Former advisor to Gordon Brown at the Treasury and No.10, Damian McBride, revealed that Ed Balls, having been warned by Treasury officials that the costs for Hinkley Point C are frighteningly out of control, would have reviewed the spiralling costs with a view to scrapping the project if Labour had won the election and he had become Chancellor. (1)
Perhaps the new Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, Amber Rudd, and the Tory Chancellor George Osborne won’t want to go that far, but investors remain reluctant to commit especially after the recent technical problems in the reactor vessel at Flamanville. According to Nick Butler writing in the Financial Times the challenge for the new government is that development that is already seven years behind schedule will be further delayed – no station here can go ahead until at least one EPR reactor is working somewhere in the world. The new problems are likely to increase still further the amount of financial guarantees required. This will all push up the final price consumers will have to pay. At worst, the current regulatory tests could require the reactor vessels to be redesigned and rebuilt. (2)
In recent weeks we have learnt that:
- Anomalies have been found in the bottom and lid of the reactor pressure vessel (RPVs) of a similar nuclear plant being built at Flamanville in Normandy. This means weaknesses in the vital metal structure protecting the outside world from the highly radioactive reactor core. (3)
- Pierre-Franck Chevet, head of France’s nuclear safety inspectorate revealed that the same manufacturing technique was used in the steel for the identical safety casings destined for Hinkley Point, which “have already been manufactured”. (4)
- China says it won’t approve the initial loading of fuel into two reactors until possible safety issues with the RPVs are resolved. The Taishan 1 and 2 RPVs were fabricated at the same factory as the RPV for Flamanville. (5)
- Steve Thomas, professor of energy policy at the University of Greenwich, said. “How much more can go wrong before they say it’s time to give up on this?” He called Hinkley Point “a project that needs an exit strategy”. (6)
- The two Chinese companies considering investing in Hinkley Point C have serious concerns about the European Pressurised water Reactor (EPR) design, and the financial health of the French company Areva which designed the reactor. (7)
- Areva is now in such a bad state (with a €4.8bn loss in 2014) that it looks as if it might have to withdraw as a co-investor in the Hinkley project. (8)
- Luxembourg (9) is to join Austria (10) in filing a complaint against the UK’s proposed subsidies for Hinkley Point C.
- A German electricity supply company – Greenpeace Energy – has also decided to take legal action against the Hinkley subsidies. A number of municipal energy utilities, such as Stadtwerke Schwäbisch Hall, are considering joining the lawsuit. About 7% of electricity generated in Britain would be highly subsidised nuclear electricity if Hinkley goes ahead thus distorting the European electricity market. (11)
- EDF Energy and the UK Government have a list of problems to sort out which is daunting before the project can go-ahead. For instance they need permission from the European Commission for the financial arrangements to transfer title to the nuclear waste from EDF to the Government in future. EDF’s £10bn loan facility from the Government also needs to be finalised. (12)
- On top of this the Government is seeking European Commission approval to hold a “golden share” in EDF’s £24.5bn Hinkley Point C nuclear power station, which could have the effect of strengthening pending legal challenges against the plant’s construction. (13)
Meanwhile the huge renewable resources available in the South-West are becoming clearer. It has some of the world’s best renewable energy resources, capable of boosting our rural economy and ensuring our energy security. All that is holding us back from the renewable revolution is a failure of political will.
- Regen South West points out that if the Government puts in place the policies needed to meet 15% of the South West’s energy requirements (N.B. Energy, not just electricity, i.e. including heat and transport) this will deliver £10bn of investment and 24,000 jobs. The UK is committed, under EU rules, to meeting a 15% target for energy by 2020.
- At current rates of growth the South-West will only produce just over 14TWh (terawatt hours or billion kWh) of renewable energy whereas it needs to produce 19TWh to meet the 15% target.
- At currents rates of growth the number of jobs will be 16,000 by 2020, whereas it could be 34,000. (14)
- The South West region has the renewable energy resources to meet more than 100% of its total energy needs, including replacement of liquid fuels and electrifying railways. We should aim to do this by 2050. According to a recent report by The Resilience Centre the South West has the potential to generate an estimated 68TWh of energy made up of 43TWh of electricity energy, and 25TWh of thermal energy. This equates to just over 100% of total future energy needs for South West assuming a 40% powering down due to energy efficiency measures by 2050. (15)
- A programme to deliver a 100% renewable energy target would create 122,000 jobs. The capital cost of delivering such a programme would be £59,484m, including £8,784m on Smart Grid energy storage. This is 72% of equivalent nuclear costs for delivering the same amount of energy.
“The new Government has a choice – go-ahead with the financial millstone of nuclear power with consumers paying for decades to come with much of the expenditure flowing out of the region, or develop a sustainable energy programme which will boost local jobs and the local economy. We urge them to choose the latter,” said Stop Hinkley Spokesperson Allan Jeffery.
- Sunday Times 10th May 2015 http://www.thesundaytimes.co.uk/sto/news/focus/article1554408.ece
- FT 10th May 2015 http://blogs.ft.com/nick-butler/2015/05/10/beyond-the-election-the-energy-agenda-for-the-new-government/
- Reuters 17th April 2015 http://uk.reuters.com/article/2015/04/17/areva-nuclear-idUKL5N0XE11320150417 and Ecologist 14th April 2015 http://www.theecologist.org/News/news_round_up/2829257/nuclear_reactor_flaws_raise_hinkley_c_safety_fears.html
- Independent 18th April 2015 http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/uk-nuclear-strategy-faces-meltdown-as-faults-are-found-in-identical-french-project-10186163.html
- ECNS 15th April 2015 http://www.ecns.cn/2015/04-15/161760.shtml
- Times 18th April 2015 http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/business/industries/utilities/article4415175.ece
- Times 7th February 2015 http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/business/industries/utilities/article4346816.ece
- Telegraph 5th March 2015 http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/energy/11453149/EDF-Areva-investment-not-existential-for-Hinkley-Point.html
- Luxemburger Wort 29th April 2015 http://www.wort.lu/en/politics/hinkley-point-c-luxembourg-to-file-complaint-against-uk-nuclear-power-subsidies-5540aa250c88b46a8ce584ac
- Argus Media 29th April 2015 http://www.argusmedia.com/News/Article?id=1030825
- Becker Buttner-Held 12th March 2015 http://www.beckerbuettnerheld.de/en/article/state-aid-for-hinkley-point-nuclear-power-plant-bbh-to-prepare-a-lawsuit-against-the-eu-commission/ and Ecologist 5th March 2015 http://www.theecologist.org/News/news_round_up/2780807/greenpeace_energy_to_launch_legal_challenge_to_uk_nuclear_subsidies.html
- Ecologist 11th March 2015 http://www.theecologist.org/blogs_and_comments/Blogs/2787780/the_end_is_nigh_last_rites_for_hinkley_c.html
- Independent 5th March 2015 http://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/news/governments-golden-share-request-could-stall-construction-of-hinkley-c-nuclear-plant-10086821.html
- RegenSW Manifesto http://www.regensw.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/Manifesto_2015.pdf
- The Power to Transform the South West, Resilience Centre and European Greens April 2015 http://mollymep.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/The-power-to-transform-the-South-West_FINAL1.pdf