Archive for January, 2017

Leaving Euratom: the government should reconsider

Posted by Suzanna Hinson on January 27th, 2017

It has been confirmed that the UK intends to leave the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom) as part of the Brexit process. Following their loss in the Supreme Court last week, the government has produced a bill on triggering Article 50 to put to a commons vote. As part of the explanatory notes of this very short bill, was the revelation that Britian will be leaving both the EU and Euratom. Euratom, a separate legal entity to the EU but governed by EU institutions, has controlled nuclear power in Europe since 1957.

The move has been met with shock by the industry, with Dr Paul Dorfman, honorary senior researcher at the Energy Institute at University College London, calling it a “lose-lose situation” due to the potential for reduced competitiveness and reduced safety. There will be increased pressure on the already under-resourced Office for Nuclear Regulation to cover all of Euratom’s responsibilities including non-proliferation inspections, authorizing the sale of nuclear material and safeguarding power, fuel fabrication and waste sites. Alternatively the UK would need to negotiate with the International Atomic Energy Agency for help with this new burden. The decision will likely impact the UK’s plans for new power stations, research, skills development and dealing with the waste legacy.

The decision will also likely mean the eventual loss of the world leading Fusion experiment based in Culham, Oxfordshire, involving 350 scientists and funding from 40 countries, to another country such as Germany or France. This loss could risk perpetrating across the nuclear research space, with the isolation from Euratom making the UK far less attractive for research and innovation leading to a funding and brain drain at the very time the UK is trying to reinvigorate its nuclear leadership through it’s Industrial Strategy.

A complex set of negotiations will now have to take place as most nuclear co-operation with the UK relies on safeguards provided through Euratom. It may not be possible to agree and ratify new agreements before Britain leaves the EU in 2019. According to Vince Zabielski, a senior lawyer at law firm Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman, “current new build projects will be placed on hold while those standalone treaties are negotiated” meaning possible delays at Hinkley as well as Bradwell, Moorside and Wylfa.

The decision however is not just bad for the UK, but for nuclear as a whole. With the UK one of the last big supporters of the technology, weakening its strength in the field will give power to anti-nuclear camps across the continent.

Weinberg Next Nuclear is very concerned that the departure from Euratom could severely damage the UK’s nuclear industry, with impacts on energy security, industrial competitiveness and decarbonisation objectives. We find no reason why such drastic action needs to be taken. Article 50 deals with the two Treaties of Lisbon: the Treaty on the European Union and the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. However the Euratom treaty is separate, not mentioned in either of the above treaties thus there is no reason for including Euratom in any part of Article 50 debate. As Jonathan Leech, a senior lawyer and nuclear expert at Prospect Law said, “there doesn’t seem to have been any real explanation as to why, because we are going towards the unknown at great speed. Legally we don’t have to [leave Euratom because the UK is leaving the EU],”.

Weinberg Next Nuclear thus urges the government to reconsider and avoid the highly damaging consequences this unnecessary withdrawal could have on the UK’s nuclear future.

Weinberg Next Nuclear welcomes new Patron

Posted by Suzanna Hinson on January 26th, 2017

Weinberg Next Nuclear, the charity promoting the next generation of nuclear energy, is delighted to announce its newest Patron – Professor Wade Allison, Emeritus Professor of Physics and Emeritus Fellow of Keble College. Professor Allison is a leading authority on medical physics, especially the effects of radiation on life. His work has attracted considerable attention around the world, especially following the accident at Fukushima Daiichi in 2011. Since then he has been to Japan several times to lecture and to visit teachers, community leaders, doctors and evacuees in the region affected by the accident.

wade

He studied Natural Sciences at the University of Cambridge, before completing his DPhil in Particle Physics at the University of Oxford. After his doctorate, Professor Allison spent two years at the Argonne National Laboratory in the US, before returning to teach and research at Oxford. He was subsequently appointed Professor and Fellow of Keble College.

Professor Allison has published two books on the topic of radiation fear.

In Radiation and Reason (2009) he brought the scientific evidence of the effect of radiation to a wider audience. After the Fukushima accident this was translated into Japanese and Chinese. Nuclear is for Life (2015) is a broad study that contrasts the cultural rejection of nuclear energy with the evidence, at all but the highest levels, for the harmless, and even beneficial, interaction of radiation with life.

Upon his appointment, Professor Allison said:

‘’Fukushima showed that radiation is no threat to life – the need for a carbon-free economy should be satisfied by nuclear power. We need a radical change in the way we approach nuclear power, not only in regards to technology, but to the broader cultural aspects. Nothing short of a paradigm shift will be needed. Weinberg Next Nuclear can play a key role as catalyst for change’’

Stephen Tindale, Director of Weinberg Next Nuclear, said:

“Public opposition to nuclear energy on the basis of exaggerated and unscientific fear of radioactivity is a significant barrier to nuclear progress. The world needs more nuclear energy, and addressing the fear factor is a major part of nuclear advocacy. So I am delighted to welcome Wade as a Patron. Wade has immense scientific knowledge and is also extremely well versed in the need for new public communication on nuclear.”

New Report: The Case for a Clean Energy Alliance

Posted by Suzanna Hinson on January 23rd, 2017

23 January 2017: Clean energy sectors should set up an alliance to shape a supportive industrial strategy.

The British government is today publishing a consultative green paper on a new industrial strategy. It proposes to offer ‘Sector Deals’ to address sector-specific challenges and opportunities. These would “offer a range of support”, including supporting innovation.

The Government highlights that Britain has strengths in research and development of smart energy technologies. And one of the ten” strategic pillars” will be:

“Delivering affordable energy and clean growth. We need to keep costs down for businesses, and secure the economic benefits of the transition to a low-carbon economy.”

In response to the green paper, the Alvin Weinberg Foundation think tank has published a report on The Case for a Clean Energy Alliance. The report argues that:

 

“An Alliance would bring together like-minded organisations – those concerned with energy security, fuel poverty, economic competitiveness, environment, air quality and climate change – to work towards a common goal of decarbonisation. The renewables, CCS and nuclear sectors do already work together on specific issues, through their trade associations. An Alliance would add value by taking a strategic approach, to complement, not duplicate, the tactical co-operation that takes place between sectors already. The Alliance should not be an alternative public voice for clean energy, but rather unite existing voices.”

“The energy industry needs to offer strategic advice to governments on how best to facilitate clean energy. Some competition between sectors is inevitable: public money is limited. Nevertheless, there are significant questions on which competition is neither necessary nor helpful.”[i]

The criteria for judging what is low-carbon should include the full life-cycle of the technology, including land use change. Full members should be trade associations: companies and civil society organisations could become associate members.

Stephen Tindale, Weinberg director, said:

“An active industrial strategy offers a great opportunity for clean energy. To take advantage, different clean energy sectors should work together more strategically. With all the energy challenges of today, now is not the time for sectoral technology tribalism: it is the time for a Clean Energy Alliance.”

Contact: Stephen Tindale

stephen.tindale@the-weinberg-foundation.org

07941 433780

[i] Strategic questions that an Alliance could address include:

  • Should low-carbon energy technologies continue to receive public financial support into the 2020s?
  • If so, how should such support be delivered – through guaranteed tariffs or through grants?
  • Should public money to support clean energy be raised through taxation or through energy bills?
  • How can the operation of the Levy Control Framework be improved in order to increase investor confidence?
  • Is the Contract-for-Difference approach efficient and fair: should it be reformed or would the resulting regulatory instability undermine any potential benefits?”

Nuclear power on schedule in the United Arab Emirates

Posted by Suzanna Hinson on January 10th, 2017

Whilst many European reactors are hampered with delays, construction of four new units in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is on or even ahead of schedule. The Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (ENEC) announced that the Barakah Nuclear Energy plant is now 75% complete and still scheduled to finish in 2020.

The first of four APR – 1400 PWR units is expected to start operation this year, with the others coming online each consecutive year afterwards until the entire plant is generating in 2020. Unit 3 recently passed the milestone of having its reactor containment linear dome installed and Unit 4 is ahead of schedule with the concrete for the containment building now being poured. The plant is being built by a South Korean-led consortium with close consultation from the International Atomic Energy Agency and huge public support.

Surveys conducted by ENEC show that public support has increased with the construction of the plant. In December 2012, 82% of people surveyed were in favour of nuclear energy compared to 66% in 2011. An even greater figure of 89% of those surveyed supported a plant being built in the UAE, up from 67% in 2011, before construction started. The 2012 survey also found that awareness of nuclear energy had increased with a total of 89% believing that peaceful nuclear energy is “extremely important,” “very important,” or “important” for the UAE.

The power plant, which began construction in 2012, will provide when completed up to a quarter of the UAE’s electricity demand (5600MWe) and in doing so, save up to 12 million tonnes of carbon emissions per year. 

Nuclear progress to start the year

Posted by Suzanna Hinson on January 4th, 2017

As 2017 begins, financial pressures on companies such as Toshiba are casting doubt on some nuclear plans in the UK and USA, but elsewhere there have been significant and positive developments.

In Pakistan, on the 28th of December, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif inaugurated unit 3 of the Chasma nuclear plant. After 5 years of construction, the Chinese CNP-300 pressurised water reactor went critical in October and was quickly connected to the grid. Pakistan now has three nuclear reactors and is planning on opening a fourth CNP-300 unit this year. The prime minister has said the country is committed to achieving 8800MW of nuclear power capacity by 2030.

South Africa plans to build plants with a capacity of 9,600MW and on the 20th of December the country’s energy company Eskom put the plan into motion. As part of the tender for the new plants they released a request for information about “experience related to recent nuclear project capacities and costs, proposed financing solutions and localisation opportunities”. The tender process will progress throughout 2017 with the aim of having the first new reactor connected by 2026.

Zambia also has plans to add to Africa’s nuclear capacity. On 7th December the government signed agreements with Russia’s Rosatom to build the countries first nuclear power plants. Zambia aims to have a nuclear plant built within 15 years, to provide at least 2GW of electricity as well as have uses for cancer treatment and irradiation of food.

Increasing numbers of countries are recognising the benefits of nuclear power. Whilst there are challenges involved, and ongoing delays to progress in some areas, 2017 should see more reactors come online, more plans finalised and more money invested in research. Too much development is still overly focused on old technology. If these emerging nuclear supporters want the best from the technology, they should pursue advanced nuclear.

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