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Civil engineering in the news today - Tuesday 6 January

Government consultant Parsons Brinckerhoff has been accused of miscalculating the costs of a project to generate vast amounts of green electricity in the Severn estuary, promoting a 10 mile-long tidal barrier strongly backed by ministers in preference to a scheme that engineers and environmentalists say is far less damaging. . . . .

Studies carried out by Atkins for Tidal Electric have suggested that tidal lagoons could generate twice as much power, per square mile impounded, than the barrage. However, the plan sent by PB to ministers says the tidal lagoon option would be eight times more expensive than the barrage scheme and would not generate as much power. One key issue is that Tidal Electric plans to site the lagoons in shallow water, while PB assumes they would be built – at a higher cost – in deeper water - The Guardian

A report released yesterday showed that construction activity has slumped to the lowest level on record. the Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply/Markit's monthly survey of the country's hard-pressed construction sector tumbled to the lowest since records began in 1997. The purchasing managers' index - a broad measure of output, orders and employment - fell to 29.3 in December from 31.8 the previous month, the 10th consecutive month that is has been below the 50 mark that divides expansion from contraction - The Guardian

Pressure on the Bank of England to deliver another drastic cut in interest rates this week was ratcheted up yesterday as a key survey showed the construction sector shrinking at its fastest rate in at least 12 years. Activity across the construction industry plunged last month, led by a collapse in housebuilding activity, according to the latest CIPS/Markit purchasing managers' survey of the sector - The Times

EDF, the French energy giant, increased pressure on Britain's Government yesterday over plans for new nuclear power plants. As EDF finalised its takeover of British Energy, Pierre Gadonneix, its chief executive, said that plans for new stations would be badly delayed unless ministers streamlined planning process - The Times

The solar system is orbiting the centre of the Milky Way at a giddy 600,000 mph - 100,000 mph faster than was thought. Astronomers have also discovered that the Milky Way's mass is 50 per cent greater, equal to the neighbouring Andromeda galaxy, which means there is a greater chance of the Milky Way colliding with other galaxies - The Times

The construction industry suffered another month of severe contraction in December as commercial building activity fell sharply, according to a survey of the sector published yesterday. The clips/Markit UK construction purchasing managers’ index fell to 29.3, down from 31.8 in November, marking a new low for a survey that began in 1997. This was the tenth successive month that the index has been below 50 – the level indicating contraction in the industry – Financial Times

The European Union yesterday redoubled its efforts to resolve an energy dispute between Russia and Ukraine that risks exposing fresh differences among EU member states on policy towards Moscow and its neighbours. An EU delegation led by Martin Riman, the Czech Republic’s industry minister, flew to Kiev for talks with Ukrainian officials, while another EU team of experts was due today to confer with executives of Gazprom, the Russian gas monopoly – Financial Times

Construction of new nuclear power stations in Britain will be delayed unless the government acts to streamline its planning and safety approval process, according to senior executives of EDF, the French energy group. EDF yesterday finalised its £12.5bn takeover of British Energy, operator of eight UK nuclear power plants, raising £4.4bn for the UK government. The group plans to build four of the French-designed 1,600MW EPR reactors on British Energy sites - Financial Times

Leading international oil and gas companies could emerge as winners from the financial crisis, as the steep drop in oil prices and asset valuations creates opportunities for mergers and acquisitions. The big oil groups generally have strong balance sheets and are still able to raise debt finance, while crumbling equity and commodity prices have made many smaller oil and gas companies potential targets – Financial Times


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