With reference to the Hinkley Point C project in Somerset - surely an interesting and pertinent question should be

Why would anyone be comfortable with a foreign power (especially China) being involved with constructing a critical component of UK infrastructure?

The following would seem to be relevant considerations

  • Allowing the China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) to have such a close access to the UK’s energy infrastructure would give the state-owned firm the potential ability to build weaknesses into computer systems
  • CNNC has military links and developed the country’s atomic bomb and nuclear submarines
  • CNNC was not involved in the original Hinkley although rumour has it that the company agreed in principle to buy half of China’s 33% stake in the £24bn project. Therefore it is gaining 'backdoor' access to a project that it was never involved with in the first place - presumably this means that it was never vetted as a supplier in the first instance?
  • National Security - MI5 and MI6 have been warning the government about China's involvement for months - over national security and links to the Chinese military and Chinese Communist Party. Especially relevant in relation to the UK involvement in NATO and close links with the USA
  • Academic experts have also been warning us - and the government - for months about the dangers of involving China in a nation’s infrastructure construction program
  • The whole matter has been shrouded in a total the lack of transparency from the last Government – David Cameron and George Osborne do not appear to have looked into the background at all, in their headlong rush to 'cosy up' to China, where other considerations take second place
  • The possibility of old technology being used for the reactors - therefore they may well be out of date even before being comissioned
  • Who will build the reactors? - will it be Aviva or will Chinese General Nuclear be involved – if so, then there may well be safety issues
  • It is rumoured that the Chinese own first nuclear power station had building defects and reported minor leakages – however, corroboration is difficult because of state censorship
  • The huge cost of the entire project – both initially and with guaranteed future payments to the consortium building the project. With subsidies nearly 5 times as big as being previously stated - Hinkley Point C cost 30bn top-up payments NAO report - This also potentially breaches the EU’s state aid limits together with the French Governments ‘top-up’ for EDF with challenges coming from Austria & German Greenpeace
  • Eye watering cost to the taxpayer for 35 years from first becoming operational
  • Yet more levels of nuclear waste at a time when no-one has really come up with a viable method of disposing of the existing waste
  • Design of the reactor - so far proved impossible to make work and regarded by some as “unconstructable”
  • Problems exist with the Flamanville plant in Normandy (6 years behind schedule and € 7bn over budget). There would seem to be weak spots in the lid and the bottom which could reduce the resistance of the metal. The head of the French nuclear regulator, Pierre-Franck Chevet, warned any defects could be very costly to rectify - he explained: “This is a serious, even a very serious anomaly as it affects an absolutely crucial reactor component on which no risk of rupture can be taken.” - EDF's real problem is Flamanville not Hinkley Point
  • With all this in mind the Hinkley Point C Nuclear Project can be summed up as massively costly, potentially illegally funded, threat to national security, using outdated & incorrect technology, having safety issues and with a very real prospect of never being finished and costing the UK taxpayer an immense amount of money – hardly a resounding endorsement!

Also never forget the on-going impact of the Fukushima disaster even today with contamination and the very costly failure of the ice wall containment system - Fukushima ice wall a very costly failure

 

Fukushima ice wall a very costly failure

The biggest ticket failure was apparently a $270 million water decontamination system from French nuclear behemoth Areva. Designed to remove radioactive cesium from water gushing from Fukushima Daiichi’s three destroyed reactors, the machine was never fully operational, functioned only three months and processed only 77,000 tons of liquid — in total — a minute fraction of the 300,000 tons of contaminated water flowing from the site (and into the sea) each day

 

And now the Chinese Ambassador is trying to threaten the UK if we do not go ahead with this project - China warns of 'crucial juncture' over Hinkley delay

Quite apart from the USA Government and Companies being under constant threat of being 'computer hacked' by China - although less so since 2014 because they have now reverted to stealing intellectual property

Nevertheless, what price the 'mutual trust' mentioned by the Chinese Ambassador? China Still Successfully Hacking US, But Less - after all trust works both ways and has to be demonstrable not just rhetoric!

 

UPDATE - 11 August 2016

Chinese Hinkley backer is accused of espionage

 

Chinese Hinkley backer is accused of espionage (Times Newspaper)

“Britain’s Chinese partner in the Hinkley Point power station deal is facing nuclear espionage charges in the United States.”

China General Nuclear Power (CGN), a state-owned energy giant, is accused of leading a conspiracy to steal American power industry secrets to speed up the development and production of Chinese reactor technology. Szuhsiung Ho, a senior adviser to CGN, is due in court next week accused of recruiting American experts to obtain sensitive nuclear technology for China in a plot that threatened US security

 

 

UPDATE - 12 August 2016

Australia rejects energy deal with China over security fears

 

Australia rejects energy deal with China over security fears (Times Newspaper)

“Australia blocked Chinese investors from buying the country’s largest electricity network yesterday, citing national security concerns”

The Australian Strategic Policy Institute published a report last week warning that the sale of the network to Chinese investors would make the country’s defence bases and industry vulnerable to interference. The think tank added that Australia would become more vulnerable to cyberattacks originating from China

 

 

Furthermore ...

 

According to UK Government - Solar and wind power will be cheaper than nuclear (Times Newspaper)

“Solar and wind power will be cheaper than nuclear electricity before the Hinkley Point power station could be open, according to the UK Governments own projections”

 

 

UPDATE - 14 August 2016

As previously mentioned

May given legal get-out to pull plug on Hinkley nuclear plant

 

Sister Project - Flamanville in Northern France (Times Newspaper)

“Two years ago the EU approved a generous subsidy scheme that the government had agreed with EDF and CGN to underwrite the project. A key part of the deal was a Treasury guarantee for up to £17bn in loans”

“According to article 56 of the Brussels ruling, this guarantee was conditional on “objective evidence” that EDF’s reactor technology worked. This must be proven by Flamanville completing its “trial operation period” by the end of 2020”

“Flamanville is using the same reactor design intended for Hinkley. Under construction since 2007, the French project has fallen years behind schedule and gone billions of euros over budget”

“France’s nuclear regulator, the ASN, last year found “anomalies” in its steel reactor vessel. The watchdog is not expected to report back with suggested remedies until 2017”

 

 

UPDATE - 23 August 2016

China - State-run company’s rigs are ‘strategic weapons’

China takes control of North Sea oil drilling

 

State-run company’s rigs are ‘strategic weapons’ (Times Newspaper)

“A decade ago Cnooc was blocked from buying a US oil company over national security concerns. No concerns appear to have been raised in Britain when the company bought Nexen, a Canadian oil operator with a large stake in North Sea oil, in 2012. Cnooc has also drawn criticism for its operations in the South China Sea, which China has claimed for itself despite an international tribunal ruling to the contrary”

“In 2012 Wang Yilin, Cnooc’s former chairman, told Communist Party superiors that “large-scale deep-water rigs” of the sort used in the disputed region were China’s “mobile national territory and a strategic weapon””

 

 

UPDATE - 09 November 2016

Hinkley firm may have to turn off lights

 

Hinkley firm may have to turn off lights (Times Newspaper)

“The French company chosen to build Britain’s new nuclear plant at Hinkley Point may have to switch off the lights in its home country because of safety concerns over its reactors. With 20 of the 58 nuclear reactors in France out of service, officials fear that EDF, the state-owned energy giant, will be unable to meet demand if temperatures fall this winter”

“The scandal came to light after it emerged that the reactor vessel at Flamanville — where EDF is building a reactor of the sort intended for Hinkley Point — contained potentially dangerous flaws. Amid fears that EDF’s existing nuclear plants could also contain unsafe components, France’s nuclear watchdog ordered a programme of tests on 18 reactors. Analysts said that a drop in output because of the tests was likely to cost EDF at least €1 billion”

 

 

Tags: | Categories: China | Energy | UK Government

The energy regulator is warning about an impending ‘energy gap’ (doom) with old power stations being phased out and not enough replacements being built to make up for the shortfall.

The consequences of this are that the UK's lights could go out and we are going to have go shopping around the world to plug this gap

This is all well and good, but what precise alternative measures has any recent UK Government taken to ameliorate the problem – very little it would seem other than paying out huge grants for wind turbines, which must be some of the most inefficient ways of producing energy imaginable, quite apart from being a complete blot on the landscape

Well how about this for an idea –

From now on, all new build houses must have a mandatory array of solar PV panels tied into the national grid which must be part of the planning application. Also no planning permission will be granted unless this provision is included

The benefits of this scheme would be enormous, especially including these ideas at the build stage, rather than having a retro-fit approach which is inevitably more expensive.

Furthermore, the sooner the UK starts down this route the better. Just work out the proposed number of houses to be built over the next 1-10 years and then calculate the contribution they will cumulatively make to the nations energy requirements. Also bear in mind that this is an on-going process that will have increased contributions for every future year

This seems a no-brainer, which is obviously a sure-fire reason for no one in Government to take it on board. Nevertheless, having a great many small power generators (individual houses increasing every year) located throughout the country would go some way towards addressing the UK’s current energy problem.

AND … if the previous Government had taken this approach 10 years ago instead of total inertia, where would be today?

Surely the message has to be - the sooner we get started on this idea the better

Tags: | Categories: Energy

Just had a letter from E-ON notifying us of an impending price rise in 2013. The letter starts off by saying how wonderful the company is for not increasing their prices in 2012

'.. but, unfortunately, we can't protect you from an increase any longer ..'

and the letter goes on about the '.. rising wholesale energy prices ..'

Good to know that 'spin' is alive and well to sanitise the pain of a price rise and lie to the customer to justifty E-ON's stance.

Just have a look at the graph of WTI (West Texas) oil prices below (Brent is pretty much the same profile)

This shows that prices peaked in March 2011 and Feb 2012 but troughs were Sept 2011 and June 2012. Furthermore, prices are currently (Dec 2012) below 50% of their high & more like 33% of their peak; additionally oil projections indicate a future downward trend

With this in mind where does the questionnable statement about '.. rising wholesale energy prices ..' come from, it is certainly not a valid reason for raising prices

There are a number of aspects to this whole matter that need looking into

  • The actual percentage rises themselves - dual fuel 8.7% and electricity 7.7% (i.e. £110 rise for a typical customer). Thought that the Government was encouraging below inflation price rises because any other approach would simply fuel inflation and add to the burden all round
  • Other countries such as France have regulated energy prices (i.e. gas 2-3% from January 2013 affecting 10 million households) and the electricity price for each category of user is regulated by law

Therefore the question is - are UK consumers having high price rises imposed on them in order for these international companies to make up for any shortfall in other 'regulated' countries.

In short is the UK paying for regulated prices on the continent?

Tags: | Categories: Energy