Wind trumps nuclear in first 3 months of 2018 (one nuclear station offline due to wrong kind of seaweed!)

Maybe Hinkley C – in which our Local Enterprise Partnership is investing so much of our money – should be surrounded by wind turbines as back up!

“Britain’s windfarms provided more electricity than its eight nuclear power stations in the first three months of 2018, marking the first time wind has overtaken nuclear across a quarter.

The renewable energy industry hailed the milestone as a sign the UK was well on its way to an electricity system powered by cheap, domestic green energy.

Across the first quarter, wind power produced 18.8% of electricity, second only to gas, said a report by researchers at Imperial College London.

Two nuclear plants were temporarily offline for routine maintenance, while another was shut because of seaweed in the cooling system. …”

“UK in last ditch new nuclear crunch talks as ageing power plants falter”

Remember, Hinkley C is where most of our Local Enterprise Partnership’s money (OUR money) is invested and a good proportion of LEP board members have nuclear or allied-closely-to-nuclear interests. AND renewable energy costs are getting lower and lower.

“Prime Minister Theresa May faces crunch talks over the future of a new nuclear power station on Thursday, as fresh faults reduce the amount of energy Britain’s ageing fleet of reactors can generate.

The Japanese conglomerate behind plans to build a new reactor at the Wylfa nuclear site in Wales is expected to call on the Government to take a direct stake in the new plant, or risk the £27bn project falling through.

The last-ditch talks between Hitachi chairman Hiroaki Nakanishi and the prime minister were scheduled for the same day that fresh cracks in one of the UK’s oldest [EDF-owned] nuclear plants underlined the need for new investment in low-carbon power.

A string of power plants, including the faltering Hunterston nuclear plant, are set to close by 2025.

Hitachi’s 2.9 gigawatt nuclear project could help to fill the gap created by the closures, but the group is not willing to take on the full risk burden without the backing of other private investors and government involvement.

The conglomerate is planning to back away from the project entirely unless the UK agrees to help finance it or take a stake in the plant alongside investments from the Japanese government, according to local media reports.”

Another safety setback for another EDF nuclear reactor

“A reactor at EDF Energy’s (EDF.PA) Hunterston B nuclear power plant in Scotland will remain offline for additional safety checks after cracks were found in its core, Britain’s Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) said. …

“Inspections confirmed the expected presence of new keyway root cracks in the reactor core and also identified these happening at a slightly higher rate than modelled,” EDF Energy said in a statement.

The reactor has been offline since March and was due to come back online this month, but EDF Energy has extended the outage until later this year. …”

“Alarm rings over rising nuclear power plant bills”

Our Local Enterprise Partnership has much of OUR money invested in Hinkley C.

“New nuclear power plants are likely to blow their budgets and arrive late unless their designs are completed before construction starts, a report has warned.

Ministers, wary of cost hikes and delays, are wrestling with how to financially support replacements for ageing coal-fired and nuclear plants across the UK.

Hitachi is trying to strike a deal with ministers to build a £10bn-plus plant at Wylfa on Anglesey, where taxpayers are likely to take a stake.

Developers in Europe and America have been wounded by a series of nuclear projects, from Flamanville in France to Vogtle in the US state of Georgia, where costs have soared beyond budget. Plants in the Middle East and Asia have far better records on costs and schedules.

Researchers at Energy Technologies Institute found that most high-cost projects had started construction with incomplete designs, whereas work on low-cost plants had begun only once design and planning had been finalised.

The falling cost of renewable power such as offshore wind and solar has posed more questions about the financial viability of nuclear projects.

The institute’s report on costs in the nuclear industry says new plants could be affordable and help the country move to low-carbon energy, but only with better development and collaboration.

The institute calls for multiple reactors to be constructed at each site to achieve better value for money.

It urges government support for new plants, but only if the developers commit to cost cuts, efficiency and shared best practice. Government support could lower the cost of financing plants, it said, helping to cut the interest bill on a developer’s debts. Also, a new body should be set up to share information about technological innovations and lessons learnt from each project.

The institute is a collaboration between the government and industrial giants including BP, EDF Energy and Rolls-Royce. Its intervention is timely as ministers are demanding that any new nuclear plant must cost less than EDF’s Hinkley Point scheme in Somerset.

The £19.6bn project has been underpinned by a “strike price” that guarantees the state-owned French energy giant a set price of £92.50 for every megawatt hour of electricity for 35 years.

The Somerset plant has soared over budget and is about a decade behind schedule. Its former boss had predicted households would be cooking their 2017 Christmas turkey on Hinkley’s electricity.

The government will soon announce a sector deal for the nuclear industry — one of the programmes designed to boost the country’s key industries, from automotive to life sciences.

The business department said: “This independent report is helpful in looking at cost reduction in the nuclear sector.”

Source: The sunday Times (pay wall)

Hinkley C French twin having problems

No worries – our Local Enterprise Partnership will sort it out … won’t they …?

“EDF Energy has warned that a flagship nuclear power station it is building in France could run further behind schedule and over budget, after it detected faults at the €10.5bn ( £9.2bn) plant.

The French state-owned firm said inspections last month had uncovered problems with welding on pipes at the Flamanville plant in north-west France.

Flamanville’s reactor design is the same as the one being used at a delayed plant in Finland and at Hinkley Point in Somerset, where EDF is building the UK’s first new nuclear power station in decades.

The company said that it had discovered “quality deviations” on 150 welds in a system used to transport steam to turbines used for electricity generation.

EDF said it was performing further checks to see what works would be needed to satisfy the safety requirements of the French nuclear regulator, ASN, and would report back in May.

In a statement, the firm said: “Following the current checks and the licensing process by the ASN, EDF will be able to specify whether the project requires an adjustment to its timetable and its costs.”

The plant is already three times over its original estimates and several years late.

Nuclear industry experts said the announcement cast doubt over whether Flamanville unit three would be operational by the end of 2019, as planned.

Stephen Thomas, professor of energy policy at the University of Greenwich said: “If remedial work is needed, this puts in further doubt whether Flamanville can be in commercial operation [as previously planned].”

ASN warned earlier this year that the start-up schedule for Flamanville was tight.

Paul Dorfman, of the Energy Institute at University College London, said the problems did not bode well for Hinkley Point C, which is due to come online in 2025.

“If they can’t build their own reactor in France, where can they build it? This seems counter to their claims that they are learning from their mistakes and Hinkley won’t be a repeat.”

Our Local Enterprise Partnership’s favourite project ringing alarm bells

Not what our nuclear-linked LEP board members want to hear:

“The UK nuclear regulator has raised concerns with EDF Energy over management failings that it warns could affect safety at the Hinkley Point C power station if left unaddressed, official documents reveal.

Britain’s chief nuclear inspector identified several shortcomings in the way the French firm is managing the supply chain for the £20bn plant it is building in Somerset.

Though not serious enough alone to raise regulatory issues, together they “may indicate a broader deficiency” in the way the company is run, concluded Mark Foy, chief inspector at the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR).

In October and November 2017, a team of 11 inspectors led by Foy visited the Hinkley site, EDF facilities in Bristol and Paris, and a French factory making parts for the plant.

The visits were triggered by the regulator’s concerns that EDF did not have sufficient oversight of the Creusot nuclear forge in France, where records have been found to be falsified.

A summary of the inspections, published by the ONR earlier this month, judged EDF’s supply chain management to be improving but below standard in some areas.

The full reports, released to the Guardian under freedom of information rules, paint a critical picture. They show that:

The ONR was concerned that EDF’s internal oversight and governance had not identified the shortcomings at the forge

Stuart Crook, Hinkley Point C managing director, admitted that EDF, not the ONR, should have spotted those shortcomings first

a lack of resources meant EDF did not undertake an internal audit of its quality control processes during 2017. Foy said this was “disappointing” as it might have picked up problems

On safety, the report said that: “Throughout this … inspection, themes have emerged that relate to both improvements in NNB GenCo’s [the EDF subsidiary building Hinkley] processes and to shortfalls in management system arrangements that, if unresolved, have the potential to affect safety.”

EDF’s own assessment of how it managed Hinkley’s supply chain had discovered shortfalls that could affect safety, the regulator found. The ONR also felt that the company’s plan for improving its self-assessment process was inadequate.

Moreover, they said that it was not clear who at EDF was managing quality control on the supply chain.

Interviews with EDF’s contractors for the Hinkley project, which include civil engineering groups Kier BAM and Bylor, also found that EDF had not done enough to pass on information about the failings at the Creusot forge to its suppliers.

However, the regulator said it was confident the company could make improvements ahead of the next key regulatory milestone for the power station, in August 2018. Overall, EDF was found to be operating within the UK’s exacting nuclear regulations.

“Current arrangements for the control of quality are judged, through ONR’s wider regulatory activities, to be appropriate at present,” said Foy.

Experts said the inspection’s conclusions were significant, as nuclear regulation language is usually restrained.

Paul Dorfman, of the Energy Institute at University College London, said: “Looking at this report with a practiced eye, you can see that the UK regulators are worried, and things aren’t necessarily going to get any better.

“In all things nuclear, safety is absolutely paramount. The fact that the UK nuclear regulator says that these problems could affect safety is very significant.”

EDF said it was already implementing improvement measures where required ahead of an increase in construction activity at the site. The company was also completing the outstanding internal quality assurance programme.

A spokesperson said: “The chief nuclear inspector’s report recognises that the current quality control arrangements for Hinkley Point C are appropriate.”

There are about 3,500 people working on the site at the moment, a number that is expected to peak at around 6,000 in 18 months, when construction is due to be at full throttle.

The power station should provide around 7% of the UK’s electricity and is due to switch on in 2025, though EDF has warned the project may run 15 months over schedule.”