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)

“England’s seaside towns where young people might disappear”

Does our Local Enterprise Partnership – which could but does not invest in coastal regeneration – care? Not one jot.

“Analysis by BBC News of population projections has found seaside towns in northern England could see the biggest decline in under-30s.

The Parliamentary Group for Coastal Communities said funding cuts meant seaside towns were “being left behind”.

The government said it had invested more than £200m in coastal communities.
The coastline in England is home to some of the most beautiful but also poorest places in England. …

BBC News has analysed the population projections made by the ONS for 75 local authorities in England with a coastline.

More than half of the local authorities could see a fall in the number of residents under the age of 30 by the year 2039.

The biggest decline in the number of under-30s could be in the north of England, where every local authority with a coastline, except Liverpool, might see a fall in the number of young people.

Collectively northern seaside communities might see a reduction of 200,000 under-30s over the next two decades.

In contrast, coastal authorities in the south, such as Bristol (+13%), Canterbury (+6.4%) and Southampton (+4.7%) could see substantial rises in the number of young people …”

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-48995925

Hinkley C may kill 250,000 fish per DAY

“It has been described as a giant plughole under the sea, sucking in 130,000 litres of water a second along with vast numbers of fish.

The twin inlet tunnels stretching two miles out into the Severn estuary are so big that a double-decker bus could drive through them. The system will cool a new nuclear power station being built at Hinkley Point in Somerset but conservation groups say it will kill up to 250,000 fish a day and must be altered or scrapped.

They say that EDF, the French state-owned energy group, has grossly underestimated the system’s impact on marine life in the estuary, a special conservation area.

A 5mm mesh will be installed to prevent larger fish being swallowed but the groups, including the Blue Marine Foundation, Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust and Somerset Wildlife Trust, say many fish will be fatally injured when pressed against it. Small fish, eels and the fry of many species, such as salmon, whiting and cod, will be sucked through the mesh and into the cooling system. The groups say it could damage the population of twaite shad in the UK, a small herring-like fish that used to spawn in the estuary by the millions but has dwindled to tens of thousands.

EDF says the system will kill about 650,000 fish a year. It has asked to vary its original permits and planning permission for the power station to allow it to remove an “acoustic fish deterrent” from the cooling system. It argues that, even without it, the impact of the system on fish populations will still be “negligible”. EDF says fish will be adequately protected by other measures, one which will slow the water entering the system and another which will return to the sea the fish sucked in.

Conservation groups argue that scientific analysis they obtained of the cooling system shows far greater harm to marine life. This analysis is partly based on measurements of fish swallowed by the cooling system of Hinkley Point B, a nearby nuclear power station which consumes a quarter of the sea water that will be extracted to cool Hinkley C. They want the government to reject EDF’s application and, if the company cannot mitigate the damage, force it to use other ways to cool the station, such as cooling towers or ponds.

James Robinson, of the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust, said: “The authorities must decide if it’s worth building a giant plughole to suck millions of sea animals to their deaths, in one of our most important protected marine areas, in order to produce electricity.”

Charles Clover, director of Blue Marine Foundation, said the groups would also challenge plans by EDF for a similar system at its proposed new nuclear power station at Sizewell in Suffolk.

Michele Bowe, Somerset Wildlife Trust director of conservation, said: “It is of grave concern that EDF is seeking to cancel one third of the measures originally imposed to protect fish numbers when construction work of the tunnel systems is well under way.”

Chris Fayers, head of environment at Hinkley Point C, said: “Studies have shown the power station would have a negligible impact on local fish stocks with the proposed fish protection measures in place. These are a fish return system and water intakes specially designed to slow the water coming into the cooling pipes. Hinkley Point C will be the first power station in the Bristol Channel with fish protection measures.”

Source: 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

Regional imbalances to be examined by MPs

Bet our Local Enterprise Partnership has some “bigly beautiful” figures to support much more housing – fuelled by nuclear energy probably (bacause, as their hero Trump says – wind turbines cause cancer!).

“A parliamentary inquiry has been launched to examine the impact of regional imbalances in the UK economy.

The treasury committee is to examine the nature and impact of regional imbalances in economic growth across the country and the extent to which these explain poor productivity growth across the UK.

It will establish what regional data is currently available in the UK, how it could be used more effectively in policy development, and whether official regional economic forecasts should be produced.

MPs will seek to learn lessons from other countries on the use of regional economic data and forecasts, and understand how devolution has changed the need for regional data.

The effectiveness of regional bodies, such as combined authorities, in promoting growth will also be considered, as well as the extent to which the devolution of funding can help reduce regional disparities.

Treasury committee chair Nicky Morgan said that disparities between the areas represented by committee members had become “abundantly clear” in her time as chair.

“Whether it be a divide between north and south, towns and cities, or urban and rural, people experience the chasm which exists between various parts of the UK through their day to day lives,” said Ms Morgan.

That included differences not just in economic growth and income, but also in health and educational outcomes and the quality of infrastructure, she said.

“As part of this inquiry, we’ll examine why this is the case, what the effects are in terms of imbalances, such as wages and employment, and how successful regional programmes have been in promoting regional economic growth.

“The treasury committee will seek to identify the disparities and explore how better data can inform policy makers on how best to level the playing field.”

Committee member Alison McGovern said the inquiry would help build an accurate picture of how the economy affected people in different parts of the UK.

“We must understand how regional economic performance shapes people’s lives and their perceptions of where they live and work,” she said.

“It is not sufficient for the government to only offer figures on economic success in aggregate terms. I hope this inquiry can show how the government can get a full picture of the whole of the UK economy in the future.”

Written evidence will be accepted on the treasury committee website until 2 August.”

https://www.publicfinance.co.uk/news/2019/06/mps-investigate-economic-disparities-uk

Is our Local Enterprise Partnership attempting to hi-jack housing and infrastructure funding and control?

Yet another attempt by this unelected bunch of conflicted business people to suck up funding meant for local councils:

“…
Recommendations
2.1. 1.
That the Joint Committee pursue an area-based package to accelerate housing delivery which, at headline level, should include:

a. Resourcing of a strategic delivery team (capacity funding)
b. A major infrastructure delivery fund to unlock growth
c. A small schemes liquidity fund to bring forward stalled sites

2. That the proposed package as set out in appendix 1 is agreed as an
appropriate package to accelerate housing delivery across the HotSW
geography.

3. That the proposed package as set out in appendix 1 is used by officers as
the basis for future engagement with central government and its agencies in seeking to secure a bespoke deal for the HotSW area to structurally embed collaboration with central government on housing delivery.

4. That the Task Force seeks to now engage with senior figures within both Homes England and the MHCLG Growth and Delivery Unit to understand their appetite for driving growth and willingness to work with the Joint Committee on some kind of housing deal.

5. That the Task Force brings back any updates or progress to the Joint Committee to consider in due course.”

https://democracy.devon.gov.uk/documents/s26163/HotSW%20JC%20-%20Housing%20Task%20Force%20report.pdf

The appendix on pages 5 and 6 is particularly worrying.

And where does this leave the (stalled due to political changes) Greater Exeter Strategic Plan?