Brokdorf nuclear plant under threat of premature closureGreenpeace is using a legal loophole to speed up the closure of one of the most modern nuclear power plants in northern Germany. Together with residents close to the Brokdorf plant in Schleswig-Holstein, the NGO has officially requested the nuclear regulator to revoke the operating license of the plant. Greenpeace can use as a precedent a recent decision by the Federal Administrative Court regarding the Brunsbüttel nuclear storage facility. Its operating license was cancelled because the operators have failed to demonstrate that the system is sufficiently secured against terrorist attacks.
Die Welt | 2015, March 25th
Who will bear the cost of Germany's nuclear phase-out?A new German governmental report is stoking fears that the country's energy companies can't shoulder the cost of the plan to close the country's nuclear power plants and that the bill eventually ends up on taxpayers. "The financing of nuclear phase-out faces a significant risk in the event of insolvency of the operators", the report said. As a solution, experts recommend the setting up of special funds. An internal fund should be provisioned by each operator individually and clearly separated from the utilities' balance sheet. It should be aimed at short-term needs, such as nuclear dismantling. Besides, the annual financial statements of each operator should be subject to "stress tests". An external fund in the form of a public foundation should be created for the long-term project of a final waste depository, the report further suggests. Meanwhile, German utilities are seeking to reassure investors that the companies' financial liability isn't crippling.
Suddeutsche Zeitung, The Wall Street Journal Europe | 2015, March 23rd
Japan to scrap up to 5 nuclear reactorsKansai Electric Power Company and the Japan Atomic Power Company (JAPC) have decided to decommission three nuclear power plants shut down after the Fukushima accident of 2011 rather than applying to restart them. Kansai Electric officially announced its decision to decommission units 1 and 2 at its Mihama plant, while JAPC will decommission Tsuruga unit 1, citing hefty costs to comply with the new safety standards imposed by authorities. Kyushu Electric Power and Chugoku Electric Power are both expected to announce their plans to scrap two old reactors (Shimane 1 and Genkai 1). The five reactors are among Japan's oldest, ranging in age from 39 to 44 years, and have relatively low generating capacity of up to 559 MW each.
Enerpresse | 2015, March 18th
Rosatom wants to triple sales by 2030Russia's Rosatom is hoping to triple its sales by 2030, betting on a strong growth in international markets. The Russian nuclear group is notably targeting new comers in nuclear power. Rosatom recently signed a deal with India, for the building of 12 reactors in the next 20 years and it will also work for South Africa, building up to 8 new reactors by 2023. Besides, a letter of intent was signed with Egypt, for the building of the country's first nuclear plant. In a more controversial deal, Russia has also partnered up with Iran. Rosatom is now targeting Asian countries, such as China and India, but also Vietnam and Bangladesh. The Russian group is marketing a global, turn-key offer dubbed "Build, own, operate", which provides for the financing and operation of the project. The group is also targeting European countries.
La Croix | 2015, March 16th
Nuclear phase-out in courtFour years after the Fukushima disaster, the Federal Constitutional Court is about to examine the legality of the German nuclear phase-out. The judges want to verify before the end of the year whether the 2011 nuclear energy law was compatible with the Basic Constitutional Law, as explained in the yet unpublished "2015 Annual Perspective" by the Federal Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe. The ruling could pave the way for energy companies to claim damages against the Federal government at a height of up to €22 billion. However, the exact amount of any subsequent compensation could only be determined after another, presumably long-lasting, civil action. In the now pending Karlsruhe trial, the three affected nuclear power plant operators E.ON, RWE and Vattenfall, claim that the Fukushima nuclear energy law was tantamount to an enacted government expropriation.
Die Welt Am Sonntag | 2015, March 15th
German utilities in severe crisisE.ON posted its largest-ever net loss of €3.2 billion for 2014, hit notably by massive write-downs of the value of its power-generation assets. The day before, RWE reported a 25% decrease in its operating income. Both companies warned that they face grim prospects this year, amid low oil prices, volatile currencies, and a continued decline in European power prices. German utilities are going through a major crisis, triggered by the government's decision to phase out nuclear power and massively subsidise renewable energies.
Le Monde Eco & Entreprise | 2015, March 12th
British authorities admit uncertain forecasts for SellafieldAccording to The Independent, the British Energy Department is not having "general confidence" in the forecasts for decontaminating the Sellafield nuclear facility as costs have constantly escalated. "We still do not know by any stretch of the imagination all the technical challenges of the site. The difficulties are pretty much unprecedented", the Department's Permanent Secretary said.
The Independent | 2015, March 12th
China approves two new nuclear unitsChina's government has approved the construction of two reactors in the country's north-eastern Liaoning province by state-owned China General Nuclear Power Corp. The reactors are the country's first new nuclear units to be approved since the Fukushima accident in 2011. Units five and six of the Hongyanhe nuclear power plant will each have a 1,000 MW capacity and will be located near the coastal city of Dalian.
The Wall Street Journal Europe | 2015, March 11th
Brussels' plan to reduce Europe's energy billThe 28 member states of the European Union are to integrate their markets and increase security of supply under a policy set known as the Energy Union. Brussels on February 25 unveiled its plan to reduce Europe's energy bill. The document also contains measures - to be partly funded by Jean-Claude Juncker's Investment Plan for Europe - meant to improve the interconnection of electricity grids across borders and overall energy efficiency. The Commission also plans to take part in negotiations between member states and supplier countries. Besides, the European Commission insisted on the need for EU member states to be able to export at least 10% of the electricity produced by their power plants. This goal aims at ensuring supply to consumers in case of breakdown or shortage, easing the integration of solar and wind power and, ultimately, contributing to lower prices on energy wholesale markets.
Les Echos, Le Figaro, Suddeutsche Zeitung | 2015, February 26th
Energy transition: French Senate disagrees on nuclear powerThe French Senate completed the review of the energy transition bill introduced by the Socialist government. The conservative-controlled Senate voted against the 2025 deadline for the reduction of nuclear power in the energy mix from 75% to 50%. Besides, the cap imposed on nuclear power was increased from 63.2 GW to 64.85 GW as to allow the Flamanville EPR to enter into service without shutting down any operating reactor. Energy Minister Segolene Royal has until March 18 to find a way to make Senators and MPs agree on a common text. Should the latter fail to do so, the French Parliament will have the final say but it would postpone the adoption of the bill by a few months.
Les Echos | 2015, February 23rd
A new electric line between France and SpainThe new 2,000 MW electricity interconnector between France and Spain was inaugurated on February 20 and is expected to double the exchange capacities between the two countries. The €700-million project has been funded by RTE and its Spanish counterpart RRE, while the European Union paid €225 million. The works started in 2008 but the first agreement on the project dates back to 1982 and had been a thorny diplomatic issue. Spanish interest for the interconnector has never diminished, as it represents the only way for the country to unload its renewable energy, as the four already existing lines were saturated most of the time. With this new line, Spain will be able to export more electricity but also to import more, for the periods when its renewable sources are not sufficient.
La Croix | 2015, February 19th
Fear of the British nuclear powerGerman nuclear power providers fear that the planned subsidies approved by the European Commission for the construction by EDF of two nuclear power plants at Hinkley Point in the UK will create dumping and weaken the German market. German nuclear giants find it incomprehensible that Germany is condemning nuclear energy at home, and yet is doing nothing against high subsidies to boost the sector in the UK. Other EU member states intend to fight the British plan: Austria, which fears a distortion of competition in the European electricity market, has announced a lawsuit against the British subsidies. In theory, Germany could join or file a lawsuit itself, only the German government is currently negotiating a number of state aids with the European Commission and therefore has no interest in engaging a fight with the Commission.
Handelsblatt | 2015, February 18th
Doel 1 disconnectedAfter 40 years of operation, Belgium's Doel 1 unit has been disconnected from the grid on February 15. The government and operator Electrabel are currently in talks to agree on a potential extension, but the restart, should it be decided, will not happen before November. In accordance with the 2003 nuclear phase-out law, Doel 1 and 2 should have been both shut down this year, but the government has voted in favour of a ten-year extension, as to secure the country's electricity supply. The issue is all the more crucial that two other nuclear units are currently unavailable. Negotiations about Doel units' extension will notably focus on the issue of the nuclear tax and the profit-sharing. The Belgian government has set a November deadline to come to an agreement, but for Doel 1 to be available next winter, the agreement would have to be struck before the summer.
Les Echos | 2015, February 17th
India, US announce major dealIndia and the US on January 25 announced a major breakthrough on civil nuclear trade, during President Barack Obama's visit to Delhi. The new deal is meant to resolve difficulties which had stymied a 2008 deal that gave India access to civilian nuclear technology, but had become stuck over India's liability laws, which put the onus on nuclear suppliers in the event of an accident. The announcement also resolved differences on US demands on tracking the whereabouts of material supplied to India. Both countries will also work together to develop four defence technology products.
The Independent | 2015, January 26th
Japan's nuclear renaissance facing waste challengeAlmost 4 years after the meltdowns at the Fukushima plant, Japan is expected to allow the restart of two reactors in the spring. But the revival of nuclear power is once again raising questions about how to deal with nuclear waste. Japan still has no technique for planned reprocessing. Japan Nuclear Fuel started building a reprocessing plant in the northern village of Rokkasho in 1993, which should finally be ready in the spring of 2016. But the government is still searching for a deep underground repository site to store the waste left over from reprocessing.
Suddeutsche Zeitung | 2015, January 26th
French Energy Minister pleads for new nuclear reactorsFrance should build a new generation of nuclear reactors to replace the country's ageing plants, said Energy Minister Ségolène Royal. It is the first time a government member has clearly approved this option, adding that nuclear power was an asset as it guarantees the security of supply. EDF, which operates all of France's nuclear reactors, faces a €55 billion upgrade of its existing plants by 2025. "EDF's board has adopted part of its big maintenance plan with my agreement", Mrs Royal said. To finance this investment, EDF has advocated an extension of reactor lifespan. "I didn't include a 40-year age limit in the energy transition bill like ecologists wanted. Some nuclear plants can live longer", Mrs Royal said. This was also the first time the minister had approved an extension beyond 40 years.
L'Usine Nouvelle | 2015, January 15th
NPM consortium loses Sellafield contractManagement of nuclear decommissioning at the Sellafield site is to be taken back into state hands. Nuclear Management Partners (NPM), the consortium of Amec, Areva and URS, had been stripped of its €11.5 billion contract to run the Cumbrian site, with the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) taking over the reins. NPM has run the site since 2008 and was awarded a five-year extension to its contract in 2013, despite criticism of cost overruns and delays. The new model would see a private sector company appointed as a strategic partner but the NDA will be in charge of the works. Areva owns 20% of NMP, which contributed revenue of about €15 million.
The Independent, Le Monde Eco & Entreprise | 2015, January 13th
Clean tech investments rebound in 2014Clean energy investment bounced back strongly in 2014, totalling $310 billion and a year-on-year growth of 16%. China was the world's top green energy backer, with investments up 32% to a record $89.5 billion. Meanwhile, US investments were up 8% to roughly $52 billion. Japan ranks third, with $41.3 billion invested. Solar accounted for almost half of total clean energy investment, boosted by newly competitive large-scale and rooftop solar PV. Investments in wind power totalled $100 billion, with major offshore wind projects launched in Europe. However, European investments in renewables rose only 1%, in a difficult economic context. Still, French investments surged 26% to $7 billion, boosted by the Cestas solar project near Bordeaux (Aquitaine, France).
Le Figaro | 2015, January 12th
Total could quit fossil fuels, scientist saysThe oil price crash coupled with growing concerns about global warming will encourage at least one of the major oil companies to turn its back on fossil fuels in the near future, predicted Jeremy Leggett, an award-winning scientist and former industry adviser. Mr Leggett points to Total as the kind of group that could abandon carbon fuels in the same way that E.ON, the German utility, announced plans to spin off coal and gas interests and concentrate its future growth on renewables.
The Guardian | 2015, January 12th
Andra to face court about Cigeo projectA French High Court is to examine allegations made by six anti-nuclear associations against the National Agency for Radioactive Waste Management (Andra) within the framework of its Cigeo project of deep repository. According to the associations, the Andra would have intentionally underestimated the geothermal potential of the region's underground. The French Safety Authority (ASN) prohibits any such project located on a site that may be of "special interest" for geothermal energy. But according to studies commissioned by the Andra and the Radioprotection and Nuclear Safety Institute (IRSN), the geothermal potential of the Bure region is not such as to call into question the project. Meanwhile, the associations, which for now claim a symbolic compensation, are contesting the studies. The Andra, for its part, is strongly denying the allegations. A first ruling is expected on March 26.
Le Figaro | 2015, January 06th
Top scientists plead for nuclear powerIn an open letter, more than 65 biologists support the call to build more nuclear plants as a central part of a global strategy to protect wildlife and the environment. They argue that nuclear power is one of the least damaging sources of energy for the environment, and that the green movement must accept its expansion if the world is to avoid climate change. As well as reducing the sources of CO2, the expansion of nuclear power will leave more land to support biodiversity, they say. "Much as leading climate scientists have recently advocated the development of safe, next-generation nuclear energy systems to combat climate change, we entreat the conservation and environmental community to weigh up the pros and cons of different energy sources using objective evidence and pragmatic trade-offs, rather than simply relying on idealistic perceptions of what is 'green'", the letter reads.
The Independent on Sunday | 2015, January 04th
Germany's renewables output hit record in 2014Germany's renewable power output in 2014 has reached a new record, representing 25.8% of the domestic energy mix, energy industry association BDEW said. Renewables increased their share in power generation, up from 24.1% a year ago, overtaking domestic lignite coal (25.6%) as the country's biggest source of electricity. The share of coal (excluding lignite) in the power mix reached 18% this year. Overall, coal (including lignite) accounted for 43.6% of the mix. Still, Germany's solar PV output rose 14% on the year, while wind turbines and hydro generation barely increased their output. The rise of renewables is linked to a global decrease in power generation, down 3.6%.
Les Echos | 2014, December 30th
Research efforts on new nuclear reactorsScientists and engineers are looking at new kinds of reactors, intended to be safer, cheaper and easily deployable. From reactor designs that use sodium instead of water, to those that substantially reduce the waste, the new reactors would represent a break from the past. New reactors could run on thorium, plutonium or more exotic materials, and in place of water might have molten metal. If reactors switched to sodium, the nuclear reaction itself would change, and they would burn up some of the material that now becomes the most troublesome parts of waste. Besides, the use of sodium would significantly simplify construction. GE has been pursuing a version of the sodium reactor; Terra-Power, a company financed partly by Bill Gates, is also working on a design, as is Toshiba. Meanwhile, work, notably at Areva, has focused on the high temperature gas-graphite reactor. The reactor would produce heat intense enough to split water into hydrogen and oxygen, opening up possibilities beyond electricity; the hydrogen could be combined with carbon pulled from power plant exhausts, to make liquid fuel for cars.
International New York Times | 2014, December 17th
Germany to create decommissioning fundThe German government plans to set up a fund into which nuclear power generators should pay €17 billion to ensure the long-term costs of decommissioning their plants are met. The utilities should contribute an additional €19 billion from their provisions to pay for waste storage. The total amount corresponds to the €36 billion that Germany's four nuclear operators - E.ON, RWE, EnBW and Sweden's Vattenfall - have already set aside for plant decommissioning and disposal of nuclear waste. With the creation of the fund, Germany is addressing concerns over a potential bankruptcy or a default by one of the operators. "We can't be sure that all nuclear power generators will survive the changes on the energy market and meet their long-term obligations in decommissioning", the newspaper said, quoting an internal document.
Suddeutsche Zeitung | 2014, December 17th
Russia, India sign major cooperation dealRussia signed deals to build a further ten nuclear power plants in India during a visit by President Vladimir Putin. Russia will help India build at least 10 more nuclear reactors by 2035. A Russian-made reactor is already operational at the Kudankulam nuclear plant (Tamil Nadu), and another one is scheduled to go online next year. The plant could eventually feature 6 units. The 6 remaining reactors pledged by Russia will be built on another site, which remains to be identified.
The Times 2d ed. | 2014, December 12th
Nuclear firms asked to take financial risksNuclear energy companies are increasingly being asked to shoulder some of the cost of building new plants, as governments try to spread the risk involved in developing nuclear power. Japan's Hitachi for example is considering taking an equity stake in Lithuania's first nuclear project. The biggest driver of technology companies taking equity stakes is risk aversion among governments, particularly during construction. As of today, only a handful of equity deals have been completed, notably Rosatom's Akkuyu project in Turkey. Meanwhile, ownership stakes overseas provide a rare source of new business for Toshiba - involved in the UK Moorside project - and Hitachi, as Japan's nuclear reactors remain idled. The companies see it as necessary to secure future contracts for services. And designing and building new nuclear plants is crucial to maintaining their edge in technology, providing invaluable experience for engineers.
The Wall Street Journal Europe | 2014, December 10th
Nuclear phase-out could be more expensive than expectedA few days ago, Germany's Federal Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel said he considered the current legal basis for the nuclear industry phase-out to be "safe". The German government has now shared its concerns as to whether the designated billion euros provided by the major German energy suppliers could not suffice to carry out the process as planned. It is also worried the nuclear industry could be trying to escape its responsibility and leave a subsequent financial risk to the government. A state commissioned company is now examining stricter laws and new funds.
Handelsblatt | 2014, December 09th
UK to face power shortfall because of ageing reactorsAll but one of Britain's ageing nuclear reactors, Sizewell B in Suffolk, will be closed down within 15 years because of concerns over their economic viability or safety, energy expert Laurence Williams warned. Professor Williams, a former chief inspector of nuclear installations, said there would come a point when it would be either uneconomic to continue operating the reactors, because of the extra maintenance needed, or they would become unsafe. As a result, the UK could have a 20% shortfall in power supplies unless replacement reactors come on stream in the 2020s.
The Independent | 2014, December 02nd
Finland plans to work with Russia despite EU sanctionsFinland's Parliament is poised to give the go-ahead to a controversial JV with the Russian state-owned company Rosatom to build a new nuclear plant. The JV is understood to have the support of a majority of MPs and to be backed by the coalition government led by PM Alexander Stubb. The green light will come despite calls by the EU for member states to suspend planned energy agreements with Russia, as part of a campaign of sanctions prompted by the Ukraine crisis.
The Guardian | 2014, December 02nd
E.ON spinoff alarms German politiciansMany questions remain open after E.ON, Germany's largest utility, announced that it will break itself up, spinning off its conventional power business into a separate company and focusing instead on wind and solar power. "The question of the responsibility for the costs of closing the plants and disposing of related nuclear waste is now more relevant than ever", said Oliver Kirscher, the Alliance 90/The Greens deputy faction leader in the German Bundestag. He stressed that the restructuring of E.ON must not be at the expense of taxpayers. Federal Minister for Economic Affairs Sigmar Gabriel welcomed E.ON's announcement as an "opportunity" for the firm and said he expects it to take its responsibilities in disposing nuclear waste.
| 2014, December 02nd