The main company due to build UK’s ‘flagship’ nuclear power project at Moorside in Cumbria is on the ropes, writes Doug Parr, thanks to its multi-billion dollar nuclear losses on in the US. The obvious solution, (almost) all our politicians insist, is to ignore cheaper, faster, cleaner renewables, and make the taxpayer pick up the cost of yet another nuclear white elephant.
Ecologist 14th Feb 2017 read more »
After a day of chaotic communication, a stock sell-off and a $6.3bn writedown that may destroy one of Japan’s greatest industrial names, the Toshiba president’s bow of apology finally came. Satoshi Tsunakawa’s head nodded for just one perfunctory second on Tuesday. Most assume there will be much deeper, longer bows to come as Toshiba leads investors, customers, employees and Japan as a whole through the country’s first downfall of a nuclear industry titan. In a humiliating setback for a conglomerate that had only recently touted its nuclear business as a core growth driver, Toshiba said it would pull out of constructing new plants overseas and focus on providing less lucrative but lower-risk reactor designs and nuclear equipment. It is also a damaging blow to the outlook for the nuclear industry worldwide. Toshiba’s decision to give up on bidding to be a lead contractor on nuclear power plant projects will dramatically reduce its ability to compete with rivals from China, South Korea and Russia, and limit the options for countries seeking to build reactors. EDF, which has also been beset by problems with its new-build nuclear projects, warned of a “challenging” 2017 after being hit by weak power prices and problems with some existing reactors last year. Unlike Toshiba, EDF says it is determined to push ahead with its international nuclear new-build strategy, seeing it as a way to leverage France’s historic expertise in reactor technology and diversify away from an increasingly competitive domestic market. But since 2007, the French nuclear industry has only won one new deal: the controversial £18bn Hinkley Point project in the UK. “From now on, there are only three major players in the global nuclear power plant market: Korea, China and Russia,” says Michael Shellenberger of Environmental Progress, a pro-nuclear campaign group. EDF, meanwhile, is contending with a government-directed restructuring of the French nuclear industry. The company is being pushed by the French state, its controlling shareholder, to rescue former rival Areva by taking over its struggling reactor business that is behind EPR technology. The EPR reactor that EDF is building at Flamanville in France is six years late and 7.2bn euros over budget. With 34 overseas projects under way and a 10-year export order book worth $133bn, Russia’s state-controlled nuclear monopoly Rosatom is currently building more plants than any other company, and making inroads into EU markets including Slovakia, Hungary and Cyprus. China General Nuclear in October submitted the Hualong 1 design to British regulators, and intends to build its maiden reactor in Essex in the UK after investing in the EDF-led EPR reactor at Hinkley Point. To date, however, China’s only overseas reactor project has been in Pakistan, although China National Nuclear Corp has committed to building reactors in Argentina. After decades developing its domestic nuclear industry, South Korea burst on to the international stage in 2009 by winning a hotly contested deal to supply the United Arab Emirates with four 1,400 megawatt reactors at $5bn per unit by 2020. Rival suppliers including EDF found it impossible to match that pricing. The deal, won by a consortium led by Korea Electric Power Corp, was heralded as a landmark, and the country declared an export target of 80 reactors by 2030. That objective is now viewed as wildly ambitious, however. Since the Abu Dhabi deal, South Korean companies have failed to win a single commercial contract, in spite of a sustained focus by Kepco on the Middle East and a broader reputation for cost competitiveness and reliability.
FT 15th Feb 2017 read more »
The financial troubles afflicting Toshiba do not just have implications for the proposed Moorside nuclear plant. They expose the fragility of the UK’s energy policy as a whole. The question of how Britain generates its electricity is taking on greater importance as the government aims to meet a 2030 target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 57 per cent compared to 1990 levels. As part of that goal, ministers want to eradicateÂ polluting coal power stations by 2025. The issue is what will replace them: Britain has been investing heavily in renewables to help make up the gap but the government is also alert to the need for other, more stable sources of power generation to keep the lights on when the wind is not blowing or the su n is not shining – and have low emissions as well. Tuesday’s weather illustrated the point. It was sunny and calm across most of Britain, making nuclear the day’s second-most important source of electricity supply behind gas plants, according to Electric Insights, a website that tracks where Britain’s power is coming from. Nuclear is key to the UK’s energy strategy: the government has the goal of 14 gigawatts of new nuclear generating capacity by 2035. Some 10GW is in operation today but most of the existing nuclear plants – except Sizewell B, a plant owned by French utility EDF Energy on the Suffolk coast – is due to be decommissioned during the 2020s.
FT 14th Feb 2017 read more »