“Households could foot the bill for new nuclear plants”

Ministers are set to unveil a controversial new method for funding nuclear power stations and carbon-capture projects — one that heaps cost and risk onto consumers.

The business department is expected to publish a consultation this week on regulated asset base (RAB) financing in the nuclear sector. It is a method used by water companies and Heathrow airport, allowing them to begin charging households years before a project has been built.

French giant EDF wants to pioneer the financing model at its proposed Sizewell C power plant in Suffolk. EDF is building the £20bn Hinkley Point C station in Somerset, but argues that it cannot afford to build any future plants in the UK without a new financing approach.

Ministers are wrestling with how to meet the UK’s power needs, with ageing coal and nuclear stations set to close. However, government plans to publish a full energy white paper this week seem to have been dashed by concerns over how to pay for the programme, and the change in Tory leader. The white paper is now expected in the autumn.”

Source: Sunday Times (pay wall)

“Heatwaves test limits of nuclear power”

Not true, as the article implies, that because Hinkley C uses seawater, which is cooler, it is not at risk. There are many examples of coastal nuclear reactors having to close down because seawater has become too warm in heatwaves – including in places such as Finland, Sweden and Germany. Here’s the evidence:

https://www.npr.org/2018/07/27/632988813/hot-weather-spells-trouble-for-nuclear-power-plants?t=1562937536321

“Enthusiasts describe nuclear power as an essential tool to combat the climate emergency because, unlike renewables, it is a reliable source of base load power.

This is a spurious claim because power stations are uniquely vulnerable to global heating. They need large quantities of cooling water to function, however the increasing number of heatwaves are threatening this supply.

The French energy company EDF is curbing its output from four reactors in Bugey, on the Rhône River near the Swiss border, because the water is too warm and the flow is low.

Some reactors in the US are also frequently affected. This matters in both countries because the increasing use of air conditioning means electricity demand is high during summer heatwaves and intermittent nuclear power is not much help.

This does not affect nuclear power stations in the UK because they draw their water supplies from the sea, which stays relatively cool. However, it may affect plans to build small reactors on a lake in Trawsfynydd, Wales. And it may also reduce some of the UK’s power supplies during the summer.

As heatwaves intensify, the flow of electricity from French reactors through the growing number of cross-Channel interconnector cables cannot be relied on.”

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/jul/08/weatherwatch-heatwaves-nuclear-power?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other

“Climate crisis: can councils deliver on bold promises to cut emissions?”

Yes, if they have the will as the councils mentioned in this article already have:

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2019/jul/10/climate-crisis-can-councils-deliver-bold-pledges?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other

Water, water everywhere, but ne’er a drop to drink …

“The owners of Britain’s water companies received almost £5 billion in dividends over the past five years, according to analysis by a union campaigning for renationalisation.

The GMB union said shareholders had “pocketed eye-watering sums” from the privatised water industry, which it called an “abject failure”, including a further £1.4 billion in the form of interest on loans.

Industry returns are in the spotlight after Labour vowed to renationalise the industry and after Southern Water was fined a record £126 million in penalties last week after systematically covering up sewage leaks over seven years.

There are 17 water companies in England and Wales. Three are listed — Severn Trent, United Utilities and South West Water, part of Pennon Group — and the rest privately owned.

The GMB analysis calculates £4.7 billion in dividends were paid out to shareholders between 2014 and 2018, including more than £800 million last year. It counted a further £264 million in other payouts such as share buybacks. It said owners of the water companies had also received £1.4 billion in interest on loans and had accrued a further £520 million in interest, giving a total of almost £6.9 billion it said shareholders had made.

Tim Roache, general secretary of the GMB, said: “If you needed a poster child for abject failure, the privatisation of the water industry is it. Bills up 40 per cent above inflation, billions of litres of water lost in leaks as families face hose-pipe bans and all the while shareholders are trousering billions in profit.”

A spokesman for Water UK, the industry’s representative body, said: “Privatisation of the water and sewerage industry has achieved a great deal over the last 30 years — nearly £160 billion of investment, a healthier environment, better water quality and improved service to customers.

“Customers are now five times less likely to suffer from supply interruptions, eight times less likely to suffer from sewer flooding and 100 times less likely to have low water pressure than when the industry was in government hands. Nationalisation would risk turning back the clock to the days when service and quality failures were far more common, and cash-strapped governments wouldn’t pay for the improvements needed.”

Mr Roache called it a “complete disgrace” and urged the government to do “something about it”.”

Source: The Times (pay wall)

“The UK’s big flooding problem is only going to get worse”

“… In February, the Environment Agency warned that if global temperatures continue to rise in line with current trends, the UK will need to spend £1 billion a year to adequately protect homes from flooding. Currently the UK government spends just under two-thirds of that amount – £600 million. Meanwhile, the risk of flooding appears to be heading in only one direction: upwards.

… While the risk of heavy flooding is becoming more frequent – the Met office logged 17 record-breaking rainfall months since 1910, with nine of them since 2000 – the UK remains reliant on flood defense systems to limit its impact. A June 2019 analysis by Flood Re, a scheme set up by insurers and the government to cut the cost of property cover for people in flood-prone areas, showed that inland flooding would cost the entire country almost three times more on an annual basis without defences – £1.8bn rather than £700m.

This is based on the UK’s past experience with flooding. For instance, the Environment Agency said the floods caused by Storm Desmond in 2015 cost the economy about £1.6bn in England alone, a figure which could have exceeded £2.8bn if Cumbria had not upgraded its flood defences, following previous flooding in 2009 and 2005. The agency’s latest economic assessment estimates that for every £1 spent on defences, around £9 in property damages and wider impacts would be avoided.

On launching the Environment Agency’s new strategy, chair Emma Howard Boyd said: “The coastline has never stayed in the same place and there have always been floods.” Building high walls and barriers may not be enough to deal with flooding as climate change is increasing and accelerating the threat, she says, adding that “We need to develop consistent standards for flood and coastal resilience in England that help communities better understand their risk and give them more control about how to adapt and respond.” These standards could include sustainable drainage systems and the design of existing and new properties, in addition to traditional barriers and natural flood control techniques such as tree planting and no-till farming.”

https://www.wired.co.uk/article/flooding-in-uk-weather-defence

“Air pollution: Houses on polluted street face demolition”

“Residents on one of the UK’s most polluted roads are set to be given 150% of the value of their homes to knock them down.

Recorded levels of nitrogen dioxide on the A472 at Hafodyrynys were higher than anywhere else apart from central London 2015 and 2016.

These far exceed World Health Organisation guidelines.

Next week, Caerphilly council’s cabinet will be asked to approve plans to purchase the 23 worst-affected homes.

The A472, between Newbridge and Pontypool, suffers pollution from an estimated 21,000 vehicle movements a day.

Life on Wales’ most polluted road – Hafodyrynys, Caerphilly

There have been many proposals for improving air quality, including buying and demolishing the houses and businesses, which would cost about £4.5m.
This was the Welsh Government’s preferred option. …”

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-48694087