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The News That Matters about the Nuclear Industry

Manchester’s cold war nuclear bunker revealed

flag-UKFrozen in time: Cold war nuclear bunker built by panicking council chiefs revealed after 50 years, [good pictures] Mirror 24 MAY 2015 BY  The never-before-seen images of the safe room cast an eerie light on the tensions of the times….It was designed to act as a safe room to protect the town’s decision-makers and civic leaders from any nuclear attack or fall-out, reports the Manchester Evening News .

Thankfully it was never used, but many thousands of people have walked into the 200ft-high tower ever since without knowing what lies beneath their feet. Today the bunker, made up of subterranean corridors and rooms, is used for storage.

The different chambers, reinforced by concrete and brick, were part of the centre’s overall design. It opened in 1977 but the bunker wasn’t publicised.

The fascinating images reveal boxes of binary code tape, which would have been used to send messages to the government, still on the floor.

Abandoned telephones and an old exchange system also give a glimpse of how the post-apocalypse survivors would have kept in contact with the world.

Spare fuses and light bulbs are revealed and abandoned sinks, desks and chairs also give a glimpse of how office equipment has changed over 40 years.

The council said only a select few people would have gained entry should the sirens have sounded – senior councillors and officers, police chiefs, engineers, doctors and communications experts……..It’s understood that the government ordered the construction of thousands of underground complexes during the Cold War.

Most have been decommissioned. http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/frozen-time-cold-war-nuclear-5752252

May 25, 2015 Posted by | UK, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Nuclear fusion – expensive boondoogle – as far away as ever

nuclear-fusion-pie-SmStar power: Troubled ITER nuclear fusion project seeks new path, Phys Org 23 May  by Pascale Mollard “……Launched in 2006 after years of wrangling, the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) project is saddled with a reputation as a money pit.

It has been bedevilled by technical delays, labyrinthine decision-making and cost estimates that have soared from five billion euros ($5.56 billion) to around 15 billion. It may be another four years before it carries out its first experiment………

ITER’s job is to build a testbed to see if fusion, so far achieved in a handful of labs at great cost, is a realistic power source for the energy-hungry 21st Century.

Fusion entails forcing together the nuclei of light atomic elements in a super-heated plasma, held by powerful magnetic forces in a doughnut-shaped chamber called a tokamak, so that they make heavier elements and in so doing release energy.

The principle behind it is the opposite of nuclear fission—the atom-splitting process behind nuclear bombs and power stations, which carries the risk of costly accidents, theft of radioactive material and dealing with dangerous long-term waste…….

The tokamak—a word derived from Russian—by itself is an extraordinary undertaking: a 23,000-tonne lab, three times heavier than the Eiffel Tower.

“This is a project of unprecedented complexity… a real challenge,” said Mario Merola, in charge of ITER’s internal components division.

Management tangle

Part of ITER’s problems lie in a diffuse managerial structure and decision-making among its partners: the 28-nation European Union, which has a 45-percent stake, the United States, Russia, Japan, China, India, South Korea and Switzerland. he partners are providing their contributions mostly in kind, which has been a cause of messy, protracted debate about who should provide what, when and how. It has been further complicated by the role of national agencies, which in turn deal with their own suppliers.

In some cases, said Bigot, discussions have dragged on for six whole years without resolution……..By November, there will be a new progress report, with the likelihood of a further increase in the price tag. The project has no reserve fund to deal with the unexpected…..So far around seven billion euros have been contractually committed to the thousand or so companies working on the scheme. Every year of delay adds 200 million euros to the bill……”clearly if we can’t manage this project correctly, if undertakings are not kept… (the project) could be in danger.” http://phys.org/news/2015-05-star-power-iter-nuclear-fusion.html

May 23, 2015 Posted by | France, technology | Leave a comment

EDF makes an offer to AREVA

flag-franceNuclear: EDF made an offer to over 2 billion euros in the … – Les Echos 23 May 15 As he announced, the president of EDF Jean Bernard Levy has sent this Friday to Areva executives Philippe Varin and Philippe Knoche, its proposal for the resumption of the activity of reactors Nuclear Group (Areva NP, formerly Framatome). Reportedly, this offer values ​​the activities concerned just over € 2 billion, net of liabilities of the company. Specifically, the valuation is calculated on the basis of a multiple of 7.5 times EBITDA (EBITDA) activities occasions, recalculated according to the area concerned and restructurings that have been completed. “ This is an indicative offer, which must be followed by a period of due diligence before being adjusted to become a firm offer, possibly with conditions precedent ,” said a source close to the folder. “ At this point, the offer of EDF covers about a third of the financing needs of Areva, estimated at around 7 billion euros ,” continues the source.

During his public this week, Jean-Bernard Levy was very explicit. If the proposal EDF responds to a request of the State, its majority shareholder…..wseconomymarket.blogspot.com.au

May 23, 2015 Posted by | business and costs, France, politics | Leave a comment

No Signs of Russian Nuclear Weapons Deployment – NATO Commander

NATO Sees No Signs of Russian Nuclear Weapons Deployment I http://sputniknews.com/military/20150521/1022431437.html  NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe Philip Breedlove said that NATO has seen no signs of Russia deploying additional nuclear weapons and thus does not plan to make adjustments to alliance’s nuclear posture.
 BRUSSELS (Sputnik) – NATO has seen no signs of Russia deploying additional nuclear weapons and thus does not plan to make adjustments to alliance’s nuclear posture, NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe Philip Breedlove said Thursday. In April, Western media reports alleged that Moscow planned to use nuclear force during the reunification of Crimea with Russia if NATO moved additional forces to the Baltic region. The Kremlin dismissed the reports as speculations.

Commenting on the possibility of Russian nuclear deployments, Breedlove said that the military alliance had not seen any changes recently.

“We have to be very clear – we have not seen direct evidence of any deployment of nuclear weapons [by Russia],” Breedlove told reporters.

Relations between NATO and Moscow deteriorated after Crimea’s reunification with Russia and the escalation of the crisis in eastern Ukraine in 2014.

In April 2014, the military alliance halted all practical cooperation with Russia, accusing Moscow of fueling the conflict in Ukraine.

Russia has repeatedly denied these accusations and, in turn, voiced concern over NATO’s military buildup close to its western borders.

May 22, 2015 Posted by | Russia, weapons and war | Leave a comment

New private consortium to decommission nuclear power stations – will cut 1600 jobs

flag-UKMagnox nuclear decommissioning consortium to cut up to 1,600 jobs, Guardian, , 22 May 15  Cavendish Fluor Partnership says plans reflect ‘stepdowns’ in work at nuclear plants around UK The new private consortium that recently won the £4.2bn management contract for the decommissioning of 12 Magnox nuclear power stations has revealed plans to cut up to 1,600 jobs. Cavendish Nuclear, a division of Babcock International, plus its US partner Fluor, said the cuts reflected “planned stepdowns in the work programme” at a number of atomic sites around the UK.

The move comes amid speculation that Babcock is preparing to demand millions of pounds of extra subsidies from the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) on the grounds that the workload was much heavier than anticipated.

money-in-wastes-2

Unions expressed shock that staff, agency and contract workers would lose their jobs between now and September 2016, although the Cavendish Fluor Partnership said it would try to find some alternative posts. Eleven of the plants have already shut down and the remaining one in operation – Wylfa on Anglesey in North Wales – is due to stop generating power at the end of the year.

Problems with the decommissioning of the separate Sellafield site in Cumbria have recently led to the private consortium there which includes Amec and Areva of France – being thrown off the management contract.

The 12 nuclear power sites managed by the Cavendish consortium for Magnox include Berkeley, Gloucestershire; Bradwell, Essex; and Hinkley Point A in Somerset.

EDF last month announced plans to cut 400 construction jobs at the site of the planned new atomic plant of Hinkley Point C.

The reduction in workers comes amid continuing delays over a final investment decision on the £24.5bn project as negotiations with potential investors continue to move more slowly than expected. http://www.theguardian.com/business/2015/may/21/magnox-nuclear-decommissioning-consortium-cut-1600-jobs

May 22, 2015 Posted by | business and costs, employment, UK, wastes | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Australians the suckers as AREVA tries to sell its failed nuclear technology down under

A negative learning curve on steroids What to make of the EPR saga? Areva is backing the wrong horse − the outcome of current political debates will result in a declining role for nuclear power in France, coupled to the growth of renewables.

A new report by ADEME, a French government agency under the Ministries of Ecology and Research, concludes that a 100% renewable electricity supply scenario is feasible in France. The report estimates that the electricity production cost would be €119 per megawatt-hour in 2050 in the 100% renewables scenario, compared with a near-identical figure of €117/MWh with a mix of 50% nuclear, 40% renewables, and 10% fossil fuels.

areva-medusa1Areva has also backed the wrong-sized wrong horse: a giant reactor with a giant price-tag. That said, the backers of ‘small modular reactors‘ are having no more success than Areva. And Areva isn’t having much luck with its mid-sized ATMEA pressurised water reactor………

The EPR saga shows that developing modified versions of conventional reactors (in this case pressurised water reactors) can be complicated and protracted and can end in failure. How much more difficult will it be to develop radically new types of reactors? The French government’s Institute for Radiological Protection and Nuclear Safety has recently produced an important critique of Generation IV nuclear power concepts. It states that there “is still much R&D to be done to develop the Generation IV nuclear reactors” and it is sceptical about the safety claims made for Generation IV concepts.

Feeling the pressure: Bumbling nuclear’s negative learning curve Jim Green, 21 May 2015, Climate Spectator http://www.businessspectator.com.au/article/2015/5/21/energy-markets/feeling-pressure-bumbling-nuclears-negative-learning-curve

French state-owned nuclear giant Areva is offering to sell its ‘world leading’ nuclear technology to South Australia. The offer is being reported in the South Australian media without a hint of irony. A reality check is in order.

Areva has posted losses in each of the past four years including a €4.83 billion loss in 2014. Continue reading

May 22, 2015 Posted by | France, safety, technology | Leave a comment

Without building permit, Russian-built nuclear reactor preparations go on in Finland

flag-FinlandPyhäjoki cottages in Finland make way for Russian-built nuclear reactor http://www.adn.com/article/20150521/pyh-joki-cottages-finland-make-way-russian-built-nuclear-reactor  YLE News Eye on the Arctic May 21, 2015 The site of Fennovoima’s planned nuclear plant is starting to take shape at Pyhäjoki in north Ostrobothnia — despite the presence of protesters trying to stop the construction and a few landowners who have so far refused to sell up.

Trees have been felled and roads built in the area, even though the government has not yet granted the final building permit. Fennovoima only has a provisional permit granted last year and must seek a final permit this summer in addition to a permit from the local municipality to begin building work.

Most of the cottages located on the Hanhikiviniemi peninsula have already been purchased by Fennovoima, but the last few holdouts are now subject to compulsory purchase orders. According to the orders, the cottages must be vacated and handed over by the end of May, even though appeals against the compulsory purchase orders are still pending.

Protests on the way Fennovoima currently controls around 990 acres of land and water at Hanhikiviniemi, and this will increase to 1,235 acres with the new acquisitions.

The local Pro Hanhikivi group is opposed to the project, but is also resisting the influx of activists who are camped out in protest at the ongoing construction work. The group is planning a legal challenge to Fennovoima’s actions, and says it does not support protests by more radical groups.

“We want the court to take a view on the principle of whether it’s allowed to grant a permit to start construction that is irreversible,” said Pro Hanhikivi vice-chair and Green League MP Hanna Halmeenpää.

She says the local council’s decision to allow initial building work to proceed is against Finland’s municipal laws and runs counter to the principles of good governance.

Lengthy delays

The Fennovoima plant was originally approved by parliament in 2010, but planning delays and financing issues have dogged the project since then. Last autumn the Green League walked out of government in protest at the arrival of Russian firm Rosatom as the contractor and part-owner of the plant.

The Greens felt that such a major change in the plans meant they should be re-considered from scratch.

Even then, financing was not secure until state-owned energy firm Fortum stepped in to take a major stake in Fennovoima. According to the original terms on which the project was approved, a majority of the ownership should be in European, meaning European Union, hands.

The project has also prompted opposition in Sweden, where 20,000 people signed a petition opposing the new reactor. Pyhäjoki is located just 96 miles from the Swedish coast.

This story is posted on Alaska Dispatch News as part of Eye on the Arctic, a collaborative partnership between public and private circumpolar media organizations.

May 22, 2015 Posted by | Finland, politics | Leave a comment

Engie not willing to acquire troubled nuclear company AREVA

scrutiny-on-costsflag-franceEngie will not acquire struggling French nuclear group Areva, Ft.com 21 May 15  Michael Stothard in Paris Engie would consider working with struggling French nuclear group Areva on some business lines but is not looking for any full-blown acquisitions to help rescue the company, according to the chief executive of the utility.

“If we consider something, it would be in co-operation with Areva, not simply an acquisition of some assets,” Gérard Mestrallet told the Financial Times on the sidelines of a business and climate change conference in Paris

The comments come as the French government looks to elicit the aid of French companies to help rescue Areva, which reported a €4.8bn loss last year.

Areva, which is 87 per cent government-owned, has fallen victim to a slump in global demand for new reactors that followed the 2011 Fukushima disaster in Japan, as well as crippling cost overruns at key projects…….

Any deal between Areva and Engie would be likely to come alongside a much larger agreement with EDF, which earlier this week outlined its preference for a broad rescue package to acquire Areva NP, the division that designs, manufactures and maintains nuclear reactors.

“The more ambitious proposal from EDF will preserve the technical expertise of Areva’s reactor business and create the possibility of partnerships with outside groups from France or elsewhere,” said Jean-Bernard Lévy, EDF’s chief executive.

The more ambitious proposal from EDF will preserve the technical expertise of Areva’s reactor business and create the possibility of partnerships with outside groups from France or elsewhere– Jean-Bernard Lévy, EDF’s chief executive

Another option on the table would see EDF, which is 85 per cent state-owned, simply recruit 1,200 Areva engineers who specialise in nuclear safety. This would require a greater injection of capital in the group from the government, however.

It is ultimately up to Paris to decide between these two options. A decision could come as early as June ……….3.http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/3d592a50-ffb8-11e4-8c46-00144feabdc0.html#axzz3aoqg2DDh

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

Investors flee Nordic nuclear company Vattenfall

graph-down-uraniumNuclear Shutdowns Are Leaving Vattenfall’s Bond Investors  Cold , Bloomberg,  , 21 May 15 A jump in power prices hasn’t been able to lift Vattenfall AB bonds as investors worry the Swedish utility will write down more nuclear assets.

While Nordic power prices have risen from record lows after Vattenfall said it would close its two oldest reactors, yield spreads on the utility’s bonds are little changed. The closing plans instead directed attention to the poor Nordic market outlook for investors who had focused on Vattenfall’s woes in Germany, according to Ebba Lindahl, an SEB AB analyst.

“We see an increased risk of smaller cash flows from nuclear generation in the future and further write downs of assets that will not be fully compensated by the increase in power prices,” she said in a phone interview…….

A surge in renewable energy output in Nordic region, coupled with demand still below 2008-levels, has pushed power prices so low that the once-steady cash cow of nuclear production has become a liability.

The company is majority owner of seven reactors in Sweden and also owns thermal coal, lignite and gas units in Germany, which are poorly suited to the European Union’s aim for a transition to low-emission energy systems, according to Ingvar Mattsson, a senior analyst at Swedbank AB.

Vattenfall’s plans to close the two reactors early “reflects a tough market situation with low power prices, and thus a lower valuation of nuclear assets,” he said by phone. “Vattenfall is also obviously exposed to political risks in both Germany and Sweden.” http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-05-20/nuclear-shutdowns-are-leaving-vattenfall-s-bond-investors-cold

May 22, 2015 Posted by | business and costs, Sweden | Leave a comment

Finland pulls out of building Olkiluoto 4 nuclear reactor

Finland cancelsthumbs-down – is the EPR finished?, The Ecologist,  Dr Jim Green & Oliver Tickell 15 May 15 

This week Finland cancelled its option for a second European Pressurised Reactor as the existing EPR project sinks into a abyss of cost over-runs, delays and litigation, writes Jim Green. It now looks like the EPR is a failed technology and its owner, French nuclear giant Areva, is fast running out of both money and orders as its ‘hot prospects’ evaporate.

There’s been plenty of bad news recently for the European Pressurised Reactor (EPR) nuclear power station design.

And now there’s more. The Finnish electricity company TVO announced this week that it had cancelled plans to build a second EPR at Olkiluoto in western Finland because of delays and problems with the first EPR on the site currently being built by Areva and Siemens.

That plant, Olkiluoto 3, is running severely over time and budget. Construction began in 2005 and it is not expected to commence operating until 2018, nine years late.

The estimated cost has risen from €3.2 billion (US$3.6b) to €8.5 billion (US$9.5b). Areva has already made provision for a €2.7 billion (US$3.0b) writedown on the project, with further losses expected. FTVO and Areva / Siemens are locked ina €10 billion legal battleover the cost overruns.

Finland’s government had given TVO a deadline of 30th June to request a building permit for its planned Olkiluoto 4 plant. TVO said it would not pursue the project due to “the delay of the start-up of Olkiluoto 3 plant unit.”

It added: “In this situation it is impossible to make significant Olkiluoto 4 related decisions necessary for the construction license application.” Continue reading

May 20, 2015 Posted by | business and costs, France, politics, Reference | Leave a comment

Tough times ahead for the global nuclear industry

nukes-sad-Survival of the fittest? World’s major nuclear builders are in for a long stretch in the red, Bellona, May 18, 2015 by  MOSCOW – Judging by the numerous reports on negotiations under way over new reactor construction projects, 2015 should be a pivotal year for nuclear power development across the world. The most vigorous efforts toward expanding their presence on the international markets are applied by the Russian Rosatom and France’s Areva. But all is not so rosy with both companies’ balance sheets. In free market conditions, without generous subsidies from state budget, the industry is as good as paralyzed, and it’s no wonder that its leaders are made of those with access to state coffers. Will the largest nuclear competitors find salvation in their governments’ support? Continue reading

May 20, 2015 Posted by | business and costs, Russia | 2 Comments

Nuclear power link to breast cancer

there was twice the chance of dying of breast cancer if you lived next to the Blackwater than if you lived next to the Crouch.

BREAST-CANCERBreast cancer and nuclear power – statistics reveal the link ‘they’ wanted to hide,
Ecologist  Chris Busby 18th May 2015  The link between nuclear power and cancer is real, writes Chris Busby, and revealed in the UK’s cancer statistics – if only you look for it. Previous approaches have focused on rare cancers over large, poorly selected populations. But look at common cancers among those most exposed to nuclear radiation, and the statistical evidence is overwhelming.

Do nuclear sites cause increases in cancer in those living nearby? This is the question which has always been the key to stopping the development of nuclear energy.

For if the answer is Yes, the laws would cut in; human rights would cut in. Check Mate. The nuclear industry and its supporters have always known this, just as the cigarette companies and the asbestos makers recognised their own specific nemesis.

You can argue about the economics of nuclear till you are blue in the face, but they can always move the goalposts, global warming, future security of supply, special new safe thorium reactors and so forth. But killing people with your radioactive discharges: that’s it. The End.

This week saw the publication in a peer-reviewed journal – Jacobs Journal of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine – of a study which I carried out in 2003 of breast cancer mortality 1995-2002 near Bradwell nuclear power station in Essex. Continue reading

May 20, 2015 Posted by | Reference, UK, women | 1 Comment

UK’s hunt for Trident nuclear system whistleblower

British Submariner Goes AWOL After Leaking UK Military Nuclear Secrets http://www.gizmodo.com.au/2015/05/british-submariner-goes-awol-after-leaking-uk-military-nuclear-secrets/The British Royal Navy is searching for Able Seaman William McNeilly after he leaked an 18-page report called “The Secret Nuclear Threat.”

In the document, the submariner explained a wide range of insights relating to the UK’s submarine operations, reports The Independent. It covers everything from the mundane, such as food hygiene, to more worrying topics such as hydraulics failures that prevent submarines from launching missiles. In fact, he describes submarine floods during testing that would have killed if they’d happened at sea, and writes that he “learnt that HMS Vanguard is in the worst of the worst condition.”

Elsewhere, he claims that it’s”harder to get into most nightclubs” than into sensitive parts of the Faslane submarine base on the Clyde in Scotland. “I’ve gotten through a few times by just showing my pale white room key; looks nothing like a Green Area Pass,” he wrote.

He also explains that alarms on the UK’s Trident nuclear submarine’s missile control are often muted. “I could sometimes hear alarms on the missiles control and monitoring position while lying in bed,” he writes. “I later found out that I would have been hearing them more frequently if they hadn’t muted the console just to avoid listening to the alarms.”

McNeilly — who describes himself as “an engineering technician submariner for the UK’s Trident IID5 strategic weapons system” — didn’t return from leave on 11th April. In a press release, the Royal Navy explained that it is “concerned for the whereabouts and well-being of Able Seaman McNeilly and is working closely with civilian police to locate him.” [Independent]

May 20, 2015 Posted by | secrets,lies and civil liberties, UK | Leave a comment

Gloomy financial situation for AREVA in so many ways

Despite the guaranteed increased purchase price for Hinkley Point C’s power, however, investors are not in a hurry to jump on board with a project where Areva will not just build the reactors but is also to bring in funding in the amount of 10% of the project’s total cost. The problem is that last fall, the company admitted it was having serious economic difficulties, which may cause it to fail to deliver on the financial commitments in the Hinkley Point C project.

Areva’s economic troubles have to do with another project the company is pursuing: the highly problematic reactor construction at a new site in Olkiluoto, Finland.

Survival of the fittest? World’s major nuclear builders are in for a long stretch in the red, Bellona, May 18, 2015 by  MOSCOW 

“………..The project considered to be the flagship for the French nuclear industry in Europe is the nuclear power plant Hinkley Point C in Great Britain, estimated at €24 billion. The project envisions building two reactors of the EPR – for “European Pressurized Reactor” – design in Somerset, in England’s southwest. No new reactor construction was previously undertaken in Great Britain for a period of many years, and, on account of nuclear energy’s less than perfect reputation from the economic point of view, such a large-scale endeavor in a country with a market economy seemed quite unlikely.

Yet, the project received both the British government’s approval and state guarantees on a fixed purchase price for the power the future plant will be generating. A favorable determination on the project was eventually also handed down by the European Commission, which had been looking into the legality of the state guarantees provided to Hinkley Point C. What the grievances against the project boil down to is that purchase of power from Hinkley Point C at a guaranteed price – one that is substantially higher than today’s energy prices – has too close a semblance to state subsidies, and the latter is prohibited in the EU. This was the reason why far from all the European ministers voted in favor of the project, and litigation is still expected on the matter: Austria, which has voiced its disagreement with the European Commission’s decision, intends to challenge it in court.

Despite the guaranteed increased purchase price for Hinkley Point C’s power, however, investors are not in a hurry to jump on board with a project where Areva will not just build the reactors but is also to bring in funding in the amount of 10% of the project’s total cost. Continue reading

May 20, 2015 Posted by | business and costs, France | Leave a comment

Safety problems may mean the end for AREVA’s EPR nuclear reactor

the International Energy Agency’s World Economic Outlook 2014 report:

  • that nuclear growth will be “concentrated in markets where electricity is supplied at regulated prices, utilities have state backing or governments act to facilitate private investment”;
  • and that “nuclear power faces major challenges in competitive markets where there are significant market and regulatory risks.”.

Finland cancels Olkiluoto 4 nuclear reactor – is the EPR finished?, The Ecologist,  Dr Jim Green & Oliver Tickell 15 May 15 A negative learning curve on steroids

“……What to make of the EPR saga? First, Areva is backing the wrong horse – the outcome of current political debates will result in a declining role for nuclear power in France, coupled to the growth of renewables.

A new report by ADEME, a French government agency under the Ministries of Ecology and Research, concludes that a 100% renewable electricity supply scenario is feasible in France. The report estimates that the electricity production cost would be €119 per megawatt-hour in 2050 in the all-renewables scenario, compared with a near-identical figure of €117 / MWh with a mix of 50% nuclear, 40% renewables, and 10% fossil fuels.

Areva has also backed the wrong-sized wrong horse: a giant reactor with a giant price-tag. That said, the backers of ‘small modular reactors‘ are having no more success than Areva.

Areva has backed the wrong-sized wrong horse at the wrong time – the Global Financial Crisis and its aftermath, stagnant energy demand, the liberalization of energy markets, the political fallout from the Fukushima disaster and other factors have dampened demand for new reactors and made it more difficult to secure finance (or government subsidies) for huge projects.

The EPR saga undermines the rhetoric of standardised, simplified reactors designs ushering in a new era of nuclear growth. It also shows that developing modified versions of conventional reactors (in this case pressurised water reactors) can be complicated and protracted and can end in failure.

How much more difficult will it be to develop radically new types of reactors? The French government’s Institute for Radiological Protection and Nuclear Safety has recently produced an important critique of Generation IV nuclear power concepts.

It states that there “is still much R&D to be done to develop the Generation IV nuclear reactors” and it is sceptical about the safety claims made for Generation IV concepts.

The EPR saga shows that even countries with extensive nuclear expertise and experience can mess things up. The EPR might have demonstrated the potential for mass production to drive down costs – but in reality it is demonstrating the opposite.

Even before the EPR fiasco, the large-scale, standardised French nuclear power program was subject to a negative economic learning curve – costs were increasing over time. The EPR represents a negative learning curve on steroids.

That point is emphasised by construction cost estimates of £16-24.5 billion (US$24.3-37.2b; €21.7-33.2b) for two planned EPRs (with combined capacity of 3.2 gigawatts) at Hinkley Point in the UK. In the mid- to late-2000s, the estimated construction cost for an EPR was £2 billion; current estimates are 4-6 times higher.

Private companies have pulled out of EPR projects in several countries (Italy, the US, the UK, etc.). Thus the EPR fiasco reinforces points made in the International Energy Agency’s World Economic Outlook 2014 report:

 

May 20, 2015 Posted by | business and costs, France | Leave a comment

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