Work has already started at Hinkley Point C. In March 2017 concrete pouring started on the first permanent structures: an 8km network of tunnels that will carry piping and cables around the site. The Guardian says the site looks like Mordor, from Lord of the Rings, a scarred landscape and hive of activity driven with a single purpose: ensuring these reactors do not repeat the delays and overspends at Flamanville and Olkiluoto.
EDF Energy announced on 11 December 2018 the completion of the first part of the concrete pouring for the base slab for unit 1 of Hinkley Point C (HPC). Four more pours of concrete will be required before the so-called “raft” that supports the reactor building will be complete. Work is expected to be concluded in 2019. According to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) definition, the official “construction start” is “the date when first major placing of concrete for the base mat of the reactor building is made”. (See nuClear News No.114)
A National Audit Office (NAO) report published in June 2017 warned the “deal for Hinkley Point C has locked consumers into a risky and expensive project with uncertain strategic and economic benefits.” It continued “when the Department finalised the deal in 2016 its value-for- money tests showed the economic case for Hinkley Point C was marginal and subject to significant uncertainty. [Since then] the government’s case for the project has weakened … Delays have pushed back the nuclear power plant’s construction, and the expected cost of top-up payments under the Hinkley Point C’s contract for difference has increased from £6 billion to £30 billion.”
Only the hopelessly naive would believe EDF’s claims that Hinkley will start generating electricity by 2025, says Geoff Ho, writing in The Express. The likelihood of it being delivered on time and on budget is remote.
EDF Energy is planning to build two European Pressurised Water Reactors (EPRs). A public inquiry was held in 2012. The Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change at the time, Ed Davey, granted planning consent to EDF Energy on 19th March 2013. Negotiations over the guaranteed price EDF hopes to receive for electricity from the planned new reactors at Hinkley continued throughout 2013, and were finally agreed in October 2013. EDF Energy will be guaranteed £92.50 for each megawatt hour (MWh) (at 2012 prices) of electricity generated for 35 years, ensuring billions of pounds for the French, mostly state-owned company. The difference between the wholesale cost and this minimum price agreed will be funded by a levy on household energy bills. If EDF also goes ahead with plans to build two more reactors at a second site at Sizewell in Suffolk, the subsidy will be lowered to £89.50 (See nuClear News No.56 November 2013).
The European Commission launched a full investigation into whether Britain was providing up to £17bn of potentially illegal public guarantees to the proposed Hinkley Point C nuclear power station (See nuClear News No.58 January 2014). In October 2014 the Commission agreed to allow the UK to subsidise the two reactors (see nuClear News No.68 November 2014). In July 2015 the Austrian Government filed a legal challenge against the European Commission’s decision to allow the UK Goverment to subsidise Hinkley. An alliance of 10 German and Austrian renewable energy suppliers, including Greenpeace Energy, has also decided to take legal action against the state aid awarded to Hinkley (see nuClear News No.76 August 2015). The Austrian Appeal was dismissed in July 2018.
Centrica, the British Gas parent company, originally had an option to take a 20% stake in the two nuclear projects, but pulled out in February 2013 citing spiralling costs and delays. In October 2015 a strategic investment agreement was signed committing China General Nuclear Corporation (CGN) to take 33.5% of the project, and EDF initially being responsible for 66.5%, with a view to selling this down to near 50%. CGN’s holding will be through its new company, General Nuclear International. In December 2016 the Chinese coal mining company Wintime Energy agreed to take about 2% of the project, through CGN. The EDF-CGN joint venture is NNB Generation Company Limited, which holds the site licence issued in 2012.
The Final Investment Decision for Hinkley Point C was repeatedly postponed, but was finally agreed in September 2016. These reactors were originally expected to be generating electricity in time for Christmas 2017 (see nuClear News No.77 September 2015).