The News That Matters about the Nuclear Industry

Trident nuclear submarines – the sticky issue in UK election

ballot-boxSmflag-UKThe nuclear dimension to UK election BBC 6 Mchray 15 Anthony Zurcher  The British naval base in Faslane, Scotland, is home to four Vanguard submarines – and the source of a fierce debate that illustrates the sticky political issues presented by the rise of the Scottish National Party in this year’s general election……It’s become a common Conservative Party talking point in these last days of the campaign that the only way the Labour Party can return to power is by striking a deal with the SNP. Although it’s a charge Labour vehemently denies, the SNP will likely post major wins at Labour’s expense in Scotland’s 59 parliamentary seats. If that happens, one of the bargaining chips in any deal could become the Faslane submarines and their Trident nuclear missile systems.

The SNP wants the submarines gone not just from Scottish waters, but decommissioned entirely. “Trident is utterly irrelevant to the defence and security challenges we face in the 21st century,” SNP defence spokesperson Angus Robertson said last month.

SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon has called defunding the Trident programme a non-negotiable “blood red line” and, in a Scottish leaders debate in Edinburgh Sunday night, refused to rule out voting down a Labour budget that includes maintaining the missiles.

Complicating all this is the fact the nuclear missile programme is aging – and will require additional moneys to stay operational. Coming on the heels of steep austerity cuts imposed after the 2008 recession, the estimated investment of at least £17.5bn is proving a bitter pill for many to swallow.

Labour leader Ed Miliband has said he wants to keep the UK a nuclear power, but he hasn’t ruled out reducing the number of submarines.

And so the Conservatives have pounced on Mr Miliband, whom they charge with threatening to forsake the protection provided by a nuclear deterrent…….
All of this is just “stale Westminster politics” and the bickering of “grey men in grey suits”, says Chris Higgins.

Higgins has a particularly unique view of the nuclear issue, as the Faslane navy base and its submarines are his neighbours. Since September, he’s been a resident of the Faslane Peace Camp, a brightly coloured collection of caravans, trailers and hand-constructed shelters that has been a permanent fixture just down the road from the base for more than 33 years………

The SNP has a plan to use its strength as a voting bloc in a fractured Parliament after Thursday’s election to finally take aim at the nuclear subs.

“No sensible UK government would develop a nuclear weapons capability now if one didn’t exist,” SNP’s Robertson said, sounding a lot like one of the Faslane peace activists. “Therefore, a strong group of SNP MPs in a hung parliament, working with other progressive political forces, can bring common sense to bear now – and halt Trident renewal in its tracks.”……

May 6, 2015 Posted by | politics, UK | Leave a comment

Finland’s very misguided nuclear obsession

The Finnish politicians have apparently not learned anything from Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Chernobyl, and Fukushima.

OL4 appears, thankfully, to have been shelved for the time being. But OL3, one of the ten most expensive construction projects in the world and beset by delays and astronomical costs, could end up as the world’s biggest nuclear mausoleum.

The Fennovoima project, however is still going ahead. But an active citizens’ movement has come together to oppose it, and they may yet succeed.

Finland’s new government (not yet appointed at the time of writing) will have the decision in its hands, as they will have to decide about the construction permit application that Fennovoima is to submit in July this year.

Petition: ‘Stop the Nuclear power plant in Pyhäjoki built by Fennovoima!

Klötzer,-UllaRussian roulette? Finland’s inexplicable nuclear obsession, Ecologist Ulla Klötzer
1st May 2015 Does Finland suffer from a nuclear death wish? So it seems, writes Ulla Klötzer. Its government responded to the world’s two greatest nuclear disasters by … ordering a new nuclear plant. And as the Olkiluoto nuclear project descended into face and litigation over a disputed €5 billion, they resolved to build two more. This time, supplied by Russia’s nuclear weapon-maker Rosatom.

Finland was the first western country to decide to build a new nuclear power plant after the Chernobyl accident, as well as after the Fukushima catastrophe – despite of almost all opinion polls showing that a majority of Finns are critical to nuclear power.

The first project, decided upon in 2002, was at the existing Olkiluoto nuclear site – the OL3 European Pressurized Reactor (EPR), a ‘third generation’ pressurized water design.

reactor-Olkiluoto_14This 1.6 GW reactor, which is currently being built by the French company Areva for the Finnish energy supplier TVO, will be the biggest reactor in the world.

The construction work started in 2005 and the reactor was to be connected to the grid in 2009. The fixed turnkey-price was €3.2 billion. According to Areva, EPR is “a reactor with an unparalleled level of security, extremely resistant to both internal and external risks.”

Today, the price has soared to about €9 billion and the reactor is estimated to be completed only in 2018. According to the Helsinki Timesin November 2013, the OL3 reactor may upon completion become the most expensive building in the world. Continue reading

May 6, 2015 Posted by | Finland, politics | Leave a comment

USA Republican Senators out to wreck Iran nuclear deal

Congressional review of Iran nuclear deal is threatened by GOP amendments  LA Times, By PAUL RICHTER AND LISA MASCARO contact the reporters A bipartisan bill for Congress to review any nuclear agreement with Iran faced new danger Thursday as Republican senators sought to force votes on controversial amendments that leaders had hoped to avoid.

Senate Republican and Democratic leaders have worked all week to shield the bill from politically sensitive changes that are likely to drive away some Democratic supporters and sink its chances for passage.

Presidential campaign politics have complicated the process. One such amendment, from Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), a presidential candidate, would require Iran to recognize Israel’s right to exist, something all senators would like to see, but that Iran is unlikely to do. The issue was not on the table during more than 10 years of negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program.

But Republican senators pressed hard for their proposals……

May 2, 2015 Posted by | politics, politics international, USA | Leave a comment

Maine: democracy under threat – in the push for Small Modular Nuclear reactors

LePage Plan to Change Nuclear Power Rules Meets Resistance MPBN News, By Alanna Durkin, The Associated Press, 29 Apr 15 

AUGUSTA, Maine – Republican Gov. Paul LePage’s proposal aimed at making it easier to bring small nuclear power plants to Maine is meeting fierce resistance because it would strip voters of their power to sign off on new plants.

Currently, Maine voters must approve the construction of any nuclear power plant. But LePage wants to remove that requirement for plants that generate 500 or fewer megawatts…….anti-nuclear activists said that removing voters’ right to decide whether Maine should build more potentially dangerous plants is wrong.


The state’s only nuclear power plant, Maine Yankee, closed in 1997.

April 30, 2015 Posted by | politics, USA | Leave a comment

Sweden accelerates its closure of its uneconomic nuclear industry

nuclear-costs3Sweden to speed up nuclear reactors closure The Local, 28 Apr 2015   Sweden’s state-owned energy group Vattenfall on Tuesday said it planned to shut down two nuclear reactors in 2018 and 2010, up to seven years earlier than expected. Vattenfall said reactors 1 and 2 at the Ringhals plant in south-west Sweden were too costly to keep in production until 2025 as previously planned.

“Ringhals 1 and 2 may be closed down between the years 2018 and 2020 instead of, as previously announced, around 2025,” Vattenfall said in a statement.

“The reason is declining profitability and increased costs,” it said……The Swedish group has been struggling to improve profits for several years, suffering from weak demand and plunging electricity prices………

April 30, 2015 Posted by | politics, Sweden | Leave a comment

Clean energy set to beat nuclear in Japan

Japan Sees Clean Energy Edging Out Nuclear Power in 2030, Bloomberg,   and  28 Apr 15 Clean energy sources will supply as much as 24 percent of Japan’s electricity in 15 years, while atomic power will account for as much as 22 percent, according to a draft report from the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry on what Japan’s electricity mix should look like by 2030……

Even the 22 percent level is doubtful for a nation with one of the world’s oldest nuclear fleets and where the majority of the public has opposed atomic generation since Fukushima, environmental group Greenpeace, which campaigns against nuclear power, said in a statement…….

If all 24 nuclear reactors currently under review for a restart by the country’s nuclear watchdog are allowed to switch back on, they would still not be able to generate more than 16 percent of Japan’s power, Greenpeace estimates. At least 10 more reactor units need to resume operations to reach the government’s target for nuclear, the group said.

Such a mass-scale restart is unlikely, according to Shaun Burnie, a nuclear specialist at Greenpeace Germany.

“The scale of the challenges facing the nuclear industry are such that generation from reactors is likely to collapse during the coming decade,” Burnie said in the statement. “Many reactors will never restart, and most reactors over the coming years will be too old to operate.”…..

April 30, 2015 Posted by | Japan, politics | Leave a comment

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe muzzling critics in Japan’s media

Abe NUCLEAR FASCISMEffort by Japan to Stifle News Media Is Working, NYT By  APRIL 26, 2015 TOKYO — It was an unexpected act of protest that shook Japan’s carefully managed media world: Shigeaki Koga, a regular television commentator and fierce critic of the political establishment, abruptly departed from the scripted conversation during a live TV news program to announce that this would be his last day on the show because, as he put it, network executives had succumbed to political pressure for his removal.

“I have suffered intense bashing by the prime minister’s office,” Mr. Koga told his visibly flabbergasted host late last month, saying he had been removed as commentator because of critical statements he had made about Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Later in the program, Mr. Koga held up a sign that read “I am not Abe,” a play on the slogan of solidarity for journalists slain in January at a French satirical newspaper.

The outburst created a public firestorm, and not only because of the spectacle of Mr. Koga, a dour-faced former top government official, seemingly throwing away his career as a television commentator in front of millions of viewers. His angry show of defiance also focused national attention on the right-leaning government’s increased strong-arming of the news media to reduce critical coverage.

Many journalists and political experts say the Abe government is trying to engineer a fundamental shift in the balance of power between his administration and the news media, using tactics to silence criticism that go beyond anything his predecessors tried and that have frustrated many journalists…….

Mr. Abe’s efforts have had a chilling effect on coverage at a time when he is pushing ahead with a conservative agenda to dismantle the nation’s postwar pacifist consensus and put forth more positive portrayals of Japan’s World War II-era behavior. Experts warn that muzzling the press makes it easier for the government to make big changes that might not enjoy broad popular support, such as rewriting the pacifist Constitution, or even restarting the nation’s stalled nuclear industry.

“The Abe government is showing an obsession with the media that verges on paranoia,” said Keigo Takeda, a former editor in chief at Newsweek Japan who is now a respected freelance journalist. “I have never seen this level of efforts to micromanage specific newspapers and TV programs.”…..

April 30, 2015 Posted by | Japan, media, politics | Leave a comment

False claim that Hillary Clinton had the power to veto Russia uranium sale deal

No ‘Veto Power’ for Clinton on Uranium Deal, — Eugene Kiely, Fact Check,  April 28, 2015

The author of “Clinton Cash” falsely claimed Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State had “veto power” and “could have stopped” Russia from buying a company with extensive uranium mining operations in the U.S. In fact, only the president has such power.

At the time of the sale, Clinton was a member of the Committee on Foreign Investments in the United States, which is required by law to investigate all U.S. transactions that involve a company owned or controlled by a foreign government. Federal guidelines say any one of nine voting members of the committee can object to such a foreign transaction, but the final decision then rests with the president.

“Only the President has the authority to suspend or prohibit a covered transaction,” the guidelines say.

Through a spokeswoman, author Peter Schweizer told us he meant that Clinton could have forced the issue to the president’s desk. But that’s not what he said when he appeared on “Fox News Sunday,” where he discussed the uranium deal and his upcoming book to be released on May 5.

Schweizer’s book — “Clinton Cash: The Untold Story of How and Why Foreign Governments and Businesses Helped Make Bill and Hillary Rich” — focuses on foreign donations to the Clinton Foundation, a nonprofit created by former President Bill Clinton. In his book, Schweizer, a former fellow at the right-leaning Hoover Institution, seeks to link some of those donations to the official actions taken by Clinton when she was Secretary of State…….

Schweizer is wrong when he says that Clinton had “veto power” and “could have stopped the deal.” At best, she could have forced the president to make a decision.

The committee, which is known by its acronym CFIUS, can approve a sale, but it cannot stop a sale.

      Even the president cannot prohibit a transaction without “credible evidence” that the “foreign interest exercising control might take action that threatens to impair the national security,” according to the regulation……..

The Clinton campaign told the Times that generally these matters did not reach the secretary’s level, so she may not have been involved at all. According to the Times, Jose Fernandez, a former assistant secretary of state, represented the department on the committee. He told the Times: “Mrs. Clinton never intervened with me on any C.F.I.U.S. matter.”

Schweizer raises legitimate questions about the Clinton Foundation and its donations. He simply goes too far when he says Clinton had “veto power” and “could have stopped” the uranium deal.

April 30, 2015 Posted by | politics, USA | Leave a comment

Nuclear industry embarks on a public advertising campaign

klein_dale-2Nuclear power industry hopes for a new era, Standard Times James Osborne, Apr 25, 2015“…….With high-profile advocates like former Environmental Protection Agency administrator Christie Whitman on board, the industry is embarking on a very public campaign arguing nuclear must be part of any national energy plan. To accomplish that, it wants to examine amending power and licensing regulations to encourage nuclear and speed up construction.

From the $6 billion to $8 billion cost of a new reactor in this country to the 2011 meltdown at Japan’s Fukushima nuclear power plant, nuclear faces an uphill climb domestically. Perhaps no hurdle is greater than wholesale power prices, which have fallen nationally as U.S. hydraulic fracturing operations have flooded the country with cheap natural gas.
The U.S. has five new reactors under construction in South Carolina, Georgia and Tennessee. But with power prices low, any plans for further construction have been put on hold. Also, the future of the country’s 61 nuclear plants, many of which were built in the 1970s, is falling into doubt as facilities come up for relicensing and will probably require costly upgrades…….

the industry will face opposition. Nuclear remains a divisive issue among environmentalists. Some support it as a proven means to cut carbon emissions out of the nation’s power supply.

But there are many see its potential contamination risks as just too great to make it sensible……..

April 27, 2015 Posted by | marketing, politics, USA | Leave a comment

Maine’s Governor wants to remove voters’ rights on decisions on small nuclear reactors

Flag-USALePage’s plan to negate rule on nuclear power plants could be radioactive. Observers wonder why his attention to the issue begins with an attempt to disempower Maine voters. 26 Apr. BY BILL NEMITZ COLUMNIST | @BillNemitz Consider yourselves warned, fellow citizens. Gov. Paul LePage is fiddling around with Maine’s nuclear hot button.

“We anticipated this might provoke a conversation,” noted Patrick Woodcock, director of the Governor’s Energy Office, in an interview on Friday.

 He’s talking about L.D. 1313, a bill quietly submitted by the LePage administration that would eliminate a longstanding requirement that any and all proposed nuclear power projects in Maine be put to a statewide referendum.

text-SMRsUnder LePage’s new plan, scheduled for a hearing Wednesday at 1 p.m. before the Legislature’s Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee, voters would no longer have a say on the creation of nuclear power plants with generating capacities of 500 megawatts or less.

(Just so you know, the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant’s Unit 1 reactor – one of three destroyed by Japan’s apocalyptic tsunami in 2011 – had a generating capacity of 460 megawatts.)

Let’s back up a little.

Back in 1987, when the now-defunct Maine Yankee nuclear plant in Wiscasset was still a lightning rod for the state’s highly charged anti-nuclear movement, the Legislature passed a law mandating that future construction of “any nuclear power plant” in Maine “must be submitted to the voters of the State” before any ground is broken…….

Considering the complexity and controversy bound to greet any talk of dusting off nuclear generation in Maine, why start with a bill that effectively tells voters they’re being cut out of the process?

Or, as longtime anti-nuclear activist Ray Shadis of Edgecomb put it on Friday, “You don’t start a conversation by throwing a hand grenade in the room.”

Shadis, who currently represents the lone remaining intervenor in the proposed relicensing of New Hampshire’s Seabrook nuclear plant, sees this week’s hearing as “the kind of rudeness we’ve come to expect from Gov. LePage.”

He also thinks the governor is dreaming if he thinks small modular reactors – the brainchildren of a new generation of nuclear engineers working mostly out of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology – can attract the investment capital needed to put them on the energy radar here in Maine or anywhere else, for that matter.

“It seems smart. It seems 21st century. But it is not,” Shadis said, noting that for all the design work that’s been done on small modular reactors over the past decade or so, they’ve generated virtually no interest on Wall Street.

“The most rabid anti-nuclear crowd are the investors in the market,” Shadis noted. “It takes a long time to realize any return at all. And the entirety of what you invest can turn from an asset to a liability overnight. Why bother risking your money? So they don’t.”

Thus, he said, LePage’s bill at best “is impractical, it’s silly. Out there in the energy world, where people are really trading on this stuff, it will make Maine the laughingstock. It will make us look like patsies.”

Shadis isn’t the only one watching with a raised eyebrow. Rep. Mark Dion, D-Portland, who co-chairs the Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee, can’t understand why the LePage administration would start this “conversation” by first erasing voters from the equation………. 

April 27, 2015 Posted by | politics, technology, USA | Leave a comment

Sudden conversion of climate denialist US Senator as he jumps on pro nuclear bandwagon


The chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee has an Earth Day (!) op-ed arguing we should embrace carbon-free nuclear power because of the threat posed by global warming. You remember Inhofe, the guy who called global warming a hoax, the guy who for over a decade has trashed climate scientists, such as James Hansen, whom he called in 2006 a “NASA scientist and alarmist.”

Apparently, however, Inhofe no longer sees Hansen as radioactive. He writes, without a trace of irony:

 James Hansen, the former head of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, said in 2013 that ‘continued opposition to nuclear power threatens humanity’s ability to avoid dangerous climate change.’

How cool is it that Inhofe is now apparently on board with top climatologist Hansen on the urgent need “to avoid dangerous climate change” by accelerated deployment of zero-carbon technologies? Presumably he’ll soon be on board with Hansen’s call for a high and rising carbon dioxide fee (returned to the public as a dividend), and a World War II scale effort to return CO2 levels back to 350 parts per million from their current level of 400 ppm (and rising 2+ ppm a year).

As an aside, what’s holding nuclear power back is its exorbitant price. Indeed, just this week a panel of experts unanimously agreed that nukes have all but priced themselves out of the market. Perhaps Inhofe should have supported the climate bill that came out of the House of Representatives in 2009, since its carbon pricing mechanism would have been nuclear power’s best chance at a resurgence.

As for Inhofe’s bromancing of Hansen, I suspect it is unrequited, but then they say politics does make for strange bedfellows. Or at least for new definitions of chutzpah.

April 25, 2015 Posted by | climate change, politics, USA | Leave a comment

Nuclear lobby pushing for corporate welfare and exports, through the Export-Import Bank


“Taxpayers should not be in the business of subsidizing risky loans or giving money to big businesses and foreign countries,” said Levi Russell, spokesman for Americans for Prosperity, a Tea Party-aligned group that, along with dozens of other conservative groups, is urging Congress to let Ex-Im expire.

Ex-Im fight goes nuclear, The Hill, 22 Apr 15  The nuclear power sector is emerging as one of the most vocal proponents of the Export-Import Bank, as debate intensifies over whether to reauthorize the increasingly controversial institution.

The Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) is leading the charge to demonstrate to lawmakers that closing the bank would threaten the billions of dollars in economic activity and tens of thousands of jobs that come from exporting U.S. nuclear power technology and products.

 The NEI is working with companies like Westinghouse Electric and General Electric-Hitachi Nuclear Energy to appeal to conservatives and others who see Ex-Im as an unnecessary form of corporate welfare.

The nuclear industry is also proving to be a top player among the big business groups that are doing the bulk of the lobbying on Ex-Im, which provides financing for U.S. companies to sell products and services to foreign customers.

Exports are essential to the nuclear industry, because a new reactor has not come online in the United States in nearly two decades and only five are under construction…….

The global market represents an important bounty for the U.S. industry. Continue reading

April 22, 2015 Posted by | business and costs, politics, USA | Leave a comment

Flamanville nuclear safety problem – a knockout blow for UK’s EPR reactor project?

Reactor-EPR-FlamanvilleFrance’s nuclear calamity has UK worried, The Local,  21 Apr 2015 France’s world renowned prowess in the nuclear industry is being seriously undermined by its efforts to build a flagship nuclear reactor which is fast becoming a costly calamity. The future of the Flamanville 3 project appears to hang in the balance after yet another major setback that has London worried.

It was supposed to showcase the expertise of France’s nuclear energy industry to the world and is key to the UK’s own nuclear strategy. But after being beset by hold-ups and snags – the latest and potentially most serious one coming last week, the flagship project to build a new state of the art nuclear reactor, France is getting a reputation for all the wrong reasons and London has been left looking on nervously.

In 2005 the French government proudly gave the green light for construction to begin on the first third-generation nuclear reactor at Flamanville in Normandy on the north coast, a site environmentalists say is threatened by flooding.The third-generation “European Pressurized Reactor” (EPR), built by EDF and Areva, was supposed to be in operation by 2012 and is meant to be one of the safest reactors in the world, and the most energy efficient. It was commissioned as part of France’s nuclear renaissance programme that will see the country’s aging nuclear plants replaced over time.

However Flamanville 3, as it is known, is unlikely to start producing power anytime soon after being hampered by a litany of problems and incidents, including the death of a construction worker in 2011 (see below).

The latest setback came last week when it was revealed that “a very serious fault” had been detected in the steel of the “pressure vessel” – a key component of the reactor, meaning another delay of at least a year was likely. “It is a serious fault, even a very serious fault, because it involves a crucial part of the nuclear reactor,” said Pierre-Franck Chevet, head of France’s nuclear safety agency (ASN).

That “fault” means construction is unlikely to be completed before 2018 and more worryingly, the budget, initially set at €3.3 billion, is now estimated at more than €9 billion and counting.

In short Flamanville has become France’s own “nuclear catastrophe” as it was described in one of the many critical articles in the French press. Tests will need to be carried out on the steel vessel but if after these tests the vessel still does not meet necessary safety standards, it will need to be changed.

“That’s a very difficult operation in terms of costs and time,” said the ASN’s Chevet. The steel vessels weigh around 425 tonnes and stand around 11 metres high so building a new one would take considerable time and come at a huge cost.Changing the vessel would be a major headache given all the construction work that would need to be undone.

Some in the business of nuclear safety have even suggested that if the steel vessel needs replacing then the whole project could be scrapped. That will have authorities in the UK sweating as the same steel has been used to build two vessels destined for the planned EPR nuclear reactors at Hinkley Point in the UK.…….

“This is clearly the knock-out blow for the EPR reactor,” said Yannick Rousselet from Greenpeace. “What foreign client would want to purchase a reactor of this type, if even France itself is not able to complete the construction?

“The bill from the EPR reactor will be so high that it won’t end up showcasing what to do, but exactly the opposite,” said Rousselet. “This is a huge blow to the know-how of the French nuclear industry.”

Greenpeace has called for work at Flamanville to be called off.

“It must be stopped immediately so there is no more wasting of public funds on this industrial nightmare,” said Rousselet, who added that France should be concentrating resources on finding renewable energy solutions……..

April 22, 2015 Posted by | business and costs, France, politics, UK | Leave a comment

UK’s £14bn Hinkley project – future now in doubt, as faults found in identical French project

Hinkley-nuclear-power-plantUK nuclear strategy faces meltdown as faults are found in identical French projecThe faults could also scare off the Chinese state investors who are supposed to cover part of the cost of the £14bn Hinkley project Independent JOHN LICHFIELD Author Biography PARIS Friday 17 April 2015 A “very serious” fault has been discovered in a French nuclear power station which is at the heart of David Cameron’s strategy to “keep the lights on” in Britain in the next decade.

The future of two nuclear reactors planned for Hinkley Point in Somerset has been thrown into doubt by the discovery of a potentially catastrophic mistake in the construction of an identical EPR power plant in Normandy.

“It is a serious fault, even a very serious fault, because it involves a crucial part of the nuclear reactor,” said Pierre-Franck Chevet, head of France’s nuclear safety inspectorate.

A second investigation has been ordered into the quality of the steel used to make a 50ft-high safety casing, or “pressure vessel”, which encloses the groundbreaking new reactor at Flamanville, near Cherbourg. If the steel proves to be defective, the completion of the prototype EPR plant – already behind schedule and nearly three times over budget – could be delayed for several years.

Mr Chevet also revealed that the same manufacturing techniques had been used in the steel for the identical safety casings destined for Hinkley Point, which “have already been manufactured”.

The fault could undermine the already fragile finances of the French state-owned nuclear construction company Areva, which is supposed to build two EPR reactors at Hinkley by 2023 and a third at Sizewell in Suffolk. It could also scare off the Chinese state investors who are supposed to cover part of the cost of the £14bn Hinkley project, intended to supply six per cent of Britain’s energy needs for six decades.

A final “investment” decision for Hinkley, several times delayed, is now expected in June. The French Prime Minister Manuel Valls called a crisis meeting on 17 April to discuss the threat posed by the fault to France’s nuclear construction industry – the largest in the world.

Mark Hackett, a councillor in Manchester who chairs Nuclear Free Local Authorities, said: “This is a devastating blow to proponents of new-build nuclear power stations in the UK. It is likely to scare off the Chinese backers. If I was a betting man, I would now bet that Hinkley Point will never be built.”

Yannick Rousselet, of Greenpeace France, said the latest problems to beset the prototype power station in Normandy are “clearly the coup de grâce for the EPR idea”. He asked: “What foreign client would want to buy this reactor when France itself is not capable of completing its construction?”

Apart from Britain, the United States and China are in the process of buying versions of the new generation of European Pressurised Reactor (EPR) – supposedly safer and more efficient – from France. Both Areva and Eléctricité de France (EDF), the French energy giant which will own and operate Hinkley Point, have refused to comment in detail………

Sources in the French nuclear industry told the newspaper Le Parisien yesterday that dismantling the faulty pressure vessel and ordering and manufacturing a new one could take several years. “If the weakness of the steel is proved, I don’t hold out much hope for the survival of the EPR project,” a former senior nuclear safety official told Le Parisien………..

April 18, 2015 Posted by | business and costs, politics, safety, UK | Leave a comment

France’s State owned nuclear company AREVA now a costly burden

nuclear-costs1Areva Is Costing France Plenty The company thought it had a winning nuclear reactor technology Nuclear plants supply almost three-fourths of France’s electricity, and they boast a near-spotless safety record and some of the cheapest electric rates in Europe. In 2001 the government created a state-owned company, Areva, to export French reactors and nuclear know-how to the rest of the world. Those ambitions are now in tatters, offering an object lesson in the dangers of French dirigiste industrial policy.
Beset by a troubled new reactor design and other expensive problems, Areva posted a €4.8 billion ($5.1 billion) loss in 2014 on sales of €8.3 billion. Revenue is expected to shrink 5 percent this year, and the company says it expects to keep hemorrhaging cash. The French government plans to announce a rescue plan before the end of April that’s likely to include asset sales and a bailout from state-owned utility Electricité de France (EDF). “There have been significant strategic errors,” François Brottes, who heads the French Parliament’s economic affairs commission, said at a conference in Paris on March 31. Added Brottes: “Questions have to be asked about the state’s oversight.”

Areva, along with competing reactor builders Westinghouse Electric and General Electric, was hit hard when orders dried up after the 2011 Fukushima accident in Japan. Cheap shale gas and development of renewable energy have compounded those woes. But “you can’t really blame Areva’s plight on Fukushima,” says Steve Kidd, a British nuclear consultant and former executive of the World Nuclear Association, a London-based trade group.

 Under longtime Chief Executive Officer Anne Lauvergeon and her successors, Areva bet heavily on a high-end new design, the Evolutionary Pressurized Reactor, that has been plagued with delays and cost overruns. Lauvergeon, who left Areva in mid-2011 when her contract wasn’t renewed, didn’t respond to messages.

Areva’s loss in 2014, on sales of $8.9 billion
French authorities reported on April 7 that flaws were found in some of the steel used in the reactor vessel of an EPR being built in Normandy. That reactor is five years behind schedule, and its price tag has ballooned from $3.5 billion to $9.3 billion. Areva also is facing an investigation of its 2007 acquisition of Uramin, a Canadian uranium mining company. In 2011, Areva wrote off almost all of the $2.5 billion purchase price after concluding that the ore deposits were of negligible value. The government’s chief auditor, who faulted management for inadequate oversight and possible “dissimulation,” asked prosecutors to look into the Uramin purchase.

The next step for Areva may be a tieup with EDF, its top customer—an idea that horrified the utility’s investors, who dumped the stock after Energy Minister Ségolène Royal suggested it in March. Other government officials have suggested that Areva might work with EDF on engineering and maintenance, stopping short of a full merger.

The company still makes money supplying fuel and reprocessing waste for nuclear plant owners. It’s already clear, though, that Areva won’t be selling many new reactors. North American and European utilities stopped ordering them after the Fukushima accident, and the EPR’s problems have cast a pall over the company’s prospects in China, which now accounts for more than half of the new reactors expected to come online by 2030. Thanks to past collaboration with Areva and other Western suppliers, the Chinese have developed the technology they need to build their own reactors, says Steve Thomas, a professor at the University of Greenwich in England who studies the industry. The reactors built by Areva and Westinghouse “are just too expensive for the Chinese,” he says.

The French government’s 80 percent ownership of Areva helped mask its problems, consultant Kidd says. “Everyone was laughing” at the company’s projections for reactor sales, he says. “Everyone in the know could tell the chickens were going to come home to roost. I don’t think that would have happened in a private business.”

—With Francois de Beaupuy and Tara Patel

The bottom line: Areva’s bid to be the globally dominant maker of reactors was undone by cost overruns and strategic blunders.

April 17, 2015 Posted by | business and costs, France, politics | Leave a comment


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