Wind power is cheapest energy, EU analysis finds

Onshore windfarms far cheaper than coal and gas when health impacts are factored in, report shows
Dawn over Whitlee wind farm on Eaglesham Moor just south of Glasgow, Europe's largest onshore wind farm
Whitlee wind farm south of Glasgow. Onshore wind costs around €105 per megawatt hour when externalities are considered, according to Ecofys. Photograph: Global Warming Images/REX/Global Warming Images/REX

Onshore wind is cheaper than coal, gas or nuclear energy when the costs of ‘external’ factors like air quality, human toxicity and climate change are taken into account, according to an EU analysis.

The report says that for every megawatt hour (MW/h) of electricity generated, onshore wind costs roughly €105 (£83) per MW/h, compared to gas and coal which can cost up to around €164 and €233 per MW/h, respectively.

Nuclear power, offshore wind and solar energy are all comparably inexpensive generators, at roughly €125 per MW/h.

“This report highlights the true cost of Europe’s dependence on fossil fuels,” said Justin Wilkes, the deputy CEO of the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA). “Renewables are regularly denigrated for being too expensive and a drain on the taxpayer. Not only does the commission’s report show the alarming cost of coal but it also presents onshore wind as both cheaper and more environmentally-friendly.”

The paper, which was written for the European commission by the Ecofys consultancy, suggests that the Conservative party plan of restricting new onshore windfarms will mean blocking out the cheapest source of energy when environmental and health facts are taken into consideration. It has been suggested the Tory plan could be done through a cap on onshore wind turbines’ output, lower subsidies or tighter planning restrictions.

“Any plans to change policy for onshore wind must be looked at in the context of this report,” said Oliver Joy a spokesman for EWEA. “Investors need long-term visibility. ‘Stop-start’ policies as well as harsh retroactive changes can blindside investors, driving up the risk premium and cost of capital.”

The documents’ contents may also be unwelcome in some quarters of the commission, which early today published selective results from it that did not include external health and pollution costs.

These showed that renewable energy took €38.3bn of public subsidies in 2012, compared to €22.3bn for gas, coal and nuclear. The EU did however note that if free carbon allowances to polluters were included in the data, it “would reduce the gap between support for renewables and other power generation technologies.”

The Ecofys paper’s nuanced evaluation of historical subsidies for coal and nuclear was also not mentioned in the EU press release, which renewable energy associations linked to a fossil fuel lobbying effort ahead of the report’s publication.

“Despite decades of heavy subsidies, mature coal and nuclear energy technologies are still dependent on similar levels of public support as innovative solar energy is receiving today,” Frauke Thies, the policy director for the European Photovoltaic Industry Association told the Guardian.

“The difference is that costs of solar continue to decrease rapidly. If the unaccounted external costs to society are included, the report demonstrates that support to fossil fuels and nuclear even by far exceeds that to solar.”

The EU’s energy commissioner, Gunther Oettinger, said that the report was only “a first step” to filling gaps in knowledge about the nature of energy subsidies and more reports are likely in the months ahead.

The figures for the energy sources in the report are all approximate, as the bar chart listing them is counted in units of €25 MW/h.

Last year, a row broke out in Brussels after the German newspaper Suddeutche Zeitung reported that Oettinger had tried to delete figures cited in a commission report showing that in 2011, fossil fuels took €26bn in public subsidies, compared to €35bn for nuclear power and €30bn for renewables.

Source: Guardian

World Nuclear Exhibition 2014

WNE Logo


Assystem present at the first international nuclear exhibition

From the 14th to 16th October 2014, the first edition of the World Nuclear Exhibition (WNE) will take place at the Bourget. This biennial convention is dedicated to French and international players within the nuclear industry. Assystem will be present at the exhibition with an exhibitor space on booth E 46.


14th of October
From 11am to 1pm : Dominique Louis, Assystem’s President Director General will participate in the round table presided by Luc Oursel, President of Areva, to discuss the role of technology in the nuclear sector entitled « Safe, Proven Technologies for Reactors and Fuel Cycle ».

From 3pm to 4pm: Assystem’s experts will lead a workshop conference on the theme «The Importance of PMC in Nuclear New Build Programs: an Engineering Consultancy Perspective.

15th of October
Meet our experts on our stand for a business day. Take this opportunity to discover our offers within the nuclear domain:

  • Project Management
  • Engineering Design
  • EPCm (Engineering, Procurement, Construction Management)
  • Systems Integration well as our substantial project references on ITER, EPR, Georges Besse 2, Sellafield, Cigeo, etc.

16th of October
It will be an open day for nuclear students who will be able to meet our experts and recruiters. The latest will present the range of tasks Assystem’s engineers are leading on the most advanced nuclear projects: from the very upstream in the evolution of the nuclear program with estimation and optimization studies of the investments, conceptualization and coordination, to the downstream with the operations, construction, commissioning, maintenance and decommissioning of the installations.

On this same day, Assystem will also highlight its internal training institute ANI (Assystem Nuclear Institute) in which Assystem’s experts have trained generations of nuclear engineers. The institute was founded in 2008 and celebrates its 5th year anniversary during the exhibition.

See Assystem’s live photos on our Facebook page


Assystem: 4th Nuclear Engineering Company Worldwide

Assystem: 4th Nuclear Engineering Company Worldwide

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The Group will attend the World Nuclear Exhibition (WNE), the leading international nuclear industry event, at Le Bourget (France), 14 to 16 October 2014.

Paris, 23 September, 2014 – The most recent ENR (Engineering News Record) world rankings puts Assystem in the Top 4 independent nuclear engineering companies. Fortified by this position and its long-standing expertise in the French nuclear industry, Assystem’s presence at the WNE marks the presence of an internationally-focused company committed to making export a competitive advantage for the French nuclear industry.

The WNE is a professional event created for and dedicated to French and international nuclear industry players to be held at Le Bourget from 14 to 16 October, 2014. Assystem will be attending with an exhibition space located on booth E 46. Dominique Louis, Chairman of the Board and CEO of Assystem, will also participate on 14 October in a round table entitled “Safe and proven technologies for reactors and the fuel cycle,” chaired by Luc Oursel, Chairman of the Areva Executive Board, to discuss technology performance in the nuclear industry. Assystem experts will also hold a workshop-conference on the same day on the theme of “The Importance of PMC in Nuclear New Build Programs: an Engineering Consultancy Perspective.” A promising international market where Assystem is strongly positioned

Today, 31 countries are using nuclear power. There are 435 reactors operating worldwide, including 58 in France, and 174 new reactors are expected to emerge by 2030, 72 of them now under construction1. And while a nuclear reactor entails an investment of between €6 and 10 billion, engineering typically amounts to 25% of this figure. With a presence in 20 countries, a co-chair of the CSFN export working group and a founding member of the AIFEN (French Association of Nuclear Export Manufacturers), Assystem is an active partner to the French nuclear team on an international scale. It is also positioned internationally with first-accession countries to assist them in identifying, designing and implementing their nuclear programmes through its n.triple.a (Nuclear Atkins Assystem Alliance) joint venture. To date, the Group has participated in the construction of nuclear projects in over 10 countries around the world, covering the entire life cycle of the plants.

For over 45 years, Assystem has been the preferred engineering partner for advanced large-scale and research projects in nuclear power. Designing and operating a nuclear project involves more than controlling the processes on the basis of an experienced skill set and a strong safety culture. Assystem’s 2,500 nuclear experts also act throughout the management of the project, from the very start of the programme, with estimation studies and investment optimisation, through the design and coordination stages to the production, construction, commissioning, maintenance and decommissioning of plants.



About Assystem

Assystem is an international Engineering and Innovation Consultancy. As a key participant in the industry for more than 45 years, Assystem supports its customers in developing their products and managing their capital expenditure throughout the product life cycle. Assystem employs more than 11,000 people worldwide and reported €871.4 million in revenue in 2013.The Company is listed on NYSE Euronext Paris.

For more information:
Follow Assystem on Twitter: @anewpath2growth

Press Contacts
Bao-Chau Nguyen
Corporate communications & Press Relations
Téléphone : 01 55 65 03 38

Europe backs Hinkley nuclear plant

Artist's image of the Hinkley Point C plant

A new £24.5bn nuclear power station at Hinkley Point in Somerset is to go ahead after it received final approval from European Union regulators.

The European Commission said Britain had agreed to “modify significantly” the financing for the project, reducing the burden on British taxpayers.

In total 16 commissioners voted in favour of the project, just ahead of the 15 votes needed for approval.

EDF Energy is due to build the plant, the first in the UK in almost 20 years.

The Commission had been examining whether the funding for the project broke state aid rules.

However, it said the changes agreed by the British authorities would cut the subsidy by more than £1bn, meaning that state aid would remain “proportionate to the objective pursued, avoiding any undue distortions of competition”.

The Commission said these changes made meant gains generated by the project would be better shared with UK consumers.

It estimated the project would now cost £24.5bn to build. The updated figure, much higher than the government and EDF’s original £16bn forecast, includes the impact of inflation as well as interest costs for the 10 year construction period.

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Analysis: Chris Morris, BBC News, Brussels

This is the first time that the European Commission has approved significant state aid for a new nuclear power plant – and as such, it is a big step forward for the European nuclear industry.

The decision will serve as a precedent for other countries, such as Poland and the Czech Republic, that want to know how much public money they can offer to companies as they look to expand their nuclear industries.

But the legal fight over the funding for Hinkley Point C is almost certainly not over. The European Court of Justice will be asked for an opinion.

Austria says the Commission’s decision is supported by neither economic nor ecological sense.

And other member states are concerned that it flies in the face of the EU’s stated aim of promoting renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar.

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Profit share deal

The government had already agreed that French firm EDF will be paid a so-called “strike price” of £92.50 for every megawatt hour of energy Hinkley C generates. This is almost twice the current wholesale cost of electricity, but this was a deliberate attempt by the government to compensate for the high cost of building the plant.

However, the Commission said that if EDF’s overall profits exceeded the rate estimated at the time it was awarded the contract, any gains would be shared with the public.

It said it had also defined a second, higher threshold above which the public would be given more than half of the gains, through lowering the cost of the “strike price”.

“An increase in the profit rate of only one percentage point, for example, will generate savings of more than £1.2bn,” it said.

It said this agreement would now last for the entire lifetime of the project – an estimated 60 years.

“These modifications will also achieve significant savings for UK taxpayers. On this basis and after a thorough investigation, the Commission can now conclude that the support is compatible with EU state aid rules,” said Commission Vice-President Joaquin Almunia.

The two reactors planned for Hinkley, which will provide power for about 60 years, are a key part of the coalition’s drive to shift the UK away from fossil fuels towards low-carbon power.

The nuclear power station is expected to begin operating in 2023.

The government estimated last year that with new nuclear power – including Hinkley – the average energy bill in 2030 will be £77 lower than it would have been without the new plants.


The decision was controversial, with green critics believing that the government should have offered subsidies to renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar energy.

Austria, which strongly supports green energy, has threatened to take the European Commission to the European Court of Justice to protest against the decision.

“There is absolutely no legal, moral or environmental justification for turning taxes into guaranteed profits for a nuclear power company whose only legacy will be a pile of radioactive waste,” said Greenpeace’s EU legal adviser, Andrea Carta.

However, Lord Hutton of Furness, chairman of the Nuclear Industry Association, said the Commission’s approval was “an important step”.

“This will set in train an important time for the nuclear sector in the UK as new build projects get under way to replace the current ageing generation. It also gives certainty to other European countries looking at the UK system of contracts for difference as a mechanism to secure their own supply.”

Source: BBC News


Hunterston B ‘cracks’ not a cause for concern

Cracks found in two of the 6000 graphite bricks in unit 4 of the Hunterston B nuclear power plant in North Ayrshire, Scotland have no safety implications, Colin Weir, station director at the plant said today in response to media coverage of the matter.

Hunterston B power station is a nuclear licensed site operating two Advanced Gas-cooled Reactors – units 3 and 4. To continue to operate safely and reliably the reactor plant requires examination, inspection maintenance and testing. Continuous improvement also requires plant upgrades to be implemented where deemed to be reasonably practicable. Whilst some of these activities can take place when the reactor is at power, many of them require it to be shutdown.

“Every time we take the reactor out of service for planned maintenance we inspect the graphite core which is made up of around 6000 bricks. During the current Hunterston outage we found two bricks with a new crack which is what we predicted during Hunterston B’s lifetime as a result of extensive research and modelling,” he said.

“It will not affect the operation of this reactor and we also expect that a few additional cracks will occur during the next period of operation. The small number of cracked bricks found during routine inspection is in line with our expectations, the findings have no safety implications and are well within any limits for safe operation agreed with our regulator.”

The Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) said on 1 October it had given EDF Energy Nuclear Generation Limited, the licensee of Hunterston B nuclear power plant, consent to start up unit 4, which has been in periodic shutdown since 1 August.

“The licensee’s arrangements require that periodic shutdowns are carried out every three years at each reactor at Hunterston B, providing the opportunity to undertake such activities,” ONR said. “On completion of a periodic shutdown the reactor concerned cannot be started up without consent from ONR. ONR specialists have completed their inspections of the work carried out are satisfied that the licensees justification to start-up the reactor and operate for a further period of three years is adequate,” it said.

Source: World Nuclear News

How should the UK deal with its nuclear waste stockpile?

The UK is facing the dilemma of what to do with its huge stockpile of highly toxic nuclear waste.
Sellafield in 2000

The Sellafield nuclear plant in Cumbria is where most of the waste is stored, the by-product of years of reprocessing.

By 2020 there will be 140 tonnes of plutonium, the biggest non-military stockpile in the world.

But opinion is divided on whether it should be turned into fuel for the next generation of nuclear power stations or continue to be stored.

BBC Inside Out reporter Chris Jackson travels to America to find out if lessons can be learned from their experiences of turning nuclear waste into mixed oxide (MOX) fuel.

Inside Out is on BBC One North East & Cumbria and North West on Monday, 29 September at 19:30 BST and nationwide for seven days thereafter.

Source: BBC News