An icy January wind races across the dockyard at Barrow-in-Furness, chased by pellets of rain. Thirty years ago Brian would have struggled to keep his balance as he clambered over half-built submarines lying in the open berths of the remote Cumbrian shipyard.
Today the labourers building the Royal Navy’s newest class of nuclear-powered Astute submarines are working in the relative comfort of the Devonshire Dock Hall, a vast hangar the size of several football pitches. “It is much better here,” says the former welder, who has worked at Barrow for 38 years.
Torness is one of 15 nuclear power stations across the UK that have been forced to shut down due to faults over the last three years – with campaigners calling for an urgent review into the reliability of nuclear energy.
Analysis for local councils revealed that 15 reactors have had 62 unplanned shut-downs since 2011, with Torness near Dunbar forced to close twice last year due to the build-up of seaweed clogging the plant’s filters.
The research – which was carried out by Edinburgh-based nuclear consultant Pete Roche – found plants hit by a range of faults including cracks and electrical, boiler and valve defects.
And now the 50-strong group of local authorities who commissioned the report are raising fears over safety and the UK’s future energy supply.
Manchester councillor Mark Hackett, who chairs the group, said: “I call upon the UK Government, the National Grid and the nuclear regulators to urgently review the safety issues around such a large number of unplanned shutdowns.
“The Government also has to prioritise alternatives over the next 12 months to ensure the unreliability of nuclear power does not lead to the lights going off around the country.”
Dungeness nuclear power station in Kent had to be shut down 21 times between 2012 and 2014.
Source: Edinburgh Evening News
Finland is to build a new nuclear reactor in cooperation with Russia, despite growing EU energy security fears.
Finland has announced controversial new plans to build a nuclear reactor in cooperation with Russian firm Rosatom.
The nuclear reactor will be built on the condition that Finland maintains an energy partnership with Russia over the coming years.
Sampo Terho, who is an MEP for Finland and a substitute member of parliament’s industry, research and energy committee, said, “I welcome Fortum taking a stake in Fennovoima nuclear power plant project as positive news, which hopefully will help to advance the project”.
He added that “nuclear power is an important part of the efforts to achieve the EU’s climate targets and this project is a step in the right direction”.
Last October, member states agreed to work to reduce EU domestic greenhouse gas emissions by at least 40 per cent below the 1990 levels by 2030, and to increase the share of renewable energy to at least 27 per cent of the EU’s energy consumption by 2030.
The project has posed concerns due to Russia’s involvement, among deepening tensions between the country and the EU as the conflict in Ukraine rages on.
The strained relations between Russia and the EU have caused observers – including former council president Herman van Rompuy – to worry that Europe’s gas and energy supplies may be in jeopardy, as most of it is streamlined through Russia.
According to Eurostat data, in 2012, 33.7 per cent of the EU’s crude oil, 32 per cent of natural gas and 25.9 per cent of solid fuels were imported from Russia.
The commission has repeatedly expressed its hope for more energy security in Europe, and for the EU to produce more of its energy rather than relying on third countries. Last March, EU leaders asked the commission to come up with a plan to reduce the union’s energy dependence, especially to Russia.
Greens/EFA group co-president Rebecca Harms described the plans as “very regrettable”. She insisted that “the decision to build a new nuclear reactor is wrong; with a Russian partner, it is even worse, given the current situation in eastern Europe”.
The German deputy said, “seen from a European perspective the manoeuvre is totally contrary to the EU’s energy security goals, which aim to cut the EU’s damaging dependency on Russian energy”.
This is not the first time Rosatom has worked closely with a European firm, as it had previously teamed up with British company Rolls-Royce to assess the feasibility of introducing Russian nuclear reactor technology to the UK market.
Source: The Parliament Magazine
EDF Energy, the British unit of French giant EDF , said on Monday it had decided to shut down four nuclear reactors at two plants in northern England as a precaution.
EDF Energy said it was shutting down two reactors at each of the Heysham and Hartlepool nuclear plants for at least about eight weeks.
It follows a defect at one of the four reactors, which has kept it out of action since June. The decision to shut down an additional three reactors was described as a “conservative decision” in a statement issued by EDF Energy.
It comes as Britain’s government is placing nuclear power at the heart of its low-carbon energy policy, in stark contrast to Europe’s biggest economy Germany, which vowed to phase it out in the wake of Japan’s 2011 Fukushima disaster.
Last year, Britain signed a £16-billion deal with EDF to build two reactors at Hinkley Point C, southwestern England, to help meet the country’s future energy needs.
Also involved in the contract are French group Areva — the world’s leading nuclear power company — and Chinese nuclear firms CGN and CNNC.
EDF Energy meanwhile said in a statement on Monday that its Heysham 1 Reactor 1 “remains shut down while work continues to characterise the nature of the defect” detected earlier this year.
“Although routine inspections of other boiler spines have not previously indicated any similar defects, EDF Energy has taken the conservative decision to shut down Heysham 1 Reactor 2 and Hartlepool Reactors 1 and 2 that are of similar design,” it said.
“Until the results of the further inspections are known it is not possible to advise exact return to service dates for these four reactors, however, an initial estimate is that these investigations will take around eight weeks,” the statement added.
In a separate statement, British energy group Centrica said the shutdowns announced on Monday would impact its own earnings this year owing to its 20-percent interest in EDF Energy’s existing nuclear operations.
“On this basis, the resulting reduction in output from the affected nuclear power stations is currently estimated to reduce Centrica’s earnings per share in 2014 by around 0.3 pence per share,” it said.
Centrica’s share price was little changed following the announcement, with the company trading down 0.06 percent at 307.7 pence in London. EDF Energy parent EDF was also flat at 23.8 euros in Paris deals.
Source: Yahoo News
First Fukushima residents go home to Miyakoji
The first permanent returns were made today by Fukushima residents displaced by the nuclear accident three years ago.
Evacuation orders on the district of Miyakoji in the east of Tamura City were officially lifted today. This means some 357 registered residents could return home and attempt to resume life as normal for the first time since March 2011.
Although the area did not suffer significant damage from the earthquake of March 2011, infrastructure nevertheless fell into disrepair during the evacuation due to the nuclear accident that followed the tsunami. Rebuilding a workable community in Miyakoji began in mid-2013 when residents were first allowed to return during daylight hours. Infrastructure was progressively re-established and rice was planted in May 2012.
Today, local shops opened, refuse collection and recycling resumed and a new health clinic and play centre for children opened for the first time. A tourist attraction, the Tokiwa Sky Palace, is open for business as usual, while another, the Green Park, plans to re-open in July. Tax breaks have been announced to encourage the return of small businesses.
A Reuters report suggested that not all the 357 residents now allowed to return have done so, or plan to. Older people were more inclined to return, while families with children were cautious and heavily influenced by fear of radiation. The effects of the Fukushima accident have been exacerbated by a drastic loss of confidence in the authorities.
The Japanese government surveyed every evacuated municipality and classified them according to the levels of average radiation dose measured in the air. Miyakoji was one of the areas marked as ‘ready to return’ two years ago based on an average air dose rate of less than 20 mSv per year. This was calculated using a certain conservative pattern of assumed behaviour, including spending eight hours per day outside. However, people behave quite differently – especially when given advice on reducing their radiation dose. A recent study of actual dose rates in a similar zone showed doses in the range of 0.89-2.51 mSv per year – far below the 20 mSv per year categorisation and closely comparable with the average dose from background radiation in Japan of 2 mSv per year.
About a dozen other municipalities are categorised as ‘ready to return’. It is expected that these will return one-by-one through this year, in which prime minister Shinzo Abe wants to see ‘tangible’ recovery in Fukushima prefecture.
Source: World Nuclear News
MH370: UK submarine joins search for missing plane
HMS Tireless has “advanced underwater search capabilities”, the MoD said
British submarine HMS Tireless has joined the hunt for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370.
The Ministry of Defence said the Trafalgar class submarine had arrived in the southern Indian Ocean and would help search for the plane’s black box recorder.
It will soon by joined by Royal Navy coastal survey ship HMS Echo.
The aircraft disappeared with 239 people on board on 8 March while en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.
Earlier on Tuesday, Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston – the man co-ordinating the search from Australia – said the hunt was the “most challenging” ever seen and could take weeks.
Several floating objects have been found in recent days, but none is believed to belong to the missing plane.
Search for debris
Nuclear-powered submarine HMS Tireless was launched on 17 March 1984 and holds a crew of 130, plus 18 officers.
HMS Echo will help search for debris from the plane on the water surface
An MoD source told the BBC the vessel had “advanced underwater search capabilities, but the task in hand remains a tall order and the search area immense”.
“Her deployment is being co-ordinated closely with our Australian and US colleagues.”
The submarine will listen for ultrasonic “pings” from the plane’s black box, which continue to be broadcast for about 30 days after take-off.
The MoD source said the submarine was ordered to move from an operational tasking to the search area about a week ago and arrived on Monday.
Defence Secretary Philip Hammond informed his Malaysian counterpart of the additional British contribution during a phone call on Tuesday evening.
• launched on 17 March 1984
• holds a crew of 130, and 18 officers
• top speed of 32 knots or 36.8 mph
• in 2000, a fault was discovered on board which forced 12 UK nuclear submarines to undergo intensive inspections. Tireless became stranded in Gibraltar in May of the same year due to leaking pipe work
• in 2003, the vessel collided with an object at sea prompting an MoD inquiry
• in 2007, two mechanics died on board when a self-contained oxygen generator exploded while the vessel was at the North Pole
• in 2012, HMS Tireless returned to Plymouth after a leak in its nuclear reactor
HMS Echo is expected to begin its work on Wednesday, and the MoD said it would “play an important role in the search for debris on the sea’s surface and her advanced environmental assessment capability will help to optimise search operations”.
Four RAF personnel on secondment to the Royal Australian Air Force and Royal New Zealand Air Force are also actively involved in the search.
Meanwhile the personal jet of Oscar-winning film director Peter Jackson has been reported by Radio New Zealand to have joined the search for the missing Malaysian airliner.
Radio New Zealand said that Sir Peter, the director of the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit movies, personally approved the use of his Gulfstream G650 in the search.
On Monday, Malaysian acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said the search area was 254,000 sq km (98,000 sq miles), according to the Australian authorities.
Malaysian authorities have released the full transcript of communications between flight MH370 and Kuala Lumpur’s air traffic control.
They said there was no indication of anything abnormal in the transcript, although the last words received by ground controllers are different from those previously stated.
They were “good night Malaysian three seven zero”, but authorities had previously said that they were “all right, good night”.
It is not clear why the account has changed.
Officials say that based on satellite data they have concluded that flight MH370 crashed into the southern Indian Ocean, but many relatives of those on board have demanded proof and expressed anger at what they perceive as a lack of information.
Various theories about what went wrong have been suggested – including the captain hijacking his own plane.
The speculation was fuelled by reports that files had been deleted on the pilot’s home flight simulator.
However, on Saturday Mr Hussein said investigators had found “nothing sinister” from the simulator.
Source: BBC News
Rolls-Royce designer wins lifetime achievement award
Sigmund Borgundvaag, a ship designer at Rolls-Royce, has won a lifetime achievement award for his contribution to the design of offshore support vessels for more than 40 years.
Sigmund designed the very first Rolls-Royce UT Design vessel, back in 1974, a design that has influenced the industry standard for oil and gas exploration ever since.
Receiving the prestigious Offshore Support Journal award, at a ceremony in London last night, Sigmund said: “I am honoured to receive this award and I’m extremely proud to have played a part in developing a type of ship that has gone on to play such an important role in the oil and gas industry. It has been thrilling to have been involved in fulfilling the demanding requirements of an industry, where as one design challenge is met there is always a new and exciting one to tackle.”
Originally designed to handle the rough conditions of the North Sea, the UT has been continually adapted for a range of demanding duties where crew safety, stability, and capability are as important today as they were 40 years ago.
Sigmund added: “In those early days of North Sea oil, there simply wasn’t a ship robust enough to handle the harsh conditions and heavy seas. We drew on generations of experience from fishing these waters, and matched it with the technology needed to operate in a new type of deep-water oil field, always considering the safety of the crew and the demanding job these ships had to do. The result was a ship that pioneered the development of offshore oil and gas.”
Today there are almost 800 Rolls-Royce UT Design vessels in service or on order. They operate in all the world’s major oil and gas fields, carrying out a wide range of duties including transporting cargo to and from rigs, and handling and positioning the anchors that keep floating rigs in position. The UT design also extends to subsea construction vessels, seismic survey ships and ocean-going tugs, used by a number of coast guards for emergency towing and coastal protection.
John Knudsen, Rolls-Royce, President – Offshore, said: “Sigmund has made a hugely significant impact on the oil and gas industry as we know it today. Look out to sea at any major oil city in the world, whether it’s Bergen, Aberdeen or in the Gulf of Mexico, and that familiar shape of vessel you see on the horizon can trace its origin back to Sigmund’s work of more than 40 years ago. Today he is still a valued part of our ship design team, inspiring the next generation of naval architects. We congratulate him on this award, and thank him for his contribution to our industry.”
The first Rolls-Royce UT Design ship to enter service, in 1974, is still operating today. The UT 704 originally named Stad Scotsman, is currently chartered to work in the oil fields off the coast of Nigeria, under the name Reliance Star 1.
Source: Rolls Royce