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The British government’s Regulated Asset Base – the test case for reviving its nuclear power dream

After years of false dawns, can Britain realise its nuclear ambitions? FT, 19 Jan 23 “…………………………………………………………………………………. Nuclear test case

Fresh hopes of encouraging the development of a new fleet of nuclear reactors — both large and small — now rest on a complex hybrid public-private partnership financing model known as the Regulated Asset Base. Already used for other infrastructure projects such as energy networks and airport terminals, RAB promises potential investors an “allowed revenue” — overseen by a regulator — from the start of construction, funded via a surcharge on consumer energy bills.

Supporters of the model, such as EDF, argue it significantly cuts the cost of financing because it lowers the interest that builds up during the construction phase and reduces the amount of compounded debt that needs to be serviced and paid off during the station’s lifespan. Financing costs account for roughly two-thirds of the overall cost of a nuclear plant. The allowed revenue payments continue after the plant is operational. Rather than paying a price for every unit of electricity produced, the model essentially pays for new nuclear power stations to be available.

But the RAB model is also divisive. Critics argue it would saddle bill payers with high additional costs if projects run over time and over budget.

The UK government intends for that risk to be shared between the project’s owners and consumers, according to people familiar with the discussions, although it is yet to reveal how that would work in the case of Sizewell C, which is unlikely to be connected to the electricity grid before the 2030s.

“If the cost of overruns and delays cannot just be lumped on to consumers, I think it would be implausible any investor would look at the deal,” says Steve Thomas, emeritus professor of energy policy at the University of Greenwich. “How would you feel if your pension fund was taking the risk of a nuclear project not being built to time and cost?”

For long-running nuclear sceptics, the latest attempt at ushering in a new civil nuclear golden age in Britain risks diverting attention and investment away from other technologies, such as wind, solar and storage, which could be delivered sooner to achieve the country’s near-term emissions targets.

The UK government is working towards a fivefold increase in offshore wind to 50GW by 2030 — which it claims would be enough to “power every home” — and to raise solar deployment to 70GW from 14GW by 2035. Renewables supporters claim these could still meet a lot of demand even on calmer, less bright days.

“If you want to hit your 2035 target and Sizewell C is not going to get you there [in time] then you have got to do something else . . . so why do Sizewell C as well if you are going to get there without it?” says Alison Downes, a former head of direct actions at Greenpeace UK who is now spearheading a campaign to stop Sizewell C being built.

Among longstanding nuclear proponents, there are still nerves about whether Britain’s latest attempt to revive an industry will come to fruition, even if they feel the politics are now on their side.

If a final investment decision is taken by the end of 2024 as hoped, Sizewell C will be the first test of the financing model for nuclear projects and only the second nuclear power station to enter construction since 1995, when the last of the current fleet opened. The other, Hinkley Point C, began construction in 2016 but is running over-time and over-budget. It is not currently envisaged to generate any electricity before mid-2027.

Nuclear industry executives have also been pushing ministers to confirm a new nuclear reactor construction programme beyond Sizewell C as part of GBN’s launch.

This should, in the short-term, include a commitment to take final investment decisions on two further nuclear projects in the next parliament.

But to get to that stage and avoid adding to the roster of failed nuclear projects, the impasse within government must first be resolved.

Graham Stuart, energy and climate minister at the BEIS, alluded on Wednesday to the tussle between departments, saying a date for the launch of GBN would be set once it had “a resolved and finalised agreement with His Majesty’s Treasury”.

A government insider confirmed the rollout was being held up by chancellor Jeremy Hunt who “wants to do due diligence on GBN before approving it”.

“Is there haggling over money?” the person says. “There always is.”


January 18, 2023 Posted by | business and costs, UK | Leave a comment

France’s new law on nuclear energy will be a gift to the nuclear lobby.

The new nuclear law, under debate in the Senate, is a gift offered to the atom lobby. And the majority on the right could further strengthen it. The public debate on the creation of new EPR2 nuclear reactors is not yet over and the government already wants to speed up their construction.

OnTuesday, January 17, his bill for an “ambitious and sustainable” nuclear revival will be presented to the Senate. The text proposes various technical measures to simplify the development of EPR2s . But above all, it sends a political signal: the government is in working order to advance its cause. Even if it means radically changing the deadlines for administrative authorizations, the legal procedures and the frameworks of environmental democracy.

When presenting her bill to the Economic Affairs Committee , Agnès Pannier-Runacher first began by apologizing. “I’m sorry, it’s a horribly technical text… But the modalities for reviving nuclear power
will go through unattractive considerations , ” she continued. For her, the current difficulties of nuclear power – its slowness and its high cost – would be, above all, linked to bureaucratic and normative heavinesses that it would be a question of doing away with.

“It’s important that the cost of this new program be competitive, which is much easier said than done ,” she
said. Renewable energies have an exit cost of 60 to 80 euros (MWh) and this is the price level that should be had for nuclear power.

Reporterre 17th Jan 2023

January 18, 2023 Posted by | France, politics | Leave a comment

Nuclear submarines for Australia are not going to have ‘any effect’ at all January 18, 2023

The Australian’s Foreign Editor Greg Sheridan says there is “no way” Australia can have a fleet of eight nuclear submarines “before probably 2050”.

“The current strategic problem is going to be resolved long, long before these nuclear subs,” Mr Sheridan told Sky News Political Editor Andrew Clennell.

“Nuclear subs are very sexy, but they are not going to have any effect at all.

“I still think the government should go ahead with a new conventional submarine because we’re… going to end up with no submarines at all.”

January 18, 2023 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

IAEA sends staff to all Ukraine nuclear plants to reduce risk of accidents

 PBS NewsHour, Jan 18, 2023

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — The International Atomic Energy Agency is placing teams of experts at all four of Ukraine’s nuclear power plants to reduce the risk of severe accidents as Russia’s war against the country rages on, agency head Rafael Grossi said Wednesday.

The IAEA, which is affiliated with the United Nations, already has a permanent presence at Ukraine’s — and Europe’s — largest nuclear plant in Zaporizhzhia that is held by Russian forces.

The IAEA’s permanent presence at all of Ukraine’s nuclear facilities, with at least 11 staff in total, marks an unprecedented expansion for the agency. IAEA technicians will also be at Chernobyl, the now-closed nuclear plant that was the site of a deadly nuclear accident in 1986 that spread fallout over much of Europe…………………………………. more

January 18, 2023 Posted by | safety, Ukraine | Leave a comment

Australia to become major hub for US submarines, [and target?]

Andrew Tillett, Political correspondent  Financial Review, Jan 19, 2023

Australia is poised to become a major western Pacific hub for maintaining US submarines under the AUKUS deal as part of a boost to America’s presence in the region while Canberra waits for nuclear-powered submarines of its own to be delivered.

Hundreds of Australian companies are likely to be brought into the supply chain to help sustain visiting submarines, provided they meet strict quality assurance and security standards demanded by the US, including not using Chinese-made parts………………………………

The Albanese government is expected to unveil in March what it has described as the “optimal pathway” for Australia to acquire nuclear-powered submarines with help from the US and UK under the AUKUS pact.

Experts believe it might not be until the late 2030s at the earliest that the Australian navy receives nuclear-powered submarines that can be fully crewed and commanded by Australians.

That challenge of building submarines was magnified last month when US Democrat senator Jack Reed, who chairs the powerful Senate Armed Services Committee, and his former Republican opposite James Inhofe wrote to US President Joe Biden warning the American submarine industrial base could be pushed to “breaking point” because of AUKUS.

January 18, 2023 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Mini nuclear reactor firm snubs Britain for the French: Newcleo blames political chaos for decision to build prototype across Channel

Britain’s nuclear power ambitions suffered another setback as a UK company
chose France to build its prototype reactor. Newcleo blamed political
upheaval in Westminster for its decision. The mini-nuclear power station
company said it waited in vain for ministers to give the green light over
where to site the project – leaving it no option but to take the work over
the Channel.

The move will cost hundreds of potential UK jobs and casts
further doubt on the country’s nuclear future. Speaking at the World
Economic Forum in Davos, Newcleo chief executive Stefano Buono told the
Mail: ‘Changing government three times has not helped. ‘We were
expecting a decision before, but I understand that when the government
changes, it’s very difficult to take decisions.’ Britain is scrambling to
replace its fleet of six large nuclear plants, five of which are due for
closure by 2028 and one, Sizewell B, in 2035.

Hopes for the mini-nuclear sector were raised by Boris Johnson’s plans for a government-backed body
called Great British Nuclear (GBN) to support the development of new sites.
Speaking in the Commons yesterday, the former prime minister urged the
Government ‘to exploit this country’s technological lead and build a
fleet of small modular nuclear reactors as part of our Great British
Nuclear programme’. Business Secretary Grant Shapps said GBN would be up
and running shortly and said small modular reactors would play ‘an
important part’ in boosting nuclear power supplies. The Government wants 25
per cent of power to come from nuclear by 2050. Last year it supplied 15.5
per cent. Privately-owned Newcleo, which is about to launch a £900million
funding round, is one of a number of companies planning to build
mini-nuclear power stations around the UK.

Daily Mail 17th Jan 2023

January 18, 2023 Posted by | politics, UK | Leave a comment

Fukushima: court upholds acquittals of three Tepco executives over disaster

Three former executives from the company that operates the wrecked
Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant have had their not-guilty verdicts upheld
by a court in Japan, dealing a blow to campaigners demanding the firm take
legal responsibility for the disaster in March 2011.

The Tokyo high court
on Wednesday cleared Tsunehisa Katsumata, the former chairman of Tokyo
Electric Power (Tepco), along with former vice-presidents Ichiro Takekuro
and Sakae Muto, of professional negligence resulting in death. The court
said the defendants could not have predicted the massive tsunami that
crippled the power plant and triggered the world’s worst nuclear accident
since Chornobyl in 1986.

The three men were indicted in 2016 for allegedly failing to take measures
to defend the plant against tsunamis, resulting in the deaths of 44 people,
including elderly patients at a hospital, who had to be evacuated after the

Guardian 18th Jan 2023

January 18, 2023 Posted by | Japan, Legal | Leave a comment