Hinkley C – and you thought it was only French workmanship we had to worry about!

“China wants to become a global leader in nuclear power and the UK is crucial to realising its ambitions.

While other countries have scaled back on atomic energy in the wake of the Fukushima disaster, state-backed Chinese companies benefit from the fact that China is still relying on nuclear energy to reach the country’s low-carbon goals.

“China is going in the opposite direction. The massive experience possessed by the Chinese nuclear industry, consistently building for the past 30 years and adopting various next-generation technologies, is being recognised by the global nuclear industry,” said Zaf Coelho, the director of Asia Nuclear Business Platform, based in Singapore.

The UK, where as many as six new nuclear power stations could be built over the next two decades, is an obvious export target for Chinese nuclear. If state-owned China General Nuclear Power (GNP) – the main player in China’s nuclear industry – buys a 49% stake in the UK’s existing nuclear plants, as it was recently reported to be considering, that would mark a significant expansion of China’s role in the UK nuclear sector.

But the depth of CGN’s existing involvement in UK nuclear may surprise some.

The most high-profile project is the £20bn Hinkley Point C power station in Somerset, which is being built by EDF Energy with a French reactor design but was only made possible by CGN UK’s 33.5% stake to underwrite its daunting finances.

It was that Chinese ownership of a strategic piece of infrastructure that led Theresa May to temporarily halt the signing of the crucial subsidy deal for Hinkley when she became prime minister.

Isabel Hilton, the CEO of Chinadialogue.net, said the UK opening up vital infrastructure to China was without parallel in the western world. “No other OECD country has done this. This is strategic infrastructure, and China is a partner but not an ally in the security sense.

“You are making a 50-year bet, not only that there will be no dispute between the UK and China, but also no dispute between China and one of the UK’s allies. It makes no strategic sense.”

The UK has appeared amenable to Chinese investment, though recently the UK cybersecurity watchdog warned British telecommunications companies against dealing with Chinese tech firm ZTE. One expert acknowledges that security concerns are a potential check to Chinese ambitions.

Zha Daojiong, a professor of non-traditional security studies at Peking University, said: “The question is not whether your nuclear technology is safe or not, it’s a question of politics. To be blunt, most countries think: ‘Anybody but China.’ This kind of thinking is becoming more and more popular among western countries. It’s a serious problem.”

CGN is also drawing up plans for Bradwell B in Essex, where China hopes to showcase its own nuclear reactor technology. CGN UK holds the majority stake (66.5%) in the development company, with EDF in a supporting role. Then there is a third joint venture to get Bradwell’s Chinese reactor design through the UK nuclear regulatory process.

Finally, there is Sizewell C in Suffolk, where EDF wants to build a clone of Hinkley Point C if it can attract enough private investment. CGN holds a 20% share.

While Germany and other western countries have turned their backs on nuclear, the UK is strongly committed to new nuclear to meet its carbon goals and this means, despite security concerns, the government needs Chinese involvement.”


Pray for (constant) westerly winds at Hinkley C!

Reactor fault raises spectre of delays at £20bn Hinkley Point

Doubts about the Hinkley Point nuclear plant being built on time intensified yesterday when its developer announced fresh delays to a prototype in France caused by defective welding.

EDF, the French state-controlled energy company, is building Britain’s first new nuclear plant in a generation in Somerset and aims to start generating electricity from the £20 billion project in 2025.

The company is building the same reactor type at Flamanville, Normandy, but has repeatedly had to put back the start-up date, originally 2012, because of construction problems.

EDF said yesterday that first power generation at Flamanville would now slip by a year to early 2020 because it needed to repair “quality deficiencies” in the welding in part of the plant that carries steam to the turbines. The cost of the plant has increased by a further €400 million to €10.9 billion, more than three times its original budget.

City analysts at RBC Capital Markets said the announcement would “add to concerns about whether EDF’s other projects . . . can be delivered on time and budget”. Hinkley Point is due to generate 3.2 gigawatts of power, seven per cent of Britain’s power needs, and is meant to help keep the lights on when coal and older nuclear plants close.

Theresa May gave the plant the go-ahead in 2016 despite widespread concerns over high subsidies to be paid by consumers and about EDF’s inability to build reactors on time and to budget.

Hinkley had already been delayed from its original 2007 plans to start generating by Christmas last year. Costs had risen to £18 billion by the time it got the go-ahead. EDF raised the estimate to £19.6 billion a year ago and warned that start-up could be delayed to 2027 but has since insisted it is sticking to the 2025 start date.

France began working on the reactor type, known as the EPR, 25 years ago. Four reactors were supposed to be operating by now — in France, Finland and China — but construction has been plagued by problems and only one, in Taishan, southern China, is working.

The most serious issue delaying Flamanville was the discovery of a weakness in the reactor vessel. The French factory that made the vessel was subsequently found to have falsified safety tests for components supplied to the French nuclear industry.

EDF insists it has learnt the lessons from the EPRs being built elsewhere, ensuring that the British project will proceed more smoothly. However, Britain’s nuclear safety regulator has raised concerns about substandard quality control checks on EDF’s supply chain.

A source insisted that Hinkley should not suffer the same problems as Flamanville because the project uses a different contractor and testing method, both of which had already been deployed successfully in Finland.
Kate Blagojevic, head of energy at Greenpeace UK, said: “EDF’s nuclear design just doesn’t work very well.

The nuclear power plant in Finland is a decade late and because of yet more technical problems, the Flamanville plant has gone from late to later. This bodes ill for Hinkley Point C.”

A spokesman for EDF said: “The construction of Hinkley Point C remains on track. The project has already benefited, and will continue to learn from the experience of other projects.”

Source: Times (pay wall)

“As inequality grows, so does the political influence of the rich”

“SQUEEZING the top 1% ought to be the most natural thing in the world for politicians seeking to please the masses. Yet, with few exceptions, today’s populist insurgents are more concerned with immigration and sovereignty than with the top rate of income tax. This disconnect may be more than an oddity. It may be a sign of the corrupting influence of inequality on democracy.

You might reasonably suppose that the more democratic a country’s institutions, the less inequality it should support. Rising inequality means that resources are concentrated in the hands of a few; they should be ever more easily outvoted by the majority who are left with a shrinking share of national income. …

A rising tide lifts all votes

The evidence that concentrated wealth contributes to concentrated power is troubling. It suggests that reducing inequality becomes less likely even as it becomes more urgent. It implies that a vicious cycle of rising inequality may be developing, with a loss of democratic accountability as a nasty side-effect. Some social scientists argue that this is, indeed, the way of things. In “The Great Leveler”, published last year, Walter Scheidel writes that, across human history, inequality inevitably rises until checked by disasters like wars or revolutions.

This is excessively pessimistic. The rich are powerful, but not all-powerful, or uniform in their determination to keep distributional policies off the agenda. And Western democracies still function. If political leaders tried it, they might well find that redistribution is a winner at the ballot box.”


New planning rules = developer free-for-all again

As Owl understands it (feel free to correct) Local Plans and Neighbourhood Plans are now basically ripped up unless developers are BUILDING just about everything for which they have permission (building, not land-banking).

A new “Housing Delivery Test” will apply from November 2018. If DEVELOPERS have not built enough homes using these calculations COUNCILS will be penalised by having planning decisions taken from them and DEVELOPERS WILL BE ALLOWED TO BUILD JUST ABOUT ANYWHERE. Just like the old days when we had no Local Plan. Neighbourhood plans will then also count for nothing.

As the CPRE points out:

“…Rather than delivering ‘what communities want’ as it claims to promise, the new planning rulebook and its new ‘housing delivery test’ will result in almost all local plans becoming out of date within two years. It is a speculative developers’ charter and will lead to the death of the plan-led system.

“Without a local plan, councils and communities have little control over the location and type of developments that take place. This results in the wrong developments in the wrong places – local communities’ needs are ignored and valued countryside destroyed for no good reason.”


Nice one, Tories!

For the geeks amongst us, the methodology of the “Housing Delivery Test” – (9 pages) which will be implemented from November 2018 – is here:

Click to access HDT_Measurement_Rule_Book.pdf