How radioactive can you get? “The British government has blood on its hands”. Really? Lucky it hasn’t declared war or anything – because Justin Bowden might run out of words. Who he? The GMB union’s national secretary for energy, giving his measured response to the implosion of Moorside’s nuclear dreams: the ones looking nightmarish ever since the Nugen project’s champion, Japan’s Toshiba, went into financial meltdown. And maybe it will mean fewer jobs in Cumbria building a £10 billion-plus nuclear white elephant. But even so, here’s an alternative view: axing the project is a let-off for Britain. We’ve got one nuclear fiasco already: the £20 billion Hinkley Point C, forcing consumers to pay twice the wholesale price for its electricity, or £92.50 per megawatt hour, for 35 years. And one look at how Toshiba got into its mess shows why we don’t need another one. It was bl own up by Westinghouse, the nuclear developer Britain sold for $5.4 billion in 2006. It set about building four reactors in America with its whizzy AP1000 technology. The upshot? $10 billion of cost overruns and Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Such was the carnage that Toshiba was forced to flog its prized memory chip unit for $17.7 billion. So, no great shock it’s gone cold on a repeat affair in Cumbria. Indeed, EDF would be in a similar pickle after the cost overruns on its Hinkley prototypes in France and Finland if it wasn’t 84 per cent-owned by the French government. All the same, Toshiba’s decision to shut down Nugen raises key issues for Britain’s energy policy. Moorside was meant to provide 7 per cent of our energy needs. So two key questions spring to mind. What’ll replace it? And should it be nuclear? As the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit points out, offshore wind and solar power is already cheaper – as is gas. Throw in smart grids, energy saving and battery technology and the case for overpriced nukes vanishes. Toshiba is proof of the dangers.
Times 9th Nov 2018 read more »
Plans to build a £15 billion nuclear power plant in Cumbria have collapsed, with developers blaming uncertainty over UK energy policy. In a blow to the government’s nuclear strategy, Toshiba, the Japanese conglomerate, said that it had decided to shut down its Nugen subsidiary, which was developing the Moorside project near Sellafield. Nugen’s chief executive, Tom Samson, said the company had been unable to find a buyer for the project because there was too much “policy and legislative risk” as the government reviews the financial support on offer for nuclear plants. The proposed plant had been expected to start operating by the mid-2020s and to generate more than three gigawatts of electricity – enough to meet about 7 per cent of the UK’s needs. Estimates suggested it could have created 20,000 jobs during construction.
Times 9th Nov 2018 read more »
When the government gave the green light to the Hinkley Point C plant two years ago, the business secretary hailed the decision as the start of “a new era of UK nuclear power”. The station in Somerset, Greg Clark said, was “the first of a wave of new nuclear plants”. Five more were proposed around the country. Yesterday, however, one of those fell by the wayside as Toshiba announced that it was scrapping a venture to build a plant at Moorside in Cumbria. The Japanese conglomerate is in financial crisis and had been seeking to sell the project. In the absence of a buyer, the company took what it described as the “economically rational” decision to shut down the venture, which is called Nugen. The decision has focused attention on the big questions facing Britain’s nuclear renaissance. Is this renaissance really necessary? And if it is, how will we pay for it? There are eight nuclear power plants in the UK, which provide about a fifth of the country’s electricity. Most were built in the 1960s and 1970s and all bar one are due to close by 2030. With the government pledging to close coal plants by 2025 and demand for power expected to grow thanks to electric vehicles and heating, there is a potential gap in Britain’s power supplies from the mid-2020s. New nuclear reactors, generating minimal carbon emissions and reliable round-the-clock power, have long been part of the government’s solution. Toshiba, crippled by nuclear cost overruns in the United States, was unable to find a buyer for its Cumbrian project. Tom Samson, Nugen chief executive, said: “Given that the RAB model is still in early stages of development, has not been determined as policy yet, and still faces a lengthy legislative process before it ca n be applied to new nuclear, it has not proven possible to find a buyer willing to take that level of policy and legislative risk when entering the UK.” Mr Samson argued that the RAB model was “the right answer” for nuclear funding and it would “address the immense financial risks that nuclear developers are asked to take and enable the UK sector for the long term. Sadly,” he added, “this will not come in time for Nugen.”
Times 9th Nov 2018 read more »
A proposed power station in Cumbria must be rescued for the sake of Britain’s energy future, but at a sensible cost and without jeopardising national security. Just over 62 years ago the world’s first commercial nuclear reactor was opened in Cumbria at Calder Hall, later to become swallowed by the reprocessing site of Sellafield. A few fields away you will find the unbroken ground of Moorside, which is intended, eventually, to host the largest single-site nuclear plant in Europe. Once, it was supposed to be powering six million homes by 2023. Today it is unclear if it will ever power even one. Moorside was always ambitious, but it was Hinkley Point C, almost at the other end of England in Somerset, that had gained the reputation of being Britain’s nuclear white elephant. Hinkley’s woes have been extensive, with costs rising to the point where it is now expected to be the most expensive power plant in the world. A joint project between the French state-owned EDF and the Chinese state-owned CGN, it has so far run into almost every manner of controversy imaginable. The involvement of China has raised national security concerns, French politicians have squabbled over the risk to their own taxpayers, and reactors similar to those to be used are expected to be woefully outdated before the plant powers its first lightbulb. Similar reactors, elsewhere, have even had issues with welding. By contrast Moorside was until recently cited as a project progressing relatively smoothly. Nugen, the company behind it, was not long ago co-owned by the Japanese giant Toshiba and the French utility company Engie. Alarms first sounded when Engie withdrew early last year due to concerns over the bankruptcy of Toshiba’s American nuclear arm, Westinghouse. Already struggling, Toshiba was forced to buy Engie’s 40 per cent stake for £111.2 million and set about looking for a buyer. For a time South Korea ‘s Kepco was in the frame. Last month, Nugen laid off more than half of its staff. And this week Toshiba announced that it was cutting its losses and winding Nugen up. Despite the financial hit (an estimated £100 million), the company’s share price has leapt. The lesson is that market confidence in Britain’s nuclear industry is far from high.
Times 9th Nov 2018 read more »
The UK is losing hope of ever finding a company to build a new nuclear power station in north-west England after Japan’s Toshiba pulled out. Ministers are close to abandoning efforts to find an alternative to Toshiba, which on Thursday unveiled plans to liquidate NuGen, its UK subsidiary focused on constructing the proposed nuclear plant at Moorside in Cumbria, after failing to find a buyer for the unit. Industry experts said that CGN, China’s state-owned nuclear group, would be interested in the Moorside project, but some figures in the British government are wary of bringing in the Shenzhen-based group. Letting CGN bid for NuGen would be “hugely politically difficult”, said one UK government figure. Theresa May has put Chinese investment in Britain under increased scrutiny since becoming prime minister in July 2016. She only gave the final go-ahead in September 2016 to a new nuclear plant at Hinkley Point in Somerset – where France’s EDF is leading the project, but CGN is the minority partner – after a special review. Tim Yeo, a former Conservative minister, said: “CGN is certainly a potential buyer [for NuGen] but the government may have reservations about how far they want the UK’s nuclear industry to be dependent on Chinese investment and technology.” Zheng Dongshan, chief executive of CGN’s UK subsidiary, told the Financial Times that Moorside remained “an opportunity for a developer”, although he would not be drawn on whether the company had any immediate plans in relation to the project. “The situation today is we have still not decided how or when or what [in relation to Moorside],” he said. Sue Hayman, Labour MP for Workington and co-chair of the parliamentary group on nuclear energy, said she was meeting with CGN representatives in China. “I will be exploring whether they may be interested in taking an interest in the development of new nuclear power in west Cumbria in some shape or form,” she added. CGN plans to build a nuclear power station at Bradwell in Essex using its own reactor technology, and the Chinese company’s interest in NuGen is well established.
Times 9th Nov 2018 read more »
Plans for a new nuclear power station in Cumbria have been scrapped after the Japanese conglomerate Toshiba announced it was winding up the UK unit behind the project. Toshiba said it would take a 18.8bn Japanese yen (£125m) hit from closing its NuGeneration subsidiary, which had already been cut to a skeleton staff, after it failed to find a buyer for the scheme. The decision represents a major blow to the government’s ambitions for new nuclear and leaves a huge hole in energy policy. The plant would have provided about 7% of UK electricity. “This is a huge disappointment and a crushing blow to hopes of a revival of the UK nuclear energy industry,” said Tim Yeo, the chair of pro-nuclear lobby group New Nuclear Watch Institute and a former Tory MP. Greenpeace UK’s executive director, John Sauven, said: “The end of the Moorside plan represents a failure of the government’s nuclear gamble.” Some industry watchers said the collapse of the scheme should be seen as an opportunity rather than a risk, for the UK to prioritise renewables instead. Jonathan Marshall, an analyst at the ECIU thinktank, said: “Shifting away from expensive, complicated technology towards cheaper and easier to build renewables gives the UK the opportunity to build an electricity system that will keep bills for homes and businesses down for years to come.” The government’s infrastructure advisers recently urged ministers to rethink their nuclear plans and focus on renewables instead.
Guardian 8th Nov 2018 read more »
If the government was keen to boost Britain’s nuclear industry, it was always clear that the private market would struggle to deliver. The decision by Toshiba to close down its UK operations is a case in point. After the deal to build new reactors at Hinkley Point with the French firm EDF, Toshiba was favoured by ministers to design and construct a smaller power station on the Cumbrian coast. Hinkley was a deal that appeared to be with a private company but the really meaningful talks were between Whitehall officials and their counterparts in the French government, EDF’s controlling shareholder. It took years of agonising brinkmanship to conclude the talks, much of them conducted on the French side by the then economy minister, Emmanuel Macron. Toshiba, on the other hand, is a private company struggling on its own to navigate the complex politics surrounding nuclear power in the wake of the Fukushima disaster. Without entering the argument about whether nuclear is a good option – and the government advisory body, the National Infrastructure Commission, is unequivocal that renewables such as wind and solar were going to be a safer, cheaper option – it is clear huge commitments of time, resources and political capital are necessary for infrastructure projects of this scale to get off the ground and through to completion.
Guardian 9th Nov 2018 read more »
In a not unexpected announcement by Toshiba today (8.11.18), the Japanese conglomerate has pulled the plug on its subsidiary NuGen, the consortium tasked with developing the £15Bn Moorside new-build project in West Cumbria. In its press statement, Toshiba’s Board said “After considering the additional costs entailed in continuing to operate NuGen, Toshiba recognises that the economically rational decision is to withdraw from the UK nuclear power plant construction project, and has resolved to take steps to wind-up NuGen”. The statement added that Toshiba said it expected to ‘take a hit’ of £100.5M from the withdrawal. The proposed Moorside site was selected by Government on 5th April 2009 as one of eleven sites in the UK with ‘potential to host new build reactors’. The Government’s selection of the West Cumbrian site was seen by many to be little more than a fop to the concerns of the area’s influential pro-nuclear lobby which, with Sellafield’s commercial operations coming to an end, saw missing the new-build boat as leading to the decline of the industry’s 60-year domination of the area – and the area’s reciprocal dependence on the industry.
CORE 8th Nov 2018 read more »
THANKS TO ALL YOU FOLK who have campaigned tirelessly to raise the alarm about the diabolic plan for 3 reactors on greenfields near to Sellafield. The Guardian and other press have reported today that: ““Toshiba recognises that the economically rational decision is to withdraw from the UK nuclear power plant construction project, and has resolved to take steps to wind-up NuGen,” the firm said in a statement. While the press has not mentioned our vehement local campaign against the Moorside plan Radiation Free Lakeland would like to thank all who have already raised a banner to protest a new nuclear nightmare in Cumbria. Not least the brilliant Arnie Gundersen a former US nuclear regulator turned whistleblower who accepted our invitation to speak about the Moorside plan way back in 2014. Incredibly Arnie and another equally qualifed expert Dr Ian Fairlie were considered too controversial and banned from speaking at a local hall in Keswick, the venue was changed to the Skiddaw Hotel. Now Toshiba agree with the experts!
Radiation Free Lakeland 8th Nov 2018 read more »
How important was Moorside new nuclear plant to UK climate plans? The government has significant hopes for new nuclear to help renew and decarbonise the UK’s electricity system. The schemes – and the companies behind them – continue to face delays and financial problems. This poses problems for the security of UK electricity supplies, given plans to phase out coal and limit new subsidies for renewables. If the UK leaves the EU Emissions Trading System (EUETS), then it could also pose a major challenge to meeting the UK’s carbon targets. Each 1GW of nuclear could be replaced with 2GW of offshore windfarm capacity or 3.2GW onshore, because windfarms have lower load factors than nuclear or gas-fired power stations. To replace all 14GW of planned new nuclear would therefore require 28GW of offshore wind or 45GW onshore, compared to current capacities of 5.1GW and 9.4GW respectively. These figures are far beyond current plans and could even push the limits of what is technically possible for the UK.
Carbon Brief (update) 8th Nov 2018 read more »
Toshiba has today announced it is to pull out of plans for a new nuclear power plant in Cumbria and wind down its UK nuclear business NuGen, in a move that deals a major blow to the government’s low carbon energy strategy. despite the uncertainty for the UK’s energy future some environmental campaigners welcomed the news, seeing it as an opportunity to make a fresh case for more support for wind and solar power. “The end of the Moorside plan represents a failure of the government’s nuclear gamble,” said Greenpeace UK’s executive director John Sauven. “Their flawed approach to making our economy low carbon has dashed the hopes of prospective workers and businesses in Cumbria that should have been centred around renewable technologies.” Jonathan Marshall, an analyst at the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), agreed. “The demise of plans for a new power station at Moorside should be seen as an opportunity, rather than a risk,” he said. “Shifting away from expensive, complicated technology towards cheaper and easier to build renewables gives the UK the opportunity to build an electricity system that will keep bills for homes and businesses down for years to come.”
Business Green 8th Nov 2018 read more »