Olympics lose radiance in Cambridgeshire
Published: 01 Nov 2010
Around 500 tonnes of radioactive waste from the Olympic Park in London has been dumped in a Cambridgeshire landfill site.
A permit was not required as the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) took advantage of an exemption order which allows it to bury waste with low levels of radioactivity.
The waste was shipped by a 23 lorry convoy along a pre-arranged route to the Thornhaugh landfill site (under strict instruction not to stop for a break). Site operator, Augean, said in a statement, "Because of the negligible level of radioactivity involved, the waste was assessed as being exempt from the requirement for a permit under the Radioactive Substances Act 1993."
The rules were changed in 2007 to allow such material to be put into landfill sites, subject to Environment Agency and, where necessary, local planning authority permission. The new rules provide that disposals will not be authorised unless the authorities are satisfied that public radiation exposures are below a ‘dose constraint’ of 0.3 millisieverts (mSv2) per year. In most cases they would be expected to be no greater than 0.02 mSv per year (average UK doses from all sources, including natural background and medical exposures are about 2.6 mSv per year).
Nonetheless, local residents have expressed concerns that not enough is known about the long-term impact of dumping this type of waste. Clare Langan said, "Far from being Nimbys, residents have deep-seated and well-founded fears about the prospect of radioactive waste being dumped on their communities. The fact the waste may be officially classified as low-level certainly doesn't mean that it is harmless."
Moreover, she added that residents had not been informed that waste was being sent to the Thornhaugh site.
The ODA insist the waste poses no threat. A spokesman said, "Testing showed the material was 'exempt' under the Radioactive Substances Act 1993, with results showing levels which were at the lower end of the 'exempt' waste.”
But it's ALWAYS windy. Isn't it...?
Published: 01 Nov 2010
The UK has suffered a second fall in renewable energy production this year, raising concern about the annual £1 billion support the industry receives from taxpayers. The drop in electricity generated from wind, hydro and other clean sources in the first half of 2010 could also be a setback to the coalition Government’s promise that the UK could help lead a “third industrial revolution” and create a low-carbon economy.
The Department of Energy and Climate Change commented that lower than expected wind speeds and rainfall led to a 12% fall in renewable electricity generated between April and June, compared to the same period in 2009. This setback follows a smaller but still notable decline between January and March, again compared to last year. With a sharp drop in output from nuclear power stations as well, greenhouse gas emissions from each unit of electricity generated will inevitably have risen, at a time when the UK has pledged to cut such pollution, and is pressing other countries to do the same.
The renewable energy figures are likely to prompt criticism of the Government’s energy policies from all sides. Supporters want ministers to increase funding for green industry so more wind farms are built, therefore reducing the risk of seasonal setbacks. However, critics say the Government should instead increase support for energy efficiency, nuclear power or cleaner forms of burning fossil fuels.
Robert Gross, director of the Centre for Energy Policy and Technology at Imperial College London, said it was too soon to react to the drop in renewables, pointing out that other electricity sources were also vulnerable to short-term problems, such as fluctuations in supply and prices of fossil fuels and technology shutdowns at nuclear reactors. Risks are not likely to arise until renewable sources make up more than 25-35% of electricity supply, then the UK will need back up from one or more options, such as new gas plants, better connections to mainland Europe and better technology to store surplus energy for peak times.
Louise Hutchins, climate campaigner for Greenpeace said, “At the moment renewable energy is a very small share in electricity and small fluctuations in weather can have an impact on the percentage of supply. When we have a lot more renewable energy there will be a lot more stability.”
Published: 01 Nov 2010
The self-proclaimed “greenest Government ever” has this month delivered some of the most vicious spending cuts ever to the environment. The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) appears to be hardest hit, with its total budget reduced by 30%, which is considerably higher than the Government average of 19%. As a result, the department and its delivering agencies, including the Environment Agency, which monitors pollution and protects against flooding, and Natural England, which helps look after the natural world, will be forced to trim between 5,000-8,000 out of a total of 30,000 jobs.
But perhaps the most interesting point of the spending review was the blow to participants in the carbon-cutting CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme, which has been turned into a tax. The 3,000 companies and organisations with a medium-size energy use, which includes councils and NHS trusts, now face a tax on the carbon they emit, while many that invested in energy-efficiency measures encouraged by the legislation are penalised. It also seems that the biggest polluters will evade the taxman.
The tax could be considered good news for the environment because it provides a simplified incentive to cut carbon, but it does raise questions about the fairness of taxing small-to-medium polluters. The CRC was introduced with the promise that it would be revenue-neutral and that all permit costs would be recycled back to participants. Revenue generated by every tonne of carbon emitted will now be going straight to the Treasury. While the CRC is likely to provide an increased incentive for medium-size businesses to reduce their carbon emissions, it comes at a difficult time for many participants. Although the payment phase has been pushed back a year to 2012, compliance is going to be much more expensive with participants facing tax bills of millions of pounds.
There is also the issue of apparently punishing preparedness. Many organisations invested in activities such as the Carbon Trust Standard Certification and other Early Action Measures, the benefits of which will be greatly diluted by the revision of the CRC. The value of performing well in the CRC League Table remains unchanged, however its impact has been reduced as the financial gain for a high placing has now gone. Past investment now has a delayed pay-back period, and in some cases none at all.
However, the biggest criticism is that big polluters seem to get off tax-free. The European Union Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS), which captures large emitters such as power stations and heavy industry, remains a cap-and-trade scheme. Currently the cap is ineffectively high as a result of the recession and a weak political commitment to reduce emissions by only 20% compared with 1990 levels by 2020. A commitment of 30% has been shown necessary to price carbon sufficiently high to encourage low-carbon investment, so until this happens companies in the EU ETS are under little pressure to change their ways.
In addition, EU ETS participants receive free emission allowances, often more than what they require. These can convert to a massive windfall profit when they are sold on the carbon market. As suggested by James Ramsay, Commercial Director and Head of CRC at Carbon Clear, the fact that a tax is being applied to only small-to-medium-volume emitters is not only grossly unfair, but supports the argument that a tax on all emitters would be a more efficient and effective form of achieving emissions reductions.
For more information, see:
- CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme Order SI 2010/768.
Published: 20 Oct 2010
A series of civil sanctions are introduced as an alternative to the already established criminal sanctions. These include:
- compliance notices;
- stop notices;
- enforcement undertakings;
- variable monetary penalties.
Published: 15 Oct 2010
Decision 2010/571/EU, which amends Directive 2002/95/EC, on restricting the use of certain hazardous substances in electrical and electronic equipment (RoHS). It replaces the Annex listing the applications of lead, mercury, cadmium and hexavalent chromium which are exempt from the requirements of RoHS.
These amendments are the result of the latest review of the exemptions, something which is carried out from time to time in order to adapt them to scientific and technical progress.
NI Workplace statistics
Published: 13 Oct 2010
The Annual Report and Statement of Accounts prepared by the Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland (HSE NI) was published in October, and has shown that the number of injuries at work has fallen since last year.
The figures from April 2009 to March 2010 also state that overall reported injuries are down by over a third since the HSE NI was established in 1999. In addition, the number of fatal injury incidents has dramatically decreased, going from 19 in the previous year to six.
This report is available to view in its original format. Click here to open the PDF.