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Nuclear debate starts – at long last

(1) Amber Rudd’s energy strategy: Quick start for the new government energy strategy shows the Tories have cut back the Green Deal, removed tax exemption which helped renewables investment, ended the zero-carbon homes plan, removed guaranteed subsidies for biomass electricity, further reduced solar subsidies, speeded up fracking planning applications and reversed a ban on national parks, and then declared full support for the Paris climate negotiations and existing policy to reduce carbon emissions. Most commentators think that Secretary of State Rudd is standing on her head. No wonder she was able to declare on radio news that nuclear was a different sort of electricity to a stunned interviewer. The real impact of all this is being felt by the renewables industry through policy uncertainty. EADT reported (July 29th) that offshore wind operators felt they were “in limbo” awaiting decisions on support for renewables. East Anglia is globally important for off-shore wind energy.
So far Rudd has not replied to the recent TASC challenge (see below) to do a legally necessary energy review. Meanwhile (see below) Cameron and Osborne continue the desperate search for finance for Hinkley and Sizewell from Chinese pockets with an apparent deal to let EDF sell Bradwell in Essex to the Chinese for their own reactors (see below).
Sorry, almost forgot to mention that speaking in the West Country, Rudd said in June that nuclear power stations must be designed to “look beautiful” to garner essential public support.

(2) Hinkley delayed again, mothballed & Sizewell… Strange flurry of announcements about Hinkley and Sizewell shows big push to refloat an increasingly unpopular and not believable nuclear renaissance. The facts are that Hinkley has been mothballed until there is some money. EDF said officially at the start of September that Hinkley would not start generating electricity in 2023 as planned. Original date? 2017. They also said this would not affect Sizewell schedules. The Daily Telegraph then editorialised on Sept. 8th that EDF’s “dithering” was a good opportunity for the government to rethink nuclear strategy and go for a new era (4th generation) nuclear future on a UK owned and controlled local production basis. That is, not with EDF. Then it was announced that Cameron is to meet the Chinese Prime Minister next month to sign a wide-ranging civil nuclear pact. The Bradwell deal is for a Chinese prototype reactor. The announcement confirmed our fears: the Chinese will be financing partners in the construction and operation of Sizewell. That’s Chinese hands on the levers. We say, politely, PLEASE STAY AWAY!

(3) But Suffolk EDF and EADT say the project is “closer”: Local newspaper EADT and EDF managers seems to be out of the loop. On August 1st, EADT had a big spread about Sizewell C (&D) being “a step closer”, confirmed by CBI chief John Cridland who said he that the, “Eagerly awaited consultation could take place this year following announcements” that EDF was near a financing deal for Hinkley. The story also says that second round consultation on Sizewell C might be “early 2016”. One month later came the Hinkley mothball - delay announcement, and now we are contemplating the deal with China.

(4) Thatcher’s Howell says shed no tears at nuclear cancellation: Former Thatcher Energy Secretary Lord David Howell said he would ”shed no tears’ if Hinkley were to be cancelled. Howell is Chancellor Osborne’s father in law.

(5) TASC challenge to Rudd over NPS TASC’s challenge to Secretary of State Amber Rudd to acknowledge her legal obligation to review the justification for new nuclear build as set out in the National Policy Statement of 2008 has received no reply as yet. The document is now circulating, has been sent to DECC Select Committee members and has been summarised in NuCLEAR News (see below). The full document is now on TASC’s website

Grid boss says big nuclear and coal are not an energy future: Steve Holliday, CEO of National Grid, the UK power transmission operator, has told Energy Post (Sept 11th) that “the idea of large coal-fired or nuclear power stations to be used for base-load is outdated”. Solar on rooftops will be base-load, and the other sources will be for peak-load only. The grid system and consumer demand is moving towards much more distributed production and microgrids.

Three giant interconnectors to transform energy prices: OFGEM has approved three new giant interconnectors from Britain to Europe, 2 to France, 1 to Denmark. More are being discussed. A Belgium link-up was approved last year. So future Sizewell could be selling UK subsidised electricity back to France at low European prices – paid for by us?

Barrie Skelcher: Our colleague and adviser’s death in August at 83 is a loss to the Suffolk community on many issues beyond nuclear power. An inveterate letter writer and campaigner, former senior safety and information officer at Sizewell A & B, he had worked for the CEGB at Windscale (now Sellafield) and Dounreay before coming to Sizewell. He was opposed to the Sizewell C reactor: wrong place, wrong type, exposed to terrorists and coastal erosion. His two novels were based on these concerns. He was an expert yacht racing coach and powerboat instructor too. His contribution to the work of TASC will be sadly missed and our thoughts are with his family at this sad time.

EDF flat out at public relations: EDF’s self-styled Green Team and PR people are working flat out. There is now a Parish newsletter to add to the EDF Newsletter. Coverage overall is rather selective: we couldn’t see anything about EDF profits and low taxes last year, or sponsorship of the Suffolk Wildlife Trust. The EDF Green Team hosted a farmer and producers’ market on site and dubbed it a “pop-up” market for some reason. EDF were also a major sponsors of the Suffolk Show.

Aldhurst Farm starts – to “benefit wildlife”: Thanks to colleagues in Friends of the Earth Suffolk for updates on Aldhurst Farm, with the help of their expert ecologist. EDF are already relocating reptiles, seem to be interfering with water levels despite promises, and EADT reports that national and local experts and bigwigs have visited the site where EDF project leader Dr Mannings will be “creating” new wetlands, showcasing and rolling out the 67 hectare site, in order, they claim, “to benefit a variety of wildlife including water voles, otters, eels, amphibians, reptiles and birds, as well as rare plants”. TASC asks, respectfully, who defines and decides on ‘benefit’? Could it be some of the same people who are propping up this exercise with their no doubt completely independent expertise?

RWE boss and HSBC speak out: The economic debate about new nuclear and especially its subsidised price level is hotting up. The boss of German power company RWE, one of the UK’s big six, said Hinkley would be seen by future generations as an “expensive mistake”. HSBC bank’s in depth report in August said there is “ample reason for the UK government to delay or cancel the project” because our energy demand is falling and 3 new continental interconnectors would bring cheap energy. The Independent newspaper calls Hinkley a “white elephant”.

Dan Poulter MP signs up to 38Degrees’ Green Deal: Local press report says Dr Dan has done it. The Green Deal (not the Government’s one!) is a buyer network for renewable energy. Not nuclear as we understand it. Any views/experience ?

Meanwhile Sizewell disappears from map: TASC supporters often complain that maps, TV programmes and tourist publicity do not mention or show Sizewell nuclear estate. But looking for a new road map recently, it came as a surprise that one very prominent automobile club road map for this year has dropped Sizewell village off the road network completely. It hasn’t shown the power station for donkey’s years, of course. Do not buy.

Ocean warming unstoppable: US Government scientists last month reported that ocean warming through climate change would have consequences for centuries to come even if CO2 production can be dramatically reduced. With 2014 the hottest year on record, record surface and upper sea water temperatures were now causing storms and rising seas levels. See Guardian 25.7.15.

NuCLEAR News: As regular on-line readers of monthly NuCLEAR News, we say try it out. Find under Google No2NuclearPower. Good in-depth stuff.

Sizewell Parishes Liaison Group 23rd Sept: An open meeting at 7 p.m. at Leiston Community Centre will be held to discuss EDF plans. Info courtesy TEAGS (Theberton & Eastbridge Action Group on Sizewell).

River water groups to sue Government over pollution: Wildlife groups WWF-UK, the Angling Trust and FishLegal have been granted judicial review against DEFRA for failure to meet a European deadline to clean up polluted natural habitats, in this case Poole Harbour, and rivers Avon, Wye and Eden. Case due next year.

Watch the TASC website for dates of meetings and events