Sunday, 6 February 2011

Wikileaks on Wylfa

Wikileaks has just published via The Telegraph the below confidential cable from the United States' London Embassy about the UK's new nuclear programme. Dated June 2009 it provides a complete summary of the Government's plans at that time and also the likely problems.

Of interest to us on Ynys Môn is the commercial information it provides regarding US reactor company, Westinghouse's negotiations with E.On and RWE's regarding their Wylfa and Oldbury sites (Section 5). It notes how Westinghouse is trying to get the German energy companies to select its Westinghouse AP1000 reactor over the French Areva system, saying that the final decision will not be made until December 2009 (its now February 2011 and I understand this decision has still not been finalised). If Westinghouse is selected it says they will use US largest engineering company Fluor Corp together with a UK company to provide engineering, procurement, and construction services at both Wylfa and Oldbury.

Lots of other interesting stuff, particularly regarding the three workforce challenges facing the UK: an aging workforce where most workers are between 45-54 years old; a skills gap; and the difficulty in attracting enough workers as demand ramps up (see sections 9 & 10).

Read the whole thing below.

Ref ID: 09LONDON1514
Date: 6/30/2009 11:42
Origin: Embassy London
Destination: 09LONDON3199

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 LONDON 001514 NOFORN SIPDIS E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/01/2019 TAGS: ENRG, TRGY, SENV, KNNP, UK SUBJECT: UK RAMPING UP ON NUCLEAR POWER, BUT CHALLENGES REMAIN REF: LONDON 3199 Classified By: Economic Counselor Kathleen Doherty for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d)

1.(C/NF) Summary.
HMG is making steady progress in launching its ambitious plan to build eleven new nuclear power plants between 2018-2025. The UK will need to address several challenges, including workforce issues, nuclear waste, planning procedures, reactor design, and site assessment procedures for this effort to be successful. A diverse industry with a mix of corporate players and different nuclear reactor technologies is emerging. Nuclear energy enjoys support from both the Labour and Conservative Parties as a way to reach a targeted 80 percent reduction in greenhouse gases by 2050. HMG and industry, however, will need to collaborate closely for this nuclear new build plan to work. End Summary.

UK TIMELINE FOR NUCLEAR NEW BUILD --------------------------------- Nuclear power currently accounts for only 15 percent of the UK's electricity and HMG wants to double this amount. HMG wants to have the first nuclear site up and running by 2018, with all eleven plants fully operational by 2025. Plans established by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) are currently on schedule. DECC's Office of Nuclear Development (OND) received nominations from industry players for eleven recommended nuclear power sites on March 31, 2009. OND published these sites in a month-long public comment on April 14. OND is now developing a National Policy Statement (NPS) on Nuclear Energy, expected to be completed by autumn 2009. The NPS on Nuclear Energy will then undergo public comment before it is sent for "Parliamentary scrutiny" around March 2010. The final step is for the Nuclear NPS to be passed to the newly created UK Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC) in March/April 2010. The IPC will then use it as a policy framework as it reviews planning applications for new nuclear power plants. It is still too early to have a 'calendar' for when construction might start on individual power plants. THE BUSINESS PLAYING FIELD --------------------------

3.(C/NF) DECC officials tell us HMG wants a variety of industry players involved in new nuclear build. French-owned company EDF Energy became a major player when it bought out British Energy (BE) in January 2009 for 12.5 billion GBP ($20.5 billion). EDF Energy uses French-owned company Areva's EPR nuclear reactors. Areva is the main competitor of U.S. company Westinghouse, which produces the AP1000 reactor. EDF Energy submitted nominations for five sites, which include Hartlepool, Heysham, Dungeness, Hinkley Point, and Sizewell B. EDF also bought land owned by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) in April at the Bradwell site.

4.(C/NF) Plans currently call for all nuclear new build to be funded completely by the private sector. However, EDF criticized HMG publicly in May for not providing subsidies. MP Jamie Reed (Labour Party) commented to ESTHOff shortly after this public announcement, "EDF should not expect any subsidies from HMG." The new Energy Minister at DECC, Lord Hunt, reinforced this view in a public statement in mid-June. EDF Energy is now retreating from its comments on subsidies and is asking for a "level playing field" of financial incentives comparable to the renewable energy and carbon capture and storage (CCS) sectors.

5. (C/NF) German-owned utilities E.On and RWE formed a joint venture and bought land in April owned by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) at Oldbury and Wylfa. David Powell with Westinghouse told us RWE also owns land at Kirksanton and Braystones, two other nominated sites. While RWE does not have specific plans yet for the land, said Powell, he speculates RWE may partner with E.On to develop these sites. Westinghouse is bidding to partner with RWE and E.On on the Oldbury and Wylfa sites in the near-term to provide the AP1000 reactor, but will not know the outcome until December 2009. Powell added Westinghouse will probably pick U.S. company Fluor and a U.K. company to provide related engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC) services as part of the overall contract with E.On and RWE at these two sites. NDA also has unused land at Sellafield, noted Powell, and he suspects the consortium of Iberdola (Spain), GDF Suez (Belgium) and Scottish Energy may buy this property.

6.(C/NF) Westinghouse also operates the Springfield fuel LONDON 00001514 002 OF 003 processing plant in Preston, and supplies the majority of nuclear fuel to nuclear plants in the UK. David Powell told ESTHOff that Westinghouse is negotiating with NDA, DECC, and others to lease additional land owned by NDA to expand its capacity for processing enriched uranium. Westinghouse said there is a deadline of March 31, 2010 to determine whether this new arrangement will work, since the current agreement expires at that time. The Springfield fuel plant currently employs approximately 1500 workers and ships approximately 200 tons of fuel a year to nuclear plants in the UK. The UK Nuclear National Lab (NNL) conducts research and development on uranium fuel on this site. NEW PLANNING AND ASSESSMENT PROCESSES MAY CAUSE DELAYS --------------------------------------------- ---------

7.(C/NF) The timeline for nuclear new build may begin to slip. One key issue is a General Design Assessment (GDA) conducted by the historically understaffed Health and Safety Executive's (HSE's) Nuclear Installation Inspectorate (NII). While David Powell with Westinghouse expressed concern to us in the past about NII devoting disproportionate resources to reviewing Areva's nuclear reactor design, he told us on June 26 the situation has improved since NII recently increased its staff (and salaries) to meek workload demands. NII is also responsible for issuing nuclear site licenses. Both the GDA and nuclear site licenses are expected to be completed in mid-2011. Given the overlap on the deadline for both procedures, Powell said there is concern NII will not be able to keep up with the dual workload.

8. (C/NF) A major unknown is the new UK Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC), which was created by the 2008 Planning Act. Planning applications for nuclear new build will need to be submitted to the UK IPC under this new system. IPC is in the process of hiring staff, appointing CEOs and senior commissioners, and will not begin reviewing or advising on planning applications until sometime in March/April 2010. One NDA official and other industry players have confided to ESTHOff this process could be delayed. HMG will provide national policy statements (NPSs) to be used as the policy framework for the Commission's decisions. FUTURE DEMANDS ON THE NUCLEAR WORKFORCE ---------------------------------------

9.(SBU) The nuclear energy sector in the UK faces three workforce challenges: an aging workforce where most workers are between 45-54 years old; a skills gap; and the difficulty in attracting enough workers as demand ramps up. According to the UK Nuclear Industry Association (NIA), 40,000 jobs in the UK are directly attributable to the nuclear energy sector (ref A). The largest employer is the Sellafield site in Cumbria, with 11,000 workers. Demand is strong in the UK for "new blood" in the nuclear work force. Dr. Andrew Sherry of the Dalton Nuclear Institute at the University of Manchester speculated to ESTHOff the number of workers in the nuclear sector in the UK will need to increase by 18,000 over the next 20 years.

10.(SBU) The Nuclear National Skills Academy, established in 2007 as a membership-based organization, has the lead on training efforts in close coordination with UK universities, industry, and government agencies. Secretary of the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) Ed Miliband recently unveiled a new 20 million GBP ($32.8 million) facility on June 19 -- the Energus Center -- in West Cumbria to provide training near the Sellafield nuclear site. Dr. Sherry also told ESTHOff there is a network of UK educational institutions developing a masters program for nuclear engineering. A collaborative effort between the Dalton Nuclear Institute, Nuclear National Skills Academy, and the UK National Nuclear Lab (NNL) includes providing apprenticeships to university students. DEALING WITH NUCLEAR WASTE --------------------------

11.(C/NF) Safe disposal of nuclear waste is a big challenge. Even NDA officials say publicly this is one of the biggest challenges for the UK. Chief Scientist at the UK National Nuclear Lab (NNL) Graham Fairhill told ESTHOff that HMG is assessing geographic areas in the UK for "deep disposal" of used plutonium and spent fuel. Waste management research is one of the UK NNL's highest priorities. Fairhill told ESTHOff the Copeland/Cumbria region -- where Sellafield is located -- "volunteered" to be one of the UK depositories LONDON 00001514 003 OF 003 for nuclear waste. MP Reed (Labour Party) had a different view, however, when asked by ESTHOff and said his constituency in Copeland/Cumbria is interested in helping HMG "work through" the process of dealing with nuclear waste, but "will not just do it for them." Even Fairhill speculated local government officials in the Copeland/Cumbria region will demand some "financial incentives" from HMG in return for serving as a disposal site for nuclear waste. THE WHITE ELEPHANT: MOX PLANT -----------------------------

12.(C/NF) The Mox Plant, established to process and recycle mixed oxide (mox) fuel at Sellafield, continues to be a "white elephant" for HMG. The Mox Plant is considered one of HMG's most embarrassing failures in British industrial history, costing taxpayers 90 million GBP ($147 million) a year. The plant's complex fuel recycling procedure, coupled with management and equipment problems, have plagued it for years. NDA is under public and parliamentary pressure to make a decision on whether to keep the plant open or close it down. The fact that Areva was brought in to fulfill the commercial contracts that the Mox plant could not fulfill also adds to its political unpopularity. NDA officials told ESTHOff any of the options -- investing in the plant or closing it down -- will be expensive. There are no clear answers for HMG, but in the meantime the plant continues to drain resources and is a black mark for the entire industry at a time when HMG is trying to ramp up its nuclear new build efforts. OTHER SUPPORT FOR NUCLEAR NEW BUILD EFFORTS -------------------------------------------

13.(C/NF) HMG is developing a "center for excellence" in nuclear research to support new build and decommissioning efforts. In late March 2009, then Minister of Energy Mike O'Brien announced Serco, Battelle, and the University of Manchester had been chosen to run the UK National Nuclear Lab (NNL). Chief Scientist Graham Fairhill said there are areas for U.S.-UK collaboration, given that U.S.-based Battelle is a partner in this effort. NNL's activities range from researching strategies to deal with nuclear waste, to providing reactor analysis and fuel services, among others. One of NNL's new labs was established to deal with handling plutonium fuel. This facility will be operational in a year. Fairhill added that he envisions partnership opportunities between the UK, U.S., EU, and Japan in using the facility once it is up and running.
Comment -------

14.(C/NF) Nuclear new build enjoys good political support at DECC and more broadly, within HMG, and industry players are satisfied with the support they get from DECC Secretary Miliband and recently appointed Minister of Energy Lord Hunt. However, the ambitious timeline established by DECC does not allow much room for delays. There will need to be a concerted effort within HMG and private industry to make even one nuclear plant operational by 2018. There will also need to be a strong public relations campaign throughout the process to build support in communities where new nuclear plants will be located. Visit London's Classified Website: XXXXXXXXXXXX LeBaron


Anonymous said...

Dear Druid, that was a hell of a job, I was lost after the first few lines, at least we have got some interest, even if we can't make sense of it all, what I find amazing is the discussions that affect us, that we know absolutely nothing about.

Must get a hamburger van with stars and stripes on it. Chuck wagon, that's it.

Anonymous said...

Interesting to note that Rolls Royce and BAe Systems names do not appear in that 2009 document.

Whereas a recent press release from Westinghouse/Toshiba says RR and BAe will be helping, at least initially with the bid process.

Wrt timescales for a decision:
"Horizon Nuclear Power Ltd., a joint venture of the U.K. units of RWE AG and E.ON AG, is studying Westinghouse’s AP-1000 reactor and the EPR reactor from Areva SA and is scheduled to finish the assessment in June 2011." (from Bloomberg article).


Anonymous said...

Big bucks big business little Island Little voice.

the outsider said...

as per comment no 36 on the last thread, its a bit late just now to read all this, however its also a pity that the Council's Energy Island consultation closed just a few days ago. Cos there may be a few more things to say post-wikileaks.

Prometheuswrites said...

Plenty to digest there Paul;

Immediate things that stand out:

1. 8 years before first nuclear plant in UK comes online - not clear about when construction on any will start and doesn't sound like planning permissions will be granted till the UK Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC) (formed 2008) has had sufficient time to assess the health and safety aspects, especially as the HSE's understaffed and may well not yet be up to speed.

2. There are real concerns about the disposal of waste. (I haven't heard of MOX or why they are considered to be a black mark on the nuclear industry)

3. There aren't enough skilled staff in the UK to run all the nuclear powers stations the government will need to build to meet their 30% of total energy target (18)

4. The lions share of construction and commissioning jobs will be not be going to local workers. Maybe some support jobs, but this has been commented on before on previous posts that pointed out that these companies move their sleeping quarters, canteens and shift rotations in 'en mass'.

While as my reluctant support for further nuclear build is conditional on the projected power demands facing the UK as a whole, I can't see what degree of substantial local employment Wylfa B will provide, (in the absence of a company with similar 'base load' energy demands as Anglsey Aluminium).

I'm left with that feeling of "So that's what it feels like, here on the front rank of the chessboard.

('Pawn to King's Bishop 3')

Anonymous said...

"2. ... I haven't heard of MOX or why they are considered to be a black mark on the nuclear industry"

There's plenty written about the Mox reprocessing plant at sellafield, though it's quite easy to overlook it. In the last decade or two you may perhaps have heard of its equally dodgy relative called Thorp. I won't attempt to summarise, just recommend you go fishing: e.g.

and [2] (in the Arts and Entertainment section??)

"3. There aren't enough skilled staff in the UK to run all the nuclear powers stations the government will need to build to meet their 30% of total energy target (18)"

Probably not in the world, never mind the UK. Training? What's that? British industry in general gave up on that years ago. No profit in it.

"the HSE's understaffed and may well not yet be up to speed"

Maybe, maybe not. Some of the regulatory policy framework is developed at a European rather than UK level these days. Obviously you still need feet on the street in the UK to make sure any proposals conform to policy. Last time I checked, a couple of years ago, at least one of the two UK bidders (the EPR/Areva one) failed in one important way - the policy says the control system for operational control shall be separate electrically, logically, and physically from the control system for emergency shutdown. (This same requirement applies in Olkiluoti in Finland, and elsewhere). Afaik the proposed system in Olkiluoto, and the one in the UK, incorporates a single system which is allegedly sufficiently reliable to alleviate the need for dual independent systems. Quite why a bidder would chose to ignore a long-standing documented requirement of the licensing policy is an interesting question but presumably comes down to cost/profit.

Qantas used to think Rolls Royce Trent aircraft engines were "sufficiently reliable" too. The engine companies have to do all kinds of statistical safety analysis. Then the first big incident occurred [3], and by a miracle, no lives were lost. Statistics?

[2] Ridiculously long URL, vintage 1993:


Photon said...

The AP 1000 reactor, eh? Last time I heard, this was a new, unapproved reactor type that has to go through all sorts of engineering and safety checks.

This is what an advisory panel on nuclear reactor safety said recently:

"We conclude that there is reasonable assurance that the revised design can be built and operated without undue risk to the health and safety of the public,"

'Reasonable'? 'Undue risk'? I'm not sure that's very reassuring.
Still, Anglesey's so desperate for work we'd accept anything, it seems. Just don't bleat if something goes wrong following all the backdoor business-biased discussions the government's having on our behalves.

Anonymous said...

Wikileaks on Wales:

The cable, published on the website of the Daily Telegraph, paints a bleak picture of both Welsh devolution and the economy in Wales.

The cable reads: "Devolution is weak and troubled in Wales, the economy is the worst in the UK (England, Scotland, and Northern Ireland are all doing better) and both Plaid Cymru and the Tories are showing gains in Wales.

"The polling gains could see the current power-sharing arrangement with Plaid Cymru extended at the price of a Plaid first minister."

Step forward Mr Jones?

Anonymous said...

Tidal Power is the way forward for Anglesey.

Wylfa B will create jobs but only for a generation and what then? Wylfa C.

The Government Chief Scientific Officer admitted that unfortunately a second wave of nuclear builds was on the cards due to insufficient renewable energy sources.

Who in their right mind wants to live next to nuclear dumping ground.

Anglesey Aluminium betrayed Anglesey so what's stopping the energy companies doing the same with their promises of dealing with nuclear waste.


Anonymous said...

just seen this, good day for island!!!

Anonymous said...

Not so much 'saved' as a stay of execution. The RAF SAR isn't being kept because they've had a change of heart, it's being kept because there are alleged 'irregularities' in the bidding process and a Police investigation now on-going.

It will be back on the agenda once that's sorted out and will continue unless there is a change of government in the meantime.

Anonymous said...


"It will be back on the agenda once that's sorted out and will continue unless there is a change of government in the meantime."

You seem to forget it was the previous Labour government which decided to privatise it!

Anonymous said...

So the last Labour government wanted shot of it. The current Tory one does as well and is currently being thwarted by alleged 'wrong-doings'.

No one yet knows what the next Labour government would do - other than it will be radically different from Blair/Brown that's for sure. But if it's dead and buried by then then it certainly won't be resurrected.

So the only real hope is to keep hoping for more delays so that it remains and pray that an incoming Millpede government is more amenable to it's existance and not so motivated by profit and ridiculous PFI schemes and that sort of thing.

forthespacemen said...

Thank goodness Julian Assange's Wikileaks have
finally given us some juice. If ever there was scope for
unveiling skulduggery I thought it'd be in the area of nuke.
Hoping for much more regarding EDF / AREVA / EON / RWE / FLUOR and (possibly)
that b*st*rd company SERCO.

Interestingly, there is a q. significant mistake (at least one) that I spotted -
the US commercial attache - I presume who is writing cable - refers to Westinghouse
as a "US Company". The nuclear Westinghouse Co It hasn't been American for years. It was infact owned by BNFL, until BNFL sold it for a paltry £2.8bn to Toshiba. Then Tosh sold
a little bit off to Shaw, a US engineering company.