Tag Archives: France

Nuclear tests affected the weather 60 years ago

Cold War nuclear tests did change the weather in the 1960s. The Earth did not catch fire, but a hard rain did begin to fall.

LONDON, 19 May, 2020 – Sixty years on, British scientists have confirmed a once-popular belief: that atmospheric nuclear tests of early weapons under development affected the daily weather. A new study of  weather records from 1962 to 1964 reveals the signature of experimental atomic and thermonuclear explosions during the early days of the Cold War.

The scientists measured atmospheric electric charge and cloud data to find that on those days when radioactively-generated electric charge was higher, clouds were thicker and there was up to a quarter more rain than on those days when charge was low.

The climate impact of nuclear detonations may not have been as devastating as many older lay people appeared to think at the time, and some good came of the tests: researchers who studied radiation distribution as it spread around the planet from weapons test sites built up a body of data that delivered a new way to follow atmospheric circulation patterns.

“We have now re-used this data to examine the effect on rainfall,” said Giles Harrison of the University of Reading in the UK. “The politically charged atmosphere of the Cold War led to a nuclear arms race and worldwide anxiety. Decades later, that global cloud has yielded a silver lining, in giving us a unique way to study how electric charge affects rain.”

Between 1945 and 1980 US, Soviet, British and French governments exploded 510 megatons of nuclear weaponry underground, under water and in the lower and upper atmosphere. Of this, 428 megatons – the equivalent of 29,000 bombs of the size dropped onto Hiroshima in Japan at the end of the Second World War – was in the open air, and the greatest concentration of tests was in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

Weather grumbles

Scientists began to collect strontium-90 isotopes and other radioactive fission products in the rain that fell after such tests. By 1960, people in Europe and the US could be heard grumbling about the supposed impact on the weather of tests carried out 10,000 kilometres away.

British cinemagoers were treated to an improbable vision of climate catastrophe triggered by nuclear tests in the 1961 film The Day the Earth Caught Fire. The US government commissioned the Rand Corporation to deliver an inconclusive report in 1966 on the effect upon weather, but by then an international treaty had banned tests in the atmosphere, in the water and in space.

Very slowly, public concern about radioactive fallout and its consequences for the weather began to fade.

Scientists continued to contemplate the climate effects of nuclear confrontation in other ways: in 1983 US researchers proposed a possible nuclear winter, triggered by radioactive mushroom clouds from burning cities that would reach the stratosphere and dim the sun’s light for a decade.

But long before then, peace and prosperity had created another climatic danger: the accelerating combustion of fossil fuels had begun to raise atmospheric greenhouse gas levels to trigger global warming, and climate scientists began to adopt nuclear yardsticks to measure the effect.

“The atmospheric conditions of 1962-64 were exceptional and it is unlikely they will be repeated, for many reasons”

One calculation is that by flying in jet planes or driving cars or generating electric power, humankind is now adding the equivalent in heat energy of five Hiroshima explosions every second to the world’s atmosphere, thus inexorably altering the global climate.

That has not stopped other scientists from worrying about the chilling effects upon climate and human civilisation of even a limited nuclear  exchange. But the supposed impact of bursts of nuclear radiation upon the weather has been more or less forgotten.

Now Professor Harrison and colleagues have returned to the puzzle in the journal Physical Review Letters, to find that the answer could be disentangled from weather records collected in Kew, near London, and 1000 kms away in Lerwick in the Shetland Islands north-east of Scotland, a site selected because it would be least affected by soot, sulphur particles and other kinds of industrial pollution.

Nuclear radiation ionises the matter in its path to create electrically-charged atoms and molecules. Electric charge changes the way water droplets in clouds collide and combine – think of dramatic thunderstorms, lightning and torrential rain – and this affects the size of the droplets and the volume of rain: that is, the rain doesn’t fall at all until the droplets get big enough.

Usually, the sun does most of the work, but in comparing the weather records from two stations, the researchers were for the first time able to factor in the contribution from Cold War test explosions in the Nevada desert, or the Siberian Arctic, or the faraway south Pacific, on Scottish rainfall between 1962 and 1964.

Difference disappeared

They found 150 days in which atmospheric electricity was high or low, while cloudy in Lerwick: they also found a difference in precipitation which, they say, disappeared once the build-up of nuclear radioactive fallout had vanished.

Their statistical analyses suggest no serious or lasting change, but the connection was there: where radioactivity was high, rainfall increased from 2.1mm per day to 2.6mm – a 24% increase in daily rain. Clouds, too, were thicker.

The study remains as one more piece of the climate jigsaw, as a test of measuring technique, and one more reminder of the lessons still to be learned from the Cold War.

It confirms a deepening understanding of the intricate machinery that delivers the first drops of rain, and ideally scientists won’t get many chances to test their understanding in the same way again.

The authors conclude, in the clipped tones favoured by research publications: “The atmospheric conditions of 1962-64 were exceptional and it is unlikely they will be repeated, for many reasons.” – Climate News Network

Cold War nuclear tests did change the weather in the 1960s. The Earth did not catch fire, but a hard rain did begin to fall.

LONDON, 19 May, 2020 – Sixty years on, British scientists have confirmed a once-popular belief: that atmospheric nuclear tests of early weapons under development affected the daily weather. A new study of  weather records from 1962 to 1964 reveals the signature of experimental atomic and thermonuclear explosions during the early days of the Cold War.

The scientists measured atmospheric electric charge and cloud data to find that on those days when radioactively-generated electric charge was higher, clouds were thicker and there was up to a quarter more rain than on those days when charge was low.

The climate impact of nuclear detonations may not have been as devastating as many older lay people appeared to think at the time, and some good came of the tests: researchers who studied radiation distribution as it spread around the planet from weapons test sites built up a body of data that delivered a new way to follow atmospheric circulation patterns.

“We have now re-used this data to examine the effect on rainfall,” said Giles Harrison of the University of Reading in the UK. “The politically charged atmosphere of the Cold War led to a nuclear arms race and worldwide anxiety. Decades later, that global cloud has yielded a silver lining, in giving us a unique way to study how electric charge affects rain.”

Between 1945 and 1980 US, Soviet, British and French governments exploded 510 megatons of nuclear weaponry underground, under water and in the lower and upper atmosphere. Of this, 428 megatons – the equivalent of 29,000 bombs of the size dropped onto Hiroshima in Japan at the end of the Second World War – was in the open air, and the greatest concentration of tests was in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

Weather grumbles

Scientists began to collect strontium-90 isotopes and other radioactive fission products in the rain that fell after such tests. By 1960, people in Europe and the US could be heard grumbling about the supposed impact on the weather of tests carried out 10,000 kilometres away.

British cinemagoers were treated to an improbable vision of climate catastrophe triggered by nuclear tests in the 1961 film The Day the Earth Caught Fire. The US government commissioned the Rand Corporation to deliver an inconclusive report in 1966 on the effect upon weather, but by then an international treaty had banned tests in the atmosphere, in the water and in space.

Very slowly, public concern about radioactive fallout and its consequences for the weather began to fade.

Scientists continued to contemplate the climate effects of nuclear confrontation in other ways: in 1983 US researchers proposed a possible nuclear winter, triggered by radioactive mushroom clouds from burning cities that would reach the stratosphere and dim the sun’s light for a decade.

But long before then, peace and prosperity had created another climatic danger: the accelerating combustion of fossil fuels had begun to raise atmospheric greenhouse gas levels to trigger global warming, and climate scientists began to adopt nuclear yardsticks to measure the effect.

“The atmospheric conditions of 1962-64 were exceptional and it is unlikely they will be repeated, for many reasons”

One calculation is that by flying in jet planes or driving cars or generating electric power, humankind is now adding the equivalent in heat energy of five Hiroshima explosions every second to the world’s atmosphere, thus inexorably altering the global climate.

That has not stopped other scientists from worrying about the chilling effects upon climate and human civilisation of even a limited nuclear  exchange. But the supposed impact of bursts of nuclear radiation upon the weather has been more or less forgotten.

Now Professor Harrison and colleagues have returned to the puzzle in the journal Physical Review Letters, to find that the answer could be disentangled from weather records collected in Kew, near London, and 1000 kms away in Lerwick in the Shetland Islands north-east of Scotland, a site selected because it would be least affected by soot, sulphur particles and other kinds of industrial pollution.

Nuclear radiation ionises the matter in its path to create electrically-charged atoms and molecules. Electric charge changes the way water droplets in clouds collide and combine – think of dramatic thunderstorms, lightning and torrential rain – and this affects the size of the droplets and the volume of rain: that is, the rain doesn’t fall at all until the droplets get big enough.

Usually, the sun does most of the work, but in comparing the weather records from two stations, the researchers were for the first time able to factor in the contribution from Cold War test explosions in the Nevada desert, or the Siberian Arctic, or the faraway south Pacific, on Scottish rainfall between 1962 and 1964.

Difference disappeared

They found 150 days in which atmospheric electricity was high or low, while cloudy in Lerwick: they also found a difference in precipitation which, they say, disappeared once the build-up of nuclear radioactive fallout had vanished.

Their statistical analyses suggest no serious or lasting change, but the connection was there: where radioactivity was high, rainfall increased from 2.1mm per day to 2.6mm – a 24% increase in daily rain. Clouds, too, were thicker.

The study remains as one more piece of the climate jigsaw, as a test of measuring technique, and one more reminder of the lessons still to be learned from the Cold War.

It confirms a deepening understanding of the intricate machinery that delivers the first drops of rain, and ideally scientists won’t get many chances to test their understanding in the same way again.

The authors conclude, in the clipped tones favoured by research publications: “The atmospheric conditions of 1962-64 were exceptional and it is unlikely they will be repeated, for many reasons.” – Climate News Network

UK’s nuclear future hangs on electricity tax

The new British prime minister, Boris Johnson, must soon decide whether to save the UK’s nuclear future with an unpopular electricity tax.

LONDON, 21 January, 2020 − Pressure is mounting on the UK’s new Conservative government to rescue its nuclear programme through an electricity tax, to throw a lifeline to the ailing French nuclear giant EDF, which wants to build more huge reactors in southern England despite its fragile financial plight.

The UK government has been consulting on what amounts to a proposed nuclear tax, which would require every electricity consumer to pay a levy of up to £50 a year on their bills while the new plants are being built, saving the beleaguered French company from having to finance the project itself.

Boris Johnson, the British prime minister, will need to weigh the disadvantages of abandoning plans to build the new reactors against the effect the new tax would have on the electoral backing of his new Conservative supporters. Many of those who voted for him in last month’s general election swept him to power by switching support from their traditional choice, the opposition Labour Party.

EDF is very keen to get an early open-ended financial commitment to fund its new station, Sizewell C on Britain’s east coast. That is planned to contain two 1,640 megawatt European Pressurised Water reactors. Critics say the longer the decision is delayed, the clearer it becomes that the reactors are too expensive and also unnecessary.

Losing support?

With renewables, particularly wind and solar, now cheap and popular, and nuclear stations always late and over budget, EDF is believed to be nervous that its own political support is ebbing away.

The electoral risks for Johnson are clear. The US version of the nuclear tax the British are proposing, called Early Cost Recovery, had American electricity customers paying up front for a nuclear station, the V.C. Summer plant in South Carolina. But consumers were left with a $10 billion (£7.7bn) debt for cancelled nuclear plants, and another $13.5bn (£10.4bn) in cost over-runs, with no reactors coming online.

And the chances of Sizewell C being cancelled are high, even if its costs are guaranteed. If a paper, Financing the Hinkley Point C project, just published, is correct, EDF is already in deep financial trouble.

According to its author, Steve Thomas, emeritus professor of energy policy at the University of Greenwich in London, it is impossible for EDF to finance the completion of its Hinkley Point C station in the West of England unless the UK government finds a way to pay the capital cost.

“The prime minister is reputed to have a fondness for elephants – especially if they’re white. EDF is pressing him hard to support another white elephant – a new nuclear power station at Sizewell”

The paper says the twin reactor power station under construction there is draining EDF’s finances so severely that it will not be able to pay the construction costs (approximately £11bn) it has yet to find.

Professor Thomas says EDF is facing financial collapse because of the priority it must give to expensive uprating of most of its 58 reactors in France in order to keep them running safely. As a result, if Hinkley Point is to be completed, it needs an open-ended financial commitment of both British and French public money.

His report says: “The sensible course is to abandon the plant now before more public money is wasted.”

Despite the fact that, as the report says, EDF is currently £37.4bn in debt without including many of its nuclear liabilities, it is still officially pressing ahead with plans not only to complete Hinkley Point C by 2025 but also to start Sizewell C construction in two years’ time.

This now seems dependent on Boris Johnson getting the British consumer to pay for it in advance.

Tax on all

Tom Burke, co-founder and chairman of the green think tank E3G, told the Climate News Network: “The prime minister is reputed to have a fondness for elephants – especially if they’re white.

“EDF is pressing him hard to support another white elephant – a new nuclear power station at Sizewell. To pay for this, EDF wants him to levy a nuclear tax on every electricity consumer in the country.

“They will be forced to pay EDF long before Sizewell is actually supplying electricity, and even if they get their own electricity from green providers who reject nuclear electricity, which, despite industry claims to the contrary, is not zero carbon.

“This expensive distortion of the electricity market will be sold under the incomprehensible banner of being a Regulated Asset Base (RAB) financing package to disguise the fact that it is simply a tax on voters to pay for an uneconomic source of electricity.

Little faith

“We know it is uneconomic because no-one in the banks or investment houses is willing to invest in it without such a measure, which is similar to the one the Chinese Government uses to force Chinese consumers to pay for wasteful energy mega-projects like the Three Gorges Dam.”

So far the government has made no official comment on what it proposes to do, following a public consultation last autumn on the RAB. Few outsiders have much faith in the government ministry responsible, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, which is supposed to make the decision. It is anyway likely to be referred to the prime minister since it is so politically important.

To some the department’s continued enthusiasm for nuclear power when all the evidence is that it is uneconomic is incomprehensible. However, building eight new nuclear stations remains official policy.

The department has a record of being badly wrong in its forecasts. For example, its claim that new nuclear stations were needed was founded on a prediction in 2010 that the UK would be consuming 15% more electricity by 2020. In fact demand has gone down year on year, and the country is consuming 15% less.

So by the department’s own measure new nuclear power stations are not needed. However, that has so far had no effect on policy. − Climate News Network

The new British prime minister, Boris Johnson, must soon decide whether to save the UK’s nuclear future with an unpopular electricity tax.

LONDON, 21 January, 2020 − Pressure is mounting on the UK’s new Conservative government to rescue its nuclear programme through an electricity tax, to throw a lifeline to the ailing French nuclear giant EDF, which wants to build more huge reactors in southern England despite its fragile financial plight.

The UK government has been consulting on what amounts to a proposed nuclear tax, which would require every electricity consumer to pay a levy of up to £50 a year on their bills while the new plants are being built, saving the beleaguered French company from having to finance the project itself.

Boris Johnson, the British prime minister, will need to weigh the disadvantages of abandoning plans to build the new reactors against the effect the new tax would have on the electoral backing of his new Conservative supporters. Many of those who voted for him in last month’s general election swept him to power by switching support from their traditional choice, the opposition Labour Party.

EDF is very keen to get an early open-ended financial commitment to fund its new station, Sizewell C on Britain’s east coast. That is planned to contain two 1,640 megawatt European Pressurised Water reactors. Critics say the longer the decision is delayed, the clearer it becomes that the reactors are too expensive and also unnecessary.

Losing support?

With renewables, particularly wind and solar, now cheap and popular, and nuclear stations always late and over budget, EDF is believed to be nervous that its own political support is ebbing away.

The electoral risks for Johnson are clear. The US version of the nuclear tax the British are proposing, called Early Cost Recovery, had American electricity customers paying up front for a nuclear station, the V.C. Summer plant in South Carolina. But consumers were left with a $10 billion (£7.7bn) debt for cancelled nuclear plants, and another $13.5bn (£10.4bn) in cost over-runs, with no reactors coming online.

And the chances of Sizewell C being cancelled are high, even if its costs are guaranteed. If a paper, Financing the Hinkley Point C project, just published, is correct, EDF is already in deep financial trouble.

According to its author, Steve Thomas, emeritus professor of energy policy at the University of Greenwich in London, it is impossible for EDF to finance the completion of its Hinkley Point C station in the West of England unless the UK government finds a way to pay the capital cost.

“The prime minister is reputed to have a fondness for elephants – especially if they’re white. EDF is pressing him hard to support another white elephant – a new nuclear power station at Sizewell”

The paper says the twin reactor power station under construction there is draining EDF’s finances so severely that it will not be able to pay the construction costs (approximately £11bn) it has yet to find.

Professor Thomas says EDF is facing financial collapse because of the priority it must give to expensive uprating of most of its 58 reactors in France in order to keep them running safely. As a result, if Hinkley Point is to be completed, it needs an open-ended financial commitment of both British and French public money.

His report says: “The sensible course is to abandon the plant now before more public money is wasted.”

Despite the fact that, as the report says, EDF is currently £37.4bn in debt without including many of its nuclear liabilities, it is still officially pressing ahead with plans not only to complete Hinkley Point C by 2025 but also to start Sizewell C construction in two years’ time.

This now seems dependent on Boris Johnson getting the British consumer to pay for it in advance.

Tax on all

Tom Burke, co-founder and chairman of the green think tank E3G, told the Climate News Network: “The prime minister is reputed to have a fondness for elephants – especially if they’re white.

“EDF is pressing him hard to support another white elephant – a new nuclear power station at Sizewell. To pay for this, EDF wants him to levy a nuclear tax on every electricity consumer in the country.

“They will be forced to pay EDF long before Sizewell is actually supplying electricity, and even if they get their own electricity from green providers who reject nuclear electricity, which, despite industry claims to the contrary, is not zero carbon.

“This expensive distortion of the electricity market will be sold under the incomprehensible banner of being a Regulated Asset Base (RAB) financing package to disguise the fact that it is simply a tax on voters to pay for an uneconomic source of electricity.

Little faith

“We know it is uneconomic because no-one in the banks or investment houses is willing to invest in it without such a measure, which is similar to the one the Chinese Government uses to force Chinese consumers to pay for wasteful energy mega-projects like the Three Gorges Dam.”

So far the government has made no official comment on what it proposes to do, following a public consultation last autumn on the RAB. Few outsiders have much faith in the government ministry responsible, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, which is supposed to make the decision. It is anyway likely to be referred to the prime minister since it is so politically important.

To some the department’s continued enthusiasm for nuclear power when all the evidence is that it is uneconomic is incomprehensible. However, building eight new nuclear stations remains official policy.

The department has a record of being badly wrong in its forecasts. For example, its claim that new nuclear stations were needed was founded on a prediction in 2010 that the UK would be consuming 15% more electricity by 2020. In fact demand has gone down year on year, and the country is consuming 15% less.

So by the department’s own measure new nuclear power stations are not needed. However, that has so far had no effect on policy. − Climate News Network

Flagship reactor launch postponed again

As the French state continues to bail out its debt-ridden nuclear industry a new delay to its flagship reactor casts doubt on the future.

LONDON, 31 December, 2019 − The edifice already heading for the status of the largest and most expensive construction project in the world, the Hinkley C nuclear power station in the UK, is dragging its builder, the French giant EDF, into ever-deeper debt: the company’s flagship reactor is facing still more delay.

Although EDF is a vast company, owning 58 reactors in France alone, and is 85% owned by the French state, it owes around €60 billion ($67bn), a debt expected to increase by €3 billion ($3.35bn) a year.

This has led some city analysts, notably S&P Global, to downgrade the company’s prospects to “negative” − which is essentially a recommendation to shareholders to sell.

Apart from the problem that EDF’s fleet of reactors in France is operating well beyond their original design life and are in constant need of safety and maintenance upgrades, the company’s main problem is its flagship, the European Pressurised Water Reactor (EPR), which is getting into ever-greater difficulties.

In Europe there are four EPRs under construction: the two barely begun at Hinkley Point in Somerset in the west of England; one in northern France at Flamanville in Normandy; and the original prototype in Finland, known as Olkiluoto 3 (OL3).

The extraordinary fact is that, although OL3 was due to start up in 2009, it is still incomplete, and its start date has just been put back again – until 2021.

“Some have wondered how on earth EDF can still go forward with a project that looks like financial insanity for its own accounts”

In the midst of the Christmas festivities news was slipped out of another further substantial delay to this reactor, which is being built on Finland’s southwest coast.

Construction began nearly 15 years ago and was due to be completed within four years. But now the reactor is not expected to produce power until March 2021, instead of by the most recent estimate, September 2020.

Bizarrely, the delay is because some of the equipment in the station requires new spare parts to replace earlier versions that have never been used.

Or, as OL3 project director Jouni Silvennoinen said in a TVO statement: “Because of numerous delays we have to do maintenance to equipment and components already installed to ensure fluent start-up and continuous operation. The manufacturing and deliveries of the spare parts take time.”

The second EPR being built, at Flamanville, is in even deeper trouble. Work began in December 2007 on the 1650 megawatt unit, which was originally expected to start commercial operation in 2013, but that has now been put back to 2022.

The latest problem in this catalogue was the discovery of faulty welds inside the reactor’s containment vessel. These require replacement, an incredibly difficult, time-consuming and expensive operation. Because of these problems EDF has been forced to adjust both the schedule and the estimated cost of construction, to €12.4 billion ($13.85bn), three times the original estimate.

Delays expected

Because it has learned lessons from building these two prototypes, EDF says, it is confident that the giant Hinkley Point twin reactor project will go much more smoothly. The first Hinkley reactor is due for completion in 2025, although cost overruns and potential delays because of unforeseen “ground conditions” have already been announced.

But it is the delay at Flamanville that is having a knock-on effect at Hinkley Point and is partly causing EDF’s debt problems. The company was granted cheap loans to pay for the UK construction by the British Treasury, considerably reducing the cost to the company by saving it the need to borrow money at commercial rates.

However, the loan was conditional on Flamanville being up and running by the end of 2020, a condition clearly not going to be met. As a result the company is financing the build directly from its balance sheet – a big ask, because the estimated cost is more than $25bn (£19bn).

For comparison, the most expensive building in the world to date is the giant Abraj Al Bait hotel, in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, at $15bn. The latest EDF prediction is that Hinkley Point’s reactors will cost from £21.5bn to £22.5bn ($26.6bn-$27.9bn), and that is expected to rise.

David Toke, reader in energy politics at the University of Aberdeen, UK, in his regular blog on energy, puts it this way: “EDF faces massive financial losses as they continue to fund the building of Hinkley C.

“This is because they are paying for the power station from their balance sheet rather than use much cheaper UK Treasury loans that were originally agreed with the UK Government.

Shares depressed

“In short, paying for the construction costs out of shareholders’ dividends is very costly, something that depresses share prices and in effect loses tremendous amounts of money for the main shareholder, the French Government.

“In order to complete Hinkley C, EDF can only do so by issuing its own bonds, and thus accumulating debt that rests on its balance sheets. Such mounting debt reduces the possibility for issuing dividends to shareholders and thus depresses share prices.

“Some with expert knowledge have wondered how on earth EDF can still go forward with a project that looks like financial insanity for its own accounts.”

Dr Toke argues that the only reason for continuing with the project is French pride.

But so far the French Government, which ultimately foots the bill for the nuclear industry’s investments − and its failures − has continued to back all three projects.

The cost to the French taxpayer is already astronomical, and while none of the four reactors produces any power, their costs continue to escalate. How long this can continue, nobody knows. − Climate News Network

As the French state continues to bail out its debt-ridden nuclear industry a new delay to its flagship reactor casts doubt on the future.

LONDON, 31 December, 2019 − The edifice already heading for the status of the largest and most expensive construction project in the world, the Hinkley C nuclear power station in the UK, is dragging its builder, the French giant EDF, into ever-deeper debt: the company’s flagship reactor is facing still more delay.

Although EDF is a vast company, owning 58 reactors in France alone, and is 85% owned by the French state, it owes around €60 billion ($67bn), a debt expected to increase by €3 billion ($3.35bn) a year.

This has led some city analysts, notably S&P Global, to downgrade the company’s prospects to “negative” − which is essentially a recommendation to shareholders to sell.

Apart from the problem that EDF’s fleet of reactors in France is operating well beyond their original design life and are in constant need of safety and maintenance upgrades, the company’s main problem is its flagship, the European Pressurised Water Reactor (EPR), which is getting into ever-greater difficulties.

In Europe there are four EPRs under construction: the two barely begun at Hinkley Point in Somerset in the west of England; one in northern France at Flamanville in Normandy; and the original prototype in Finland, known as Olkiluoto 3 (OL3).

The extraordinary fact is that, although OL3 was due to start up in 2009, it is still incomplete, and its start date has just been put back again – until 2021.

“Some have wondered how on earth EDF can still go forward with a project that looks like financial insanity for its own accounts”

In the midst of the Christmas festivities news was slipped out of another further substantial delay to this reactor, which is being built on Finland’s southwest coast.

Construction began nearly 15 years ago and was due to be completed within four years. But now the reactor is not expected to produce power until March 2021, instead of by the most recent estimate, September 2020.

Bizarrely, the delay is because some of the equipment in the station requires new spare parts to replace earlier versions that have never been used.

Or, as OL3 project director Jouni Silvennoinen said in a TVO statement: “Because of numerous delays we have to do maintenance to equipment and components already installed to ensure fluent start-up and continuous operation. The manufacturing and deliveries of the spare parts take time.”

The second EPR being built, at Flamanville, is in even deeper trouble. Work began in December 2007 on the 1650 megawatt unit, which was originally expected to start commercial operation in 2013, but that has now been put back to 2022.

The latest problem in this catalogue was the discovery of faulty welds inside the reactor’s containment vessel. These require replacement, an incredibly difficult, time-consuming and expensive operation. Because of these problems EDF has been forced to adjust both the schedule and the estimated cost of construction, to €12.4 billion ($13.85bn), three times the original estimate.

Delays expected

Because it has learned lessons from building these two prototypes, EDF says, it is confident that the giant Hinkley Point twin reactor project will go much more smoothly. The first Hinkley reactor is due for completion in 2025, although cost overruns and potential delays because of unforeseen “ground conditions” have already been announced.

But it is the delay at Flamanville that is having a knock-on effect at Hinkley Point and is partly causing EDF’s debt problems. The company was granted cheap loans to pay for the UK construction by the British Treasury, considerably reducing the cost to the company by saving it the need to borrow money at commercial rates.

However, the loan was conditional on Flamanville being up and running by the end of 2020, a condition clearly not going to be met. As a result the company is financing the build directly from its balance sheet – a big ask, because the estimated cost is more than $25bn (£19bn).

For comparison, the most expensive building in the world to date is the giant Abraj Al Bait hotel, in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, at $15bn. The latest EDF prediction is that Hinkley Point’s reactors will cost from £21.5bn to £22.5bn ($26.6bn-$27.9bn), and that is expected to rise.

David Toke, reader in energy politics at the University of Aberdeen, UK, in his regular blog on energy, puts it this way: “EDF faces massive financial losses as they continue to fund the building of Hinkley C.

“This is because they are paying for the power station from their balance sheet rather than use much cheaper UK Treasury loans that were originally agreed with the UK Government.

Shares depressed

“In short, paying for the construction costs out of shareholders’ dividends is very costly, something that depresses share prices and in effect loses tremendous amounts of money for the main shareholder, the French Government.

“In order to complete Hinkley C, EDF can only do so by issuing its own bonds, and thus accumulating debt that rests on its balance sheets. Such mounting debt reduces the possibility for issuing dividends to shareholders and thus depresses share prices.

“Some with expert knowledge have wondered how on earth EDF can still go forward with a project that looks like financial insanity for its own accounts.”

Dr Toke argues that the only reason for continuing with the project is French pride.

But so far the French Government, which ultimately foots the bill for the nuclear industry’s investments − and its failures − has continued to back all three projects.

The cost to the French taxpayer is already astronomical, and while none of the four reactors produces any power, their costs continue to escalate. How long this can continue, nobody knows. − Climate News Network

China may own UK's nuclear stations

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Britain, a pioneer of nuclear power, is handing over its industry to the French and Chinese in a move likely to see a doubling of electricity prices.

LONDON, 17 October – The Chinese are to help finance and build a new generation of nuclear power stations in the United Kingdom, helping out the French giant EDF which can no longer afford the £14 billion cost of the first station on its own.

The agreement, announced in China by George Osborne, the British Chancellor of the Exchequer [Finance Minister] at the end of a visit, is bound to be controversial. Initially the Chinese will take only about a 30% interest in this first station, but in future reactor building programmes they will be allowed to own a majority stake.

The British Government deal with EDF, which already operates all the existing civil nuclear stations in the UK, is to heavily subsidise the new construction by guaranteeing the price of electricity for 35 years.

The exact price is yet to be announced but it is expected to be double the existing price of electricity and is sure to spark an inquiry by the European Union, which bans subsidies because they interfere with competition.

Many will see the decision to build two European Pressurized Reactors at Hinkley Point in Somerset as extraordinary in view of the appalling cost overruns and delays of two similar ventures in Finland and France.

The same design of plant being built in Finland, Olkiluoto 3, is seven years late and billions over budget. Construction began in 2005 and the station was due to produce electricity in 2009. The latest estimate is that it will be on line in 2016.

EDF is building a second reactor at Flamanville in France. Work began in 2007, and the reactor was due to be completed in 2012 at a cost of 3 bn euros. Currently the completion date has slipped to 2016, and the cost has almost tripled to 8.5 bn euros.

“It may be shocking to some that businesses and investors from Britain… will not own the new generation of nuclear power plants, and they may instead belong to China’s nuclear power giants as well as to the French.”

Mr Osborne claimed the deal was good for investment in Britain and for jobs, and asserted that it would mean lower long-term energy costs for consumers.

Despite his optimism EDF has already told British companies that they are unlikely to get many contracts. This is because it is 20 years since any British companies were involved in building nuclear power stations and they no longer have the expertise to do so. Most of the jobs are likely to go to French and Chinese companies.

Robert Peston, the BBC’s business editor, summed up some reaction in Britain: “When you think about the history of nuclear power, it may be shocking to some that businesses and investors from Britain – whose scientists and engineers were pioneers in this technology in the early days – will not own the new generation of nuclear power plants, and they may instead belong to China’s nuclear power giants as well as to the French.

“The Government is refusing to finance these hugely pricey projects directly – although it will allow the owners of any new nuclear generators to charge well above the current market price for any power they produce in years and decades to come, so that the billions in development and construction costs can be recouped.”

The announcement comes at a time when some older power stations in Britain are being closed because they are producing too much carbon dioxide and have not been modernised. The Government has been warned that Britain is in danger of power cuts in the next five years if there are cold winters.

However, the proposed nuclear stations will make no difference to this situation because they are likely to take 10 years to come on line if the current pattern of delays and cost overruns is repeated. – Climate News Network

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Britain, a pioneer of nuclear power, is handing over its industry to the French and Chinese in a move likely to see a doubling of electricity prices.

LONDON, 17 October – The Chinese are to help finance and build a new generation of nuclear power stations in the United Kingdom, helping out the French giant EDF which can no longer afford the £14 billion cost of the first station on its own.

The agreement, announced in China by George Osborne, the British Chancellor of the Exchequer [Finance Minister] at the end of a visit, is bound to be controversial. Initially the Chinese will take only about a 30% interest in this first station, but in future reactor building programmes they will be allowed to own a majority stake.

The British Government deal with EDF, which already operates all the existing civil nuclear stations in the UK, is to heavily subsidise the new construction by guaranteeing the price of electricity for 35 years.

The exact price is yet to be announced but it is expected to be double the existing price of electricity and is sure to spark an inquiry by the European Union, which bans subsidies because they interfere with competition.

Many will see the decision to build two European Pressurized Reactors at Hinkley Point in Somerset as extraordinary in view of the appalling cost overruns and delays of two similar ventures in Finland and France.

The same design of plant being built in Finland, Olkiluoto 3, is seven years late and billions over budget. Construction began in 2005 and the station was due to produce electricity in 2009. The latest estimate is that it will be on line in 2016.

EDF is building a second reactor at Flamanville in France. Work began in 2007, and the reactor was due to be completed in 2012 at a cost of 3 bn euros. Currently the completion date has slipped to 2016, and the cost has almost tripled to 8.5 bn euros.

“It may be shocking to some that businesses and investors from Britain… will not own the new generation of nuclear power plants, and they may instead belong to China’s nuclear power giants as well as to the French.”

Mr Osborne claimed the deal was good for investment in Britain and for jobs, and asserted that it would mean lower long-term energy costs for consumers.

Despite his optimism EDF has already told British companies that they are unlikely to get many contracts. This is because it is 20 years since any British companies were involved in building nuclear power stations and they no longer have the expertise to do so. Most of the jobs are likely to go to French and Chinese companies.

Robert Peston, the BBC’s business editor, summed up some reaction in Britain: “When you think about the history of nuclear power, it may be shocking to some that businesses and investors from Britain – whose scientists and engineers were pioneers in this technology in the early days – will not own the new generation of nuclear power plants, and they may instead belong to China’s nuclear power giants as well as to the French.

“The Government is refusing to finance these hugely pricey projects directly – although it will allow the owners of any new nuclear generators to charge well above the current market price for any power they produce in years and decades to come, so that the billions in development and construction costs can be recouped.”

The announcement comes at a time when some older power stations in Britain are being closed because they are producing too much carbon dioxide and have not been modernised. The Government has been warned that Britain is in danger of power cuts in the next five years if there are cold winters.

However, the proposed nuclear stations will make no difference to this situation because they are likely to take 10 years to come on line if the current pattern of delays and cost overruns is repeated. – Climate News Network

China may own UK’s nuclear stations

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Britain, a pioneer of nuclear power, is handing over its industry to the French and Chinese in a move likely to see a doubling of electricity prices. LONDON, 17 October – The Chinese are to help finance and build a new generation of nuclear power stations in the United Kingdom, helping out the French giant EDF which can no longer afford the £14 billion cost of the first station on its own. The agreement, announced in China by George Osborne, the British Chancellor of the Exchequer [Finance Minister] at the end of a visit, is bound to be controversial. Initially the Chinese will take only about a 30% interest in this first station, but in future reactor building programmes they will be allowed to own a majority stake. The British Government deal with EDF, which already operates all the existing civil nuclear stations in the UK, is to heavily subsidise the new construction by guaranteeing the price of electricity for 35 years. The exact price is yet to be announced but it is expected to be double the existing price of electricity and is sure to spark an inquiry by the European Union, which bans subsidies because they interfere with competition. Many will see the decision to build two European Pressurized Reactors at Hinkley Point in Somerset as extraordinary in view of the appalling cost overruns and delays of two similar ventures in Finland and France. The same design of plant being built in Finland, Olkiluoto 3, is seven years late and billions over budget. Construction began in 2005 and the station was due to produce electricity in 2009. The latest estimate is that it will be on line in 2016. EDF is building a second reactor at Flamanville in France. Work began in 2007, and the reactor was due to be completed in 2012 at a cost of 3 bn euros. Currently the completion date has slipped to 2016, and the cost has almost tripled to 8.5 bn euros.

“It may be shocking to some that businesses and investors from Britain… will not own the new generation of nuclear power plants, and they may instead belong to China’s nuclear power giants as well as to the French.”

Mr Osborne claimed the deal was good for investment in Britain and for jobs, and asserted that it would mean lower long-term energy costs for consumers. Despite his optimism EDF has already told British companies that they are unlikely to get many contracts. This is because it is 20 years since any British companies were involved in building nuclear power stations and they no longer have the expertise to do so. Most of the jobs are likely to go to French and Chinese companies. Robert Peston, the BBC’s business editor, summed up some reaction in Britain: “When you think about the history of nuclear power, it may be shocking to some that businesses and investors from Britain – whose scientists and engineers were pioneers in this technology in the early days – will not own the new generation of nuclear power plants, and they may instead belong to China’s nuclear power giants as well as to the French. “The Government is refusing to finance these hugely pricey projects directly – although it will allow the owners of any new nuclear generators to charge well above the current market price for any power they produce in years and decades to come, so that the billions in development and construction costs can be recouped.” The announcement comes at a time when some older power stations in Britain are being closed because they are producing too much carbon dioxide and have not been modernised. The Government has been warned that Britain is in danger of power cuts in the next five years if there are cold winters.

However, the proposed nuclear stations will make no difference to this situation because they are likely to take 10 years to come on line if the current pattern of delays and cost overruns is repeated. – Climate News Network

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Britain, a pioneer of nuclear power, is handing over its industry to the French and Chinese in a move likely to see a doubling of electricity prices. LONDON, 17 October – The Chinese are to help finance and build a new generation of nuclear power stations in the United Kingdom, helping out the French giant EDF which can no longer afford the £14 billion cost of the first station on its own. The agreement, announced in China by George Osborne, the British Chancellor of the Exchequer [Finance Minister] at the end of a visit, is bound to be controversial. Initially the Chinese will take only about a 30% interest in this first station, but in future reactor building programmes they will be allowed to own a majority stake. The British Government deal with EDF, which already operates all the existing civil nuclear stations in the UK, is to heavily subsidise the new construction by guaranteeing the price of electricity for 35 years. The exact price is yet to be announced but it is expected to be double the existing price of electricity and is sure to spark an inquiry by the European Union, which bans subsidies because they interfere with competition. Many will see the decision to build two European Pressurized Reactors at Hinkley Point in Somerset as extraordinary in view of the appalling cost overruns and delays of two similar ventures in Finland and France. The same design of plant being built in Finland, Olkiluoto 3, is seven years late and billions over budget. Construction began in 2005 and the station was due to produce electricity in 2009. The latest estimate is that it will be on line in 2016. EDF is building a second reactor at Flamanville in France. Work began in 2007, and the reactor was due to be completed in 2012 at a cost of 3 bn euros. Currently the completion date has slipped to 2016, and the cost has almost tripled to 8.5 bn euros.

“It may be shocking to some that businesses and investors from Britain… will not own the new generation of nuclear power plants, and they may instead belong to China’s nuclear power giants as well as to the French.”

Mr Osborne claimed the deal was good for investment in Britain and for jobs, and asserted that it would mean lower long-term energy costs for consumers. Despite his optimism EDF has already told British companies that they are unlikely to get many contracts. This is because it is 20 years since any British companies were involved in building nuclear power stations and they no longer have the expertise to do so. Most of the jobs are likely to go to French and Chinese companies. Robert Peston, the BBC’s business editor, summed up some reaction in Britain: “When you think about the history of nuclear power, it may be shocking to some that businesses and investors from Britain – whose scientists and engineers were pioneers in this technology in the early days – will not own the new generation of nuclear power plants, and they may instead belong to China’s nuclear power giants as well as to the French. “The Government is refusing to finance these hugely pricey projects directly – although it will allow the owners of any new nuclear generators to charge well above the current market price for any power they produce in years and decades to come, so that the billions in development and construction costs can be recouped.” The announcement comes at a time when some older power stations in Britain are being closed because they are producing too much carbon dioxide and have not been modernised. The Government has been warned that Britain is in danger of power cuts in the next five years if there are cold winters.

However, the proposed nuclear stations will make no difference to this situation because they are likely to take 10 years to come on line if the current pattern of delays and cost overruns is repeated. – Climate News Network

Parts of Europe heating faster than global average

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Climate change hits different regions in different ways and, as Europe’s climate warms, some areas are already having to adapt.  New crops are being planted and there’s a call for buildings that don’t overheat in warm weather. LONDON, 12 September – Temperatures in some parts of Europe have already increased by more than 2C in the last 60 years with changes in local climate allowing new crops to be grown. An example is the new wine growing area in southern England, which this year is celebrating its best ever grape harvest. Hundreds of acres of new vineyards are being planted to take advantage of the changing climate. Many parts of Europe are experiencing more hotter days in the summer and fewer very cold nights in winter. Overall the increase is four times greater than the global average over the 60 year period. Researchers at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics and Political Science, in collaboration with the University of Warwick, show that not all regions are warming at the same pace. The results of their research, which appear in a study in the journal, Environmental Research Letters, indicate that the hottest 5% of days in summer have warmed fastest in a band from southern England and northern France to Denmark. In eastern Spain and central Italy there has been a general warming in all seasons. In some areas, Norway and Sweden for example, the changes have been much smaller in summer and in some cases there have been no measurable differences. However nights in the depths of winter have been getting warmer – by more than 2C in both countries. Professor Sandra Chapman, one of the researchers, said: “It is common to discuss climate change in terms of changes in global average temperatures but these can be far from people’s perceptions of climate change. The results in this paper begin to provide a picture of how local climate has been changing across Europe. It is a picture which is closer to that experienced by individuals.” Among other results the study notes changes in the frequency of nights that fall below freezing in winter, and days which rise above 28C in summer. These, says the study, are two thresholds that are important for many impacts such as the availability of snow in ski resorts, building design, and labour productivity. Dr. David Stainforth, the lead author of the report, said: “Climate is fundamentally the distributions of weather. Our results illustrate that the international goal of limiting the increase in global average temperature to 2°C would involve far greater changes for some places and for some aspects of climate, and therefore for particular individuals, communities and industries. “Changes in local climate pose challenges for decision makers across society not just when preparing for the climate of the future but even when planning for the climate of today. “We need to design buildings so that they don’t overheat, decide which are the best crops to plant, and even plan for variations in large scale productivity. These would all benefit from knowledge of how the climate distribution has changed at particular locations. This work begins to provide such information.” The World Meteorological Organisation and many national organisations, such as the UK Met Office, are investing substantially in the provision of information for governments and businesses to help them to adapt to climate change. The study shows that even over relatively small areas the differences can be quite marked. For example, in the north east of England the number of night frosts in winter has gone down by more than 10%, a greater drop than elsewhere in the country. – Climate News Network

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Climate change hits different regions in different ways and, as Europe’s climate warms, some areas are already having to adapt.  New crops are being planted and there’s a call for buildings that don’t overheat in warm weather. LONDON, 12 September – Temperatures in some parts of Europe have already increased by more than 2C in the last 60 years with changes in local climate allowing new crops to be grown. An example is the new wine growing area in southern England, which this year is celebrating its best ever grape harvest. Hundreds of acres of new vineyards are being planted to take advantage of the changing climate. Many parts of Europe are experiencing more hotter days in the summer and fewer very cold nights in winter. Overall the increase is four times greater than the global average over the 60 year period. Researchers at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics and Political Science, in collaboration with the University of Warwick, show that not all regions are warming at the same pace. The results of their research, which appear in a study in the journal, Environmental Research Letters, indicate that the hottest 5% of days in summer have warmed fastest in a band from southern England and northern France to Denmark. In eastern Spain and central Italy there has been a general warming in all seasons. In some areas, Norway and Sweden for example, the changes have been much smaller in summer and in some cases there have been no measurable differences. However nights in the depths of winter have been getting warmer – by more than 2C in both countries. Professor Sandra Chapman, one of the researchers, said: “It is common to discuss climate change in terms of changes in global average temperatures but these can be far from people’s perceptions of climate change. The results in this paper begin to provide a picture of how local climate has been changing across Europe. It is a picture which is closer to that experienced by individuals.” Among other results the study notes changes in the frequency of nights that fall below freezing in winter, and days which rise above 28C in summer. These, says the study, are two thresholds that are important for many impacts such as the availability of snow in ski resorts, building design, and labour productivity. Dr. David Stainforth, the lead author of the report, said: “Climate is fundamentally the distributions of weather. Our results illustrate that the international goal of limiting the increase in global average temperature to 2°C would involve far greater changes for some places and for some aspects of climate, and therefore for particular individuals, communities and industries. “Changes in local climate pose challenges for decision makers across society not just when preparing for the climate of the future but even when planning for the climate of today. “We need to design buildings so that they don’t overheat, decide which are the best crops to plant, and even plan for variations in large scale productivity. These would all benefit from knowledge of how the climate distribution has changed at particular locations. This work begins to provide such information.” The World Meteorological Organisation and many national organisations, such as the UK Met Office, are investing substantially in the provision of information for governments and businesses to help them to adapt to climate change. The study shows that even over relatively small areas the differences can be quite marked. For example, in the north east of England the number of night frosts in winter has gone down by more than 10%, a greater drop than elsewhere in the country. – Climate News Network