Does it make any sense to build nuclear plants in Britain? Not obviously, unless you are an atomic evangelist. In recent months, half the participants in the country’s once-vaunted “nuclear renaissance” have packed their bags and departed. First Toshiba and then Hitachi dropped reactor projects, each citing their inability to get finance on terms that would deliver power to consumers at acceptable cost. Critics point to the widening gap between the strike prices demanded by nuclear and renewable investors, highlighting the new low of £57.50 per megawatt hour for two UK offshore wind schemes due for delivery in 2022-23. These are well below Britain’s one live nuclear project, which gets £92.50 (in 2012 money) indexed for 35 years. In a letter to the Financial Times last week, business secretary Greg Clark said the government wanted nuclear’s zero-carbon capacity, just not “at any price”. But is building nuclear really as uncompetitive as it is painted? Let’s compare two hypothetical projects; one a nuclear plant producing 1 gigawatt of electricity, and the other an offshore wind project generating the same amount. Now to get a similar amount of energy from offshore wind as from nuclear, you need more than just 1GW of nameplate capacity. The reactor will produce at a 90 per cent capacity factor and the wind farm about half that. So you need roughly 2GW. Then there’s another problem: those moments when the wind doesn’t blow for a protracted period. Bridging that with battery storage remains prohibitively expensive. So to protect against it, you need almost 1GW of back-up generation.
FT 27th Jan 2019 read more »