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
EDF to miss its own deadline for Hinkley Point nuclear decision
French energy giant does not expect to take final investment decision on Britain’s first new nuclear plant in a generation until the autumn, missing its own target of July
EDF expects to miss its own deadline for deciding whether to build Britain’s first new nuclear plant in a generation, the Telegraph can disclose.
The French energy giant announced in October that it planned to take a final investment decision on the £16bn Hinkley Point C plant by July, after striking a landmark subsidy deal with government.
But it now believes that an ongoing European Commission investigation into whether the subsidies are illegal state aid will not be fully resolved until autumn, forcing its decision on the Somerset plant back until then.
The delay could threaten EDF’s plans to deliver first power from the plant in 2023 – a timescale it had said was “subject to a final investment decision by July 2014”.
It also pointed out many key details of the deal, including a £10bn-plus loan guarantee from the Treasury, could not be scrutinised as they were yet to be finalised. It is understood the loan guarantee may not be finalised until May.
Amid intense scrutiny of the Hinkley plan, EDF is also lobbying strongly against a long-term freeze of the UK’s rising carbon tax, which it fears would weaken the case for Hinkley by pushing up the bill for direct subsidies for the plant.
Under October’s deal, EDF has been guaranteed a price for the power the plant generates of £92.50/MWh, almost double the current market price for power, with the difference subsidised through levies on consumer energy bills.
A rising UK carbon tax would push up the market power price, reducing the total direct “top-up” subsidy to Hinkley and potentially making the deal more palatable to politicians and the EC alike.
But under pressure to tackle rising energy bills the Chancellor now is expected to announce a freeze of the carbon tax in next week’s Budget.
EDF – whose existing nuclear power plant fleet would also benefit significantly from the rising carbon tax – is understood to be urging the Chancellor to guarantee that any freeze would last no more than a two years and that the tax would then revert to its upwards trajectory.
The company, which is still in talks with potential investors to take stakes in the Hinkley Point project, also argues that a policy u-turn on the carbon tax would damage the UK’s attractiveness.
EDF has been at pains to insist it can deliver Hinkley “on time and on budget”, despite its Flamanville reactor in France being dogged by cost blowouts and years of delays.
However, it has already publicly set and then missed a string of deadlines for Hinkley, which was once supposed to be running by 2017, while the cost has “rocketed hugely”, according to former partner Centrica.
A damning 70-page critique published by the EC in January raised a series of concerns with the subsidy deal, arguing that it may be unnecessary, risked handing EDF excess profits and could severely distort competition.It said that total public subsidy could reach £17bn – more expensive than the plant itself.
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Chapelcross nuclear submarine waste storage discussed
The prospect of the former power plant site at Chapelcross being used to store waste from nuclear submarines is being discussed in Annan.
The Dumfries and Galloway facility is on a provisional Ministry of Defence shortlist of five locations.
No decision will be made until after public consultation this year.
However, the issue will be raised at a meeting of the Chapelcross Site Stakeholder Group (CSSG) to discuss the prospect of the Scottish site’s use.
The MoD is looking for somewhere to store radioactive components until the 2040s when a permanent disposal facility is due to be ready.
The shortlisted sites are Capenhurst, Cheshire; Sellafield, West Cumbria; Aldermaston and Burghfield, Berkshire; and Chapelcross.
Ronnie Ogilvie, who chairs the CSSG, said there was not a great deal of detail to discuss at the moment.
He said it was clear that the site did have the storage capacity for low-level radioactive waste.
Mr Ogilivie said it was hoped more could be learned from forthcoming talks with military officials.
Decommissioning work is currently going on at the site near Annan.
It ceased power generation in 2004, with its landmark cooling towers later being pulled down.
Source: BBC News
Sellafield nuclear plant given the all-clear after ‘elevated levels of radioactivity’ detected
The Sellafield nuclear plant has been given the all-clear after “elevated levels of radioactivity” were detected on Friday morning.
More than 10,000 non-essential staff were told to stay at home following problems at the site in Cumbria, which is the biggest nuclear site in the UK.
A perimeter alarm was triggered at the north of the site, leading to buildings being checked by safety staff, but it was later discovered the higher than normal levels were due to “naturally occurring background radon”.
It was the first time the site has been run on limited staff for safety reasons in recent memory, although a large number of staff were also told to stay away due to heavy snow last March.
A statement said: “Sellafield Ltd can confirm that the radioactivity detected by one of our in-air monitors overnight is not attributable to any issue or problem with any of our operations on site.
Thorium, a slightly radioactive metal that occurs in rocks and soils, may hold significant promise as a replacement for uranium in the nuclear energy sector.
As global energy consumption increases, thorium is being looked into as a possiblealternative to uranium to provide safe and abundant nuclear power at a reasonable cost. For example, India has been interested inthorium-based nuclear energy for decades, according to the US Geological Survey.
Thorium in the works
The question of whether thorium works for energy production was answered in 2013, when a private Norwegian compan, Thor Energy, began to produce power at its Halden test reactor in Norway using thorium.
“It is the fundamental first step in the thorium evolution,” Thor Energy’s CEO, Oystein Asphjell, told Reuters.
Nuclear giant Westinghouse, a unit of Toshiba, is part of an international consortium that Thor Energy established to fund and manage the experiments.
As part of its ongoing research into thorium as a nuclear fuel, Thor Energy created an international consortium that is charged with funding and managing thorium experiments. One of the consortium’s members is none other than Westinghouse, an established player in nuclear energy; the company provides viewpoints on the research.
But Thor Energy is not the only company engaged in researching whether or not thorium is a viable alternative to uranium in nuclear energy. Firms from the US, Australia and the Czech Republic are also working on thorium reactor designs and other elements of fuel technology using the metal. However, Thor Energy was the first off the block to begin energy production with thorium.
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