Worries are growing that recommendations made by the National Infrastructure Commission that the UK should favour renewable energy in the coming years will end up spooking overseas investors currently eyeing the new nuclear build market. The report published earlier this month suggests the UK should only proceed with building one more nuclear site after Hinkley Point C and recommends up to 90% of UK energy should be renewable by 2050. New nuclear power stations are planned for Wylfa Newydd on Anglesey, which will be developed by Horizon Nuclear Power, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Japanese firm Hitachi, while China General Nuclear has rights to build a reactor at Bradwell in Essex. And South Korean firm Kepco is in talks to take over Toshiba-owned NuGen which is behind plans for a nuclear power station at Moorisde in Cumbria. But Richard Lowe, director of power at Aecom’s environmental division, said the NIC report would spook those overseas companies pledging to develop new nuclear power stations to replace the country’s ageing fleet which includes the 1960s-built site at Dungeness (pictured) in Kent. He said: “This sort of message would have a lot of shockwaves. You would have to presume that [the planned] schemes would be affected. “It’s going to cause Korean and Chinese investors to have a long hard look at whether they still make that investment,” he added. And Tim Yeo, former MP and chair of pro-nuclear lobby group New Nuclear Watch Europe, said: “If this is taken on by government, it’s a serious blow. You’re not going to get people to invest in their supply chains on the basis of only one nuclear plant coming forward.”
Building 24th July 2018 read more »
Alan Brown MP: Government mustn’t sign up to ‘crazy proposals’ leaving the taxpayer facing unlimited risk over nuclear incidents. Shadow SNP Spokesperson for Energy, Alan Brown MP, writes ahead of his Westminster Hall debate on ‘Taxpayer liability for safety at the Wylfa Nuclear power project’. The nuclear industry in the UK, whilst keeping the lights on for decades has come at a price. The legacy of contamination and clean-up is estimated by the National Audit Office to come in at £121bn by completion in 2020. The Magnox swarf storage silo contains waste sludge which is corrosive and radioactive and deemed a hazard until 2050 and there are a number of existing nuclear power stations still to be decommissioned. Yet we are told by the UK Government that we need more nuclear as a low carbon means of energy generation. While the process may indeed be low carbon, it is anything but green given the toxic legacy. Why do we want to commission more at exorbitant costs? With regards the cliché “we need the baseload,” as far back as 2015, the chief executive of National Grid argued that the baseload concept was outdated. The only other reasoning I can see is the equally outdated concept of the UK being a world leader in a particular sector. I have my own bias of course, but I would suggest the UK may be the world leader in bad nuclear deals. A 35 year agreement for Hinkley Point C at £92.50/MWh, when offshore wind recently came in at £57.50 for a 15 year tenure. The Hinkley deal so bad it was criticised by the NAO as bad value for money. Part of the problem with Hinkley was the risk and the financial exposure to private investors. A risk allayed with the fact the technology for the European Pressure Reactor (EPR) has still to be proven, with all existing EPR projects under construction facing delays. As investment in nuclear around the world falls, the UK has ten stations on the go in terms of planning. Yet, the National Infrastructure Commission’s latest report states that they believe there should be a maximum of just one new nuclear contract signed before 2025. This is because of the reduced costs of renewables and the other emerging technologies including the massive decrease in cost of batteries. Their report also illustrates that over the years the cost of nuclear has not decreased, debunking another UK Government aspiration. This backdrop brings us directly to Wylfa. Direct information from the Government remains difficult due to the claims of “commercial confidentiality”. However, again it is clear that the private developer, Hitachi, has had difficulties with the costs and risks associated with the project. This has led to the suggestion of the Government taking a £5bn direct stake in the project. In principle for key infrastructure projects, a direct Government stake makes sense as it can borrow cheaper than the private sector. However, this seems to be part of another wider blank cheque type agreement for a Government desperate to get the project over the finishing line. When strike rate figures of £77.50/MWh are quoted for Wyfla, then this stake is one reason for the reduction. Under the Paris and Brussels conventions, a nuclear operator has the liability for any nuclear incidents. Even so, there is a cap ay £1.2bn euros, so way below the true cost of a catastrophic incident. Hitachi has already had two serious safety breaches in other nuclear developments, and for one was fined $2.7bn from the US Government. Apparently learning from this, Hitachi are resisting taking on liability for nuclear incidents. We do not know exactly what they are proposing, but it marks a departure from current agreements and the “polluter pays” principle. It is critical that the UK Government does not sign up to any such crazy proposals. The cost legacy is bad enough; we still don’t have a solution to long term disposal of nuclear waste and it is folly to sign a deal for the taxpayer to take unlimited risk on a nuclear incident. This could prove to be the worst deal yet unless the Government changes tact soon.
Politics Home 24th July 2018 read more »
Drew Hendry MP: There are many challenges in representing Scotland’s energy needs in Westminster, but one recurring theme is that no matter how strong our arguments are, no matter how many national institutions agree with us, and no matter how clear the facts are, it is impossible to shift the Tories from their ideological commitment to nuclear energy. This month, the National Infrastructure Commission, established in 2015 to provide independent advice, used its five-yearly National Infrastructure Assessment to argue “an energy system based on low-cost renewables . . . may prove cheaper than building further nuclear plants, as the cost of these technologies is far more likely to fall, and at a faster rate.” What really sticks in the throat, however, is that directors from the UK Government’s Wylfa partner, Hitachi, reportedly want “safeguards that reduce or eliminate Hitachi’s financial responsibility for accidents at the plant” despite liability for nuclear developers already being capped at €1.3bn by the Brussels and Paris conventions. They want to abdicate the risk and the taxpayer to pick it up.
Herald 24th July 2018 read more »