Europe must think beyond national borders on nuclear
National decisions on nuclear power must be taken with an international view in mind, according to senior players in the industry.
At a conference in Brussels, speakers stressed that in the post-Fukushima world, a multinational approach needed to be taken.
In Europe, “an accident anywhere is an accident everywhere”, said Laurent Stricker, chairman of the World Association of Nuclear Operators.
Phillip Lowe, director-general of the European Commission’s energy directorate, said any accident will have implications for neighbouring countries, and that was why “plant safety should be looked at not just nationally but in a wider context”.
But Lowe added that not all of Europe’s operational power plants would have to be visited as part of the peer review stage of the stress tests currently being carried out.
He explained that peer review teams had already carried out inspections at 43 of the 143 operational nuclear plants in Europe. “Do they have to go to all the plants to carry out rigorous stress tests?” he asked. “Personally, I don’t think so.”
He stated that if some plants shared “the same technical characteristics” there would be no need for them all to be visited.
Severe weather tests European TSOs
The extreme cold weather snap that hit many parts of Europe in February put huge pressure on transmission system operators.
Countries including France, Poland, Austria and Croatia reported the highest-ever peak on their systems, while Bulgaria hit its highest peak in 20 years.
And in Germany, TSOs experienced problems balancing generation and demand due to limited supplies of gas to fuel power stations – particularly in the south of the country. The bad weather meant that power from wind or solar could not contribute significantly to meeting generation demand, while the country’s nuclear phase-out aggravated difficulties.
Boom in customised ships for turbines
Offshore wind power producers from Dong Energy to RWE are building custom ships at record rates to reduce the cost of a technology that is three times more expensive than electricity from coal plants.
As many as 20 vessels, some with movable legs that reach the seabed will come onto the market in the next few years, reducing chartering costs of as much as $261,000 a day, said Marc Seidel, an offshore engineer at Suzlon Energy, which supplies turbines to Germany’s RWE.
Chevron halts shale gas drilling in Romania following protests
Energy giant Chevron has suspended shale gas exploration in Romania following concerns over hydraulic fracturing – or ‘fracking’ – the process by which the gas is accessed.
Chevron said that for the next year the only shale activity it will carry out will be seismic data surveying.
The decision follows strong opposition to the exploratory work, particularly in southeast Romania where the drilling was due to take place.
Similar protests also stalled Chevron in Bulgaria after the country’s parliament passed a ban on shale gas drilling last January.
In a statement Chevron said it will continue to undertake planned seismic studies in 2012, while focusing on “providing factual information to assure Romanian citizens and policymakers concerned about the perceived risks of natural gas exploitation from shale formations”.
The company said positive indications from its seismic investigation may be followed by techniques employed in conventional oil and gas activities.
Plans for world’s biggest wind farm
The world’s biggest wind farm is being planned off England’s south coast.
The development comprises 200 turbines, each the height of a skyscraper, spread over an area the size of Glasgow.
The planned wind farm, which is three to four times bigger than any previously built, is expected to earn its Dutch owners Eneco more than £250m ($39m) a year in subsidies alone.
A full planning application for the Navitus Bay wind farm is expected next year with the decision process taking a further 18 months. A pre-planning report suggests each turbine could be as high as 204 metres.
Economist says UK £200bn energy price tag too high
A leading energy economist said the UK government’s figure of £200bn ($319bn) to meet its energy needs in the next decade is overinflated.
Haley Hutson, energy principal at actuary LCP, said the figure is unnecessarily high and Westminster should look at again at its agenda – and budget.
She said the government should “look at plant already on the system” with a view to upgrades and overhauls rather than building more and more new power stations.
Austria: Azerbaijan and Austria are to establish joint working groups to further expand co-operation in energy. Austrian company PORR is interested in projects in waste management and hydropower in Azerbaijan.
Bulgaria: Bulgaria’s government has approved plans to build a seventh nuclear reactor at the Kozloduy nuclear power station. Kozloduy currently has two operating Russian-supplied VVER-1000 reactors that generate about 1900 MW, roughly 35 per cent of Bulgaria’s electricity.
Denmark: Dong Energy, Denmark’s state-controlled utility, plans to invest about $795m to convert three of its coal and gas fired power stations to generate heat and electricity from wood pellets. The plants will have a capacity of about 1 GW, said Thomas Dalsgaard, executive vice president.
France: French state-owned utility EDF and Alstom are part of a consortium that has won three projects in the tender launched by the French government to install offshore wind turbines.
France: EDF has suffered a leak at an unnamed nuclear plant. EDF said a faulty joint on a pump used to cool the reactor had caused a leak inside the reactor building.
Germany: Turbine manufacturer Nordex has won a contract from VenSol Neue Energien and Honold Windkraftanlagen for the delivery of ten turbines for the 24 MW Zöschingen wind farm in the northwest of Germany.
Scotland: A leading academic has said that if Scotland became independent from the rest of the UK, it would end up exporting wind energy at a loss. Jane Bower said Scotland is pursuing a “headlong dash” for wind power in a bid to meet “very impractical” renewable targets.
UK: British Gas has rolled out a new generation of smart electricity and gas meters. From 2014 the UK government will require utility companies to replace every gas and electricity meter – a total of 53m across 26m households.
UK: The Energy Technologies Institute – a public-private partnership between BP, Caterpillar, EDF, E.ON, Rolls Royce, Shell and the UK government – is seeking partners for a £13m ($21m) project to design and build a demonstrator plant to convert waste into electricity and heat.