UK industry to foot nuclear waste bill

In a recent interview in the Financial Times, UK energy minister Malcolm Wicks said the private sector would foot the entire bill for the decommissioning and waste disposal costs of any new nuclear power stations.

A forthcoming energy bill is expected to set out how industry would be required to pay hundreds of millions of pounds into a funding pot for disposing of radioactive waste from the new plants.

Wicks confirmed that the most likely locations for the new plants would be on existing reactor sites, where local communities were “supportive” of nuclear power, citing Sellafield in Cumbria as an example.

There was “a lot of interest” from the private sector, with a number of companies wanting to build plants. At least six companies had indicated their interest, including EDF Energy, E.ON and RWE npower.

The energy bill would put in place a “state framework” requiring operators to make regular contributions to the huge cost of disposal. The scheme would be designed to protect the taxpayer from liabilities should unforeseen costs arise later, such as those generated when an operator collapses.

Ministers have already ruled out economic subsidies or tax breaks to stimulate investment. “The starting principle is that if we go for nuclear, the private sector will have to pay for it, and that includes this area of nuclear waste,” said Wicks.

The government had backed plans for burial of nuclear waste from existing and new reactors deep underground. The financing of disposal of new plant waste had yet to be resolved.

Norway to stop private acquisition of hydropower plants

Norway has passed a provisional decree which states that licences for the acquisition of hydropower plants will no longer be granted to private parties but that it would be possible to sell a third of publicly owned hydropower stations to non-public owners. Some 88 per cent of Norway’s hydropower capacity is in public ownership.

A June ruling by the European Free Trade Association said that a Norwegian law that requires private power plant operators to return assets to the Norwegian state after 60 years was not compatible with the European Economic Area agreement.

Albania to receive assistance for its power distribution system

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has awarded a two-year contract to provide technical assistance to the Albanian government to improve its electrical power distribution system.

Small Washington DC-based company Advanced Engineering Associates International has won the contract, estimated at $1m.

Albania is experiencing widespread electricity shortages because of a severe drought that is affecting its hydroelectric production.

The government is facing a serious financial crisis because of the high cost of energy imports, non-payment by consumers and the inefficiency of the country’s electricity grid. To help address the situation, the government is looking to privatize the distribution company and develop new generating facilities. The USAID contract will focus on the development of the legal, regulatory and market framework necessary for the successful privatization of the distribution company.

Lithuania-Poland link requires EU support

The Lithuanian and Polish grid operators have completed a feasibility study for a 400 kV interconnector for their countries but the project will only proceed if funding from the European Union (EU) can be secured.

Lietuvos Energija and Polski Sieci Elektroenergetyczne are asking for at least three-quarters of the implementation costs to be met by EU funds. Estimates put the line costs at €237m ($323m), with a further €466m for transmission infrastructure.

Interest has already been received from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development to co-finance the project. The line would be ready in 2012 at the earliest.

Foster Wheeler awarded Italian IGCC feasibility study

Foster Wheeler Limited’s Italian subsidiary Foster Wheeler Italiana SpA has been awarded a feasibility study by C.GEN NV for a 400 MW coal fired integrated gasification combined-cycle (IGCC) plant to be built in northern Europe.

The company will evaluate the issues associated with electricity production, as well as hydrogen or methanol, from a 400 MW IGCC plant using coal. The company will develop several technological solutions, with and without capture of carbon dioxide and will evaluate plant performance and cost estimates.

Generator buys Scottish Biopower

Infinis is to buy Scottish Biopower’s renewable portfolio and its fuel contract business Scottish Biofuel for an undisclosed sum.

The portfolio includes five biomass power projects totaling 125 MW of capacity, four wind projects totaling 125 MW, and options on another five wind sites.

All of the projects are in Scotland and require planning permission. Infinis says the projects would not start generating before 2010.

Scottish Biofuel supplies biomass feedstock to the renewables sector. The purchase will help Infinis secure feedstock for the proposed plants.

Belgium: Energy sector regulator CREG has opposed a proposed underground gas storage facility in Poederlee by Belgian gas network operator Fluxys and Russia’s Gazprom, citing concerns over Gazprom operating the whole of the facility.

Czech Republic: E.ON plans to invest CEK60bn (US$3bn) in the construction of a coal fired power station in the Czech Republic in partnership with local coal mining firm MUS. Negotiations between the companies are reported to be at an advanced stage.

Czech Republic: Renewable sources are producing increasing amounts of electricity, with capacity topping 100 MW in June for the first time. State power company CEZ plans to invest over CEK20bn ($1bn) in this sector.

France: Spanish utility Endesa has won permission to build a 420 MW combined-cycle gas turbine (CCGT) plant at its Lucy thermal plant in Burgundy, France. The new plant is part of Endesa’s plan to develop 2000 MW of additional CCGT capacity in France by 2010.

Finland: According to Taisto Turunen, director general for energy at the Finish Ministry of Trade and Industry, the delays at the Olkiluoto 3 nuclear plant unit will mean Finland will increasingly depend on imported power and will have to prepare electricity saving measures during peak consumption in winter until 2011.

Germany: Economic think tank HWWI has called for 100 per cent auctioning of EU emissions allowances or a tax on emissions in an effort to treat climate policy as an economic issue rather than a political one. The generated annual income could be used for investments in climate protection measures.

Greece: Metka has been awarded the design, procurement, delivery, installation and commissioning of a combined-cycle natural gas power plant by the Greek utility Public Power Corporation. The project for the 427 MW plant will cost €219m ($161m), and should be completed within 27 months from the signing of the contract, expected soon.

Hungary: Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Limited and Sumitomo Corporation have won an order to install a 150 MW CCGT power plant at an ironworks in Hungary. The order came from Ukraine’s Industrial Union of Donbass Corporation.

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