EDF can’t manage its French sites, let alone Hinkley C

So, so nany of Devon’s economic eggs in Hinkley C’s basket – dropped in there by our Local Enterprise Partnership, with the vested interests of its board members uppermost.

And no wonder Germany has dropped nuclear in favour of renewable energy.

“An official report rapped French energy giant EDF on the knuckles Monday for lacking a “culture of quality,” as reflected in huge delays and price overruns at a nuclear plant it has been building for more than a decade.

The report was presented to EDF’s largest shareholder, the French government, which called for an urgent “plan of action” to improve standards at the company and get the much-needed plant online.

The delays at the Flamanville site in northern France come on top of a massive cost overrun at the Hinkley Point nuclear project EDF is building in Britain and a decade-long delay to the Olkiluoto plant in Finland.

EDF’s European Pressurised Reactor (EPR) reactor in Flamanville is now seven years late and costs have more than tripled to 12.4 billion euros ($13.7 billion).

Earlier this month, the company said fixing faulty welding on the Flamanville reactor will add 1.5 billion euros ($1.6 billion) to the already swollen price tag.

When Electricite de France began work on the reactor in 2007 it targeted a launch date of 2012. It is now eyeing 2022.

Presented by Jean-Martin Folz, ex-boss of car-maker PSA, Monday’s audit report highlighted a loss of competence at EDF and slammed the company for lacking a “culture of quality.”

Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire said the report underscored “an unacceptable lack of rigour” at EDF.

He ordered the company to put in place an action plan within a month to bring its nuclear project to the “highest levels”.

EDF chief executive Jean-Bernard Levy, at the same press conference, said he accepted the findings and vowed the company would “redouble its efforts” to boost skill levels.

Folz said that in spite of the problems, the EPR project has successfully demonstrated the “relevance” of the new technology.

– Frustration –

The EDF’s board a few months ago discussed abandoning the Flamanville project but the French state still supports the build despite frustration with the delays.

The project was meant to showcase the third-generation EPR reactor technology that EDF has sold to Britain and Finland.

In September, EDF announced that an EPR reactor it is building on Britain’s south coast would also be delayed, and cost between 1.9 and 2.9 billion pounds ($2.4-3.7 billion) more than initially estimated.

A similar EPR third generation nuclear power plant project in Olkiluoto in Finland is now 10 years behind the initial schedule.

The government acknowledges the delays risk severely denting France’s international reputation as a reliable provider of nuclear energy technology.

Folz said EDF would need to embark on a massive investment and recruitment drive, which was only possible if the government commits to “stable, long-term programmes for the construction of new reactors and the maintenance of the existing fleet.”

The state is considering building more reactors but Environment Minister Elisabeth Borne insisted Monday a decision cannot be taken before EDF has demonstrated the effective running of the EPR.

France relies on nuclear power for 72 percent of its electricity needs. The government wants to reduce this to 50 percent by 2035 by developing more renewable energy sources.

The government has said it would shut 14 of 58 reactors, spread across 19 power plants, by 2035.

But France, by far the country most reliant on nuclear energy, has no intention of phasing this source out altogether, like Germany.

The nuclear sector provides jobs for nearly a quarter of a million people.

Two reactors in Fassenheim in the east of the country are still online despite a 40-year lifespan that expired two years ago.

Last year, a parliamentary report highlighted failings in the safety and defences of the country’s nuclear plants, citing a series of shutdowns at sites around the country.”

https://www.france24.com/en/20191028-audit-raps-french-energy-giant-edf-over-nuclear-project

“Hinkley Point builder (EDF) accused by France of ‘unacceptable’ failings”

“President Macron’s economy minister has accused the French state-owned company building Britain’s new nuclear plant of “unacceptable” failings as he threatened sweeping change at the group.

Bruno Le Maire said yesterday that the French nuclear sector was like “a state within a state” and he denounced cost overruns and delays in the construction of the Hinkley Point C nuclear reactor in Somerset and similar projects in Flamanville in Normandy and Olkiluoto in Finland. “We will not accept this drift month after month, year after year,” Mr Le Maire said.

His words appeared to weaken the position of Jean-Bernard Lévy, 64, who was given a second four-year term as chief executive of EDF by Mr Macron in February.

Mr Le Maire said that he had ordered an independent audit into the French nuclear industry, which provides about 75 per cent of nation’s electricity, and into the decision to build a new generation of the increasingly questioned European pressurised reactors in Britain, France, Finland and China. The conclusions will be delivered on October 31, he said.

The audit will interest Whitehall, given that the EPRs being built in Somerset are supposed to supply 7 per cent of Britain’s electricity. EDF said last week that Hinkley Point C would cost £3 billion more than expected and may not meet its latest launch date of 2025, which is already eight years late.

The glitches at Hinkley Point C come after setbacks at Flamanville, which initially was due to come on stream in 2012 at a cost of €3.3 billion, but which will not now be linked to the grid until 2022 at the earliest at a cost of at least $10.9 billion. The Finnish plant was scheduled to be operational in 2009, but is still not complete.

Noting the lastest delays at Flamanville, Mr Le Maire said: “Now we learn that the costs of the nuclear reactor in Britain have drifted. All this drifting is unacceptable.”

The French state owns 83.7 per cent of EDF. Mr Macron wants to split the group in two, placing its nuclear activities in a wholly state-owned unit and floating the rest.”

Source: Times (pay wall)

“EDF warns Hinkley nuclear plant could cost extra £2.9 billion, see more delays”

Note to our Local Enterprise Partnership:
1. Don’t whatever you do go for a day at the races and bet any money – your track record advises against it.
2. You have (and always have had) developers on your Board. Surely one of you could have tipped off EDF about “challenging ground conditions”!

“The British project cost hike also comes just days after the country saw an auction for offshore wind projects clear at a record low, raising questions of the cost competitiveness of new nuclear.

EDF said Hinkley Point C was estimated to cost 21.5-22.5 billion pounds ($26.8-$28 billion), up 1.9-2.9 billion pounds from its latest estimate. …

Crooks said the cost increase was related to challenging ground conditions at the site. …”

https://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-britain-nuclear-hinkley-edf/edf-warns-hinkley-nuclear-plant-could-cost-extra-2-9-billion-see-more-delays-idUKKBN1WA0K1?

Should our Local Enterprise Partnership have all our eggs in the Hinkley C broken basket!

This writer in The Times thinks not! Is our LEP fit for purpose if it goes along with EDF with no scrutiny?

“EDF, the French electricity company, has insisted that its nuclear reactors are safe, despite admitting that six contained components that fail to meet industry standards.

EDF, which is leading the project to build Britain’s new nuclear plant at Hinkley Point in Somerset, also conceded that sub-standard parts had been found in a new-generation reactor under construction in Normandy.

The reactor, at Flamanville, which is of the same kind as those planned for Hinkley Point, has been beset by flaws and cost-overruns and will not open until 2022 at the earliest, a decade behind its initial schedule. EDF declined to say whether the latest problem would delay the launch still further.

The company revealed last week that some welds on steam generators made in a factory in Saint-Marcel in central France had been found to suffer from a “a deviation from technical standards governing the manufacture of nuclear-reactor components”. In a statement yesterday, it said that sixteen of the affected generators had been installed in six reactors — two at Blayais near Bordeaux and in others at Dampierre-en-Burly and Bugey in central France, Fessenheim in eastern France and Paluel in the north of the country.

Régis Clement, deputy head of EDF’s nuclear fleet, said: “None of this parts present a risk in terms . . . of the safety of the reactors. We are confident,” he said. EDF said in a statement that “no immediate action” was necessary, although the final decision on whether to shut down reactors for repairs lies with the Nuclear Safety Authority. The watchdog has a track record of demanding repairs that EDF deems unnecessary.

EDF added that sub-standard welds also had been found on four of the steam generators installed in the reactor in Flamanville, along with three steam generators earmarked for a new plant at Gravelines, near Dunkirk. All the steam generators were made in the Saint-Marcel factory, which is owned by Framatome, controlled by EDF.

This is not the first time that welds at Flamanville have been called into question. This summer, the watchdog ordered EDF to mend eight separate welds found to have faults before the plant could come into service.”

Source: Times (pay wall)

“EDF feels heat from nuclear weld problems”

Hinkley C nuclear plant is where the vast majority og our regional funds have been placed by our Local Enterprise Partnership – many of whose board members have a direct or indirect financial interest in the project.

“The French state electricity group building Britain’s new nuclear plant suffered another setback yesterday when it admitted to possible faults with components used in reactors in France.

The disclosure alarmed investors, raised a new question mark over the French nuclear industry and will fuel speculation that slipshod practices have gained hold in a sector that supplies about three quarters of the country’s electricity.

EDF said that a factory that made steam generators used in nuclear reactors had failed to follow standard procedures. The problem was with the welds on the generators, it said.

The factory is in Saint-Marcel, central France, and is owned by Framatome, a French nuclear group in which EDF has a majority stake. The plant supplies heavy equipment for the French nuclear industry and has provided components for 106 reactors worldwide.

EDF said that Framatome had informed it of “a deviation from technical standards governing the manufacture of nuclear reactor components”. It said that the problem concerned components already installed in reactors, as well as those being prepared for future use. A spokesman for the French Nuclear Safety Authority said that about 20 functioning reactors built after 2008 were believed to be affected.

“EDF, along with Framatome, has been conducting in-depth investigations to identify all affected components and reactors, as well as to ascertain their fitness for service,” EDF said.

The setback comes after a factory in nearby Le Creusot, which belonged to Areva and is now part of Framatome, admitted to having failed to follow safety test procedures during the manufacture of nuclear components. The Nuclear Safety Authority said that test results appeared to have been falsified and added that it had alerted prosecutors to possible fraud.

The latest scandal could hardly have come at a worse time for EDF, which said this summer that the launch of its new-generation nuclear reactor had suffered a further delay. The reactor in Flamanville, Normandy, will now come on stream in 2022, a decade after it was meant to be operating.

EDF is leading the project to build two similar reactors at Hinkley Point in Somerset at a cost of £19.6 billion. They are due to come on stream in 2025.

With difficulties mounting for EDF, its share price fell sharply on the Paris stock market, and closed down 74 cents, or 6.8 per cent, at €10.12.”

Source: Times (paywall)

Hinkley C: Beware the consequences of large infrastructure projects

Hinkley Point C brings London-level traffic to small Somerset town.

Air and noise pollution, traffic chaos and rising rents are blighting the Somerset town that has found itself the gateway for the marathon construction of the new Hinkley Point C (HPC) nuclear power station, locals say.

Limits for air pollution have been exceeded on main roads on multiple occasions this year, while Highways England data shows truck numbers have increased by more than 20% since building work started in 2016.

On some roads, two heavy goods vehicles pass through every minute. Not all are delivering to Hinkley but, with no bypass built for the nuclear site, locals say it has made the town unnavigable at times.

Buses transporting 4,000 construction workers to the site add to the traffic – and the influx of workers is pushing up rents. Rat runs are in gridlock and a town that is home to just under 40,000 people is experiencing London-level traffic on some roads.

Friends of the Earth, which looked at the air quality data for 2018 and 2019 provided by the local Sedgemoor district council, said it was concerned about the high incidences of particle matter on some roads.

Data shows that particle matter measuring 10 micrometers (PM10) has exceeded safe limits on Quantock Road 16 times already this year, while on nearby Bristol Road those limits were exceeded 15 times.

The latest data for traffic shows the number of HGVs has increased from 470 a day in 2014 to 900 in 2018 on Quantock Road, the principal artery out of the town to Hinkley.

For nearby Horsey Level, the number of trucks a day is registered at almost 1,500, while on Taunton Road, the main road coming from the M5’s junction 24, residents have to endure 1,050 a day, making it difficult to cross the road and forcing many cyclists on to the paths for their own safety.

HPC says the number of HGVs travelling every day to and from the site is capped at 750.

… Hinkley agreed a fund to fit double-glazed windows on some of the busiest roads in Bridgwater. It says this is a goodwill gesture and not an admission of responsibility for the noise of HGVs.

“EDF have paid to replace all my windows, and it’s made no difference. On a summer’s night, I’m not able to sleep with the windows open at all,” said Balcombe. “I am woken up every morning at 5am from the noise of lorries. And when these lorries are empty the clatter they make is unbelievable with the metal bouncing round.”

HPC points out that the HGV movements will ease in the autumn when it switches supplies to the sea. The jetty is now complete and the permission it got for an extra 250 HGVs a day will expire.

For Bridgwater locals a bypass would have been the answer and helped relieve the town of its perennial traffic problem.

The former Labour councillor Mick Lerry, who was involved in the fight for a bypass, said the attempt was stymied because it was never part of the development consent order submitted by EDF. “As it was not part of the application, it could not be considered,” he said.

The government said it had considered the impact of HGVs on Bridgwater and was satisfied. …”

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2019/aug/14/hinkley-point-c-london-traffic-bridgwater-somerset?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other

“Hinkley Point C: rising costs and long delays at vast new power station”

“The Hinkley Point nuclear site, on the Somerset coast, should have begun powering around 6m homes well over a year ago.

Instead, the 160-hectare (400-acre) sprawl is still the UK’s largest construction site more than a decade after the plan for Britain’s nuclear renaissance first emerged.

It will be at least another six years before Hinkley Point C, the first nuclear plant to be built in the UK since 1995, begins generating 7% of the nation’s electricity.

The price tag is expected to exceed £20bn, almost double that suggested in 2008 by EDF Energy, which is spearheading the project alongside a Chinese project partner.

At the time, EDF Energy’s chief executive, Vincent de Rivaz, said the mega-project would power millions of homes by late 2017. He pegged the cost at £45 for every megawatt-hour.

De Rivaz retired a decade later, but the promised switch-on moment remains distant. Delays have been blamed on protracted Whitehall wrangling over the project’s eye-watering costs: the price per megawatt-hour has since more than doubled.

Still, this summer workers carried out the UK’s largest concrete pour to complete the base of the first reactor. Simone Rossi, EDF Energy’s incumbent chief, said the milestone was “good news for anyone concerned about the climate change crisis”.

“Its reliable, low-carbon power will be essential for a future with no unabated coal and gas and a large expansion of renewable power,” he said.

The cost concerns have proved more difficult for executives and ministers to address.

The National Audit Office condemned the government’s deal to support the Hinkley Point project through consumer energy bills in a damning report, which accused ministers of putting households on the hook for a “risky and expensive” project with “uncertain strategic and economic benefits”.

Hinkley Point will add between £10 and £15 a year to the average energy bill for 35 years, making it one of the most expensive energy projects undertaken.

Under EDF Energy’s contract with the government, the French state-backed energy giant will earn at least £92.50 for every megawatt-hour produced at Hinkley Point for 35 years by charging households an extra levy on top of the market price for power.

The average electricity price on the UK’s wholesale electricity market was between £55 and £65 per megawatt-hour last year.

The dramatic collapse in the cost of wind, solar and battery technologies has made nuclear power even harder to swallow.

Despite its detractors, Hinkley Point has soldiered on because concerns over the project’s costs, although considerable, are still smaller than the concerns over the UK’s future energy supplies.

The project was first mooted under Tony Blair’s Labour government as an answer to the UK’s looming energy supply gap after years of underinvestment in the UK’s fleet of power plants.

The nuclear mantle was taken up in the coalition years by the Liberal Democrat energy secretary Ed Davey, before it was given the green light by the Conservative government.

Andrew Stephenson, the minister in charge of nuclear, said Hinkley was “key to meeting our ambitious target of net zero emissions by 2050”.

Nuclear power is controversial among environmentalists, many of whom do not consider the uranium-fuelled energy to be a sustainable option. But according to the government’s official climate advisers new nuclear reactors are needed.

The Committee on Climate Change expects renewable energy to play a major role filling the gap in energy supplies. Offshore wind will increase tenfold to help meet its 2050 target to reduce emissions to net zero, and the climate watchdog has called for onshore wind and solar to play a far larger role too.

But the advisers predict that at least two new nuclear reactors, in addition to Hinkley Point, will be required to help the UK meet its climate goals.

The verdict means households are likely to be called on to stump up for EDF Energy’s follow-on project at the Sizewell site in Suffolk. It also leaves the door open for a resurrection of plans to build reactors in north Wales, and possibly a Chinese-led nuclear project in Bradwell in Essex too.”

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2019/aug/13/hinkley-point-c-rising-costs-long-delays-power-station?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other