Not investing in new nuclear power would be a costly gamble for the UK

Not investing in new nuclear power would be a costly gamble for the UK

Nuclear must be a part of the UK’s low carbon energy mix because renewable sources cannot provide power 24/7

The sun sets behind EDF's Hinkley Point B (left), and Hinkley Point A (right) nuclear power stations beside the Bristol Channel

The sun sets behind EDF’s Hinkley Point B (left), and Hinkley Point A (right) nuclear power stations beside the Bristol Channel Photograph: Matt Cardy/Getty Images

“Nuclear power remains, prospectively, one of the cheapest low-carbon technologies and can play an important role as part of a cost-effective portfolio of technologies to decarbonise the power sector.” As the Chief Executive of the Nuclear Industry Association, this is something you’d expect me to say, but this is the viewpoint of the Committee on Climate Change in its progress report to Parliament earlier this month.

Recently, Tom Burke wrote on these pages of the “costly gamble” of investing in new nuclear because of rising renewable energy output. I’m afraid that the “costly gamble” will be not investing in new nuclear plants. I’m not arguing against renewables, but it isn’t the answer alone.

The UK needs a mix of low-carbon sources of energy. This must include nuclear. Renewables cannot provide power to the grid 24/7 even though the UK gets as much as 15% of its electricity from these sources. So, one versus the other isn’t the answer – it must be a combination of both. A cost-effective portfolio of technologies, to quote the committee again.

Nuclear can support power to the grid 24/7 and with an ambitious plan for building new nuclear plants, it could provide an even greater proportion of the electricity needed in the UK. It is a fallacy to try to compare renewables with nuclear as both will work in different situations. Nuclear can provide a continuous supply to the electricity grid, while renewables will be reliant on the elements.

The government estimates that by 2025 the UK will need 60GW of new electricity generating capacity and the infrastructure to run it. Of this, 35GW would come from renewables and 25GW would come from other sources, including nuclear power.

The first of the new nuclear plants will be Hinkley Point C in Somerset. However, Burke questioned the ‘strike price’ – the minimum price paid for the electricity generated agreed between EDF Energy who will build the plant and the government. To quote the committee’s report again, it stated specifically on Hinkley that “the agreed strike price therefore offers good value for money and the potential for significant cost savings from a new nuclear programme in the UK”.

All large infrastructure investment projects – be it new nuclear capacity, a new wind farm or solar farm – have a strike price. Burke argued that the Hinkley price of £92.50/MWh was too high, but compare that with the offshore wind farm price of £155/MWh and £120/MWh for a large solar farm.

Over its lifetime of at least 60 years, Hinkley Point C is expected to contribute £2bn to the economy – £100 million of that will directly benefit the local economy through each year of construction.

The UK hasn’t built a new nuclear power station for 20 years and all of the current stations will begin to retire in the next 15 years or so. If we don’t build new ones, that means we could potentially lose a fifth of electricity which is generated on home soil, meaning we’d have to import more. We’d lose a low-carbon source of energy generation which for each kilowatt hour only emits 5g of CO2, compared to 900g from coal-fired. We’d potentially lose a major component of the UK’s science and engineering base too.

But building this new nuclear capacity will mean thousands of jobs. Our own conservative estimates put this at a peak of 32,500 jobs annually, some have put it more towards 100,000 when retiring current plants and simultaneous build of new plants are taken into account.

Upwards of 5,000 apprenticeships will be created across new build, creating much needed jobs and training for young people.

Annual exports from the nuclear industry could increase from £700m a year to up to £1.6bn. We’re already seeing workers from Sellafield going to share their knowledge and experience with other countries, and research and innovation from our universities is also helping other countries in decommissioning and management.

Yes, building a new nuclear power plant takes time. By starting the process now, the UK can increase its secure low carbon electricity generation, in tandem with renewables, ensuring the country continues to decarbonise the UK’s energy supply and contributing to economic growth creating long term, high quality jobs.

Source: Guardian

IBERDROLA and GE Hitachi join forces in a project to reuse UK nuclear waste

IBERDROLA and GE Hitachi join forces in a project to reuse UK nuclear waste

IBERDROLA - www.youroilandgasnews.com
IBERDROLA and GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding on cooperation towards the deployment of PRISM technology as a credible long-term solution to reuse existing reprocessed plutonium in the UK.

The two companies, together with the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) which advises on the decommissioning plans for current and planned nuclear power stations and is in charge of waste management, will analyse the options for GEH’s PRISM technology which can reuse the plutonium stockpile to generate electricity.

IBERDROLA will bring its expertise and excellence as a nuclear power operator in Spain and provider of nuclear engineering services as well as the experience of more than ten years developing nuclear power projects.

In January 2014, the UK Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) noted that, on the information provided, PRISM’s fourth generation nuclear power technology was considered a credible option for managing the UK’s plutonium stockpile.

PRISM is a proven, safe and mature technology which provides a safe, innovative and clean solution to harness the remaining energy potential of used nuclear fuel, in the form of plutonium, to generate electricity free of CO2 emissions whilst creating significant investment in UK jobs and skills.

First estimates by GEH indicate that PRISM technology, with a life span of at least 60 years, could recycle the UK’s entire plutonium stockpile -which amounts to over 100 tonnes- in 25 years.

GEH, the global nuclear alliance between GE and Hitachi is one of the world’s key suppliers of nuclear technology and services. For several decades, GEH has been partnering with IBERDROLA in the development and deployment of nuclear projects.

IBERDROLA operates 3,403 MW nuclear capacity through its participation in seven nuclear power plants in Spain (Cofrentes, Almaraz –units I and II–, Trillo, Garoña, Vandellós II and Ascó II). The company also has proven expertise in the UK where its subsidiary ScottishPower is one of the Big Six energy companies.

In addition to IBERDROLA’s experience in the nuclear industry, the Group’s engineering and project management subsidiary, IBERDROLA INGENIERÍA, is well established in this sector. It is currently participating in the construction of unit 3 at Flamanville nuclear power plant, in France, and has recently completed the upgrade of Laguna Verde nuclear power plant in Mexico.  It also participates in the consortium that manufactures coils for the international nuclear fusion research and engineering project (ITER) which is currently building the world’s largest fusion reactor.

For more information, please visit: IBERDROLA

Source: yournuclearnews.com

China and India in race to harness the full nuclear power of thorium

China and India in race to harness the full nuclear power of thorium

China and India in race to harness the full nuclear power of thorium
Drive for change? Chemical element thorium is seen as a safer nuclear alternative to uranium (Picture: Reuters)

It might sound like the kind of material used as a plot device in a comic book blockbuster, but it could solve the fuel crisis in the real world.

Chemical element thorium is being hailed as the key in the bid to find safer and more sustainable sources of nuclear energy to provide our electricity. And just like in a Hollywood movie, the race is on to be the first to fully harness that power.

Named after Norse god (and Marvel comic book hero) Thor by the Swedish chemist who identified it in 1828, thorium has taken almost 200 years to be taken seriously as an energy contender.

After a period in the 1950s and 1960s in which it flirted with thorium, the US government shut down its research into the radioactive element, preferring to go the uranium route. Critics say thorium was pushed aside because uranium was an easier component for nuclear weapons. But times have changed, and thorium’s status as a safer alternative to uranium is now a help, not the hindrance it was during the Cold War.

India, which has hundreds of thousands of tonnes of the metal amid its terrain, has announced plans to build a thorium-based nuclear reactor by 2016.

But it faces competition from China, where the schedule to deliver a thorium-based nuclear power plant was recently overhauled, meaning scientists in Shanghai have been told to deliver such a facility within the next ten years.

While thorium nuclear exploration is not new – Britain had its own reactor in Dorset carrying out tests 40 years ago – the will to make it a viable energy source is growing stronger.

Professor Roger Barlow from the University of Huddersfield is part of a team researching thorium power generation.

‘Thorium is an alternative to uranium as a way of doing nuclear fission,’ he told Metro. He said thorium is safer because an overheating thorium reactor can be simply switched off, avoiding the problem that occurred at Fukushima, for instance.

Thorium also produces less radioactive waste than uranium, waste which needs to be secured for hundreds rather than tens of thousands of years. He added that it is extremely difficult to weaponise.

Read more here http://metro.co.uk/2014/07/21/china-and-india-in-race-to-harness-the-full-nuclear-power-of-thorium-4802929/

Source: Metro

UK Nuclear Reprocessing Plant Turns 50

UK nuclear reprocessing plant turns 50

 

Magnox Reprocessing Plant. Copyright: Sellafield
Magnox Reprocessing Plant. Copyright: Sellafield

The UK’s first commercial nuclear reprocessing facility celebrated its 50th birthday yesterday.

The Magnox Reprocessing plant at Sellafield reprocesses spent fuel from nuclear power stations and recycles it to make fresh fuel.

More than 52,000 tonnes of fuel have been reprocessed in the facility since operations began in 1964, according to operator Sellafield Ltd, which currently employs more than 400 people.

The facility during construction. Copyright: Sellafield

Mark Jackson, the current Head of the Magnox Operating Unit said: “The longevity of the plant and its safety record are a real success for not only the nuclear industry but industry as a whole.

“Imagine a car from 1964 still running on the roads today and not just being brought out for exhibitions or displays but actually doing hard miles, every month, come what may. That’s what our Magnox Reprocessing Plant does and we are extremely proud of it.”

Red more here http://www.energylivenews.com/2014/07/17/uk-nuclear-reprocessing-plant-turns-50/?utm_source=feedly&utm_reader=feedly&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=uk-nuclear-reprocessing-plant-turns-50

Source: Energy Live News

 

Pres. Barroso: “EU is proud to have believed in ITER”

Pres. Barroso: “EU is proud to have believed in ITER”

José Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission, strongly reaffirmed Europe’s commitment to ITER today as he visited the international project’s worksite in Saint-Paul-lez-Durance.
President Barroso’s visit to ITER was part of a tour of strategic projects in Europe aimed at fighting climate change and facilitating worldwide “energy transition”.
Some eight years after the signature of the ITER Agreement, president Barroso could take the full measure of the progress accomplished. (Click to view larger version...)

Some eight years after the signature of the ITER Agreement, president Barroso could take the full measure of the progress accomplished.

He was accompanied by French Secretary of State for Higher Education and Research Geneviève Fioraso.

“Eight years ago, along with President Chirac,  I worked hard for ITER to be located here. The European Commission is proud to have believed in this project,” said President Barroso as he stood on the large concrete slab overlooking the spectacular Tokamak Complex worksite where the ITER machine will be assembled.
Mrs Fioraso, who was visiting ITER for the third time in less than one year, said she too was proud “that Europe had been bold and brave enough to launch into this project. Europe is beautiful when it is audacious.”
DG Motojima provides explanations to Ms Fioraso and President Barroso in front of ITER Tokamak mockup that had been especially moved to the Assembly Hall slab for the occasion. (Click to view larger version...)

DG Motojima provides explanations to Ms Fioraso and President Barroso in front of ITER Tokamak mockup that had been especially moved to the Assembly Hall slab for the occasion.

The European President and the French Minister’s visit came at a crucial moment in the worksite progress as concrete pouring operations had just begun in the central part of the Tokamak Complex.

“Europe’s commitment and your personal support, Mr President, Mrs Minister, have made this great venture possible,” said Director-General Osamu Motojima as he introduced the visitors to the assembled ITER staff. “At a time of economic hardship across the world, Europe has never backed away from its commitment towards ITER.”
Addressing the ITER staff in the Headquarters Building amphitheatre, President Barroso explained that he had supported the project throughout his whole presidency “because the future of Europe is in science and innovation”.
The Assembly slab had never been that crowded...From left to right, between the European flag and that of ITER: Bernard Bigot, CEA Administrator-General and High Representative for ITER in France, DG Motojima; President Barroso; Minister Fioraso; F4E's Laurent Schmieder (blue helmet) and Robert-Jan Smits, General Director for Research and Innovation at the European Commission. © LESENECHAL/PPV-AIX.COM (Click to view larger version...)

The Assembly slab had never been that crowded…From left to right, between the European flag and that of ITER: Bernard Bigot, CEA Administrator-General and High Representative for ITER in France, DG Motojima; President Barroso; Minister Fioraso; F4E’s Laurent Schmieder (blue helmet) and Robert-Jan Smits, General Director for Research and Innovation at the European Commission. © LESENECHAL/PPV-AIX.COM

Ms Fioraso shared this vision: “Thanks to this project,” she said, “Europe is a very young and very ambitious continent.”

Europe contributes approximately 45% of the total value of ITER construction.
As “the gateway to industrial and commercial fusion”, added the President of the European Commission, “ITER presents a unique opportunity for our industry.”
He concluded his address saying: “The personal message I want to deliver to you is one of confidence and support.”
Following their visit to the ITER worksite, President Barroso and Ms Fioraso addressed the ITER staff. On behalf of the institution and government they represent and also on a personal level, both reaffirmed their strong support to ITER and their confidence in the project's success. (Click to view larger version...)

Following their visit to the ITER worksite, President Barroso and Ms Fioraso addressed the ITER staff. On behalf of the institution and government they represent and also on a personal level, both reaffirmed their strong support to ITER and their confidence in the project’s success.
Source: Iter

SPP1 handover: accelerating the Sellafield clean-up?

SPP1 handover: accelerating the Sellafield clean-up?

The ageing facility presents a significant decommissioning challenge with programme timescales stretching out for more than 100 years. But the recent completion and handover of a new £240m Sludge Packaging Plant (SPP1) is being described as a major milestone.

The SPP1 has been built to receive historic radioactive waste from Sellafield’s First Generation Magnox Storage Pond (FGMSP), which in its lifetime handled 27,000 tonnes of nuclear fuel and is now an urgent decommissioning priority. It is estimated there is up to 1,500 cubic metres of radioactive sludge left in the 60-year old nuclear pond which will be pumped into the new SPP1 towards the end of 2014.

The emptying and decommissioning of FMGSP presents a host of technical and safety challenges. For a start, the structure has no roof and sits open to the elements, meaning that the radioactive sludge that has accumulated over the years lies up to one metre deep in places. Until now, the removal of the sludge from the bottom of the pond has proved impossible, as Martin Leafe, Head of FGMSP at Sellafield, explains: “We simply didn’t have the means to deal with it. [Now, with the arrival of SPP1], we can make significant progress in decommissioning part of the UK’s historic nuclear legacy.”

High-hazard facilities

The FMGSP is one of four high-hazard facilities at Sellafield – two fuel storage ponds and two waste silos dating back to the Cold War defence programme and nuclear civil engineering industry of the 1950s and 60s.

Prioritised for clean-up by the UK’s Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA), these facilities represent a majority of the hazardous nuclear inventory at Sellafield. And as an NDA spokesman explained in conversation with Nuclear Energy Insider, their decommissioning requires unique technical expertise and solutions: “Each of these four facilities requires a discrete set of complex engineering projects in order to first gain access, then retrieve, treat and repackage their waste materials for long-term storage and disposal. Many of these projects are engineering firsts; unprecedented in their complexity, hazard and scope.”

Certainly, the construction of the SPP1 involved the installation of a 31-metre-long, 50-tonne pipe-bridge in what was one of the most technically-demanding crane lifts ever performed at Sellafield.

The rest of the SPP1 structure, which was delivered by contractors Doosan Babcock and Balfour Beatty, comprises three enormous stainless steel buffer storage vessels (each equivalent to the volume of seven double-decker buses) made up of 11 separate sections. These sections were welded together on site before being slid into a reinforced concrete building, where they were rigorously tested and retested before being handed over, in early June, to the Sellafield operations team.

Reducing uncertainty and cost

According to the NDA spokesman, the completion of SPP1 is critical as it will enable the operations teams to better understand the scale of the challenge presented by the FGMSP: “Pumping the sludge from FGMSP will reduce the hazard within the facility and allow improved visibility and access. In this way, it will make a significant contribution to overall risk reduction.”

And at a time when so many uncertainties remain regarding the decommissioning programme at Sellafield, ‘improved visibility’ is everything: “When we are more certain about the nature and scope of the challenges, we can engage the private sector in a competitive process to accelerate activity and drive down costs.”

Indeed, the completion of SPP1 comes amid ongoing debate about the expense and direction of decommissioning operations at Sellafield and in the UK generally. Speaking as Chair of Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee in late 2013, MP Margaret Hodge described the spiralling costs of decommissioning at Sellafield as “an appalling waste of public money” and said cash was being “scattered like confetti”.

With estimated costs of the Sellafield clean-up operation rising to around £79.5bn, both the NDA and Sellafield’s parent company, the American-led consortium Nuclear Management Partners (NMP), have come in for fierce criticism from MPs, industry officials and pressure groups. NMP in particular have been lambasted for underperformance in their handling of the Sellafield programme since 2008.

But according to Sellafield spokesman Karl Conner, such criticism is unjustified: “NMP comprises three companies with global expertise in nuclear and decommissioning and we have seen a great number of positive impacts which can be directly attributed to NMP’s influence at Sellafield. Our Chief Decommissioning Officer, Jack DeVine, is an NMP secondee who has extensive worldwide experience. Under NMP’s direction, we are making great strides against our decommissioning mission.”

For Sellafield and the NDA, such strides are reflected in the completion and handover of SPP1. As Conner explains: “The SPP1 project demonstrates our ability to deliver decommissioning work successfully at Sellafield and increases confidence in us from our key stakeholders. It is a significant enabler of our ultimate goal and will help to make Sellafield safer sooner.”

A long journey

However, both Sellafield and the NDA are keen to point out that decommissioning is not a process that can be rushed – particularly not at Sellafield, which has no comparable site in Western Europe in terms of the extent and complexity of its clean-up requirements.

And according to the NDA, the very nature of the task makes it difficult to make accurate time and cost estimates: “It is natural that refinements will be required as these projects mature and discoveries are made that unearth new information about the challenge – information that would have been impossible to know until these projects were in flight. Beyond the short term, the plans contained within this programme are merely a set of assumptions that are subject to change as technology advances, approaches to decommissioning alter, the regulatory framework shifts and societal and political change take place.”

The completion and handover to SPP1, then, while a significant achievement for those involved and a vital ‘enabler’ within the decommissioning programme, is ultimately a small step on a very long journey.

Source: Nuclear Energy Insider 

Assystem, Cegelec, Spretec bag €20m Cigéo Contract

Assystem, Cegelec, Spretec bag €20m Cigéo Contract

Cigéo, the  Industrial Centre for Geological Storagein France, alongside site manager ANDRA, has selected nuclear waste management specialist Assystem together with Cegelec and Spretec to carry out high-level studies followed by the detailed design of the technical procedures for the transfer and handling of the waste packages. This four-year contract is worth €20m, said Assystem.

The Cigéo site has been designed to deep-store the most radioactive French waste produced by all existing nuclear facilities, until they are decommissioned, and by processing spent fuel used in nuclear power plants.

According to an Assystem statement, the purpose of these studies is to specify the industrial project for developing the application for authorising storage.

“Although the project is planned to last more than 100 years, the first five months of studies are paramount and must confirm the industrial feasibility of the project,” said Laurent Doher, Cigéo Project Manager for Assystem.

He continued: “The work involved matches Cigéo’s national and international commitments. As an engineering company, Assystem is also tasked with providing the necessary roadmap for our industrial partners so that we can put forward the best technical and economic solution.”

As an independent nuclear technology specialist in Europe for the last 45 years, Assystem generates 20% of its turnover in the nuclear sector and employs 1,500 experts.

Source: Nuclear Energy Insider