E.ON, RWE and Vattenfall seek compensation for German nuclear phase-outGermany's goal to increase the share of renewable energies in its electricity production mix to 80% in 2050 represents a radical shift that is forcing the three major utilities - E.ON, RWE and Vattenfall - to drop their nuclear power activities. Claiming that they are victims of the German energy transition and of a pure and simple expropriation of their atomic plants, they have filed proceedings with the Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe. The verdict is expected in several months. Should the judges rule in favour of the companies, the latters would receive billions of euros in damages. E.ON, RWE and Vattenfall already have provisioned €36 billion to fund the dismantling of stations and nuclear waste treatment. However, industry watchers are mainly awaiting the deliberations of a commission of experts that for the past five months has been trying to figure out how to divide up the costs of Germany's multibillion-euro atomic clean-up between the utilities and the state. The final proposals are expected mid-April.
Le Figaro, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung | 2016, March 16th
UK: experts call on government to look at smaller nuclear reactorsAmid growing uncertainties about the cost of building the major Hinkley Point nuclear stations, manufacturers and nuclear experts are calling on the British government to look at cheaper schemes, notably the smaller, proven nuclear reactors such as China's Three Gorges Dam hydroelectric project. British companies are also ready for a programme to build dozens of local atomic power stations. Small modular reactor technology has been around for decades. Rolls-Royce uses it in the Royal Navy's nuclear-powered submarines - but its application as a civil nuclear plant has not been developed.
The Times | 2016, March 14th
Germany said to near consensus on nuclear wasteAn internal European Commission working paper has revealed that Germany can only cover 83% of its energy transition; nuclear operators would be €8 billion short to fund the dismantling of reactors by 2050. Meanwhile, a Berlin-based cross-party commission working on the financing of the nuclear phase-out signalled it could be willing to have German taxpayers share some of the expenses for disposing of nuclear waste that are burdening utilities such as E.ON and RWE, sources said. Consensus would have emerged that plant operators should pay for decommissioning and dismantling the reactors, while sharing costs of final waste disposal with taxpayers through a public fund. The government may assume responsibility for final storage. Final report is due by the end of the month.
L'Agefi, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung | 2016, February 16th
Cold fusion carries hopes of green nuclear powerOne of the main hurdles to overcome in nuclear fusion technology remains the very high temperature that needs to be reached to allow the fusion between deuterium and tritium atoms. But some scientists have been exploring nuclear fusion at low temperatures, a technology once unpopular but which is gaining credibility. In addition to promising abundant, cheap and decentralized energy, it emits no radioactive radiation. La Tribune reviews the research projects underway at industrial groups, universities, research centers and start-ups.
La Tribune Hebdomadaire | 2016, February 11th
Nuclear power to fight global warmingFour eminent scientists - including James Hansen, the former head of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies and a man dubbed "the Father of Climate Change" - have called on governments to accept nuclear energy as part of the solution to the climate crisis, at a side event to the COP21. According to them, renewable energy like wind and solar would not be enough alone to reach climate change targets. "Nuclear power is a safe energy that emits few carbon dioxide emissions (CO2); it's also scalable and can be deployed within ten years," Australian climate scientist Tom Wigley said.
Le Figaro | 2015, December 04th
Schedule for nuclear liability uncertainThe proposed bill on the nuclear liability of German power companies will not come into force on January 1st 2016. Government groups have decided not to discuss the bill at the economic committee of the Bundestag on December 2 and 4. Thus, the schedule of the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy, which proposed the bill, can hardly be met.
Handelsblatt | 2015, December 03rd
RWE considers spinning off renewable energyOne year after E.ON, RWE plans to spin off its renewable energy business. The Group's renewable energy, power grid and retail businesses would be bundled into a new company, of which at least 10% would be floated in an IPO at the end of 2016. Unlike E.ON, RWE plans to retain its conventional activities, including nuclear operations. RWE's plan is now subject to board approval, which is expected to discuss the matter at a meeting on December 11.
Die Welt, The Wall Street Journal | 2015, December 02nd
Private fund for clean energies launchedMark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates have announced that they're joining forces with other billionaires to create a new fund that will encourage private investment in clean energy. They include Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, Alibaba Group executive chairman Jack Ma, India's Ratan Tata, as well as French businessman Xavier Niel. The Breakthrough Energy Coalition will also partner with 20 countries that have pledged to increase their spending in clean-energy research and try to greatly speed up a global transition away from fossil-fuels.
Les Echos | 2015, December 01st
Cestas solar plant inauguratedFrance inaugurated in Cestas, near Bordeaux, south-western France, Europe's largest solar PV power plant. Built by French SME Neoen and consisting of a million solar panels, it covers an area of 260 hectares. The installed power will have an annual production capacity of 350 GWh, the equivalent of the electricity consumption of 50,000 households. Selling its electricity to EDF at a €105/MWh rate for 20 years, the facility stands among France's most profitable power plants. Cestas is expected to be a springboard for exports, both for Neoen and its partners, of which Schneider Electric.
Les Echos | 2015, December 01st
Almighty Rosatom lacks transparencyRussian state-owned nuclear energy group Rosatom, which controls all Russian nuclear activities and reactor exports, takes advantage of its monopoly to allow itself some unusual privileges. Rosatom is vulnerable to the bad habits of the Soviet era: corruption, mismanagement, lack of transparency and accountability, and the absence of competition. Experts from Transparency International to Greenpeace have pointed out conflicts of interests and self?enrichment in acquisitions and contracts. Throughout the world, few nuclear companies can compete with Rosatom; one of them is Areva of France.
Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung | 2015, October 28th
Energy groups back climate change goalsChief executives from 10 of the world's largest oil and gas companies have pledged their support for reaching a climate change agreement at the upcoming COP21. The companies, mainly European and representing a fifth of all oil and gas production worldwide, offered few concrete figures or timelines but said they wanted to invest in natural gas over coal and play a bigger role in renewable energy production. The commitment, from BG Group, BP, Eni, Pemex, Reliance Industries, Repsol, Saudi Aramco, Shell, Statoil and Total, comes six weeks before the Paris climate conference. But the promises were immediately met with cynicism by environmental groups.
Les Echos | 2015, October 19th
Engie drops coal plants projectsEngie will end its investments in coal projects as part of efforts to tackle climate change, Energy and Ecology Minister Ségolène Royal and CEO Gérard Mestrallet announced. As a result, the Group's coal projects in South Africa and Turkey will be abandoned. However, projects that were already initiated, in Chile for instance, will be pursued. All told, Engie is currently engaged in the building of four coal plants (Brazil, Chile, India, and Morocco). Another project is in the pipeline in Mongolia. Engie will not however exit the coal industry: the Group is operating 30 coal plants throughout the world, with coal accounting for 20% of its net electricity output.
Les Echos | 2015, October 15th
Innovative solar road unveiledColas, part of Bouygues Group, has unveiled Wattway, dubbed "the solar road." A major innovation, Wattway is a photovoltaic road surfacing concept, the first of its kind in the world. Wattway panels are comprised of photovoltaic cells embedded in a multilayer substrate. These cells collect solar energy via a very thin film of polycrystalline silicon that enables the production of electricity. According to Colas, with a one-kilometre-long section of Wattway panels, it is possible to power the street lights for a town of 5,000 inhabitants.
Les Echos | 2015, October 14th
Germany says firms set aside enough nuclear decommissioning fundsOperators of German nuclear power plants have set aside enough funds to pay for decommissioning the country's reactors, the Economy Ministry said. Still, different scenarios associated with the decommissioning process result in a range of necessary provisions from €25 billion to €77 billion. Meanwhile, the cabinet approved a draft law that ensures utility companies remain liable for costs associated with the shutdown of the country's nuclear power plants. The legislation closes a legal loophole, preventing firms from evading decommissioning costs by spinning off their nuclear assets. The cabinet also named three chairmen for a high-level commission that is to present proposals for the long-term handling of finances related to the nuclear reactors' afterlife by the end of next January.
Handelsblatt, Les Echos, Frankfurter, Allgemeine Zeitung, | 2015, October 12th
Wind power becomes cheaper than coal, oil, or gas power stations in UKAccording to a research by Bloomberg New Energy Finance, onshore wind energy has become cheaper than any other source in the UK for the first time. Figures also show that onshore wind turbines remain far cheaper than offshore turbines, which the government is championing. Yet, despite growing evidence that onshore turbines are the most affordable option, the British government's continued resistance to onshore turbines is attracting criticism. Campaigners pleading for state subsidies to onshore wind power stations point out that nuclear power and fossil fuel power plans also receive government support.
The Independent | 2015, October 08th
Renewables: equivalent of 700 Nuclear Reactors to be installed before 2020 in the USIn a report published on October 2, the International Energy Agency (IEA) expects renewable energies to account for 26% of the global electricity production in 2020, up from 22% in 2013. Thus, 700 gigawatts of new green capacities will be installed over the next five years, which is the equivalent of 700 nuclear reactors. Renewables' development will be particularly significant in emerging countries. China along will account for 40% of the new capacities installed.
La Tribune | 2015, October 03rd
OECD: leading countries spend $200 billion a year subsidising fossil-fuelsRich western countries and the world's leading developing nations are spending between $160 and $200 billion a year subsidising fossil-fuels, according to a report from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). The Paris-based think-tank said its 34 members plus six of the biggest emerging economies - China, India, Brazil, Indonesia, Russia and South Africa - had spent between $141 and $177 billion to support the consumption and production of coal, oil and gas over the 2010-2014 period. Support for oil amounted to 82% of the total, while the gas industry received 10% and coal 8%. Meanwhile, some of the world's most prominent companies - Johnson & Johnson, Walmart, Nike, Goldman Sachs, Starbucks, Procter & Gamble - have set a long-term target of powering their operations entirely with renewable energy, a sign that the divestment movement has spread globally.
Le Monde, International New York Times | 2015, September 22nd
E.ON ditches nuclear spin-off planGermany's largest utility has dropped its plans to spin the country's nuclear power plants off into a separate corporation, caving in to political pressure to retain liability for billions of euros of decommissioning costs when the stations go offline. The Group had planned to restructure by transferring its nuclear power plants, energy trading, and oil and gas activities into a separate unit called Uniper. Now the company is left with the task of coming up with €16.6 billion in provisions,needed to fund the decommissioning of its nuclear plants. E.ON CEO Johannes Teyssen also warned the company would post a massive net loss for 2015.
Die Welt | 2015, September 11th
French Minister casts doubt on Fessenheim closureFrance's Environment and Energy Minister Ségolène Royal cast doubt on the planned 2017 closure of the Fessenheim nuclear power plant,drawing anger from environmental groups and ecologist politicians and concerns from neighbouring Germany. Mrs Royal explicitly linked the closure of the 37-year-old Fessenheim plant nearby to the opening of the EPR nuclear reactor in Flamanville in the northwest, now planned for the end of 2018. "When Flamanville opens,Fessenheim will have to close," Mrs Royal said. A few hours after her initial comments, she tweeted that "the closure of Fessenheim is not postponed, but must be organised within the framework of the new [energy transition] law," adding that the issue was not controversial. A governmental source also backtracked on Mrs Royal's statement, saying that the ruling Socialists still planned to close the plant by the end of President Francois Hollande's five year term - or 2017.
Les Echos | 2015, September 09th
Chinese nuclear reactor in Essex set for approvalThe British government is close to finalising a deal that will allow Chinese state owned companies China General Nuclear Power Group and China National Nuclear Corporation to build and operate a nuclear reactor in Essex. David Cameron is poised to sign a deal granting China permission to build a prototype nuclear reactor in Essex as part of a civil nuclear pact between Britain, France and China. The move is in return for Beijing's investment in Hinkley Point. The deal is set to be signed during a state visit from China in October.
The Times | 2015, September 05th
Financial liability of German nuclear operators to be extended through lawThe German government is pressing ahead with its plans to close a legal loophole to prevent utility companies from evading a €40 billion payment to fund the country's nuclear exit. The Federal government has prepared a draft law to change current corporate laws saying that German energy companies are only liable for spun-off companies for five years. The move deals a major blow to the country's biggest utility E.ON, which has announced plans to spin-off its ailing power plants.
Berliner Zeitung | 2015, September 03rd
Krummel nuclear plant to be dismantledSwedish operator Vattenfall submitted an application to the German Energy Ministry to dismantle the Krummel nuclear power plant, located in the Northern State of Schleswig-Holstein, near Hamburg. Local authorities express relief as the plant has been considered for years by anti-nuclear activists as Germany's most dangerous power plant. Jointly owned by Vattenfall and E.ON-Meiler, the plant has suffered from a never-ending series of breakdowns and incidents, including a fire in 2007, which probably contributed significantly to tarnish the image of nuclear power among Germans. Dismantling is planned to start in 2019, once the site is cleared from all nuclear components, and could last 15 to 20 years.
Die Welt | 2015, August 26th
Sendai 1 ramp-up postponed due to pump problemIn Japan, the ramp-up of power output at Sendai 1 has been halted by a problem with a pump in the plant's secondary cooling system, operator Kyushu Electric Power said. Kyushu Electric last week began the restart of the Sendai plant, the first of Japan's reactors to begin operation under new safety standards introduced in the wake of the Fukushima accident in 2011. But the utility said that seawater has entered one of the pumps in the secondary cooling system. Engineers and regulators have warned that the utility may encounter equipment problems as the Sendai No. 1 reactor has been idled for more than four years.
Les Echos | 2015, August 24th
Europe has 3,000 offshore wind turbines installedThe offshore wind market has gained further momentum in the first six months of the year, with a cumulated total of over 3,000 turbines installed in Europe. In the first-half of 2015, 584 new turbines, or 2,350 MW, have been connected to the grid, in what is the largest increase ever in the sector. As of mid-2015, the capacity of offshore wind turbines in Europe surpassed 10,000 MW, even though the pipeline of projects seems to suggest a significant slowdown for the next months. Meanwhile, France has launched a call for projects in floating offshore wind power, opened until April 2016. The process will allow for the allocation of four small farms, three of which will be located in the Mediterranean Sea.
Les Echos | 2015, August 19th
Third of Britain suitable for nuclear waste siteAt least 30% of the UK could have suitable geology for the construction of a £12-billion nuclear dump, experts from the British Geological Survey have suggested, as they prepare for a new review to find areas where Britain's radioactive waste could be buried safely. Ministers have been searching for a permanent burial site for Britain's nuclear waste for decades but were forced to restart the process after Cumbria - the only area to have expressed an interest in hosting the dump - pulled out in 2013.
The Daily Telegraph | 2015, August 18th
London makes shale gas a national priorityThe British government plans to fast-track the permit process for shale oil and gas exploration to ensure the industry can gain traction. The government thus calls on local councils to decide on shale permits within 16 weeks of an application. Otherwise, Communities Secretary Greg Clark may take over planning decisions from local councils. He may also consider appeals on failed applications, the government said. With the new proposals, David Cameron's administration said it was making clear that shale is a "national priority," considered as a cheap and abundant energy source.
Le Figaro, The Guardian 3rd ed. | 2015, August 14th
Germany needs larger nuclear waste repositoryAccording to an official plan unveiled by Federal Environment Minister Barbara Hendrick, a much larger nuclear waste repository is now needed in Germany for the final disposal of highly radioactive waste. Indeed, the repository will not only have to store highly radioactive nuclear waste but also enable the additional storage of 300,000 cubic meters of low- and intermediate-level radioactive waste. Hence, the federal government now favours a larger repository: "we are looking for a deposit throughout Germany," Mrs Hendricks added.
Berliner Zeitung | 2015, August 13th
Japan restarts Sendai 1Japan has restarted its first nuclear reactor under new safety rules following the 2011 Fukushima accident. After passing new, stringent safety tests, Kyushu Electric Power has been greenlighted to restart the number one reactor at its Sendai plant. This first restart has a strong symbolic significance, as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is planning to boost the country's nuclear power output to between 20 and 22% of the domestic mix by 2030. However, there is still strong public unease about a return to nuclear power. According to a survey, 57% of the Japanese population is opposed to the nuclear renaissance. The government's main rationale behind the restart is economic. Indeed, since the shutdown of its nuclear fleet, Japan, deprived of natural resources, has been forced to rely heavily on fossil-fuels, which resulted in a significant increase of its energy bill but also in a surge of its greenhouse gases emissions.
Les Echos, L'Opinion, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung | 2015, August 11th
French government to push nuclear waste repository projectThe Constitutional Council of France ruled against an amendment to the Macron law greenlighting the Cigeo project of a deep geological repository for nuclear waste, planned in the French city of Bure (Lorraine). The top authority explained that the provision devoted to the controversial Cigeo project had no relevant link whatsoever with the Macron law as a whole. Taking into account the decision of the council, the French government announced that it will introduce a specific draft law early in 2016 to rekindle the project.
Berliner Zeitung | 2015, August 07th
Spain debates its nuclear waste projectSpain is witnessing a heated political debate about the planned Villar de Canas nuclear waste repository project. While the conservative Spanish government is in favour of the project, the new regional government of Castilla-La Mancha has moved to block it. Spain urgently needs a storage facility for about 7 thousand tonnes of nuclear waste, currently stored in pools at domestic nuclear plants or in France or the Netherlands, which has already generated costs of €20 million. Besides, Paris announced it will increase its storage prices next year. Meanwhile, some experts criticise the Villar de Cañas project, saying the selected area is seismically unstable and the porous limestone ground not ideal for such a purpose.
Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung | 2015, August 04th