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.
Torness Power Station. Image: EDF
One of the reactors at EDF Energy’s nuclear power station in East Lothian, east of Edinburgh, is out of service for maintenance works.
The £30 million refurbishment of one of the two reactors at Torness power station started last week.
It is expected to last nine weeks and the works include inspections and the installation of new equipment at the plant.
More than 500 workers will also change two gas circulators which help cool the reactor and replace blades on the turbine which turns steam into low carbon electricity.
The maintenance of each reactor takes place every three years and is planned in advance with National Grid to ensure there is no impact on the country’s electricity supply, stated EDF.
Station Director, Paul Winkle said: “This inspection, maintenance and investment programme has been carefully planned over the last two years and will enable us to continue safely generating low carbon electricity at Torness for many years to come.
Torness power station started operations in 1989 and generates enough electricity to power two million homes.
The company claims it has produced enough low carbon electricity to save the equivalent of 140 million tonnes of emissions during its 27 years of operation.
Source: Energy Live News
Finance and political will remain a problem for nuclear power, but there are opportunities in the supply chain
Undated handout artists impression issued by EDF of the how the new Hinkley Point C station will look
Despite 400 construction jobs losses at the UK’s first new nuclear build for 20 years its supporters remain confident this is the dawning of a new era for the industry in the UK. Peter McCusker reports.
There still remain a number of hurdles to overcome before the final go-ahead for construction of the UK’s first new nuclear plant since Sizewell B in Suffolk in 1995.
French state-owned business EDF Energy hoped to have signed off on the deal to build two new reactors at Hinkley Point in Somerset by late last year.
But progress on the £24bn project has stalled, with EDF still to make a final investment decision – and these delays led to the redundancy of 400 of the site’s 600 construction staff earlier this month.
Difficulties over assembling the financial package and on-going concerns over the robustness of the technology lie at the heart of the delays.
However EDF, the Government and the Nuclear Industry Association (NIA) remain confident the UK is at the dawning of a new nuclear era.
A spokesman for EDF told Journal Energy: “EDF Energy and the UK Government have made good progress on the work to finalise the agreements which will enable a final investment decision in the coming months for the proposed Hinkley Point C nuclear power station. There has also been continuing positive progress with future investment partners in the project.”
EDF Energy has already spent hundreds of millions of pounds on extensive preparatory work and with this nearing completion 400 of the 600 on-site construction staff are being laid off.
Newcastle-born Keith Parker, chief executive of the NIA, told last month’s NOF Energy annual conference in Gateshead that will be some major opportunities in the nuclear industry for the North East supply chain in the coming years (see panel).
Speaking to Journal Energy this week he said: “A final investment decision is expected by the autumn. We understand discussions between the Government, EDF and its Chinese finance partners are going well.
Read more: The Journal
Lessons should be learned from problems with a French reactor that is very similar to one planned in the UK, says Britain’s nuclear safety regulator.
French regulators have been informed of “manufacturing anomalies” in components “particularly important for safety” at Flamanville 3 power plant, in Normandy.
The reactor is similar to one planned for Hinkley Point, in Somerset.
EDF Energy – involved in both projects – said a new series of tests was under way and it was working with regulators.
An investigation revealed potential weaknesses in the steel used to make a safety casing around the reactor at Flamanville, near Cherbourg.
Areva, which is building Flamanville 3 for EDF, says it is the first plant in the “new French reactor fleet”, and it includes Areva’s new EPR reactor.
The UK Office for Nuclear Regulation said it was aware of the French Nuclear Safety Authority’s concerns about the reactor and would continue to liaise with French authorities.
“The UK currently have no EPR reactors but expects that learning from Flamanville 3 will be taken into account in the manufacture of components intended for the planned new reactor at Hinkley Point C,” it said.
These safety issues in France could lead to even further delays in the construction and completion of the proposed £24.5bn Hinkley Point nuclear power plant.
It has already been delayed by months as the government negotiated a contract for EDF to supply electricity at a guaranteed price for 35 years.
The final decision on the project is expected in the coming months but is also delayed by Britain not having a fully functioning government – something which could be exacerbated if talks on forming a government drag on after the election.
These safety concerns in France are not expected to set the Hinkley Point project back too much but they may spook the Chinese companies set to invest in the project.
In a joint statement, Areva and EDF said new tests were under way on the “reactor vessel head and bottom”.
It said this followed initial tests which had shown “greater than average carbon content” – something French regulators said caused “lower than expected mechanical toughness” in the steel.
EDF and Areva added: “Teams are working to perform the additional tests as soon as possible, following approval by the French Nuclear Safety Authority on the test conditions, and to provide the safety authority with all the necessary information to demonstrate the safety and quality of the corresponding equipment.”
The components in question have not yet been fitted at Hinkley, but it would cost money and could delay the project if they had to be entirely re-made.
Source: BBC News
Image: Work preparing the ground at Hinkley Point
The Prime Minister gave the French Government a stark message over the stalled £25 billion Hinkley Point C nuclear power station controversy last night by telling them: ‘we’ve done our bit, now you do yours’
Mr Cameron urged the French Government to seal the deal to build the power station ‘the sooner the better’ after EDF – the French state-owned power company – halted work and laid off 400 workers in Somerset.
Mr Cameron told the Western Daily Press that his Government had ‘put everything in place’ that it could to ensure the £25 billion power plant would be built – but were now waiting for the French Government and its nationalised electricity firm EDF to secure the investment needed to start the project.
Speaking on a campaign visit to Bristol, Mr Cameron said Hinkley Point C was a ‘win-win’ for everyone involved – including the French Government.
Last week, the Western Daily revealed that EDF had halted work to build the two-reactor power plant near Bridgwater – the single biggest construction project in the country at present – because the final investment decision had not yet been made by the French-owned firm.
The complex deal to get Hinkley C built, and bag 25,000 jobs for west Somerset, involves the British Government guaranteeing EDF would receive a whopping £92.50 per megawatt-hour of electricity produced but no capital support from the British state – instead EDF needed Chinese billions to build the power station.
But so far, EDF has not managed to completely secure that investment, and was forced to lay off around 400 construction workers at the site having completed the preparatory groundwork. Last week, the firm said it was not prepared to begin actually building Hinkley C until the deal had been done.
Read more: The Western Daily
French energy group EDF has delayed an investment decision on a £16bn project to build two nuclear energy reactors in Hinkley Point, Somerset.
Last month, the firm said it expected to sign an agreement in March.
On Thursday, EDF’s chief executive said the company was in “the final phase of negotiations, but that phase can take a considerable amount of time”.
Plans to build two reactors at Hinkley Point are currently facing a potential legal challenge from Austria.
The company’s comments came as it reported net income rose by 5.2% last year to 3.7bn euros (£2.4bn), as output at its nuclear plants beat forecasts.
However, profits in the UK were down 25% due to unplanned closures at two of its stations.
The firm had to shut down its Heysham 1 station in Morecambe and its Hartlepool unit in August for boiler inspections.
Analysis: John Moylan, BBC industry correspondent
When will EDF make the decision to invest in Britain’s first new nuclear power plant in a generation?
A “final investment decision” (FID) had been expected by the end of 2014. That was delayed until the end of the first quarter 2015. Now that deadline seems unlikely.
EDF hopes to conclude talks with its proposed stakeholders – including two state-owned Chinese nuclear firms – by the end of March.
But with an election pending it’s likely a FID will be put off until May/June at the earliest. Some have speculated it could be pushed back until the autumn.
That must all raise serious questions over EDF’s plan to be generating power from Hinkley Point C by the end of 2023.
Austria, which opposes nuclear energy, has challenged the subsidy deal between the UK and EDF.
The challenge threatens to stall investment plans and been met with retaliation from UK Prime Minister David Cameron.
Chief executive Jean-Bernard Levy said talks between EDF’s partners, French nuclear group Areva and the UK government were continuing.
He said: “We are in the final phase of negotiations, but that phase can take a considerable amount of time, depending on the number of problems left to resolve.
“There is no other project on the agenda.”
EDF, 84.5%-owned by the French state, is the world’s biggest operator of nuclear plants.
Source; bbc news
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.
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