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Nuclear crime seems to have actually still been worth it for South Carolina fraudsters

Executive admits fraud in fleecing ratepayers and shareholders  By Linda Pentz Gunter

“It looks like crime might well pay after all.”

That was the weary and only slightly tongue-in-cheek conclusion drawn by longtime anti-nuclear campaigner, Tom Clements recently, after a former South Carolina nuclear utility executive pled guilty to fraud in federal court.

Clements is the director of Savannah River Site Watch, but his activism has, for decades, extended well beyond the perimeter of that vast nuclear site.

For years, Clements and others have followed — and attempted to stand in the way of — the forced march of South Carolina ratepayers toward nuclear fiasco. When it finally unraveled in late July, there was only cautious cause for celebration.

On July 23, Stephen Byrne, the former COO of SCANA, the South Carolina utility originally in charge of the construction of two new nuclear reactors in the state, pled guilty in a massive nuclear conspiracy that defrauded ratepayers, deceived regulators and misled shareholders.

Byrne is charged with lying about progress on two Westinghouse AP 1000 reactors under construction — and since abandoned — at the V.C. Summer site, where costs ballooned to more than $9 billion.

The lies — or “intentional misrepresentations” as court documents described them — were necessary to make the case that the two new reactors would be finished on time, thereby qualifying the company for $1.4 billion in future federal tax credits.

But when Clements did the math, Byrne still came out ahead. “One of the court filings says Byrne earned $6.3 million from 2015-2017,” Clements said. “The project originally started with a filing with the SC Public Service Commission in 2008 and ended in July 2017. His plea agreement says he will pay a $1 million fine, though the judge could make it higher.”

So yes, crime still pays.

And so did South Carolina ratepayers. They were bilked of at least $2 billion until the project faltered and finally collapsed. A class action law suit and decisions by judges will see millions returned to ratepayers.

Ironically, the Nuclear Energy Institute, the industry’s lobbying group, gave Byrne the opportunity to explain exactly how ratepayers could be fleeced in advance to save money. In this 2012 NEI video, Byrne describes how Construction Work in Progress (CWIP) would allow the utility to collect funds from ratepayers in advance rather than waiting for construction completion — which has now, of course, not happened, even though customers paid for two new reactors that failed to materialize.

Byrne, who began cooperating with investigators about two years into the now three year-long investigation, could face jail time and a fine, but will likely testify against his co-conspirators to reduce his punishment.

For the time being, the judge has let him go home without even requiring he post the $25,000 bond. Sentencing could be years down the road. Clements believes Byrne “should face prison time” and that he “must fully reveal the criminal role of others in the conspiracy that has been so disastrous for ratepayers.”

Two other top SCANA executives could also be in the FBI’s crosshairs by now — former CEO Kevin Marsh and former chief financial officer Jimmy Addison.

Early warning signals of trouble to come sounded in February 2020, when Byrne and Marsh were charged with civil fraud by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). The agency said the pair “lied and deceived shareholders, regulators, and the public regarding the construction of two new nuclear units at the V.C. Summer site, which the company abandoned amid massive cost overruns in July 2017,” according to reporting in Energy and Policy.

The thoroughly duped — or possibly hopelessly biased — S.C. Public Service Commission, had earlier “allowed SCE&G to raise its electric rates nine times to finance the doomed V.C. Summer Nuclear Station project,” reported the Charlotte Observer.

But by January 2019, the PSC had changed its mind, saying that “SCE&G intentionally misled the commission about a failing nuclear reactor construction project to win electric rate hikes.”

Clements joined other protesters outside the Columbia, SC courthouse where Byrne pled guilty to his offenses. “As he scurried into the federal courthouse, Byrne refused to tell us if he would apologize for his crime against ratepayers,” Clements said.

He, along with other South Carolina activists, and with support of Friends of the Earth, had consistently opposed the state law (CWIP, described in the NEI video), that had allowed the utility to fleece ratepayers in advance of completion of the reactors. The groups had also contested approval of the two-reactor project before the SC PSC since 2008.

As Clements watched Byrne enter the courthouse, finally forced to face up to his crimes, he basked, for a brief moment, in the glow of the celebratory light at the end of the tunnel.

“I’m glad there is going to be a little bit of justice,” Clements told the Post and Courier. And in an email, he wrote: “Nukes bring fraud, graft and corruption wherever they go. The next charges here will be more serious, I think.”

The Post and Courier described the nuclear debacle as “one of the worst economic calamities in South Carolina history”.

But while there may eventually be a day of reckoning — and sentencing — until then, South Carolina ratepayers could keep right on paying.

That is because, when SCANA went bankrupt over the Summer debacle, Dominion Energy took over. Dominion, says Clements, “will file a rate-hike request next month and the cost to ratepayers for the nuclear construction debacle will go up.”

August 10, 2020 Posted by | politics, secrets,lies and civil liberties, USA | Leave a comment

Nuclear blackmail in Illinois — Beyond Nuclear International

Ratepayers robbed of renewables as well as cash

Nuclear blackmail in Illinois

Exelon stranglehold on energy legislation runs long and deep

By David Kraft, 9 Aug 20 

The recent Illinois lobbying corruption scandal involving Exelon Corporation, its subsidiary Commonwealth Edison and Democratic House Speaker, Michael Madigan, demonstrates the extent to which nuclear “power” is about more than electrons.

The FBI arrests of the Ohio House Speaker and five others in a $60 million bribery/corruption scheme; the $10 billion Exelon nuclear bailout in New York; the questionable circumstances surrounding Exelon’s 2016 PepCo merger; and the South Carolina $9 billion SCANA fraud case, suggest that this may be a national pandemic.

All of this was summarized nicely in a recent New York Times opinion column, “When Utility Money Talks,” (8/2/20).

However, the situation in Illinois with Exelon, and its subsidiary ComEd, has been longstanding and particularly egregious.

For decades, Exelon’s stranglehold on Illinois energy legislation, in cooperation with the currently investigated Mr. Madigan, has stuck Illinois with more reactors (14) and high-level radioactive waste (>11,000 tons) than any other state. It has also severely stifled expansion of renewable energy and energy efficiency, and hampered the Illinois energy transformation to renewables needed to deal with the worsening climate crisis.

For decades, the Illinois environmental community has seen renewables expansion thwarted because no significant renewable energy buildout could occur without concessions to either Exelon or ComEd, and without Speaker Madigan’s approval. The most recent instance was the 2016 $2.35 billion bailout of three uncompetitive Exelon reactors.

This “nuclear blackmail” politics has forced environmentalists wanting to see new legislation pass that would expand renewables, into a reluctant and grudging alliance with Exelon, but on Exelon’s terms, with capacity market “reform” rewarding both renewables and ten of the company’s operating reactors.

If passed in its presently proposed form, this new legislation would provide yet another nuclear bailout under the disguise of “market-based reform.”

To ratchet up the pressure to enact this nuclear prop-up even more, Exelon CEO Chris Crane, in Exelon’s 2Q quarterly earnings call with analysts, once again dangled the prospect of closing up to six reactors if this market-based-bailout is not granted in 2021.

Under the current ongoing FBI corruption investigation, this reluctant alliance of necessity has turned disastrous, given the political toxicity of any current association with either ComEd or Exelon.

It is just and reasonable that ComEd executives (and the so-called “bad apples” who “retired” already), should be penalized and prosecuted for their misdeeds, even if they are reportedly “cooperative.”

However, a $200 million “settlement” penalty for a $34 billion corporation, which for decades has gouged billions from Illinois ratepayers through admittedly corrupt illegal practices, is a slap on the wrist.

Further, the $200 million penalty agreement provides no restitution for the decades-long societal damage done via nuclear pay-for-play.

Illinois rate payers deserve restitution from these and any predatory, corrupt companies that would engage in such activities. This may require explicit legislation. How can one logically or ethically assert that ill-gotten gains (e.g., the 2016 $2.35 billion nuclear bailout) are still “good for the public” when bribery and corruption were used to get them?

Last Fall, a spokesperson for Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker stated, “The governor’s priority is to work with principled stakeholders on clean energy legislation that is above reproach.”  Gov. Pritzker – your moment of truth has arrived.

We urge the governor and the legislature to begin the restitution process by repealing the $2.3 billion 2016 nuclear bailout. Further, and as others like Crain’s Joe Cahill have suggested, Crane must step down completely from all functions at Exelon.

The legislature should also enact explicit utility ethics legislation, with transparent oversight of utility contracting and philanthropic giving activities, to insure that this kind of corrupt behavior is not repeated.

And if Crane’s threat of imminent reactor closure is true, then community just-transitions legislation to protect those negatively impacted communities should be a priority of the legislature.

As NEIS has maintained — and advocated since 2014 — it’s the reactor communities (and equally adversely affected coal mining and power plant communities) that need state support and bailouts when plants are threatened with closure, not profitable private corporations like Exelon.

Finally, we support the FBI’s continued investigation into the activities of Speaker Madigan, his associates, and other legislators if necessary, to ferret out the remaining political corruption that has abetted this corporate larceny.

This is the only way to send a significant and lasting message that nuclear pay-for-play in Illinois is over.

David Kraft is the director of Nuclear Energy Information Service


August 10, 2020 Posted by | business and costs, politics, secrets,lies and civil liberties, USA | Leave a comment

Nuclear scandals in Ohio and Illinois raise serious issues about the role of government in the electricity sector.

August 10, 2020 Posted by | politics, secrets,lies and civil liberties | Leave a comment

Trump administration keen for nuclear power, – so is Joe Biden

August 10, 2020 Posted by | election USA 2020, politics | Leave a comment

Conservative politicians in UK gathering opposition to China’s involvement in nuclear projects

August 8, 2020 Posted by | business and costs, politics, UK | Leave a comment

Nuclear testing: ‘Why do we need to start a new arms race?’

August 8, 2020 Posted by | politics, USA | Leave a comment

NuScam’s (sort of) small nuclear reactors rejected by Utah Taxpayers Association

Critics of planned nuclear power project urge Utah cities to pull out before it’s too late, Utah Taxpayers Association warns it believes proposal is too costly, not transparent   DeseretNews, By Amy Joi O’Donoghue@Amyjoi16  Aug 4, 2020   SALT LAKE CITY The Utah Taxpayers Association and a former member of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission are urging cities that have signed on to a planned nuclear power plant in Idaho to get out while they can before costs become too great.

NuScale’s Small Modular Reactor is planned for construction at the Idaho National Laboratory near Idaho Falls and would provide 720 megawatts of power, or enough energy for 720,000 homes.

The Carbon Free Power Project is promoted as the next generation design for nuclear power, featuring 12 distinct modules, with the first scheduled to come online in 2029 with the 11 others following the next year.

The project is a collaborative effort involving the U.S. Department of Energy, NuScale and the Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems, a political subdivision of the state of Utah. ……

there are several off-ramps in those phases for cities to exit, one of which is coming up Sept. 14. That deadline prompted the taxpayers association to urge cities to get out now before they get trapped into paying millions for a technology it says is unproven.

“Small modular reactor power is just not cost competitive,” said Rusty Cannon, vice president of the taxpayer group, adding participating cities and districts should hold a public vote to withdraw from the project……..

Peter Bradford, a former member of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, said enthusiasm over new developments in nuclear technology that turned out to be flawed have cost ratepayers and taxpayers in multiple states billions of dollars.

He said that of 31 projects pending before the commission in 2009, only two remain — with the rest canceled or indefinitely postponed.

“The stranded costs of nuclear plants paid off by customers in the 1990s exceeded $50 billion nationwide,” he said. “Each period of abject failure is followed by an array of new proposals.”…….

The project is backed heavily by the U.S. Department of Energy, which gave NuScale a competitive award of $226 million in 2013 to develop the technology. Two years later, the federal agency gave NuScale $16.7 million for licensing preparation……..

Cannon and Bradford also criticized the municipal power association for not being transparent enough because its briefing meetings are exempt from the Utah open meetings law and are closed………

August 6, 2020 Posted by | business and costs, opposition to nuclear, politics, Small Modular Nuclear Reactors, USA | Leave a comment

Utah Taxpayers – NuScam nuclear power project costly and public kept in the dark

New Information Disclosed in Meeting Closed to Public Points to Major Budget Commitments, Delay Risks in UAMPS Power Project

by Tax Watchdog | Aug 4, 2020    “We Need Public Hearings and We Need Public Votes”: UTA Calls for Full Transparency and Accountability Ahead of September 14th Deadline; Parallels Seen to Ohio, Illinois and South Carolina Nuclear Controversies Where Public Was Kept in the Dark.

SALT LAKE CITY – August 4, 2020 – Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems (UAMPS) and NuScale Power held an “online town hall meeting” on July 21st, but there was just one problem: due to a quirk in Utah’s open meeting laws, the town was not invited. Not only did UAMPS/NuScale fail to be transparent in terms of the meeting about their controversial small modular nuclear reactor plans, but they also failed to disclose new and troubling information that emerged during the behind-closed-doors virtual session, according to the nonprofit Utah Taxpayers Association (UTA). UTA and Peter Bradford, a former U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) member, warned that potentially higher costs, project delays, and other risks could be costly for UAMPS members and ratepayers.

A total of 34 municipalities in Utah, Idaho, New Mexico and California (see full list below) are participating in the UAMPS small modular nuclear project. Ratepayers will be locked into more than $100 million in commitments by a September 14th deadline and billions of dollars of risks later on if UAMPS members do not opt out of the project. The need for openness is particularly important while the nuclear industry is currently facing major credibility problems with scandals in Ohio, Illinois, and South Carolina.

On July 21st, UAMPS and NuScale held a so-called “online town hall meeting,” which was not made open to the media under a special Utah exemption for UAMPS for open meeting requirements. A video copy of the UAMPS/NuScale event was acquired after the fact. (The timecodes shown below refer to various points in the video.)

Rusty Cannon, Vice President, Utah Taxpayers Association, said: “The UAMPS project will lock in 27 municipalities in Utah and several in surrounding states for a share of billions of dollars in costs and unclear risk in the pursuit of a cluster of small modular reactors (SMRs) touted by Oregon-based NuScale Power, which repeatedly has delayed timelines and increased costs associated with its SMRs.”

Cannon added: “This risky project with massive cost escalations is being conducted largely out of the public eye. Most recently the public was barred from a late July online ‘town hall meeting,’ the content of which has since come to light and which raises serious concerns about what has not been disclosed to the general public. The Utah Taxpayers Association urges elected officials involved with UAMPS to disclose all relevant information to the public so decisions can be made in the open and city officials can be held accountable. We are urging city councils in Utah that are subscribed to the project to vote in a public meeting before the September deadline to withdraw from the project.”

Also speaking at today’s news event was Peter Bradford, a former member of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission who served as chair of both the New York Public Service Commission and the Maine Public Utilities Commission. He has been an expert witness in many cases involving nuclear power economics, and he has taught Nuclear Power and Public Policy at the Vermont Law School as well as Energy Policy and Environmental Protection at the Yale School of the Environment.

Peter Bradford said: “There is the very real possibility of large rate increases to the customers in these communities due to inadequate safeguards in this project. It is difficult to understand the case for taking on this risk given the certainty of cheaper clean energy alternatives as clearly shown by recent purchases of firm combinations of renewables, energy efficiency plus storage elsewhere in the West. The cost of lack of transparency plus unwise and secretive deals has resulted in the nuclear energy industry becomingembroiled in multiple debacles. UAMPS members and ratepayers should   take heed and avoid making the same mistakes.”

Just what is UAMPS and NuScale failing to disclose to the public?

  • RAPIDLY ESCALATING CONSTRUCTION COSTS. NuScale’s website currently explains to the public: “The estimated construction cost for the first NuScale 684 MWe (net) plant is about $3 billion.” However, during the July 2020 “town hall,” UAMPS contractor Bob Squires (MPR Associates) calls the project a “roughly $5 billion nuclear power plant development project with first of a kind technology.” (3:47:24)  Even worse: NuScale’s 2020 Amended Budget & Plan of Finance projects a total cost of approximately $6.1 billion.
  • MAJOR MISSED DEADLINES. In 2008, NuScale explained: “With timely application for a combined construction and operating license (COL), a NuScale plant could be producing electricity by 2015-16.” In 2019, UAMPS publicly announced that the NuScale nuclear power plant would begin construction in 2023, “with the first 60 MW module becoming operational in 2026 [and] [o]ther modules would come on-line soon thereafter.” However, during the non-public July “town hall,” Glenn Neises, nuclear director, Burns & McDonnell, announced for the first time that completion is now projected for June 2030, and the first module is not expected to become operational until June 2029. (3:22:25) And things could get even worse. Warning of possible new delays, Neises said: “I’d also like to stress that this is the current schedule and expect it to change as we see changes in funding, engineering moves forward, and as licensing advances.” (3:22:25)
    • LOW-BALLED ENERGY PRICE. Doug Hunter, UAMPS CEO, said an undisclosed Economic Competitiveness Test (ECT) determined the UAMPS project power that could be generated would cost $55/MWh in 2018 dollars. (24:30) The UAMPS/NuScale estimate contrasts sharply with other independent utility projections (PacifiCorp’s estimate of $95/MWh  and Idaho Power’s estimate of $125/MWh). Doug Hunter confirms this in answering a question as to why large investor-owned utilities are not pursuing this project: “Right now they’re still relying on existing capacity, most of them, to fill in energy with renewables because that happens to be the lowest IRP.” (2:28:20)
    • DEPENDENCE ON UNPREDICTABLE FEDERAL SUBSIDIES. Mason Baker, UAMPS chief legal officer, admitted during the “town hall” that project organizers are now banking on a “massive increase” in the federal government’s contribution to UAMPS, a jump from $60 million to $1.4 billion. (48:30) UAMPS now acknowledges taxpayer subsidies are necessary to achieve the $55 per MW/h price point. (53:50) In effect, U.S. taxpayers are being asked to subsidize roughly 25 percent of the UAMPS SMR project to artificially hold down energy costs. However, taxpayer subsidies of this sort are both objectionable on their merits, entirely unpredictable as to passage, and subject to being withdrawn at any time.
    • The Utah Taxpayers Association also noted that no town or city of more than 100,000 has opted into the UAMPS SMR project, which has not been successful in securing investments in it by investor-owned utilities. It is not apparent that any UAMPS member so far opting into the SMR project has been able to afford to do its own independent financial evaluation of the project, and, instead, may be over relying on assurances from the promoter, NuScale. Committing a municipal government to a long-term contract of this magnitude could result in massive sunk costs and higher rates and taxes on citizens.
  • The following are the UAMPS members currently subscribed to the SMR project: Utah (Beaver City, Blanding, Bountiful, Brigham City, Enterprise, Ephraim City, Fairview City, Fillmore City, Heber City Light & Power, Holden Town, Hurricane City, Hyrum City, Kanosh Town, Kaysville City, Lehi, Logan City, Monroe City, Morgan City, Mt. Pleasant City, Murray City, Oak City, Paragonah Town, Parowan, Payson City, Santa Clara City, South Utah Valley Electric Service District, Spring City, Washington City, and Weber Basin Conservancy District); Idaho (Idaho Falls Power and Salmon River Electric Cooperative, Inc.); California (Lassen Municipal Utility District and Plumas-Sierra Rural Electric Cooperative); and New Mexico (Los Alamos County). The total size of the subscriptions is 160.4 megawatts, with 133.4 megawatts going to the state of Utah.

    The Utah Taxpayers Association is a non-profit 501(c)(4) organization that works to limit state and local taxes, making Utah an attractive place to live and do business.

    Important note:
     The Utah Taxpayers Association has no position on nuclear energy.  The Association’s interest in this matter is limited to the extent to which public business of interest to ratepayers/taxpayers is conducted in an open and transparent manner in order to ensure maximum accountability to the public.

August 6, 2020 Posted by | politics, secrets,lies and civil liberties, Small Modular Nuclear Reactors, spinbuster, USA | Leave a comment

Flamanville -the costly bloated shoddy leaky white elephant in France’s nuclear room

France’s Revolutionary Nuclear Reactor Is a Leaky, Expensive Mess
With a bloated budget, endless delays, and shoddy construction, EPR looks like a big mistake.

  • A revolutionary French reactor design is 10 years overdue and nearly four times over budget.
  • Taking big technology swings requires risk, but this huge miscalculation looks bad.
  • The reactor uses less uranium and aims to replace a decommissioned reactor at an existing plant.

France’s new energy minister has called a major French nuclear project “a mess” in public interviews. The European pressurized reactor (EPR) that was commissioned for the Flamanville nuclear power plant, where it joins two existing pressurized water reactors, has been delayed and plagued by problems. The latest extension takes the project timeline from 13 years to 17 at least.

The goal with the EPR design was to continue to kit out the world’s highest-output nuclear plants, with individual reactors that were more powerful and safer. The EPR uses less uranium because its chemical design is more efficient. And it’s not any kind of major technological leap; instead, it’s an iteration on a previous design that’s just a little bit better.

The engineers are so eager to keep iterating that they already have an EPR 2 design in the works. This sounds pretty straightforward … right?

The EPR dates back to the 2000s, when the first two reactors were commissioned for France and Finland. Despite breaking ground in 2007 and 2005, respectively, neither reactor has kept to its timeline. Now, Finland will be the first in 2021, if it hits its repeatedly rescheduled opening day. France is even further back at 2023. The outgoing French administration signed the latest extension in March.

That puts Flamanville 10 years past its original due date. One of the more alarming causes for delay is a break in the “main secondary system penetration welds,” which has contributed to a budget that’s bloated from a planned $3.9 billion to $14.6 billion.

In July, “France’s Court of Auditors slammed the Flamanville build, saying EDF had vastly underestimated its cost and timetable for completion,” Montel reports:………..

Barbara Pompili was just appointed France’s minister of ecological transition, which is the department that includes energy as well as environmental issues like biodiversity. Pompili is publicly and avowedly anti-nuclear, even for civilian energy. With a new spotlight on her office, she told a French radio station, “We have made a commitment to reduce the share of nuclear power to 50 [percent] by 2035.”

Pompili said the critiques of Flamanville’s overdue EPR reflect broad industry consensus from different reports, not her own anti-nuclear views.

In the case of Flamanville, it would seem stranger if Pompili didn’t speak out. The huge, leaky, extensively delayed project has become the nuclear elephant in the room.

August 4, 2020 Posted by | France, politics | Leave a comment

Ballooning by $billions – UK’s costs for its nuclear weapons

The Ferret 2nd Aug 2020 The cost of UK programmes to replace Trident and nuclear submarines on the
Clyde increased by over £1 billion in a year, according to data released
by the Ministry of Defence (MoD).

The construction of new reactor cores,
replacement submarines and major new facilities at the Faslane and Coulport
bases in Argyll are also facing prolonged delays, with growing doubts over
whether some projects can be successfully delivered.

Most of the delays are
unrelated to the coronavirus pandemic. Four major nuclear projects have
been officially rated as “amber” or worse, meaning that they have
“significant issues”. Two have been “rebaselined” by the MoD,
meaning that costs have risen significantly and timescales lengthened.

August 4, 2020 Posted by | politics, UK, weapons and war | Leave a comment

The continuing and ever more expensive saga of Britain’s Hinkley Point C nuclear project

Times 3rd Aug 2020, The first thing you notice as you approach Hinkley Point C is the sea of
cranes. There are dozens of them, jutting into the Somerset sky from the
site where EDF, of France, and CGN, the Chinese state nuclear group, are
building Britain’s first new nuclear plant in a generation. One stands
out: a 250 metre-tall yellow beast known as “Big Carl”. It is the
world’s largest crane and is central to the companies’ battle to
deliver the project successfully.
Given the go-ahead in 2016 at a cost of
£18 billion, the plant was slated to generate its first power before the
end of 2025. Four years on, the budget has risen to between £21.5 billion
and £22.5 billion and EDF says that there is a risk that first power may
be delayed until 2027, adding £700 million in costs; thanks to disruption
from Covid-19, that risk is now “high”.
Covid-19 clearly remains
another big risk, with EDF warning last week that productivity at the site
and in supply chain factories were still being affected. The company said
that it had done what it could to minimise delays, from bringing in extra
buses to transport workers to sending contractors to France to bring back
parts from a factory laid low by the pandemic. EDF believes that it can
catch up on Covid-19 delays by the end of next year, so long as operations
and its supply chain are back to normal by the end of 2020. How confident
was Mr Crooks that the plant would start up in 2025 as planned?
“There’s a long way to go yet. It is a big, complex project.”

August 4, 2020 Posted by | business and costs, politics, UK | Leave a comment

Chinese minority owner of Hinkley nuclear project appoints CEO from China’s military area

New head of Chinese investor in Hinkley nuclear plant brings military links
China General Nuclear’s role in the Hinkley Point C nuclear power station has come under scrutiny recently
Telegraph ByEd Clowes1 August 2020  China General Nuclear, the 
minority owner of the Hinkley Point C power station, has appointed a chairman with close ties to the Chinese Communist Party and the country’s military nuclear programme.

 Yang Changli made his first appearance as
leader of the state-owned conglomerate last week, speaking on the virtues
of Communism and the value of a strong nuclear industry. He previously
served as deputy general manager at China National Nuclear Corporation, the
organisation responsible for developing the country’s nuclear weapons.
In a speech to CGN staff, Mr Changli outlined his vision for the nuclear giant
and called on his colleagues to build a company that was more infused with
Communist ideals.
He made his remarks at a ceremony to mark the new company
strategy held at its own university, which is designated as an official
Communist Party school. Mr Changli spoke of “in-depth implementation of
general secretary Xi Jinping’s important expositions on high-quality
development”, and said: “We must be good commanders and good
combatants.” CGN owns a 33.5pc stake in the £22.5bn Hinkley Point C
project in Somerset where it has partnered with EDF, the French energy
Mr Changli’s appointment at CGN is likely to raise eyebrows in
Westminster and stoke speculation that the civil nuclear company will be
merged with CNNC.

August 3, 2020 Posted by | politics, UK | Leave a comment

Experts wonder why Oil-rich UAE is opening the Arab world’s first nuclear power plant.

Oil-rich UAE opens the Arab world’s first nuclear power plant. Experts question why, By Ivana Kottasová and Mohammed Tawfeeq, CNN, August 1, 2020, Why oil rich UAE is developing nuclear power 02:35

The United Arab Emirates has launched a nuclear energy plant on Saturday, the first such project in the oil-rich Arab world.

Unit 1 of the Barakah plant in the Al Dhafrah region of Abu Dhabi started producing heat on Saturday, the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation said in a statement. Unit 1 is the first of the plant’s four nuclear reactors to launch. The corporation said the construction of Unit 2 has finished recently, while the other two reactors are still being built — even though the original schedule called for the plant to become operational by 2017…….
some experts have questioned the need for the nuclear power plant given the country’s potential to develop solar energy and the tensions surrounding nuclear power in the Middle East.
Paul Dorfman, who heads the Nuclear Consulting Group and is a research associate at UCL’s Energy Institute, has warned the UAE’s investment into the plant “risks further destabilizing the volatile Gulf region, damaging the environment and raising the possibility of nuclear proliferation.”
In an opinion piece published earlier this year, Dorfman argued that the investment into the new plant is “strange” given the falling prices of renewable energy technology and rising costs of nuclear power generation.
“Since new nuclear seems to make little economic sense in the Gulf, which has some of the best solar energy resources in the world, the nature of Emirate interest in nuclear may lie hidden in plain sight — nuclear weapon proliferation,” he wrote.
Jim Krane, an energy studies fellow at Rice University’s Baker Institute, said that based purely on costs, the nuclear plant was “an uncompetitive choice” for the UAE. ……

August 2, 2020 Posted by | politics, United Arab Emirates | Leave a comment

Does UK nuclear energy have any future? The industry has big doubts

Ministers challenged on future of UK nuclear energy
Industry dogged by doubts about China and rise of renewables calls for clarity,, Harry Dempsey in Somerset and David Sheppard in London 31 Jul 20, 

 The head of construction at the UK’s first nuclear power plant in three decades has challenged the government to decide whether “it wants nuclear or not” as ministers prepare to publish a new energy policy later this year and uncertainty hangs over China’s continued involvement in the sensitive sector. EDF, the French developer of Hinkley Point C in Somerset, is racing to meet its target of generating electricity by 2025 as it seeks to bolster the case for a new fleet of nuclear plants   …
In recent years, an ambitious plan to build a new generation of reactors across the UK has begun to unravel as two of the world’s leading nuclear engineering groups — Japan’s Toshiba and Hitachi — backed away from their projects. That left just two schemes — Hinkley and Sizewell — led by EDF with its partner China General Nuclear Power Group (CGN), which is proposing a third plant at Bradwell in Essex.
“The government needs to decide if it wants nuclear or not,” said Stuart Crooks, managing director of Hinkley Point C. “If it doesn’t want nuclear, no amount of financing will make it happen,” he said, referring to a continuing debate about how to finance any future nuclear plant.  ….
EDF has finished the base for the station’s second reactor. In the coming months, the world’s largest crane, dubbed “Big Carl”, will lift giant prefabricated steel containment structures into place and fill the bases with equipment and piping in critical steps towards building the reactors.
But the coronavirus pandemic has forced EDF to reverse plans to expand its workforce on-site to 6,000; instead, at the height of the UK’s lockdown, it fell to 2,000. Worker numbers have since returned to 4,500 split over two shifts but productivity is as much as 20 per cent lower because of social distancing restrictions.
On Thursday, EDF warned of a “high” risk of further delays, which could push back first power generation until 2027. Speaking earlier in the week, Mr Crooks said disruptions caused by coronavirus at supplier factories, which are running at 50 per cent of output on average, were the biggest risk to the schedule. The French state-controlled utility, which operates all of the UK’s eight nuclear power stations, faces another serious challenge however.
  CGN, its partner in the project, has come under intense scrutiny as relations between London and Beijing deteriorate over Hong Kong and the ban on Chinese telecoms equipment maker Huawei from supplying new equipment to the UK’s 5G network. The Chinese state-owned company is providing a third of the financing on Hinkley and EDF has repeatedly denied that staff from the Chinese state-backed company pose a threat to UK national security.  ……..
  confidence [ in the Chinese technicians] is unlikely to be shared by some in the ruling Conservative party who want China out of the UK’s nuclear programme. The UK government is also under growing pressure from Washington, which has become increasingly hostile towards the Chinese government. In 2018 the US warned London it believed CGN was involved in the transfer of civilian nuclear technology for military uses…….
  there are growing calls from hawkish Tory MPs to reject CGN’s plans for a nuclear plant at Bradwell, on the Essex coast, using Chinese reactor technology. That has stoked fears that the state-owned group could withhold further investment in Hinkley in retaliation. That could derail the project and stymie any future UK nuclear plants as well as harm EDF’s international nuclear ambitions.  ………
 The nuclear industry has struggled to regain its footing in the wake of the Fukushima disaster in 2011 and the few new-build projects in other developed countries, such as France, have also been hit by extensive delays and spiralling costs.
  Advances in renewable energy technology have further put nuclear on the back foot as the price of solar and wind generation falls. “The nuclear industry is under pressure from a reputational perspective,” said Mr Buckland. “It’s under the microscope at the moment.” Beyond the diplomatic dispute with China, the building of any further nuclear plants in the UK will need a viable funding mechanism. One option is that consumers would effectively take on the risk by paying in advance through their electricity bills.  ……….

August 1, 2020 Posted by | business and costs, politics, UK | Leave a comment

Japan’s trouble-plagued nuclear fuel reprocessing plant Rokkasho should be shut down

Rokkasho plant should be shut down in energy policy shift, Asahi Shimbun, July 31, 2020   “…….. The Nuclear Regulation Authority on July 29 approved an outline of safety measures for the trouble-plagued nuclear fuel reprocessing plant Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd. is building in Rokkasho, Aomori Prefecture…..

The Nuclear Regulation Authority on July 29 approved an outline of safety measures for the trouble-plagued nuclear fuel reprocessing plant Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd. is building in Rokkasho, Aomori Prefecture

It is also nearly impossible to find a site for building a new nuclear plant. As aged reactors will be decommissioned one after another in the coming years, the importance of nuclear power generation for Japan’s energy supply will steadily diminish.

Over the long term, Japan needs to phase out nuclear power generation to remove public anxiety about a large-scale accident.

Nuclear fuel recycling can have no great significance in this new era when Japan has to start shifting away from atomic energy. Many industrial nations have long given up nuclear reprocessing as economically unviable.

Another big problem with reprocessing the spent fuel is that it produces plutonium, a material that can also be used to make nuclear weapons.

Japan has a stockpile of some 46 tons of plutonium, stored both at home and abroad, an amount enough to make 6,000 atomic bombs. It is fueling fears and drawing criticism internationally.

Japan Nuclear Fuel’s plant in Rokkasho is designed to have the capacity of reprocessing 800 tons of spent nuclear fuel annually to recover 7 tons of plutonium.

But the plan to develop a fast neutron reactor that can “consume” plutonium by transforming it into other forms of nuclear waste, the key technology for plutonium consumption, has gone awry with the decision to decommission Japan’s “Monju” prototype sodium-cooled fast-breeder reactor.

There are clearly also limitations to the plan to burn so-called MOX (mixed oxide) fuel, which is usually plutonium blended with natural uranium, in existing nuclear reactors.

The government has promised the international community to reduce the nation’s surplus plutonium. That means the reprocessing operation at the Rokkasho plant will have to be restricted so that the amount of plutonium recovered will not exceed consumption.

It simply does not make sense to spend as much as 14 trillion yen ($134.33 billion) on building the plant to recover a small amount of plutonium.

Given that this huge cost will be passed onto consumers through higher electricity bills, it is impossible to win broad public support for the project.

If the government decides to pull the plug on the fuel recycling program, it will have to face tough policy challenges it has long avoided tackling, such as how to dispose of spent fuel. But the nation cannot make the inevitable leap into the new age of energy if it continues spending huge amounts on nuclear power generation, which is beset by so many problems.

There is a growing global trend toward renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power. This is the time for the government to make a radical shift in its energy policy.

August 1, 2020 Posted by | Japan, politics | Leave a comment