Ambrose Evans-Pritchard: Britain’s push for nuclear power makes no sense, unless it is a hidden subsidy for the Royal Navy. We can either choose to rely on offshore wind as the backbone of British power, linked to a smart, flexible, 21st century grid. Or we can opt for a nuclear revival based on the old-fashioned concept of baseload power. But we cannot rationally do both. One cuts across the other. Big nuclear plants run 24/7. They cannot be switched on and off to match the intermittency of renewables. Trying to do both at the same time delays the cost gains of critical scale. It slows the push for a modern digital grid and cheap energy storage. It confuses investors. There is no commercial case for giant new reactors in any developed country. They cannot meet post-Chernobyl and post-Fukushima safety demands at viable cost and have been priced out of the global energy market. Precipitous falls in renewable costs over the last five years have rendered the technology effectively obsolete in the West. Existing plants are closing early across the US because they cannot compete. One reactor at Indian Point in New York closed in April. Its sister unit will go next year. The V.C. Summer project in South Carolina has been abandoned at a cost of $7bn. In the US the competitor is shale gas. In the UK it is offshore wind. In much of the world it is now utility-scale solar. The reason is that Britain’s decision to press ahead with nuclear expansion – almost alone, along with France – has nothing to do with energy supply. The true motive is to underpin the military-industrial complex. The Government is being coy about admitting this. “They are willfully concealing it. The energy debate is being rigged and it’s not healthy,” said Professor Andrew Stirling from Sussex University. By contrast, President Emmanuel Macron openly stresses the military rationale. Last week he cited the need for a flourishing French nuclear industry to sustain the country’s fleet of submarines and its next nuclear-powered aircraft carrier. “Our strategic future and our status as a great power depends on the nuclear nexus,” he said. Perhaps there are advanced SMRs with radically different technology, such as molten salt or using convection, that are cleaner, more flexible, and can pull off a quantum shift in costs. But if so, why waste finite money on white elephants such as Sizewell C and Bradwell B?
Telegraph 16th Dec 2020 read more »