Britain’s debt to foreign power: China’s nuclear revolution George Osborne has effectively handed the nation’s nuclear industry over to Chinese and French giants Telegraph, By Geoffrey Lean 18 Oct 2013 How’s this for a turn-up for the books? A Conservative Chancellor, promoter of free markets and defender of national sovereignty, is boasting of “allowing” (a euphemism, it seems, for “begging”) a totalitarian Communist country to build nuclear power stations in Britain.
It will all start – under a deal expected to be finalised next week – with the state-owned China General Nuclear Power joining the equally nationalised Electricité de France (EDF) in constructing a £14 billion brace of reactors at Hinkley Point in Somerset. The Chinese will have a minority share in the project, but have made it clear – and George Osborne accepts this – that they should have a controlling interest in future schemes.
So, much of Britain’s highly sensitive nuclear industry – which sprang from the atomic bomb programme – is effectively to be owned by two foreign powers, one the country’s oldest traditional enemy, the other a bitter Cold War opponent. Few other nations, and certainly not China, would dream of permitting anything of the kind. Doesn’t Mr Osborne see that this could be a bit radioactive, shall we say? Read more »
Dundrennan depleted uranium protest staged http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-south-scotland-24835544 6 Nov 13 The last DU tests were carried out at Dundrennan five years ago Campaigners have held a “mass walk-on” at the Dundrennan range in protest at the test firing of depleted uranium (DU) weapons into the Solway Firth.
It was part of an international day of action and followed concerns about serious health issues resulting from the use of such weapons in war zones.
The last DU tests at the south of Scotland range were in 2008. Earlier this year the Ministry of Defence said it had no plans to restart firing in the area.
One of the campaigners, Rachel Thompson, said the protest had been well supported from across Scotland and beyond. ”We have found that depleted uranium is one of those issues people really do care about,” she said.
“They knew when they started that Scottish people did not want this to happen.” She said the protest wanted to make the link between that objection and the consequences of the use of such weapons in Iraq.
Nuclear Prices Itself Out Of The Market — Graph, Clean Technica 6 Nov 13, Originally published on RenewEconomy The extent to which nuclear is being priced out of electricity markets has finally been revealed by the pricing mechanism unveiled by the British government in the deal to subsidise the Hinkley C nuclear.
The UK government will pay £92.5 for each megawatt hour produced from hinkley ($A154/MWh), around double the prevailing market price. This is after the UK supplied a loan guarantee for 65 per cent of the estimated $24 billion capital cost. The “strike price” – a fancy name for a feed in tariff – also has an escalator to take into account the impact of inflation, so the cost will rise in coming years.
So how does this compare with rival clean energy technologies? Pretty badly as it turns out.
This graph below, published by Craig Morris in Renewable Energy World reveals that the rates that will be offered for new nuclear from 2023 in the UK are far above what solar and wind currently cost. And, as Morris points out, the rates for solar and wind will go down by then, not up! Even offshore wind is getting £95/MWh from 2018 in the UK, but only for 15 years and without any loan guarantees.
This second graph below is even more interesting. It takes into account all the expensive PV that was installed with really high feed in tariffs at the start of Germany’s energy transition before the price of solar fell dramatically. From 2023, when the Hinkley reactor is due to be switched on, nuclear at this price still fairs poorly, and as the cost of those tariffs continue to decline, the cost of nuclear will continue to rise. It’s probably as good an illustration as any as to why Germany are not interested in new nuclear power station, and few countries are.
Deutsche Bank notes that EdF has effectively handballed the risk of new nuclear to consumer and the UK government. The consumer is picking up the tab through higher electricity bills, and the UK government is using taxpayers money to guarantee 65 per cent of the project cost. With the involvement of Chinese nuclear interests, that leaves EdF with an exposure of just £3.5 billion. http://reneweconomy.com.au/2013/nuclear-part-2-36006
With the guaranteed price already well above what solar and wind power cost (and their costs continuously declining), the taxpayer commitment for this power plant is so crazily high that it seems this story should be coming from The Onion rather than reality.
The UK’s move to subsidize nuclear power to such an insane degree is simply astonishing.
Hinkley C Nuclear Power Plant To Get Twice The Rate As Solar PV From UK Government Clean Technica 30 Oct 13, In a demonstration of how out of touch the UK government is with public opinion, it intends to pay approximately twice as much for electricity from the proposed Hinkley C nuclear power plant near Bristol than is paid for electricity from solar power in Europe. With high public support for solar PV and low support for nuclear, that’s quite absurd. It’s also very absurd from an economic standpoint.
Dr David Toke of the University of Aberdeen writes: “Looming large over the UK Government’s EU state aid application for Hinkley C is the charge that this deal will distort the EU’s internal market, in particular to undercut solar pv arrays in Germany over 10 MW in size. Such arrays are no longer eligible to receive premium prices under the German feed-in tariff system. Such plant will only receive the wholesale electricity price, which is less than half the rates to be paid to Hinkley C.” Read more »
The final decommissioning at Trawsfynydd and elsewhere depends on finding a safe long term solution for where to deposit the ILW as well as the High Level Waste (HLW) currently stored at Sellafield. This includes the spent nuclear fuel which was removed when the plant closed.
1959: Construction started
1965 to 1991: Electricity generation
1993 to 1995: Decommissioning starts – fuel removed and sent to Sellafield
1995 to 2016: Recovery of waste and preparations to put the plant into a ‘passively safe’ state
2020-26: Reduction in height of reactor buildings
2040s: Scheduled removal of Intermediate Level Waste to deep geological storage
2074: Final site clearance starts
2083: Site returned to pre-existing state
How do you close a nuclear power station? BBC By Steven Green 28 Oct 13 As the UK embarks on building what could be a new generation of nuclear power plants, work continues to decommission the first generation of nuclear power stations at sites including Trawsfynydd in Snowdonia which will take an estimated 90 years to complete. Read more »
No wonder the private sector has declined to take this opportunity.
Behind the nuclear smoke and mirrors http://www.theecologist.org/blogs_and_comments/commentators/other_comments/2134515/behind_the_nuclear_smoke_and_mirrors.html Tom Burke 26th October 2013 There is an important question to be asked of Mr Davey. If there is no public subsidy for Hinkley C why are you having to make an application to the Brussels for state aid clearance?
The most important decision in this issue is EDF’s decision to order the major components for Hinkley. Only when that has happened will it become too expensive not to go ahead.
If that has not been done, no deal has actually been made. All that has happened is that the price the British Government will pay for the output from Hinkley has been announced.
It is very unlikely that any such order will be made until after state aid clearance has been granted.
As far as I can see the following is what the combination of Osborne and Davey’s announcements adds up to:-
Two Chinese companies will take a minority stake in EDF’s proposed nuclear power station at Hinkley point.
At some future point Chinese companies may be allowed to take a majority stake in other nuclear power stations if they are built.
Under the current levy control cap there is no money even to build the second EDF station let alone any Chinese stations.
The Chinese simply bought – for nothing – an option to participate in something that may never happen. Read more »
Dr Paul Dorfman, of the Energy Institute at University College, London, believes the British public is facing a turbulent nuclear future. He says: ‘It’s extremely likely that the construction at Hinkley Point will be over-budget and late. It is unfortunate because it will be the UK taxpayer and consumer, no doubt, who will be picking up the bill.’…..
Professor Steve Thomas, an energy policy expert at the University of Greenwich, has written a damning report on the EPR project, claiming, in 2010, that the entire design and construction was ‘in crisis’. His 26-page report catalogued the errors at Flamanville and in Finland, and concluded construction had gone ‘dramatically wrong’.
Deaths, chilling safety lapses, lawsuits, huge cost over-runs and delays: Why we can’t trust the French with Britain’s nuclear future, Daily mail UK, , 26 October 2013, By STEVE BIRD
- EDF’s nuclear reactor plant at Flamanville, Normandy, is beset by financial mismanagement and the deaths of workers
- EDF, along with French nuclear group Areva and investors from China, are due to start work on a £16bn plant in Hinkley Point in Somerset in 2017 It will be the first nuclear reactor in the UK in nearly 20 years – and also first European Pressurised Reactor (EPR)
- … yet no reactor of this design is yet working anywhere in the world……
- The optimism and excitement of that first day of construction is now long gone.Since then, the predicted cost of just under £3 billion has rocketed to more than £7 billion (it could go up still further). Read more »
Radioactive waste from submarines is divided into three categories: high-level waste (HLW) from the reactor pressure vessel, intermediate level waste (ILW) that includes spent fuel, and low level waste (LLW) including contaminated equipment.
“As long as we cling on to the idea that we need a seaborne nuclear deterrent, we’re going to have the problem of what to do with the dangerous waste it creates.”
Naval bases could become nuclear dumps http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/naval-bases-could-become-nuclear-dumps-8906452.html Fears grow in dockyard cities over removal of radioactive material from decommissioned subs SAM MASTERS SUNDAY 27 OCTOBER 2013 Fears that two major naval bases sited near large British cities could become nuclear waste storage facilities “by default” have grown after it was revealed the Ministry of Defence proposes to remove low-level radioactive waste from the UK’s nuclear submarine fleet.
According to minutes of a submarine dismantling meeting, the “early removal of low-level waste” has been proposed at two major dockyards: Rosyth, in the Forth estuary, Fife, and Devonport, in Plymouth. Experts warned that removing radioactive waste would need to be explained “carefully” to ensure dismantling sites on bases near major population centres did not become waste storage areas “by default”. Read more »
John Baron: Britain’s ageing nuclear test veterans need to be recognised at last The Independent 28 oct 13 With the debate over Trident renewal ongoing, we risk forgetting the invaluable and unique contribution made by our nuclear test veterans in the establishment of our deterrent. They have yet to be officially recognised in any formal manner, and Britain ranks towards the bottom of the international table of decency when it comes to how other countries treat their test veterans. The time has come to put that right, both for the surviving veterans and the descendents of those no longer with us. The second phase of a campaign sees this important debate in Parliament on Tuesday……
A crash programme followed which continued late into the 1960s, when the advent of more powerful hydrogen bombs once again necessitated an accelerated programme to keep parity with the US and USSR. Scientists played their part in this effort – but so did the over 20,000 British and Commonwealth servicemen who took part in the tests in the South Pacific and Australia from 1952 until 1967.
As these tests were carried out at the dawn of the nuclear age, the science was not properly understood – if at all. Precautions were primitive and inadequate, and often failed to properly protect individuals from the effects of blast, heat and ionising radiation. Many of the test veterans believe their health was adversely affected as a result of these tests, a view substantiated by scientific research undertaken by Professor Rowland, whose work was peer-reviewed and subsequently accepted by the-then New Zealand Government.
Armed with this research, the British Nuclear Test Veterans’ Association (BNTVA), of which I am patron, succeeded after a long campaign to persuade the MoD to undertake a Health Needs Analysis of all surviving veterans. This was completed in 2011, and many helpful practical measures are now being introduced as a result, particularly in relation to a veterans’ pathway through the NHS. The focus on health was our first priority, given the age and health profile of the veterans.
The veterans’ next priority is to secure recognition of their unique and vital service to the nation, which has never been forthcoming from the Government. For these aging men, official recognition, in either a written or oral statement from the Prime Minister, would mean so much. To this end, we launched a fresh ‘campaign for recognition’ in Parliament earlier this year, and have secured the support of over 80 MPs of all colours and hues……. http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/john-baron-britains-ageing-nuclear-test-veterans-need-to-be-recognised-at-last-8907539.html
The nuclear industry has captured the government as comprehensively as the big six energy companies have captured the domestic energy market. Don’t forget that just 48 hours after the Fukushima catastrophe, government officials were working with the industry to play down the terrible events - before they had even unfolded.
Nuclear power’s broken promises means EDF deal is a delusional dream http://www.theguardian.com/environment/damian-carrington-blog/2013/oct/21/nuclear-power-energy-edf-deal The cost of nuclear energy has tripled in just five years, while the cost of renewable energy is falling fast, making the UK government’s deal a truly terrible one Energy efficiency is cheapest and the cost of renewable energy is falling. In contrast, gas prices have risen by 50% in five years and the cost of nuclear energy has trebled since 2008. Yet the UK government today staked a large part of the nation’s energy future on the latter, by agreeing a deal with EDF which might lead to them building a new nuclear power station. Ministers have not backed the favourite, or even a speedy but erratic outsider: they have backed a horse running in reverse.
The 60-year history of the nuclear industry is one unblemished by promises kept. From “too cheap to meter” to safe as houses, every pledge has been broken. When the UK government once again fell for the renewed vows of the nuclear industry in 2008, they were promised reactors would cost £2.8bn to build. Today’s deal shows the cost is now £8bn. They were promised electricity for £31-42 per megawatt-hour: today’s price is £92.50/MWh.
The trashed guarantees stack up as steadily as the toxic waste pile that already costs billions a year to store. In 2007, David Cameron said: “The problems of nuclear waste have to be dealt with to make any new investment possible.” In January 2013, Cumbria, the only place in the running for a permanent disposal site rejected the idea.
The government pledge that the private sector would build the new reactors has collapsed too: EDF is owned by the French state and can only move ahead itself with about 40% of the money stumped up by China.
The final crushed commitment comes from the 2010 coalition agreement: New nuclear power stations “will receive no public subsidy”. If forcing energy consumers to pay roughly £38bn above the current cost of electricity is not a subsidy, what is? If a government package of insurance against accidents and loan guarantees is not a subsidy, what is?
This farrago of fictions matters. EDF and the government say the deal protects the public against the near-certainty of broken promises on costs. But read the small print: “The strike price could be adjusted, upwards or downwards, in relation to operational and certain other costs.” Perhaps the government could bail out of the deal if the costs soared? No: “Hinkley Point C would be protected from being curtailed without appropriate compensation.” If new risks came to light increasing the cost of insurance, could we get out then? No: “Protection would be provided for any increases in nuclear insurance costs as a result of withdrawal of government cover.” No wonder opponents are terrified by the lack of any independent scrutiny to date of the deal struck by the government. Read more »
Costs for renewables, on the other hand, are expected to drop further – the world-wide boom in investing in these technologies has just begun. And, in contrast to uranium, the “fuel” for wind and solar power is locally sourced and abundant in Britain, driving towards a more energy secure and independent country – the real win-win situation for everybody.
New nuclear is a lose-lose situation for Britain http://theconversation.com/new-nuclear-is-a-lose-lose-situation-for-britain-19530 Matthias Reeg 24 Oct 13, The first new nuclear power station in Britain in nearly 20 years is to be built, an announcement that comes only two and a half years after the disaster at Fukushima focused the world’s attention the drawbacks of nuclear power. At a first glance it looks like the nuclear industry is back in business in Europe.
The deal between French energy giant EDF, which operates Britain’s existing nuclear power plants, and the planned Hinkley Point C plant in Somerset, and the British government was pitched as a win-win situation for everybody. The consumers are assured of their electricity supply, the government invests in jobs and bolsters a “cutting-edge” low carbon technology that will help Britain hit it’s CO2 emissions targets, and EDF secures a profit margin of 10%.
The deal guarantees EDF a price of £92.50 (about €110) per megawatt hour (MWh) for 35 years from the time the plant starts generating, inflation linked to the consumer price index. The UK government, in its overflowing generosity, has also agreed tounderwrite 65% of the £16 billion cost of building the plant.
But looking at the numbers more closely reveals a different picture. A picture, in fact, that is entirely the opposite. The deal is a confession in public, a statement of failure of a technology that was never and probably will never be built and operated at competitive cost. Read more »
UK nuclear power plant contract: £80bn deal or no deal? Fiona Harvey and Patrick WintourThe Guardian, Monday 21 October 2013 Political parties and industry groups welcome low-carbon project as academics and campaigners question cost and waste. The British energy secretary, Ed Davey, has signed the first new nuclear contract with French state-backed utility firm EDF, admitting only a clairvoyant could know the true cost to the taxpayer of the 35-year contract because of the uncertainty of future energy prices.
Energy academics said on Monday that the deal was a gamble, but estimated the cost would be at least £80bn over the life of the two new reactors to be built in Somerset, or roughly £3.5m a day for each reactor at current rates. The cost will depend on how energy prices move over the next 30 years.
Ministers made it clear that future governments would be locked into the contract, set to run until 2058, or face large penalties to compensate EDF. The Treasury has also been forced to offer loan guarantees to underwrite the finance for the investment, which is being undertaken by a consortium of French and Chinese investors.
The contract – which was signed as npower became the third major energy supplier to announce inflation-busting price rises – attracted strong criticism from some environmental groups, who said the price was excessive and the issue of waste unresolved….
The coaliton agreement signed in 2010 opposed providing nuclear industry with any public subsidy, a position reaffirmed by the Liberal Democrats at their conference this autumn. The conference also ended the party’s opposition in principle to nuclear power……
David Boyle, a Lib Dem adviser to Nick Clegg, said: “Everyone knows that nuclear energy would be impossible without some kind of guarantee, and I seriously doubt whether EDF will ever make money even on that one. But that was not what we promised ourselves, let alone anyone else. The party’s embarrassing new policy repeats the same glib non-position – no nuclear subsidies – when that is precisely what is now being agreed.”…..
Antony Froggatt, from the Chatham House thinktank, said EDF’s costs projection had already increased markedly. “In 2006, its submission to the government’s energy review stated [the type of reactor to be used, a European pressurised water reactor] would cost £28.80 per megawatt-hour in 2013 values,” he said. “This more than threefold increase [to £92.50], over eight years, puts the cost of nuclear electricity at about double the current market rate – higher than that produced by both gas and coal-fired power stations, and more costly than many renewable energy options.”
Projects to build new reactors in France, Finland and elsewhere have run into delays and cost increases………. http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2013/oct/21/uk-nuclear-power-plant-contract-deal-no-deal
Critics say the new plant in Somerset will be heavily subsidised and cushioned from financial reality
- The signing of a nuclear deal between EDF and the government is a landmark event for power generation. Today’s go-ahead for the Hinkley Point C plant shows ministers are prepared to commit Britain to provide decades of guaranteed financial returns (paid for by you and me as energy users) to companies in return for winning huge slugs of investment for new power stations…..
- Ministers insist that the commitment to provide Hinkley Point with a guaranteed price of around double the market rate is not a subsidy. The final figure of £92.50 is a considerable step up from the £80 per MWhr said to be on the table when negotiations began in earnest, and that figure is said by some calculations to be worth around £80bn in guaranteed revenues, the cost of nine Olympics.
- Critics will accuse the government of providing subsidies to an old technology that should not need handouts, while pointing out the safety dangers and the unsolved waste disposal problems raised by new nuclear. Questions will also be asked about the wisdom of providing a country alleged to be involved in cyber-spying, access to sensitive energy infrastructure via the involvement of a state-owned firm……..
- Supporters of nuclear in Britain were keen to ensure that an existing industry – that arguably first started here and had operated largely trouble free since the 1950s – could gain a new lease of life. The expectations of Blair and others in the early days have been fulfilled then, even after the Fukushima accident in Japan – but only in principle. In practice, new nuclear was meant to be built by the private sector, without subsidy and only after a solution was found about where to store high-level nuclear waste.
- A decision on which community would be willing to host a deep-level waste repository is as far away as ever after plans for the north west were scotched by Cumbria County Council. The new plant in Somerset will be owned, built and operated by EDF – 85% owned by the French state – with the help of China General Nuclear Power Group, which is 100% owned by the Beijing government. It will be capable of generating 3,200 MW, around one seventh of UK needs, compared to say the London Array off the coast of Kent, the world’s biggest wind farm, which has a maximum capacity of 1,000 MW.
- The subsidy levels for onshore wind (£100 per MWhr) is close to that for the new Hinkley Point plant and much higher for offshore wind (£150). But these figures are set to fall. Craig Bennett, director of policy at Friends of the Earth, said it was astonishing that the government was planning such a long-term subsidy for foreign nuclear operators. “This is just another big bailout. Its an unbelievable wasted opportunity to spend this money in this way when the UK itself is an acknowledged leader in energy efficiency. Why give subsidies to an industry where we are not the leader any more?” he said.
Other supporters of renewable energy point out that public support is needed because these are new technologies which are coming down in price all the time. Nuclear cannot claim either, they say, and there are still questions on whether the European Commission will accept these payments.
The government has also already committed itself to providing financial guarantees of £10bn to cover the building of Hinkley Point, something not available to builders of solar or wind arrays.
Even Nick Butler, a former energy adviser to No 10 and a supporter of nuclear, believes the price is far too high. In a recent blog he warned: “Lower sources of power are available and have been rejected. When deals do not match the interests of both sides – producers and consumers – at a point of mutual advantage, they tend to unravel.”…..http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2013/oct/21/china-nuclear-power-britain-outdated-technology
UK nuclear power plant contract: £80bn deal or no deal? Fiona Harvey and Patrick WintourThe Guardian, Monday 21 October 2013 “……..John Sauven, executive director of Greenpeace UK, said: “Hinkley C fails every test – economic, consumer and environmental. It will lock a generation of consumers into higher energy bills via a strike price that’s nearly double the current price of electricity, and it will distort energy policy by displacing newer, cleaner technologies that are dropping dramatically in price.”
Nina Skorupska, chief executive of the Renewable Energy Association, said the nuclear deal would not solve the short-term problem of keeping the lights on as current nuclear and many coal-fired power stations were expected to shut down in the next few years, long before Hinkley C started operating.
“[It] is a major development for the UK energy mix, but does nothing to address the looming capacity crunch. Hinkley will still be a construction site when old coal and nuclear capacity is shut down,” she said…..http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2013/oct/21/uk-nuclear-power-plant-contract-deal-no-deal
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