I have long argued for pressing on with Hinkley Point, on the basis that it was the only serious option for securing a substantial slice of future UK electricity demand from one domestic source, in the face of a looming energy gap created by the closure of old nuclear and coal-fired plants. Hinkley’s 3,200 megawatt capacity compares with 2,300 megawatts for the two new giant windfarms together — but as a nuclear industry spokesman was eager to point out, offshore wind ‘only produced electricity for 36 per cent of the time’ last year and has yet to solve the problem of storing excess power generated when winds are high. Look forward a decade, however. French energy giant EDF, leader of the Hinkley project, may still have problems delivering the ‘European pressurised reactor’ model that has been so troublesome for its own Flamanville plant in Normandy. Wind, solar and tidal power may all look more viable than today, through advances in efficiency and economies of scale; and progress will surely have been made in power storage. We may also see a new crop of mini nuclear reactors, quicker to build and (according to one manufacturer, Rolls-Royce) viable at £60 per megawatt hour. Hinkley Point C was the best idea available when it was first mooted seven years ago, but time and technology are inexorably overtaking it.
Spectator 16th Sept 2017 read more »