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

Mental health crisis at Hinkley C

“Hinkley Point nuclear power station, Britain’s biggest construction project since the second world war, is grappling with a mental illness crisis, with several attempted suicides since work began in 2016, a Guardian investigation can reveal.

More than 4,000 workers are on site delivering the vast decade-long building project, a central plank in Britain’s future energy strategy.

But according to union officials, there has been a surge in suicide attempts this year, a rise in the number of people off sick with stress, anxiety and depression, and an increase in workers suffering from mental distress.

Officials from the Unite union say they have been told of 10 suicide attempts in the first four months of 2019. The Guardian understands at least two workers connected to the project have taken their lives since construction started in earnest in 2016. …

… The main causes of the distress appear to be loneliness, relationship breakdown and the struggle of being sometimes hundreds of miles away from family.

Électricité de France (EDF), which is in charge of building Britain’s first new nuclear power plant for more than 20 years, disputes the figures, acknowledging two suicides – one of those a former worker who had left the project.

Executives say that a number of workers have said they are suicidal, but point to a wide range of measures to address the problem, including 200 mental health “buddies”, “time to talk” rooms, an on-site GP, and plans to recruit a chaplain.

“I’m aware of people who have said they have felt like committing suicide,” said Angie Young, the site health and wellbeing manager. She said the figure of 10 was a “total exaggeration”. “We do have people say life is not worth living but we’re getting in there and helping.”…

… At Hinkley, workers live on special campuses in nearby Bridgwater, or else in converted digs in the town. They work a variety of shift patterns and are shuttled to and from the site on scores of buses. Some contractors work as much as 11 days on with three days off, including an extra weekend day for travelling home. …

… Socially there are reports of increases in drinking, gambling and prostitution in Bridgwater, which has been upended by the huge construction site on its doorstep. One source in a local betting shop told of some workers spending up to £3,000 a week and others “self-excluding” from the premises in an effort to arrest the development of a financially detrimental habit.

Such is the concern among EDF management that, together with Unite union, they have stepped up efforts to tackle the crisis, including bringing in the former boxer Frank Bruno to talk to contractors about his own mental health condition.

Bruno, who has spoken about being sectioned after a mental health crisis, hosted three sessions with more than 200 attending each.

“People were talking about it for a while after. It energised people because they thought if someone like Frank Bruno can have mental problems, anyone can,” said Jonathan Davies, another union official.

EDF is also implementing an impressive mental health programme on the site, with posters urging troubled contractors to open up and one in 20 workers now trained as a mental health first aider, or “buddy” as they are known.

“We are seeing 12 people a month, mostly about relationships, some of them about gambling and being unable to cope with being away from family for a long time,” said Malcolm Davies, who has led the talks to get mental health top of the agenda with management.

“Construction is a very macho industry. We have the highest amount of mental health issues of any sector. People can be very upset over something but they won’t tell you.”

“Men are doing very physical work, with manual handling of heavy objects every day and if you’re the big bloke and you say you can’t cope or you are seen crying you get ridiculed,” he added. …”

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2019/aug/13/revealed-suicide-alarm-hinkley-point-c-construction-site?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other

All our nuclear eggs in a broken basket (case)

… and, so, far, not a peep out of our Local Enterprise Partnership – who put pretty much all our local eggs in that same government basket …

Wonder what (if anything) Johnson thinks of that?

Today’s Times (pay wall)

Flamanville points to nuclear fiasco

As French existential jokes go, little beats building a nuclear power plant at a place called Flammable. OK, it’s actually Flamanville. But who cares about that sort of nicety — not least when the project’s proving so incendiary?

It was due to be up and running in 2012 at a cost of €3.3 billion. Not only that. Flaming Ville was to be the showcase for the European Pressurised Reactor, the wizzy new tech developed by the state-backed EDF. True, it’s living up to the pressurised bit, at least for EDF boss Jean-Bernard Lévy. He’s just been forced to announce another delay: a howitzer, even by usual standards, of “more than three years”. The end of 2022 is now the earliest start date; a delay bound to jack up project costs that have already exploded to €10.9 billion

The reason? France’s spoilsport nuclear safety authority has ordered EDF to repair eight bits of dodgy welding: who’d have thought nukes had to be welded together properly? And, yes, the whole thing is turning into a nice French farce. Except for one thing, of course: the joke’s on us.”

AND (in more detail):

The latest delay at Flamanville comes after the French Nuclear Safety Authority ordered EDF to repair eight faulty welds at the plant.

Jean-Bernard Lévy, 64, EDF’s chief executive, said: “The time that we will need to prepare the repairs, carry out the repairs, test the repairs and get everything checked and then have the whole plant tested again and prepared to be launched, that will lead to delays of more than three years. So I don’t think it’s possible to commission it before the end of 2022.”

The European Pressurised Reactor at Flamanville was initially due to come on stream in 2012 at a cost of €3.3 billion. In its most recent estimate, EDF said that the costs had risen to €10.9 billion. The latest delay means that this will almost certainly have to be revised upwards.

Critics want EDF to take the reactor off the market, given the difficulties at Flamanville and elsewhere. Plans to build one in Finland are also running more than ten years behind schedule.

Engineers started working on the model in the early 1990s but only one — in China — has so far been switched on.

EDF reported first-half earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation of €8.3 billion, up 3.5 per cent from a year earlier. Revenue rose by 4.3 per cent to €36.47 billion.

The French government plans to split EDF into two units under a state-owned parent company. EDF Bleu will hold the nuclear assets and be wholly owned by the state and EDF Vert will concentrate on renewable energy and services, with a minority stake in private hands.

The defective welds responsible for the latest setback at Flamanville were detected last year. EDF said that it would repair most of them but argued that those in the building enclosing the reactor could be left for now. Those are difficult to access and to repair.

EDF said that it was “highly improbable” that they would break and urged nuclear inspectors to allow the construction programme to go ahead without repairing them but the watchdog insisted that they should be fixed before the reactor was started up.

EDF said it would agree with the watchdog how to repair the welds.

“Further delay for Hinkley-style reactor raises pressure on EDF”

“The company building Britain’s new nuclear reactors has announced a further delay to its troubled high-profile project in France.

EDF, the French state-owned group, said that the launch of its nuclear reactor at Flamanville in Normandy had been put back three years until the end of 2022.

The group is leading the project to build two similar reactors at Hinkley Point in Somerset at a cost of £19.68 billion.

Government agrees plan with EDF for cost overruns on nuclear plants – we lose, French and Chinese win

It’s OK – our Local Enterprise Partnership (for whom it is their flagship project) will just pump more of our Devon and Somerset funds into it. After all, after many if them were chosen for their nuclear business connect, they at least will be amongst the few who prosper.

“Energy consumers and taxpayers could have to pay for cost overruns at new nuclear plants after the government backed a funding model proposed by EDF.

The business department said last night it believed the “regulated asset base” model that the French energy giant wants for its proposed Sizewell plant in Suffolk could reduce consumer bills compared with the subsidy contract used to back the £20 billion Hinkley Point plant EDF is building in Somerset.

A consultation document published last night confirms that consumers would, however, be asked to start paying for the plants on energy bills while they were still under construction and to share in the risks of cost overruns.

In the case of an extreme overrun, the government — effectively the taxpayer — could either have to step in and pay the extra cost or scrap the project and pay compensation to investors.

Nuclear power provides about a fifth of the UK’s electricity needs but all bar one existing plant is due to close by 2030. Hinkley Point is the only new project under construction and over the past year developers have abandoned plans for new plants in Cumbria, Anglesey and Gloucestershire amid difficulties securing financing.

Under the regulated asset base model, the developer would receive a regulated price to give it a return on its investment expenditure, including during the construction period, and this would be levied on energy bills.

By contrast, EDF and its Chinese partners CGN are paying upfront to build Hinkley in return for a guarantee that consumers will pay them a fixed price for electricity when it eventually starts generating. The contract, well above current market prices, was widely criticised as poor value for money.

The government said the subsidy contract had been “appropriate” for Hinkley because at the time it was awarded, the reactor technology “was not operational anywhere in the world” and similar projects had suffered from significant delays and cost overruns.

The government said that construction at Hinkley, due to start operating in 2025, was on schedule and the same design of reactor had started up in China. It said that financial investors remained unwilling to put money in “during the construction phase”.

Source:Times (pay wall)