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Industry news: January 2009

Potential new nuclear power sites named

Sellafield nuclear power plant, BGS©NERC

The Department of Energy and Climate change (DECC) has, as part of its policy for new nuclear developments in the UK, asked for the nuclear industry to nominate sites for new nuclear power plants. Four potential sites have been identified already by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, these being Sellafield in Cumbria, Bradwell in Essex, Oldbury in Gloucestershire and Wylfa in Anglesey; all sites of previous or soon to be decommissioned nuclear power stations.

The criteria for the assessment site nominations have also been published as part of a consultation with the Nuclear Development Forum.These include conditions that new sites should not be near major population centres or certain types of military activity. The nuclear industry has indicated that the most suitable sites for new nuclear facilities are in the vicinity of existing nuclear power stations.

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Shortlist for Severn tidal power project

Severn Estuary, BGS©NERC

The Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) has announced a proposed shortlist of five schemes for renewable energy projects in the Severn Estuary. The projects range in size from schemes to generate five per cent of the UK's electricity to smaller 625–megawatt schemes.The shortlist includes plans to construct a barrage either from Brean Down near Weston–super–Mare to Lavernock Point, near Cardiff, a smaller one further upstream, or a barrage just above the River Wye. There are also proposals to create lagoons which impound a section of the estuary without damming it.The two proposed sites for this are on the Welsh shore near Newport and the English shore near Western–super–Mare.The proposed projects will now be subjected to a three month consultation.

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New advice for coal mine buffer zones

Opencast coal mining, BGS©NERC

The Welsh Assembly Government has released new planning advice stating that all new coal mines have to be built more then 500 metres away from homes.The new rules, partly triggered by the controversy surrounding the Ffos–y–Fran opencast development which has no buffer zone, applies to both deep and opencast workings. Environment Minister for the Welsh Assembly Government, Jane Davidson, said "this would create a coal industry that does not impact so much on people's health and environment". However in exceptional circumstances this buffer could be reduced if it is deemed the best way to bring damaged land back into use. Environmental group Friends of the Earth Cymru has welcomed the move but there are concerns from the coal industry that this will needlessly sterilise vast areas of coal resources.

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Approval for Durham opencast coal mine

Opencast coal mining, BGS©NERC

Durham County Council has given permission for a new opencast coal site at Tow Law, near Bishop Auckland, County Durham. UK Coal, which submitted the application, plan to extract 1.2 million tonnes of coal and 500 000 tonnes of fire clay over a five–year period, with extraction beginning in July.The mine will create 86 jobs and a spokesman for UK Coal promised "more then £500 000 will be ploughed back into the local community". However local residents have voiced objections over increased traffic, with an increase of 70 heavy goods vehicle movements per day, and possible pollution from the site.


Ennstone asset sale

In a bid to remain solvent, financially troubled quarry operator, Ennstone plc has announced the sale of its precast concrete products business, Ennstone Concrete Products Ltd, to building and engineering firm FP McCann Ltd for £3.3 million.The sale includes two plants, one in Telford in Shropshire and the other in Cadeby in Leicestershire, as well as equipment and stock. All staff currently working at these sites have transferred to FP McCann.This sale, and the sale of other non–core assets, has raised enough funds for Ennstone to keep operating in the UK until the end of March. By then Ennstone hope to have restructured debt facilities, but if not the company risks going into receivership. Ennstone has also requested a suspension of trading of its shares on the London Stock Exchange until clarification of the company's financial position.

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Closure for Anglesey smelter

UK aluminium smelter, BGS©NERC

After stating last month that job cuts by parent company Rio Tinto would not affect them Anglesey Aluminium has now announced the end of aluminium smelting operations at its Anglesey–based plant at the end of September 2009.This is due to the closure of the Wylfa nuclear power station which currently powers the smelter.The closure of the smelter could lead to 500 job losses but unfortunately no alternative power supply has been found.

Anglesey Aluminium managing director David Bloor commented "The operation is dependent for its power on the nearby Wylfa nuclear power station which is itself due for closure within the next few years. We are fully aware of the significant impact on the workforce and on the local community and will work with partners and stakeholders to develop other long term options in line with existing operations, the needs of the local community, and the economic market situation." The smelter has been running since 1971 and has an annual production capacity of 145 000 tonnes.

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Job losses for steel industry

Steel production, © Getty images

The major steel producer Corus has announced it is cutting 2 500 jobs in the UK.These job cuts are part of 3 500 that are being shed worldwide and come as the steel producer decreases production in line with rapidly decreasing global demand, which has fallen by as much as 40 per cent in the last six months.Corus is to mothball its hot strip mill at Llanwern near Newport, South Wales, with the loss of 600 jobs and is seeking to sell its stake in the Teesside cast products business. A further 1 900 jobs will also go from Corus sites at Rotherham, Wednesbury in the West Midlands, Scunthorpe, Wolverhampton and other parts of Wales as Corus restructures its UK business. Corus CEO Philippe Varin said "The structural changes we are proposing today have been carefully considered.They are essential for the future of the business."

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Positive drilling results for Scotgold

UK exploration drilling, BGS©NERC

Scotgold Resources Ltd, the owners of the Cononish gold and silver project, near Tyndrum, Scotland, has announced the first results of the company's recent drilling campaign on the project.The first diamond drill hole reached a depth of 277 meters and gave an average intersection of 3.1 meters at 3.9g/t Au and 25.07g/t Ag with an estimated width of 2.2 meters. This was described as an "encouraging intersection" by mining industry consultants Snowden Ltd. A second drill hole reached 349 meters and although it intersected a 17 meter wide alteration zone it yielded uneconomic gold grades. However was described as "some proof of gross geological continuity at depth". Further drilling at the project was delayed by bad weather in December but will continue when conditions improve.The drilling which began in September 2008 is targeting possible down-dip and strike extensions to the existing known resource.

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