Nuclear Costs

How much does a nuclear plant cost? Take Britain’s Hinkley Point in Somerset, currently under construction with a completion date pencilled in for some time in the late 2020s. The headline figure that is usually given? Somewhere in the region of £20bn. But that is just for construction; it is not the whole picture. Remember you do not get a penny of revenue till the plant is up and running. That means financing those construction costs for up to 10 years, during which the debt is compounding away like rabbits. Then you have decades when you are steadily servicing and paying down those loans. The cost of financing is so dominant that it can account for almost half of the costs of the project, according to the economist Dieter Helm. Which leads to a key conclusion: that if you want to constrain spending, do not just focus on the price of pressure vessels, labour or concrete. No, it is the cost of capital that you really have to drive down. Looked a t through the project’s life, the cost of financing alone is roughly four times the amount needed to build the thing. The fundamental difficulty with nuclear is there is simply no rational economic way to know how much, if any, to build. Driven by the UK’s climate commitments, it is essentially an insurance policy against no technology emerging that produces zero-carbon, reliable power much more cheaply. The opportunity cost is substantial. After all, each project ties large chunks of capacity to nuclear for decades to come. If nuclear is to have any place in the mix it must be at the lowest cost. Ideally the state would finance the construction of these assets as it could suppress returns the furthest. (The government has toyed with this at another project in Wales). The so-called RAB model is far from perfect. But if more reactors are to be constructed, their capital costs must fall dramatically. The UK cannot afford more nuclear if it comes at Hinkley rates.

FT 18th Nov 2018 read more »

Posted: 19 November 2018


A week after Toshiba decided to pull out of plans to develop a new nuclear power station in Cumrbia, Craig Hatch of WYG, believes the appetite and need for Moorside remains as strong as ever but has called for a more cohesive approach and for ministers to get better at courting possible investors. So, the NuGeneration story comes to an end with Toshiba’s announcement that it will wind up the entity early next year due to not securing a buyer. At a corporate level, the decision is understandable. The failure to ensure the development progresses, however, sheds a different light on other stakeholders within UK PLC. What’s very clear is the need and appetite for Moorside to happen. Providing 7% of the nation’s security requirements single-handedly during political instability makes it an absolute no-brainer, not to mention the fact that it is situated in a heartland of nuclear skills capability.

ACEnet 14th Nov 2018 read more »

Posted: 19 November 2018

New Nuclear

Letter: Chris Underwood, professor emeritus of energy modelling for the built environment Northumbria University, Newcastle upon Tyne. With demand for electricity set to rocket, the UK cannot rely on renewables alone. Your business leader misses the bigger picture, as indeed do other supporters of renewable energy, such as Greenpeace. The bigger picture is that we can expect to see a substantial and sustained increase in electricity demand over the next 20-30 years due to the electrification of transport and heat. Heat alone, by the most conservative estimates, will add 300GW of peak thermal demand, which would add 100GW to the grid, dwarfing the current 65GW or so of peak UK demand. Yes, renewables backed up with energy storage and smart control can make an impact but a significant baseload method will still be needed.

Observer 18th Nov 2018 read more »

Letter Dr Robin Russell-Jones: high-quality uranium ore is in short supply, and can only supply the world’s existing reactors for another 50 years. After that the energy required to extract fissile material from low-quality ore will exceed the energy produced, at which point the technology becomes unsustainable. Recently, the chancellor admitted that he had delayed crucial legislation under pressure from the gambling industry. The only way to rationalise the UK’s chaotic energy policy is to accept that the nuclear and fracking industries have better lobbyists than the renewable sector.

Observer 18th Nov 2018 read more »

Posted: 18 November 2018

Hinkley and Sellafield

On the morning after the Financial Times has called on the UK Government to reassess its long-term energy plans following the demise of Toshiba’s Moorside nuclear project, the Stop Hinkley Campaign has published a briefing about lessons we can learn from the Sellafield Thermal Oxide Reprocessing Plant which is in the process of closing after only 24 years of operation and a very chequered performance. The “Lessons for Hinkley from Sellafield” briefing says: The cost of building THORP increased from £300m in 1977 to £1.8bn on completion in 1992. With the additional cost of associated facilities this figure rose to £2.8bn. Originally expected to reprocess 7,000 tonnes of spent fuel in its first ten years, it has managed only around 9,300 in 24 years. The original rationale for THORP ended with the closure of the UK’s fast reactor programme in 1994. The new rationale – to produce plutonium fuel for ordinary reactors – was a disaster costing the taxpayer £2.2bn. Stop Hinkley Spokesperson Roy Pumfrey said: “The rationale for building the THORP plant at Sellafield had disappeared before it even opened. The lesson for 2018 is that we should scrap Hinkley C now before costs escalate. The cancellation costs are small relative to the £50billion extra we’ll have to pay for Hinkley’s electricity, if it ever generates any. If we wait any longer to scrap it, we risk heading for another Sellafield-scale financial disaster.”

Stop Hinkley Press Release 15th Nov 2018 read more »

Posted: 17 November 2018


A nuclear power station for West Cumbria is unlikely to ever get the go-ahead without the backing of public money. That was the conclusion of a heated debate at a full meeting of Cumbria County Council, which saw an urgent notice of motion agreed after tempers flared among the 80 councillors gathered. It was the first time the council had met following the decision by Toshiba to win up NuGen, the developer behind the £15 billion Moorside power station plans in West Cumbria. The motion raised by David Southward (Lab, Egremont) and seconded by council leader Stewart Young (Lab, Carlisle) read: “Council calls on the Government to enter into urgent discussions with all interested parties and to take any necessary steps to ensure that the nuclear power plant construction project at Moorside goes ahead. “Council considers that due to the level of commercial risk involved in projects of this nature, they are highly unlikely to proceed without Government support, whether that be by way of equity acquisition, underwriting potential losses or guaranteeing the strike price.” Cllr Southward called the decision a “devastating blow” and meant the area missing out on 5,000 construction jobs lasting eight years, and a further 1,000 operational jobs.

In Cumbria 16th Nov 2018 read more »

Posted: 17 November 2018


EDF energy and Chinese firm CGN have confirmed that the UKHPR1000 model planned for their Bradwell B site in Bradwell has passed Step Two of the Generic Design Assessment. A spokesman for EDF energy said: “This marks the start of the third step in a four step robust and independent process to seek approval for the design. “It follows a year of intensive work by teams in the UK, China and France, during which time the UK public has had the opportunity to comment on the design details shared during Step Two.” EDF and CGN submitted an application through their joint company General Nuclear System in 2016 for a UK version of the HPR1000 nuclear technology. A spokesman for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said: “The Office for Nuclear Regulation and the Environment Agency have announced that they have completed an initial high level scrutiny of the UK HPR1000 reactor design.

Maldon Standard 16th Nov 2018 read more »

Posted: 17 November 2018

New Nuclear

Political support for nuclear power is crucial if this proven, sustainable and zero-carbon source of electricity is to play its part among other clean energy technologies in the fight against climate change. This was the message of ministers and industry leaders at UNECE’s 9th International Forum on Energy for Sustainable Development. Nuclear power was for the first time included on the programme of the annual event, which was held on 12-15 November in Kiev.

World Nuclear News 16th Nov 2018 read more »

Posted: 17 November 2018


UK HPR1000 new nuclear reactor design completes initial scrutiny part of regulators’ Generic Design Assessment. Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) and the Environment Agency (EA) announce completed scrutiny of the UK HPR1000 reactor design. The Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) and the Environment Agency (EA) have today announced that they have completed an initial high level scrutiny of the UK HPR1000 reactor design. Step 2 is the first assessment step of the regulators’ Generic Design Assessment (GDA) process for new nuclear power station designs proposed for the UK in which they assess the acceptability of safety, security and environment protection of the design. An initial preparatory step was completed in November 2017. The regulators have not identified at this stage of the GDA process any fundamental safety, security or environmental issues that would prevent the issue of a Design Acceptance Confirmation (DAC) and a Statement of Design Acceptability (SoDA). China General Nuclear Power Corporation (CGN) and EDF Energy, referred to as the requesting parties, through their joint venture company General Nuclear System Ltd (GNS), wrote to ONR and EA requesting entry to the GDA process in October 2016. The UK government requested that the regulators begin the GDA in January 2017, following confirmation of GNS and the Regulators’ readiness to commence the process.

Environment Agency 15th Nov 2018 read more »

World Nuclear News 15th Nov 2018 read more »

The first Chinese-designed atomic reactor for use in Britain moved a step closer to fruition on Thursday as the UK nuclear regulator said it had completed the second stage of its assessment of the technology. General Nuclear Services, an industrial partnership between China General Nuclear Power Corp (CGN) IPO-CGNP.HK and French utility EDF, hopes to use the design at a nuclear plant planned to be built at Bradwell in Essex, eastern England.

Reuters 15th Nov 2018 read more »

Energy Live News 15th Nov 2018 read more »

Hualong One, China’s self-developed reactor design, has completed its second phase of assessment in the U.K., with the next stage set to determine whether it is fit for use in the European country, said its developer on Thursday. The China General Nuclear Power Corporation (CGN) and French state-owned power giant EDF signed deals with the British government in September 2016 on building three projects in the UK. The project based in Bradwell, Essex is expected to use the Hualong One technology. Before construction, the new technology has to pass a process called generic design assessment (GDA) led by the British Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) and Environment Agency (EA) to determine its safety and environmental impact. 16th Nov 2018 read more »

Posted: 16 November 2018


As the debate heats up over Suffolk’s next nuclear plant and new investors climb on board, Julia Pyke from EDF reveals her concerns about recruiting the workers needed to build Sizewell C after Brexit. But Ms Pyke says she is “quite confident” that Sizewell C will go ahead, regardless of what deal is agreed between the UK government and the EU. “The country is going to need the electricity, come hell or high water,” she said. “It’s my mission, and I am a very determined person!”

Ipswich Star 14th Nov 2018 read more »

Three Suffolk councils are throwing their weight behind plans for a controversial new electricity substation to be sited in an AONB – as it is the “lesser of two evils”. The Broom Covert site, between Leiston and Sizewell, is an alternative location for Scottish Power Renewables’ (SPR) 30-acre substation which the energy firm had earmarked for a site in Friston.

East Anglian Daily Times 13th Nov 2018 read more »

Posted: 15 November 2018


Clark’s plan to underwrite losses on Wylfa nuclear project will likely lead to an embarrassing state-aid plea to the EU Commission. Now that it seems, short of an extended ‘no-deal’ Brexit scenario, the UK will remain within EU state-aid rules for a long time to come, Greg Clark will have to oversee an embarrassing state aid case in support of his proposals to underwrite the (almost certain) losses from building the Hitachi-led Wylfa nuclear power plant. I have already discussed how the taxpayer (and/or electricity consumer) is exposed to almost certain multi-billion losses as a result of the plan that Clark is touting here and in Japan. The last time that the UK applied for what amounted to an exemption from EU state aid rules for nuclear power was in late 2013 when Ed Davey led the plea for the Hinkley C deal. The state aid was granted in October 2014 after the Commission ruled that the Hinkley C deal was a reasonable way to avoid ‘market failure’. Any application for state aid for Wylfa would be a tougher challenge. Indeed the very proposal whereby the state will take at least a half equity share in the project and take responsibility for cost overruns is an action that in itself creates market failure if curbing carbon emissions is the objective! The Government’s cover story in 2013 was that support for Hinkley C was on the same level available for renewable energy since renewable energy schemes were also being offered CfDs (as well as very extensive loan guarantees that most renewable energy schemes could not get from the Government of course). The European Commission seemed to buy into this line stating ‘The aid would not have a negative impact on other low-carbon sources, given that they are also supported by the UK, and there is no discrimination against renewable technologies’

Dave Toke’s Blog 14th Nov 2018 read more »

Posted: 15 November 2018