Nuclear facing increasing competition from gas, renewables
Trump team asked Energy Department for ways to help nuclear
President-elect Donald Trump’s advisers are looking at ways in which the U.S. government could help nuclear power generators being forced out of the electricity market by cheaper natural gas and renewable resources.
In a document obtained by Bloomberg, Trump’s transition team asked the Energy Department how it can help keep nuclear reactors “operating as part of the nation’s infrastructure” and what it could do to prevent the shutdown of plants. Advisers also asked the agency whether there were any statutory restrictions in resuming work on Yucca Mountain, a proposed federal depository for nuclear waste in Nevada that was abandoned by the Obama administration.
- The list of questions to the Energy Department offers one of the clearest indications yet of Trump’s potential plans for aiding America’s battered nuclear power generators. Five of the country’s nuclear plants have closed in the past five years, based on Energy Department data, and more are set to shut as cheaper supplies from gas-fired plants, wind and solar squeeze their profits.
Media representatives for the Trump transition and Energy Department didn’t immediately respond to calls and e-mails seeking comment. For more on the questions Trump’s team sent the Energy Department, click here.…….https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-12-09/trump-s-team-is-asking-for-ways-u-s-can-keep-nuclear-alive
That Fukushima’s radiation was detected on Oregon shores by Woods Hole chemical oceanographer Ken Buesseler thru its crowdfunded, citizen-science seawater sampling project and officially admitted is one thing, however a lot is still left unsaid or unknown regarding its possible biological effects on the marine ecosystem, as for lack of fundings or political will too few studies are being made.
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- For 2016, Atmospheric CO2 Concentrations are Rising at the Fastest Rate Ever Seen.
- Climate Change will lead to uncontrollable migration.
- The climate-water conflict – climate change increases risk of nuclear war.
- Insurance companies losing ability to manage risks, as climate change brings extreme weather events.
FRANCE. EDF’s financial crisis will leave french taxpayers with a huge nuclear bill. Suspected falsifying of documents: French prosecutors investigate Areva’s Le Creusot nuclear foundry. France launches investigation of Fessenheim nuclear power plant.
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- Entergy’s troubled Palisades nuclear power plant for early shutdown.
- Dozens of canisters of radioactive waste to be repackaged at USA’s Waste Isolation Pilot Plant. Roof collapse at USA’s Waste Isolation Pilot Plant – more nuclear safety worries.
- US Navy to build a new facility for stranded radioactive nuclear wastes.
- Landmark case on climate change looming for USA government.
JAPAN. Japan to increase loan to Fukushima operator Tepco to $123 billion. Mitsubishi Heavy makes huge and risky investment in AREVA nuclear. Plan to build Monju nuclear reprocessing successor to Recycle Plutonium Stocks
UK. NUGEN Partner ENGIE Wants OUT of Nuclear
RUSSIA. Russia’s new ‘drone submarine’ with range of 6,200 miles.
GERMANY. German legal case sets precedent for limiting the greed of nuclear and coal companies.
BELARUS. Belarus radiation tragedy of Chernobyl is only just developing.
AFRICA. Climate change could render Sudan ‘uninhabitable.
BULGARIA. Bulgaria pays compensation damages to Russia, for scrapping Belene nuclear plant
INDIA India’s push for solar energy is gaining steam
IRAN. Iranian president won’t let Trump ruin the US–Iran nuclear deal
French taxpayers face huge nuclear bill as EDF financial crisis deepens, Ecologist, Paul Brown 8th December 2016
Nuclear giant EDF could be heading towards bankruptcy, writes Paul Brown, as it faces a perfect storm of under-estimated costs for decommissioning, waste disposal and Hinkley C. Meanwhile income from power sales is lagging behind costs, and 17 of its reactors are off-line for safety tests. Yet French and UK governments are turning a blind eye to the looming financial crisis.
Bankruptcy for EDF seems inevitable – and if such a vast empire in any other line of business seemed to be in such serious financial trouble, there would be near-panic in the workforce and in governments at the subsequent political fall-out.
But it seems that the nuclear-dominated EDF group is considered too big to be allowed to fail. So, to keep the lights on in western Europe, the company will have to be bailed out by the taxpayers of France and the UK.
The French government, facing elections next spring, and the British, struggling with the implications of the Brexit vote to leave the European Union, are currently turning a blind eye to the report by AlphaValue that EDF has badly under-reported its potential liabilities.
Ageing nuclear reactors
While EDF is threatening to sue people who say it is technically bankrupt, the evidence is that the cost of producing electricity from its ageing nuclear reactors is greater than the market price.
Coupled with the impossibility of EDF paying the full decommissioning costs of its reactors, it is inevitable that it is the taxpayers in France and the UK who will eventually pick up the bill. However this will not be easy due to the EU’s ‘state aid’ rules, which limit governments’ ability to support ailing companies.
There is also the ongoing thorny problem of disposing of the nuclear waste and spent fuel rods, which are building up in cooling ponds and stores on both sides of the Channel, with no disposal route yet in sight.
A looming problem for EDF, which already admits is has €37 billion of debt, is that 17 of its ageing fleet of nuclear reactors, which provide 70% of France’s electricity, are being retired.
According to AlphaValue, EDF has underestimated the liabilities for decommissioning these reactors by €20 billion. Another €33.5 billion should be added to cost of handling nuclear waste, the report says. Juan Camilo Rodriguez, an equity analyst who is the author of the report, says that a correct adjustment of nuclear provisions would lead to the technical bankruptcy of the company.
In a statement, EDF said it “strongly contests the alleged accounting and financial analyses by the firm AlphaValue carried out at the request of Greenpeace and relating to the situation of EDF”.
It says that its accounts are audited and certified by its statutory auditors, and that the dismantling costs of EDF’s existing nuclear power fleet have also been subject to an audit mandated by the French Ministry of the Environment, Energy and the Sea.
Even with its huge debts, EDF’s problems could be surmounted if the company was making big profits on its electricity sales, but the cost of producing power from its nuclear fleet is frequently greater than the wholesale price.
That creates a second problem – that unless the wholesale price of electricity rises and stays high, the company will make a loss on every kilowatt of electricity it sells. The new rightwing French presidential candidate, François Fillon, promises not to retire French reactors and to keep them going for 60 years. But this cannot be done without more cost.
This is the third problem: vast sums of capital are needed to refurbish EDF’s old nuclear fleet for safety reasons following the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan. …….
Repeated life extensions
Since the sale of UK nuclear plants to EDF in 2008 at a cost £12.5 billion, the company has continued to operate them, and has repeatedly got life extensions to keep them running.
But this cannot go on forever, and they are expected to start closing in the next ten years. Once this happens, the asset value of each station would become a liability, and EDF’s mountain of debt would get bigger.
So far, the French and UK governments, and the company itself, seem to be in denial about this situation. Currently 17 French reactors are shut down for safety checks, following the discovery of faulty safety-critical compenents including large, difficult to replace steel forgings like steam generators.
The company has issued reassuring statements that they will be back to full power after Christmas, however in so doing EDF is assuming that the safety checks will give the reactors a clean bill of health. In fact, there are three other possible outcomes:
- additional potentially time-consuming tests are needed that will create further months of downtime.
- remedial engineering works are required to make the reactors safe. These would probably be costly and time-consuming.
- key components at the heart of the reactors, for example steam generators, need to be replaced altogether. However this would be so costly that, for a nuclear plant already reaching the end of its lifetime, premature closure would be the only viable option.
Perhaps the most likely outcome is that some of the 17 reactors will fall into each of these four categories, creating as yet unquantifiable unbudgeted costs for the company.
Meanwhile, to make up the shortfall from the closed reactors, electricity is being bought from neighbouring countries, including the UK, to keep the lights on in France. The power shortage is temporarily causing an increase in wholesale prices – but one that EDF is unable to fully exploit because so many of its reactors are not generating.
The future remains unpredictable – but as long as there are no actual power cuts, no action is expected from governments. Despite official denials, however, the calculations of many outside the industry suggest that it is only a matter of time before disaster strikes.
The cost of producing electricity from renewables is still falling, while nuclear gets ever more expensive, and massive liabilities loom. Ultimately, the bill will have to be passed on to the taxpayers. http://www.theecologist.org/News/news_analysis/2988433/french_taxpayers_face_huge_nuclear_bill_as_edf_financial_crisis_deepens.html
Bulgaria’s NEK settles arbitration damages for shelved Belene nuclear plant http://sofiaglobe.com/2016/12/09/bulgarias-nek-settles-arbitration-damages-for-shelved-belene-nuclear-plant/ Bulgaria’s state-owned electric utility NEK has paid 601.6 million euro in damages to Atomstroyexport, the foreign contracts subsidiary of Russia’s state nuclear corporation Rosatom, Energy Minister Temenouzhka Petkova said on December 9 during question time in Parliament.
The money was transferred into Atomstroyexport’s accounts on December 8, Petkova said.
In a statement, Atomstroyexport confirmed receipt of the funds and was satisfied with the fact that NEK disbursed its commitments in full under the terms of an agreement signed in October, which saw the Russian company drop the daily penalty interest as long as NEK paid the principal owed by December 15.
The accumulated amount of daily penalties would have reached 23.8 million euro by that date. NEK’s agreement with Atomstroyexport also saw the Russian company accept a 20.9 million euro deduction in the original amount of damages ordered by arbitration, following several objections raised by the Bulgarian side to the calculation methodology.
Atomstroyexport was picked to build two 1000MW nuclear reactors at Belene on the Danube River, a project that was shut down by Bulgaria in 2012. The Russian contractor filed for arbitration, asking for 1.2 billion euro in damages for equipment ordered for the nuclear power plant, which NEK never paid for, and won the court action in June, although it was awarded just over half of the amount it claimed.
NEK decided not to appeal the ruling in September after Parliament passed a bill on September 28 that authorised a cash injection from the state Budget to NEK to pay the damages awarded by the tribunal.
The delay in the disbursement was due to the fact that Bulgaria was waiting for the European Commission to rule on whether such a transfer was allowed under the EU’s state aid rules. The Commission gave its approval earlier this week, according to reports in Bulgarian media.
NEK will now take ownership of the equipment manufactured by Atomstroyexport, but uncertainty remains about what the company will do next. Bulgarian officials travelled to Iran earlier this year to discuss a possible sale of the equipment, but there has been no development in the months since then.
Speaking to reporters in Parliament on December 9, Petkova said the Belene assets – the site itself and the equipment from Atomstroyexport – could be spun off into a separate company that would be put up for privatisation.
“If there is [investor] interest, then the [Belene nuclear power plant] project could be carried out on a market basis. If there is no investor interest, we will go in another direction and seek other options,” she said, as quoted by Bulgarian National Radio.
The start was America’s Manhattan project – developing the atomic bomb. Then came the horror of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Then came – the shock and guilt, and the attempt to turn the nuclear project into something good – “atoms for peace’ “electricity too cheap to meter”.
Of course the costing for “cheap” nuclear energy did not include the health and environmental toll of uranium mining, which, as always, was to be paid by indigenous people. Costing also did not include the virtually eternal toll of the cleaup of radioactive trash. And of course, there would be no accidents, (no Chalk River, Rocky Flats, Windscale, Mayak, Lenin icebreaker, Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, Tomsk, Hanford, Fukushima Daiichi)
Meanwhile, the military-industrial complex continued its production of nuclear weapons. Other countries adopted the “peaceful nuke”, so that they could develop nuclear weapons. The nuclear arms race was underway.
FROM THE ARCHIVES For this month, each week we’ll be posting an item from the past. Lest we forget.
The press release was drafted ahead of Operation Buffalo at Maralinga, during which troops were ordered to crawl through areas hit by fallout. It was not meant to be made public
Top secret document reveals British troops were knowingly exposed to radiation during nuclear fallout tests – mirror.co.uk, by Susie Boniface, 2 Jan 2011, British troops WERE knowingly exposed to radiation during nuclear fallout tests, a top-secret document has finally proved. Continue reading
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