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from Breakingviews:

UK’s nuclear rebirth comes at a fair price

By Pierre Briançon

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

David Cameron really is rolling out the red carpet for French investors - and no matter that they are state-backed. The first power plant of the UK’s nuclear reset will be built in the county of Somerset by a consortium led by EDF, the French government-controlled utility. UK taxpayers will guarantee the price paid for energy it produces from 2023. And EDF says it will meet its target of a 10 percent return on investment, in spite of making concessions during negotiations. The investor consortium - which includes two Chinese nuclear power groups, CGN and CNNC - will take on any extra cost and fund the plant’s decommissioning programme. This deal strikes the right balance, assuming energy markets do not suffer major turmoil.

The UK will pay 92.5 pounds per megawatt-hour for the electricity produced by the Hinkley Point C plant, with the price fully indexed to inflation for the 35 years of the plant’s life. That’s double the current wholesale price and may look a bit steep from the British customer’s perspective. But the parties met halfway - EDF was asking for 100 pounds per MGh, London was suggesting 80. And the price could be lower if EDF goes ahead with building a second nuclear plant.

Cameron has succeeded in rebooting the UK’s stalled nuclear programme, which will help it meet its emission reduction targets. Taxpayers’ money will not be used to build the plant, although the investment will benefit from government guarantees. The question beyond that is whether the energy pricing deal is fair for the UK. The answer is that it depends on the vagaries of energy markets, where the government wishes for long-term security of supply are sometimes at odds with sudden technological shifts - think liquefied natural gas or shale gas. Investments in nuclear energy, by contrast, rely on predictability of prices and markets; and you can’t close a plant when supply outstrips demand.

from Photographers' Blog:

Uncovering Nuclear Britain

By Suzanne Plunkett

It sounds like the road trip from hell: a journey around all Britain’s functioning nuclear power stations.

After all, when the UK has so much to offer the traveller – from the bright lights of London to the ancient ruins of Stonehenge – why would anyone go out of their way to visit the far-flung places where the country has stowed its grim industrial reactor halls?

from Photographers' Blog:

The samurai and survivors of Fukushima

Fukushima, Japan

By Damir Sagolj

Shortly after the mandatory evacuation was announced on television, Fumio Okubo put on his best clothes and his daughter-in-law served up his favorite dinner. By morning, the 102-year-old was dead. He had hanged himself before dawn.

GALLERY: BROKEN LIVES OF FUKUSHIMA

A rope knitted from plastic bags is certainly not a tanto knife. Nor was his death a dramatic one, with the public in attendance and blood all around but what an old farmer did that morning recalls the act of a samurai in ancient times - to die with honor. Okubo, who was born and lived his entire life between Iitate's rice fields and cedar trees, wanted to die in his beautiful village, here and nowhere else.

from Full Focus:

Broken lives of Fukushima

Damir Sagolj, who covered the impact of the 2011 Sendai tsunami and the following Fukushima disaster returned to the region to document the lives of people who were impacted by the tragedy. Read Damir's personal account of what he witnessed inside the evacuation zone here.

from Photographers' Blog:

The quiet of a nuclear beach

Iwaki, Japan

By Issei Kato

“I have to arrive at the beach before it starts raining.” This is what I was thinking as I drove up to the Fukushima coast, less than 35 km (21 miles) from the crippled nuclear plant. Because the weather forecast said it was going to rain in the region, I had packed a waterproof kit for my camera and beach gear so I could be ready to photograph the beach.

Iwaki city, located just 40 km (24 miles) south of the plant, had declared nearby Yotsukura beach open to the public this summer, the first time since a massive earthquake and tsunami triggered a nuclear crisis at Tokyo Electric Power’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. But, during the period between July 15 and August 18, when the beach was open to the public, the operator of the plant admitted that contaminated water was leaking out to the ocean. Government officials said 300 tonnes of radioactive water was probably flowing out to the sea every day.

from Photographers' Blog:

Fishing in Fukushima

Hirono town, Fukushima prefecture, Japan

By Issei Kato

After some tough negotiations with local fishermen cooperatives I was allowed on board a fishing boat sailing out to check fish radioactive contamination levels in waters off the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. Commercial fishing has been banned near the tsunami-crippled complex since the March 11, 2011 tsunami and earthquake disaster. The only fishing that still goes on is tied to contamination research carried out by small-scale fishermen contracted by the government. The fishermen set out to sea every two weeks remembering the good old days, as they seek to reestablish their livelihoods and anxiously hope they will be able to go back to full-time fishing again.

I began thinking about the best way to take as many versatile pictures as possible in a tough environment - on a tiny boat which is slippery and keeps rocking back and forth with waves of water splashing all over the bouncing deck. I was told that the fishermen were going to use gill nets which take up quite a bit of space on the deck. This spelled out more dangers and obstacles for my equipment and I, as I knew I would have to try hard not to get caught up in the nets or trip up and fall into the sea. I was worried that had I stepped on one of the nets I would get scolded by a gruff fishermen and the whole effort would be in vein because of my own thoughtlessness.

from Photographers' Blog:

Seaside nuclear power

Omaezaki, Japan

By Toru Hanai

Chubu Electric Power Co.'s Hamaoka Nuclear Power Station in Japan is located at water level next to a beach. It is also widely reported to be one of the world's most dangerous nuclear plants as it sits close to a major fault line - not unlike the one that caused the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

I had an offer of an exclusive tour of Chubu Nuclear Power Station where an 18-meter (60 ft) high and 1.6 km (1 mile) long tsunami defense wall has been built at a cost of $1.3 billion.

from Photographers' Blog:

Destination Fukushima: Two years on

Fukushima, Japan

By Issei Kato

“Let’s put our hearts together and keep going, Fukushima!” reads a large banner that hangs across a large steel structure that stands next to the No. 4 reactor building at Tokyo Electric Power Co’s Fukushima nuclear power plant.

The plant was overwhelmed by a massive tsunami and earthquake two years ago, triggering hydrogen explosions and a nuclear meltdown.

from Photographers' Blog:

Inside the world’s biggest nuclear plant

Kashiwazaki, Japan

By Kim Kyung-hoon

“Sleeping nuclear giants” - That was my first impression when I visited the world’s biggest nuclear power station, Kashiwazaki Kariwa power plant in Japan's Niigata Prefecture.

GALLERY: IMAGES FROM THE PLANT

With seven reactors which can produce a total of 8,212 megawatts of electricity, this power station is officially registered as the largest nuclear power station in the Guinness Book of Records. But the reality of the power station is much different than its reputation. Two of its reactors were shut down for a time after the 2007 earthquake and the remaining reactors were taken offline for safety checks and maintenance due to public concerns about the safety of nuclear energy in the quake-prone country after Fukushima’s nuclear disaster.

from Tales from the Trail:

Washington Extra – Going nuclear?

 

U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission commissioner Kristine Svinicki (L) is seen here with Chairman Gregory Jaczko (C) and fellow commissioner George Apostolakis (R) listening to testimony at a meeting at the NRC's headquarters in Rockville, Maryland in this March 21, 2011 file photo. REUTERS/Larry Downing

Obama to renominate Republican to nuclear panel - President Obama will renominate Republican Kristine Svinicki to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, defying opposition from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a White House official told Reuters. Republicans want Svinicki, whose term as a commissioner expires in June, to stay on the panel and believe the process is being held up because she, along with three other commission members, accused the current NRC chairman, a Democrat, of bullying women. For more of this story by Jeff Mason and Roberta Rampton, read here.

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