Somerset is ‘more developed’ than ‘transitional’ Devon

The Government is offering various grants from the European Union (probably amongst our last ones) channeled through Local Enterprise Councils.

Here in the Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership area ALL three types of grants are offering less money to the “more developed areas of Somerset” and more to the (presumably less developed areas of) ‘Transition’ areas of Devon.

So should Devon be putting less into the LEP than more well-off Somerset? Or is ut just that Hinkley C is sucking up all the dosh now?


The session will particularly focus on the following live ESF calls for project proposals in the Heart of the South West:

Young Opportunities (OC16S18P1151) –
A £1.98 million (£0.98 million for the ‘More Developed’ area of Somerset and £1 million for the ‘Transition’ area of Devon, Plymouth and Torbay) ESF call for projects to support young people to access good quality careers and employment thereby avoiding Not in Education, Employment or Training (NEET) status in Heart of the South West LEP area.

Skills in Employment (OC16S18P1152) –
A £7 million (c. £2.33 million for the ‘More Developed’ area of Somerset and c. £4.67 million for the ‘transition’ area of Devon, Plymouth and Torbay) ESF call for projects offering employed individuals the opportunity to progress their skills, with a particular focus on intermediate / technical and higher-level skills (e.g. NVQ Level 3 and 4), as well as high demand skills at lower levels which enable growth (e.g. NVQ Level 2 qualifications within transformational / opportunity sectors).

Shaping Future Skills Provision (OC16S18P1153) –
A £1.15 million (£0.15 million for the ‘More Developed’ area of Somerset and £1 million for the ‘Transition’ area of Devon, Plymouth and Torbay) ESF call for projects to enhance the labour market relevance of skills provision in Heart of the South West LEP area

“EDF Energy face prosecution following incident at Hinkley Point B”

“EDF Energy and a contractor Doosan Babcock are facing prosecution after a worker “fell from height” at Hinkley Point B Power Station in April 2017.

EDF and Doosan Babcock were both handed improvement notices from the government run Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) last April, but in a statement, the ONR said it intended to proceed with a prosecution.

It said: “The Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) has notified EDF Energy Nuclear Generation Ltd and Doosan Babcock Ltd of its intention to prosecute both companies.

“The charges relate to an incident on 12 April 2017 at Hinkley Point B which resulted in injury to a Doosan Babcock Ltd employee.

“The incident was a conventional health and safety matter and there was no radiological risk to workers or the public. …”

“Firms CAN bury nuclear waste in vaults under national parks, say MPs as search for underground site continues”

“Nuclear waste could be stored in vaults deep under national parks after it emerged yesterday that MPs backed the proposal.

However, the controversial plan is certain to be fiercely opposed by green campaigners.

After the Government began looking for a site to locate an underground radioactive waste vault, the Commons business committee backed its approach – but decided against calling for national parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty (AONBs) to be excluded. …

Energy minister Richard Harrington told the committee: ‘I am not saying we should have them on national parks, but it would be very wrong to exclude them at the moment in this big policy statement.’ …

The committee said the plan was ‘fit for purpose’, adding: ‘We decided against an exclusionary criterion for national parks and AONBs.

‘Although we agree that major developments should not be allowed in designated areas except under exceptional circumstances, we believe existing planning legislation and the national policy statement contain sufficient safeguards against intrusive developments and environmental damage in national parks and AONBs.

‘We support the Government’s view that it is conceivable for a GDI to be designed in a way that would be acceptable to communities, preserve the socio-economic benefits that national parks and AONBs bring them and avoid any intrusive surface facility in conservation areas.’

But Kate Blagojevic, from Greenpeace UK, said: ‘The Government have decided to bet the house on new nuclear reactors without any clear idea of how high the spiralling costs will be… or where to put the unknown quantity of waste they will generate.

‘Now we learn that the main protection for national parks is that local people won’t agree to anything bad, even though the local people won’t know what they’re agreeing to.’ “

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, 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)

“Cool down nuclear plan because renewables are better bet, ministers told”

“Government advisers have told ministers to back only a single new nuclear power station after Hinkley Point C in the next few years, because renewable energy sources could prove a safer investment.

The National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) said the government should cool down plans for a nuclear new build programme that envisage as many as six plants being built.

The commission, launched by George Osborne in 2015, said that a decade ago it would have been unthinkable that renewables could be affordable and play a major role in electricity generation. But the sector had undergone a “quiet revolution” as costs fell, it said.

Sir John Armitt, the NIC’s chairman, said: “They [the government] say full speed. We’re suggesting it’s not necessary to rush ahead with nuclear. Because during the next 10 years we should get a lot more certainty about just how far we can rely on renewables.”

He argued that wind and solar could deliver the same generating capacity as nuclear for the same price, and would be a better choice because there was less risk. “One thing we’ve all learnt is these big nuclear programmes can be pretty challenging, quite risky – they will be to some degree on the government’s balance sheet,” he said.

“I don’t think anybody’s pretending you can take forward a new nuclear power station without some form of government underwriting or support. Whereas the amount required to subsidise renewables is continually coming down.”

Renewables were a “golden opportunity” to make the UK greener and make energy affordable, he added.

“China looking to buy stake in UK nuclear plants, say reports”

No problem, our Local Enterprise Partnership members with vested interests in nuclear power will ensure that all their workforce take Mandarin lessons.

“The Chinese government has emerged as a potential buyer of a multibillion-pound stake in Britain’s nuclear power plants.

The talks will reignite debate about China’s involvement in the UK nuclear power industry. Two years ago, the government paused approval for the £18bn Hinkley Point C project because of security concerns over China’s stake.

China General Nuclear Power Group (CGN), a state-run corporation, is said to be interested in buying a major stake in eight power stations, including Sizewell in Suffolk and Dungeness in Kent.

The power stations are operated by EDF Energy, a subsidiary of the French company EDF, but earlier this year, the British Gas owner, Centrica, put its 20% stake up for sale. The Sunday Times suggested CGN hoped to acquire a 49% stake, which indicates EDF could be looking to offload some of its shareholding.

The proposed deal would be a headache for Theresa May, who is concerned about giving China greater access to critical infrastructure projects and has initiated a new national security test for foreign takeovers.

CGN is becoming an increasingly important player in Britain’s atomic plans, and is working with EDF Energy on plans to develop a new nuclear power station at Bradwell-on-Sea in Essex.

The sale could attract interest from pension and insurance funds, but analysts say the pool of bidders is small because the reactors have a limited shelf live.

Paul Dorfman, a senior researcher at University College London’s Energy Institute, said Britain was an outlier in its openness to Chinese investment.

“It’s entirely credible [that China would be allowed to buy the stake] in the context of what the British government is doing,” he said. “There is no other OECD country that would allow China to own any of its critical infrastructure, let alone its nuclear infrastructure.”

Dorfman said EDF, with €33bn (£29bn) of debt, was eager to raise funds from asset sales. “EDF is in financial difficulties and has been for some time. It’s looking to sell off whatever it can sell off. It’s worried about debt, its credit rating … plus its waste and decommissioning liabilities,” he said.

The eight nuclear power stations, which used to be grouped under British Energy, generate 8.9 gigawatts of electricity and supply about 20% of Britain’s electricity needs. They were bought by EDF for £12.5bn in 2008. The following year, Centrica took a 20% stake, which it values at £1.7bn.”