts for a Russian nuclear-themed television program or pick up a “Miss Atom” calendar featuring the year's prettiest Russian nuclear workers.
The real action, though, was at a multilevel booth for Rosatom, Russia's state-owned nuclear company, which exuded a Steve Jobs vibe of pure whiteness and know-how. That was where “newcomers,” as the Russians fondly call them, from nations that do not have nuclear power plants heard about options and signed cooperation agreements for Rosatom to build or even operate reactors for them. At one point, photographers snapped shots of Nigerian nuclear officials as they clinked champagne flutes with Rosatom chief Sergey Kirienko, celebrating their baby steps toward joining Russia's growing roster of clients, including Turkey and Vietnam. Rosatom has already finished reactors in China and India. In July, Finland chose the company over French and Japanese competitors for its next reactor.

This article was originally published with the title Russia's New Empire: Nuclear Power.