It looks as though the collapse of the Horizon Energy project to build two nuclear reactors on Anglesey, and later two at Oldbury in Gloucestershire, rather than forcing a complete re-think on energy policy as you might expect, is pushing the Government into investing directly in EDF’s seventh and eighth attempt to build EPRs on time and budget at Sizewell C.
As Nils Pratley points out in The Guardian, from the point of view of meeting the nation’s energy needs, the loss of Wylfa is no big deal. The National Infrastructure Commission –is not banging the drum for new fleets of giant nuclear power stations. The NIC reiterated its two-year-old advice only last month: “The government should take a one-by-one approach to nuclear and not agree to more than one new nuclear plant, in addition to Hinkley Point C, before 2025.” The NIC’s latest report puts the case for a more rapid rollout of renewables, meaning on-shore and off-shore wind and solar, on grounds of cost and meeting emissions targets. It said renewables “are now the cheapest form of electricity generation due to dramatic cost reductions in recent years”. As for the overall security of the system, the NIC repeated its point that interconnectors will have a key role to play in balancing supply and demand. (There are other ways of balancing renewables too, as we discussed in nuClear News No.73, No.82, No.110, No.116.
Simon Jack, on the BBC website reports that the Government is looking at options to replace China’s CGN as an investor in Sizewell. That could include the government taking a stake in the plant. But his Industry and Government sources are telling him that the idea of Chinese involvement in designing and running their own reactors at Bradwell “looks dead”. If a mobile network is considered too sensitive, it’s hard to argue that a nuclear power station is not.
We should find out more in the next few weeks when Boris Johnson holds a “nuclear summit” with Rishi Sunak and Alok Sharma to consider new subsidies. And Rolls-Royce is waiting in the wings with plans to build a new fleet of small modular reactors. (3)
Of, course readers of this website will know that it is perfectly feasible to run a country’s energy system of 100% renewables. But this message seems to be failing to get through. The current “The Week” didn’t even bother to try to find someone who advocated 100% renewables and concluded its story on Wylfa concluding that “eliminating annual emissions” is “likely impossible without nuclear”. Yet Mark Z. Jacobson and others have shown how it is possible to match demand with supply at low cost in 139 countries with 100% intermittent wind, water, and sunlight for all purposes – electricity, transport and heat.
We will, no doubt, be writing a lot more about 100% renewables in the coming months as the campaign against Sizewell C heats up.