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Nuclear Europe, Round N

Posted in France,Nuclear,UK by Cheryl Morgan on the July 4th, 2011

At the end of last week the UK government found itself with considerable egg on its face when someone leaked a bunch of emails showing that the Energy Secretary, Chris Huhne, was apparently colluding with the nuclear industry to put a positive spin on the Fukushima disaster in order to forestall public unease about new nuclear build in the UK.

Huhne is a member of the minority Liberal Democrat party in the Uk government. His party colleagues are largely anti-nuclear, and permission for LibDem MPs to abstain on any votes on the issue was specifically negotiated as part of the coalition agreement. Understandably Mr. Huhne’s party colleagues are not best pleased with him.

Meanwhile the French have run into their own problems. The nuclear safety inspections I mentioned last week turned up 32 separate safety concerns at EDF’s Tricastin plant in Drôme in the Rhône valley. Two days later the plant obligingly suffered an explosion, sending a thick cloud of black smoke into the sky. The problem was not associated with the reactors, and French police have confirmed that no radioactivity has been released into the environment. Nevertheless, the British newspapers are making a meal of the story. Doubtless their colleagues around Europe are doing the same.

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Sarkozy Invests

Posted in France,Nuclear,Renewables by Cheryl Morgan on the June 28th, 2011

The weirdly political nature of energy industry news coverage was made clear again yesterday in reaction to a speech by President Sarkozy of France. That the French are investing €1bn in nuclear power should come as no surprise to anyone who has followed their energy policy over the years. M. Sarkozy is quoted by The Guardian as saying, “There is no alternative to nuclear energy today.”

Except that there obviously is, because in the same speech M. Sarkozy announced a €1.3bn investment in renewables. Somewhere, I am sure, there will someone reporting with horror that the French are spending more money on renewables than on nuclear, but the vast majority of newspapers appear to have concentrated on the nuclear story.

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Nuclear: Europe Speaks With Forked Tongue

Posted in Europe,Nuclear by Cheryl Morgan on the June 23rd, 2011

In the wake of the Fukushima disaster in Japan, most people have been predicting the demise of the nuclear power industry. Recent events appear to have proved that true, with German Chancellor Angela Merkel choosing to shut 7 of her country’s older plants, and promising an exit from nuclear generation by 2022. Switzerland’s cabinet has voted to follow suit. This article by John Daly on, titled “Nuclear Twilight in Europe”, is typical of the sort of media reaction we have seen.

Not every European leader agrees with the German line. In Italy Silvio Berlusconi was keen to press ahead with new nuclear build. Given his ability to win elections despite being mired in all sorts of scandals, you might have thought that the Italian Prime Minister would be unconcerned at being forced to fight a referendum on the subject, but Berlusconi was so afraid of the result that he put all his energy (and considerable media clout) into trying to keep the turnout below the 50% needed for the result to be legally binding. It didn’t work and, as The Guardian reported, well over 90% of the people who did vote were against nuclear power.

Some countries in Europe have always been more well-disposed towards nuclear. Sweden has 10 operating nuclear plants that supply over 40% of the country’s electricity. Following the Three Mile Island disaster a referendum voted to close all of the existing plants by 2010, but most of them are still operating and the Swedish parliament has voted to allow new nuclear build. That, of course, was before Fukushima. Also Vattenfall has had a particularly difficult time of late with the nuclear plants it operates in Germany, particularly Krümmel and Brunsbüttel. A recent International Atomic Energy Agency report listed Vattenfall as the worst nuclear operator in Europe.

Finland is one of the few countries in the world currently building a new nuclear power station. The Finnish people, however, are not happy, and haven’t been since well before Fukushima. The Olkiluoto 3 reactor is currently scheduled to come online 4 years late, and massively over budget.

The existence of nuclear power in an interconnected market means that even countries that are firmly opposed to nuclear make use of it. At today’s Economist UK Energy Summit, Director-General Philip Lowe noted that Austria gets 6% of its electricity from nuclear, despite public opinion being very much against it.

The one country in Europe that has always been a flag bearer for nuclear, however, is France. That support has continued, despite the problems in Japan. In the wake of the Fukushima disaster the European Union decided to undertake a program of stress tests on all nuclear power stations within its borders. No country was likely to vote against that, but pro-nuclear countries have been working behind the scenes to make sure that the tests were not as stringent as they might be. This lobbying has been led by France, the Czech Republic, and particularly by the UK.

Today the UK government released a list of 8 sites at which new nuclear build is planned to be authorized. In order to forestall public objections, all 8 plants will be built on brownfield sites adjacent to existing nuclear reactors. The plans still have to be voted on by parliament, but given that they were put in motion by the preceding Labour government, it will take a fairly substantial u-turn for the vote to fail. And if the UK government manages to get nuclear plants built despite the inevitable public opposition, other European governments might once again reconsider their options.

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UK Announces Potential Nuclear Sites

Posted in Nuclear,UK by Cheryl Morgan on the April 15th, 2009

The UK Government has published a list of 11 sites at which it hopes new nuclear power stations will be built. According to The Guardian, the sites are:

Dungeness in Kent; Sizewell in Suffolk; Hartlepool in Cleveland; Heysham in Lancashire; Sellafield in Cumbria; Braystones in Cumbria; Kirksanton in Cumbria; Wylfa Peninsula in Anglesey; Oldbury in Gloucestershire; Hinkley Point in Somerset and Bradwell in Essex.

The majority of these locations (9) already house existing nuclear installations. The other two are close to the nuclear re-processing facility at Sellafield. The government hopes that the choice of brownfield sites will ease the process of planning inquiries, though anti-nuclear protesters are already lining up to challenge the process.

Meanwhile the companies involved are busy courting local public opinion. Here in Somerset homes have received leaflets from EdF that talk enthusiastically about the new jobs that will be created, and about the nuclear skills training center that will be established in conjunction with a local college. Hinkley Point is a particularly interesting site as it overlooks the Severn Estuary more or less exactly where the proposed tidal barrage would be built. This gives local people a genuine choice as to how they want their future electricity generated: by a nuclear power station, or by a renewable energy project that environmental campaigners say will be disastrous for local wildlife. The next year or so could be interesting.

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Italy Joins New Nuke Club

Posted in France,Italy,Nuclear by Cheryl Morgan on the February 25th, 2009

Prime Minister Berlusconi and President Sarkozy have signed an agreement that will see EdF and Enel collaborate on the construction of at least four new nuclear power stations in Italy. The first plant is expected to be online in 2020. This is despite a referendum in 1987 that saw Italy close all operational nuclear plants in the country. EurActive has more details.

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Poland Too

Posted in Nuclear,Poland by Cheryl Morgan on the February 6th, 2009

The rush to nuclear in Europe is gathering pace. Poland has announced that it plans to build two new nukes.

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Sweden Re-Thinks Nuclear

Posted in Nordic,Nuclear by Cheryl Morgan on the February 5th, 2009

In 1980 Sweden held a referendum on the use of nuclear power, and the people voted to phase it out. Now, however, the current government is having a re-think. Just like the UK, Sweden has a fleet of aging nuclear plants that need to be replaced with something. As coal and gas are now considered as dangerous, if nor more so, than nuclear, building new nukes is back on the agenda. The Guardian has more details.

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GdF Joins SSE/Iberdrola Group

Posted in Nuclear,UK by Cheryl Morgan on the February 4th, 2009

The consortium formed by Scottish & Southern (SSE) and Iberdrola, with the purpose of building new nuclear plants in the UK, has a new member. The BBC reports that Gaz de France (GdF) has joined the group. The article also mentions a rival consortium comprised of RWE and E.ON. It is getting crowded in that market.

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February EEnergy Informer

Posted in Nordic,Nuclear,UK by Cheryl Morgan on the February 3rd, 2009

The February 2009 issue of EEnergy Informer is now available. Here is the contents list:

  • Is Exxon’s Carbon Tax Part Of Obama’s Sea Change?
  • Nuclear Eyes On Britain
  • Energy Demand, Like Everything Else, to Slip In 2009
  • Mounting Unpaid Utility Bills Pose New Challenge For Smart Meters
  • Future Of Coal: Rhetoric vs. Reality
  • Can DOE Make A Difference?
  • Sempra Finds The El Dorado In Solar PVs
  • AREVA’s Setbacks In Finland Cause for Nuclear Alarm
  • New Year Letter To Obamas Warns On Factories Of Death

The article on Finland is available for free. All other articles currently require a subscription to the paper edition of the magazine. To subscribe to EEnergy Informer click here.

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Iberdrola & SSE Go Nuclear

Posted in Nuclear,UK by Cheryl Morgan on the January 22nd, 2009

It seems like EdF will not have it all its own way in the expected bonanza of nuclear plant production in the UK. According to Energy Business Review, Iberdrola and Scottish & Southern Energy will be setting up a joint venture with a view to building their own nuclear plants.

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