2016-09-15 Hinkley C nuclear go-ahead: May caves in to pressure from France and China

Hinkley C - it now looks as if the UK may be saddled with this monstrous white elephant after all. Image: EDF. - click for full size image
Hinkley C - it now looks as if the UK may be saddled with this monstrous white elephant after all. Image: EDF.
The French and the Chinese may be celebrating the UK's decision to press ahead with the Hinkley C 'nuclear white elephant', writes Oliver Tickell. But the deal is a disaster for the UK, committing us to overpriced power for decades to come, and to a dirty, dangerous, insecure dead end technology. Just one silver lining: major economic, legal and technical hurdles mean it still may never be built.

The UK's energy department, BEIS, today announced the go-ahead for the controversial Hinkley Point C (HPC) nuclear power plant in Somerset. Only weeks ago Theresa May's government delayed the signing of the deal with EDF to confirm its subsidy package which is likely to cost UK energy users anywhere from £30 billion to over £100 billion for 35 years after it opens. The surprise move was widely welcomed due to a broad range of concerns about the HPC project, including: its very high cost, more than double the current wholesale power price and far more than the current cost of even high-cost renewable power from offshore wind; security concerns over China's involvement in core UK infrastructure; the lack of any single example of a working EPR reactor anywhere in the world; the severe delays, cost overuns and technical problems at all EPR construction sites; the low value of HPC's contribution to UK energy supply in the new decentralised 'smart grid' era; and, common to all nuclear power, the continued absence of any solution to the nuclear waste problem.

It still might never happen

But despite today's announcement there remains considerable uncertainty as to whether HPC will actually be built - among them legal challenges in the European Court to the unbelievably generous subsidy package for the project which appears to be incompatible with the EU's 'state aid' regulations. In addition both EDF and CGN, poised to take a 33.5% share in HPC, are unlikely to commit significant further capital to HPC until the Flamanville situation is resolved, and there is at least one working EPR to demonstrate that the design is constructable and operable - something that is still years away. The highly risky (if potentially very profitable) project is also widely opposed within EDF as if it fails to ever generate power, or to operate reliably, it is likely to bankupt EDF. Also the company has yet to to line up the £16 billion (or more) it will need to finance its share of the project. "This decision is unlikely to be the grand finale to this summer's political soap opera", said Greenpeace executive director John Sauven. "There are still huge outstanding financial, legal and technical obstacles that can't be brushed under the carpet. "There might be months or even years of wrangling over these issues. That's why the Government should start supporting renewable power that can come online quickly for a competitive price." Richard Black, director of the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), added: "Despite this being called a 'final decision' to build Hinkley C, other hurdles, including technical and legal challenges, may well lie ahead for the project. "French trade unions don't like it, nor do some of the likely candidates for the French Presidential Election next year, EDF's finances are not the healthiest, and the French nuclear regulator is examining flaws in steel used for a similar reactor being built in France. So it may turn out not to be quite as ‘final' as it looks now. "Although China is reportedly happy with the new position, questions also remain over its main ambition - building its own nuclear reactors at Bradwell in Essex as a route into the Western market. The Chinese reactor hasn't even begun the process of gaining UK safety approval, which usually takes four years, so negotiating a contract for Bradwell would fall to the next UK Government, not this one. "And by then, electricity from other sources might look a whole lot cheaper than it does now."


Original article: Hinkley C nuclear go-ahead: May caves in to pressure from France and China',

This UK government announcement is despite widespread condemnation beforehand, including from:

1) The National Infrastructure Commission.

2016-03-18, 'Five ways to power the UK that are far better than Hinkley Point', and:

2016-03-04, 'Smart power: A National Infrastructure Commission Report'

2) The Infrastructure and Projects Authority.

2016-07-07, 'Estimated cost of Hinkley Point C nuclear plant rises to £37bn' and:

2016-07-07, 'IPA annual report on major projects 2015 to 2016'

3) The National Audit Office.

2016-07-13, 'Hinkley Point C may cost £30bn in 'top-up payments', warns watchdog' and:

2016-07-13, 'Nuclear power in the UK'

4) The Economist,

2016-08-06, 'Hinkley Pointless'

See also my reports on nuclear disasters and their consequences.
2016-09-15 Hinkley C nuclear go-ahead: May caves in to pressure from France and China
The French and the Chinese may be celebrating the UK's decision to press ahead with the Hinkley C 'nuclear white elephant', writes Oliver Tickell. But the deal is a disaster for the UK, committing us to overpriced power for decades to come, and to a dirty, dangerous, insecure dead end technology. Just one silver lining: major economic, legal and technical hurdles mean it still may never be built.
Hinkley C - it now looks as if the UK may be saddled with this monstrous white elephant after all. Image: EDF. - click for full size image
Hinkley C - it now looks as if the UK may be saddled with this monstrous white elephant after all. Image: EDF.