Category: Energy

Paris climate change agreement very positive for nuclear power

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The major emphasis of the COP21 process has been on producing a global, binding agreement to cut carbon emissions. At the Paris meeting there was clear international agreement that reducing carbon dioxide emissions was a global priority built on a groundswell of public opinion in many countries, albeit with a range of different timelines involved. It was agreed to aim for a temperature increase below 2°C and with the aim of moving to 1.5 degrees, which suggests that governments will have to introduce additional mitigation actions to move more rapidly to low-carbon technologies, especially in electricity generation. The main and widely recognised implication (which fuelled some extravagant hype stigmatising coal) is that more use must be made of low- or zero-carbon energy sources, including nuclear power.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) described it as “nothing less than a historic milestone for the global energy sector” that would “speed up the transformation of the energy sector by accelerating investments in cleaner technologies and energy efficiency”. With wide support, a clean energy innovation fund is being set up to develop cleaner, more affordable and more reliable energy sources. Whatever the advances in electricity storage associated with intermittent renewables, there is now more clearly an inexorable logic for low-cost continuous reliable supply from expanded nuclear power. The IEA had already made it plain that achieving the 2°C goal would require a significant contribution from nuclear energy.

Agneta Rising, Director General of the World Nuclear Association said: “We welcome the commitments that governments have made, and the nuclear industry stands ready to help achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement.  This agreement should lead to a more positive outlook for nuclear investments, as nuclear is an important part of the response to climate change in countries across the world. What governments need to do now is convert the global agreement they have reached in Paris into national policies, including a progressive decarbonisation of the electricity generation sector. We have proposed that there should be 1000 GWe of nuclear new build by 2050 as part of a balanced low-carbon future energy mix. To achieve this, we need to see the introduction of energy markets with level playing fields which recognise the value of low carbon and reliable generation. We need to see the adoption of harmonised nuclear regulatory processes internationally. We also need to ensure that actions do not lead to clean nuclear power plants being closed prematurely and replaced with more polluting alternatives. Ongoing investment is also needed to help develop the next generation of nuclear technology, along with a clear and achievable pathway for deployment”.

Ahead of COP21, 188 nations had submitted their individual climate action plans, including how much they were intending to cut emissions. There is a wide range of targets in these Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs), from ambitious cuts by 2030 to almost doubling emissions by 2030, according to individual national circumstances.  Collectively the INDCs are projected to result in a global temperature rise above pre-industrial levels of 2.7°C, which is considered insufficient constraint.  National targets are not binding, there are no defined sanctions for failing to meet them, and they need verification anyway as well as five-yearly reviews ratcheting up the good intentions.  The EU October 2014 commitment to reduction targets was conditional upon other countries’ binding commitments, so may be in doubt. The US commitment is in doubt for political reasons. For China and India, the first and third largest sources of CO2, reducing poverty is a higher priority than reducing CO2 emissions.
Source: World Nuclear Association

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Hinkley Point nuclear plant: ‘very good prospect’ of go-ahead this year, says Amber Rudd

Energy secretary says proposed new nuclear plant is ‘essential’

There is a “very good prospect” of a decision to build Britain’s first new nuclear plant finally being taken later this year, Amber Rudd, the energy secretary has said.
Despite mounting doubts about EDF’s proposed Hinkley Point power station, Ms Rudd told MPs on Tuesday she believed it was “essential” that the project go ahead.

Ms Rudd told MPs on the energy select committee: “We hope the decision will be made later on this year. We are very committed as a government to making sure that we build new nuclear and Hinkley Point will be the first of those.

“Old nuclear is coming off and I think we need as much investment as we can procure in order to support new nuclear.”
Protracted negotiations between EDF and Government over subsidies for Hinkley resulted in a headline deal in October 2013 but details are still being ironed out, while investments from Chinese nuclear partners are yet to be finalised and financial turmoil at reactor-maker Areva has caused further problems.

Ms Rudd said: “I haven’t got the scars of the past three to four years, or two and half years, as my permanent secretary may have in terms of taking forward that negotiation, but I have met the parties involved in the past 10 weeks and it looks to me like there is a very good prospect of it reaching a happy conclusion later this year.”


Image: Illustration of the proposed Hinkley Point C (EDF Energy)

EDF laid off hundreds of construction workers earlier this year as preparatory work at the Somerset site ground to a halt and Jonathan Reynolds, Labour’s shadow energy minister, wrote to Ms Rudd last month urging her to “admit the project will not proceed and inform Parliament what your alternative energy strategy will be”.
But Ms Rudd told MPs: “This is going to be the first new nuclear plant in over 20 years so it is essential to me that we succeed in it.”

A legal challenge from Austria to the EU’s state aid approval for Hinkley subsidies, while “very unwelcome”, was not expected to affect the final investment decision being taken later this year, she said.

Ms Rudd, who said value for money was her top priority in the department, rejected suggestions she was “secretly having regrets” about the subsidy terms agreed by the Coalition, which will see consumers on the hook to pay roughly double the current market price of power for 35 years.

Ms Rudd suggested the price was worth it because nuclear was reliable, unlike renewables. “We have to have secure base-load, so you should not be surprised that we are prepared to pay more for that in order to ensure nuclear is part of the mix. The requirement for nuclear is absolute,” she said.

However, future nuclear plants were expected to come in more cheaply, she said.

Dungeness B nuclear power station given 10-year reprieve

Dungeness B
EDF Energy says Dungeness B can continue operating safely well beyond its scheduled 2018 closure date

Dungeness B nuclear power station is to stay open beyond its scheduled closing date of 2018, its owner, EDF, has announced.

The ageing reactor, on the south Kent coast, had been due to decommission in 2018 but will now remain until 2028 as a result of £150m extra investment.

Work on building Dungeness B began in 1965 and it began generating electricity in 1983.

It employs 550 people plus 200 contract staff and six apprentices a year.

The plant had initially been scheduled to close in 2008, but its then operator, British Energy, extended its life by 10 years.

In 2009 the government announced that Dungeness B was not on its list of potential sites for new nuclear reactors, effectively reaffirming its closure date of 2018.

‘Significant investment’

But now EDF says its additional investment of £15m a year means the plant can continue operating safely for a further 10 years.

EDF Energy chief executive Vincent de Rivaz said: “The decision to extend the life of Dungeness B is only possible because of the collaboration, innovation and technical expertise of EDF Energy and its long-term partners.

“Customers will benefit from this significant investment through many more years of reliable, low-carbon electricity.”

The present government regards nuclear energy as a safe and relatively low-cost way of securing the UK’s energy supplies well into the middle of the century and reducing reliance on carbon-based energy.

While environmental campaigners are concerned about the risks associated with nuclear-powered generators, there has been a lot of support in Kent and East Sussex for the continued operation of Dungeness B because of job security and related economic benefits.

Its director, Martin Pearson, said: “Life extension means the station will continue to provide hundreds of skilled jobs and provide a launch pad for the apprentices who will begin their careers at Dungeness B. We’ll also carry on contributing more than £40m to the local economy.”

The GMB union welcomed news of the reprieve and said that as well as safeguarding 750 jobs at the plant it would also create jobs in the engineering construction supply chain.

But the Green Party’s energy and environment spokesman, Andrew Cooper, said the decision was based on “an unacceptable lack of imagination and commonsense” by the government and said the country should be investing in energy innovation.

Neighbouring Dungeness A was decommissioned in 2006.

Source: BBC News

Nuclear power is the greenest option, say top scientists

Environmentalists urged to ditch their historical antagonism and embrace a broad energy mix

Nuclear power is one of the least damaging sources of energy for the environment, and the green movement must accept its expansion if the world is to avoid dangerous climate change, some of the world’s leading conservation biologists have warned.

Rising demand for energy will place ever greater burdens on the natural world, threatening its rich biodiversity, unless societies accept nuclear power as a key part of the “energy mix”, they said. And so the environmental movement and pressure groups such as Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace should drop their opposition to the building of nuclear power stations.

In an open letter to be published next month in the journal Conservation Biology, more than 65 biologists, including a former UK government chief scientist, support the call to build more nuclear power plants as a central part of a global strategy to protect wildlife and the environment.

The full gamut of electricity-generation sources, including nuclear power, must be used to replace the burning of fossil fuels such as oil, coal and gas if the world is to have any chance of mitigating severe climate change, their letter says.

The letter is signed by several leading British academics including Lord May of Oxford, a theoretical biologist at Oxford University and former chief scientific adviser; Professor Andrew Balmford, a conservation biologist at Cambridge; and Professor Tim Blackburn, an expert in biodiversity at University College London.

As well as reducing the sources of carbon dioxide, the chief man-made greenhouse gas implicated in climate change, the expansion of nuclear power will leave more land to support biodiversity and so curb the extinction of species, they say.

Recognising the “historical antagonism towards nuclear energy” among environmentalists, they write: “Much as leading climate scientists have recently advocated the development of safe, next-generation nuclear energy systems to combat climate change, we entreat the conservation and environmental community to weigh up the pros and cons of different energy sources using objective evidence and pragmatic trade-offs, rather than simply relying on idealistic perceptions of what is ‘green’.”

It is too risky to rely solely on renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power for replacing fossil fuels because of problems to do with scalability, cost, materials and land use, they explain.

Nuclear power – being far the most compact and energy-dense of sources – could also make a major, and perhaps leading, contribution …. It is time that conservationists make their voices heard in this policy area,” they say.

A golf-ball-sized lump of uranium would supply the lifetime’s energy needs of a typical person, equivalent to 56 tanker trucks of natural gas, 800 elephant-sized bags of coal or a renewable battery as tall as 16 “super” skyscraper buildings placed one on top of the other, they said.

The letter was organised by Professor Barry Brook of the University of Tasmania and Professor Corey Bradshaw of the University of Adelaide. The two co-authored a paper in the January issue of Conservation Biology outlining the scientific case of nuclear power in terms of environmental protection. Of seven major technologies for generating electricity, nuclear power and wind energy had the highest benefit-to-cost ratio, they concluded.

“Trade-offs and compromises are inevitable and require advocating energy mixes that minimise net environmental damage. Society cannot afford to risk wholesale failure to address energy-related biodiversity impacts because of preconceived notions and ideals,” they said.

Professor Corey told The Independent on Sunday: “Our main concern is that society isn’t doing enough to rein in emissions… Unless we embrace a full, global-scale assault on fossil fuels, we’ll be in increasingly worse shape over the coming decades – and decades is all we have to act ruthlessly.

“Many so-called green organisations and individuals, including scientists, have avoided or actively lobbied against proven zero-emissions technologies like nuclear because of the associated negative stigma,” he said.

“Our main goal was to show – through careful, objective scientific analysis – that on the basis of cost, safety, emissions reduction, land use and pollution, nuclear power must be considered in the future energy mix,” he explained.

The letter aims to convince people of the potential benefits of nuclear power in a world where energy demand will increase as the climate begins to change because of rising levels of greenhouse gases, Professor Corey added.

“By convincing leading scientists in the areas of ecological sustainability that nuclear has a role to play, we hope that others opposed to nuclear energy on purely ‘environmental’ – or ideological – grounds might reconsider their positions,” he said.

Source: The Independent

€25m for ‘robotic solutions’ in oil and gas

Well tractor. Image: Welltec

Well tractor. Image: Welltec

An oilfield services company in Denmark has been given a €25 million (£19.8m) loan by the European Investment Bank (EIB).

Welltec will use the cash to develop advanced robotic solutions that can be used in the oil and gas development and production phases such as well completions to avoid the need for heavy-duty conventional equipment.

The project is aimed at reducing well construction times and extending the productive life of wells.

Jonathan Taylor, EIB Vice-President responsible for operations in Denmark said: “We are pleased to be partnering with Welltec in this breakthrough operation as it will enable the EU bank to support future technologies whose concrete applications will help reduce not only operating costs but more importantly risks to health, safety and the environment”.

Source: Energy Live News

Calls for nuclear safety probe over station faults

EDF Torness power station.

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

Russia moves in on Finnish nuclear energy market

Finland is to build a new nuclear reactor in cooperation with Russia, despite growing EU energy security fears.

Dungeness Nuclear Power Station

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