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Nuclear Energy

  • Research reveals attitudes towards power generation

    New research has revealed the public’s attitude towards newer forms of power generation and energy security. According to the latest statistics, support for the renewable energy sector continues to grow, while attitudes towards fracking and energy security were mixed.

    Renewable Energy

    The government figures, which were published by the Department of Energy and Climate Change, showed that support for the renewable energy industry has risen to 81%.

    The Public Attitudes Tracking survey also highlighted how the vast majority of people felt that renewable energy projects should deliver benefits to their local communities and how renewable energy was aiding the economy.

    RenewableUK’s Chief Executive, Hugh McNeal, said:

    “It’s great that the British public sees how renewable energy is helping to grow the UK economy. Renewables are delivering investment and jobs throughout our country”.

    The same survey demonstrated continued public support for offshore wind power, and with numerous wind farm schemes underway, including the ambitious Hornsea Project One, this form of energy is set to play a much greater part in the UK’s future energy production.

    Nuclear Energy

    The government survey showed that support for nuclear energy remained consistent with 38% in favour of it, and almost 50% of people viewed nuclear energy as a reliable form of power.

    If EDF’s plans for the Hinkley Point plant, goes ahead, and with proposals for mini nuclear power stations advancing, nuclear power is likely provide a key role in reducing the UK’s carbon emissions in the future.

    Fracking

    The extraction of shale gas from the ground – or fracking – has always been a controversial issue, and the government figures highlighted mixed views on shale gas extraction. However, the majority of people who stated they were against it said so because they didn’t know enough about the practice.

    Despite public concern, the government has stated it is committed to fracking. There are numerous projects in place around the UK already, and further support is being offered to increase investment in shale gas.

    The future of energy security

    With a need to find affordable, cleaner sources of power generation, the future of energy security has never been far from the news, and these concerns were also reflected in the government survey. The research showed the majority of people felt there isn’t enough money being invested in finding alternative means of energy and many were concerned over our reliance on gas and oil exports.

    Low reserves in the North Sea means more than half of the UK’s gas and electricity is now imported and this has led to calls from industry bosses to do more to encourage exploration in the UK.

  • Concern’s over UK’s nuclear energy industry as UK announces it’s to leave Euratom

    There are concerns over the future of the UK’s nuclear energy industry after the government announced its plans to leave the European Atomic Power Treaty, or Euratom, as part of Brexit. The UK will formally leave in 2019, and this could mean that some of Britain’s nuclear power stations could face closure if alternatives safeguards aren’t put in place.

    The warning comes from Rupert Cowen of Prospect Law, who was appearing before the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee along with other key representatives from the nuclear industry.

    The UK will be on course to leave Euratom when it signs article 50 in March. Cowen warned that this could cause significant problems for research and development. However, if it also leaves the UK unable to comply with international safeguards, then as explained in the Guardian, nuclear trade would need to be discontinued and nuclear power stations could face possible closure.

    Decision to leave Euratom

    Brexit Secretary David Davis first confirmed the UK would be leaving Euratom in announcement earlier in 2017. The decision shocked researchers and scientists, and it has left a question mark over the future of projects like the Joint European Torus (JET) project and the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor.

    However, in a statement regarding the future of the JET project, Professor Donné, EUROfusion programme manager, has pledged the team will do all they can to continue working together and extend the work until at least 2020.

    Professor Donné added:

    “We also will do our best to find smooth and adequate solutions for the people that are affected by the UK withdrawing from Euratom.”

    UK Government’s commitment to Nuclear Energy

    Despite the UK’s decision to exit from Euratom, Secretary of State for International Trade, Dr Liam Fox, has been keen to voice the government’s commitment to nuclear energy. Speaking at the recent Civil Nuclear Showcase 2017, Dr Fox stated that the UK’s withdrawal from Euratom will in no way diminish the country’s nuclear ambitions.

    Prime Minister Theresa May recently gave the go ahead for the Hinkley C power plant, which is being built in collaboration with China, and there are plans for more nuclear power plants in the UK.

    By the mid-2020s there will be up to 16 gigawatts of new nuclear energy coming online, according to Nuclear AMRC. Companies currently exploring nuclear energy in the UK include Areva and Hitachi GE. 

  • EDF chief executive calls for Hinkley approval

    The chief executive of EDF has urged Theresa May to give the green light to the Hinkley point C nuclear power station. In an interview with the Telegraph, Vincent de Rivaz stressed the positive aspects of the proposed project and issued assurances regarding the plant.

    It’s thought the government has concerns over potential security issues and the possibility of a cyberattack, but in the Telegraph interview, de Rivaz told the newspaper that all staff would be vetted and control rooms kept separate.

    Hinkley C received final funding approval in the summer and it was expected that the government would give the project the go-ahead. However, it was announced that there was to be a delay; the government won’t make a final decision over approval until the autumn.

    If the plant does get the final go-ahead, it’s expected to be commissioned by 2025. It will cost £18 billion to build, have the capacity to fuel more than 5 million homes, and create thousands of jobs.

    EDF states that the plant will lead to a £4 billion investment in the South West during the lifetime of Hinkley C, including more than £1 billion during the construction phase.

    Government tensions        

    The delay in the decision has led to tensions between the UK and its partners in China. Chinese investment is crucial to the completion of the project, and they have committed a third of the financing for it. The Chinese government are keen for the deal to go ahead and the delay in the decision has caused a strain on diplomatic relationships between the two countries.

    Unions file legal Challenge

    While Hinkley C has the support of several major unions in the UK, in France a legal challenge has been launched. Hinkley C has also been subject to a past legal challenge by unions in France, who attempted to block the decision.

    Low carbon future

    Supporters say Hinkley C is an essential part of the UK’s low carbon future and the UK must find ways to produce greener former of power in order to provide greater energy security. The bid to find cleaner methods of energy production has led to a greater drive towards nuclear power, which has the support of the government.

    However, environmental campaigners are calling for greater use of renewable energy, energy savings and energy storage as solutions for the UK’s future fuel needs.

  • Government signs historic agreement with EDF

    The UK Government has signed an historic agreement with the French-owned energy firm EDF, which paves the way for a new generation of nuclear power. After an unexpected delay to further review the Hinkley Point C proposals the government finally gave the go ahead for the two new nuclear reactors in mid-September 2016.

    The Current secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Greg Clark, Jean Bernard Levy, CEO of EDF and He Yu, chairman of the China General Nuclear Power Group (CGN) came together to sign the Contract for Difference and Secretary of State Investor agreement in late September.

    Commenting on the development, Greg Clark stated:

    “Signing the Contract for Difference for Hinkley Point C is a crucial moment in the UK’s first new nuclear power station for a generation and follows new measures put in place by Government to strengthen security and ownership.

    Britain needs to upgrade its supplies of energy, and we have always been clear that nuclear power stations like Hinkley play an important part in ensuring our future low-carbon energy security.”

    Building and Funding of Hinkley Point C

    The £18 billion plant is being partly funded by the CGN group, who have invested £6 billion; the government has also pledged funding towards the new plant.

    Hinkley Point C will be the UK’s first nuclear power plant for twenty years and Vincent de Rivaz, CEO of EDF Energy in the UK, said it will “kick start Britain’s nuclear revival”.

    Once built, the Somerset-based plant will produce 7 per cent of the UK’s fuel needs, and the signing of the agreement will also allow the development of Sizewell C and Bradwell B.

    Hinkley Point C Plans

    Hinkley Point C is due to start producing electricity in 2025 and it will provide power for 6 million homes. 

    Decommissioning of the plant will begin in 2083 and will cost more than £7 billion; the operators of the Hinkley Point C have been made responsible for the decommissioning and site clearance costs under new measures brought in by the government.

    Importance of nuclear energy to UK

    Nuclear power is part of the government’s plans to provide energy security for the UK and to help fill the need for low carbon energy sources. There are eight potential sites that could be commissioned by 2025, and Horizon Ltd and NuGeneration are just two companies who plan to build nuclear reactors in the UK.

  • Price of Hinkley Point C to rise

    Concerns have been raised regarding the rising cost of the Hinkley Point C project, and there’s speculation about delays too.

    Several media sources have reported that the price of the new nuclear plant will rise by a further £1.5 billion. However, the Guardian reports that the developer, EDF, stated the overspend could exceed 2 billion, leading to a total cost of more than £20 billion for the reactor.

    Nevertheless, despite the reported overspend and rumours regarding a delay in the building of the plant, EDF has stated that it still anticipates completing the Somerset-based reactor on schedule by the end of 2025.

    The government also insists that the project is still ‘on track’, and it recently reaffirmed its commitment to the nuclear sector.

    Hinkley C Progress

    Back in March, the French-owned company EDF released details of the progress being made on the ambitious Hinkley Point C nuclear plant, which received government approval earlier in 2017.

    In a press release, EDF said there was 1,600 workers on the site daily, work was progressing on the seawall and concrete had been poured ahead of the construction for the power station galleries.

    Speaking at the time, Hinkley Point C Project Director, Philippe Bordarier said:

    “The regulator’s consent for construction of the first safety-related structure at Hinkley Point C shows our commitment to the highest standards of quality and safety. We’re making good progress on many fronts as a result of the successful collaboration between all our teams.”

    Hinkley C Controversy

    Plans for the plant have caused controversy from the outset, with environmental groups and parties being among those vocal in their opposition to it.

    However, others argue the Hinkley C is essential to job creation and say it will kickstart a new generation of nuclear power in the UK.  And as the UK turns its back on fossil fuels like goal, many believe that nuclear power is the way forward for a cleaner, greener.

    Government dedication to nuclear research

    In a statement issued by the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, the UK’s Business and Energy Secretary, Greg Clark, attempted to allay concerns over future collaboration with Joint European Torus (JET), an organisation that plays a vital part in nuclear fusion research.

    Mr Clark stated that “the government is taking every possible step to secure its future and to maintain highly-skilled jobs in the UK.”

    The minister also stated that the government would continue to underwrite JET after the UK officially leaves the European Union.

  • SNS Special Interest Group announces appointment of steering group

    The Oil and Gas Authority has announced the appointment of a steering group that will look at opportunities to maximise the remaining gas reserves in the Southern Northern Sea (SNS). The SNS Rejuvenation Special Interest Group is a joint initiative with Oil and Gas UK and the East of England Energy Group (EEEGR) and it consists of operators, supply chain organisations, service businesses and duty holders.

    Members of the steering group include high-profile oil companies such as Shell, Centrica and Premier Oil.

    Eric Marston, Southern North Sea and Morecambe Bay manager for the Oil and Gas Authority, launched the event. He stated that he expects the SNS to be a ‘key contributor’ to help fuel the UK into the foreseeable future. However, Marston also explained the challenges facing exploration in the SNS due to limited accessibility, the costs involved and the commercial risks.

    Simon Gray, chief executive of EEEGR, described the steering group as a vital piece of work that could help secure the future of the industry for the East region of the UK.

    SIG’s Remit

    SIG has set itself a vast remit, which aims to “maximise economic recovery (MER) of gas reserves for at least another 20 years by identifying new opportunities, including examining the potential for carboniferous gas reserves”.

    Another ambition of the newly-formed steering group is to develop deeper collaborations with its current operators and with offshore wind developers. It also aims to drive down costs by examining standardisation to streamline processes and equipment use.

    Commenting on the launch, Deirdre Mickie, chief executive of Oil and Gas UK, said:

    “Oil and Gas UK recognises the key role that the SNS gas fields play for UKPLC and we are keen to ensure that our members play a major part in ensuring the future role of these important assets for the nation for generations to come

    The inaugural meeting is due to be held in December.

    The need for exploration and investment

    Figures released by Oil and Gas UK earlier in 2016 illustrated the significant reductions in exploration, especially in the North Sea, and there were also concerns over the limited funding made available for new projects. While new initiatives have been launched, they haven’t made a significant impact on the downward trend in exploration yet.

    Oil and Gas UK have previously called for more investment into the sector and a report released in 2016 noted the decline in capital investment, which had fallen to 9 billion in 2015.

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