The future of the UK nuclear industry looks increasingly bleak, despite the Conservative government’s continued insistence that it wants to build up to 10 new nuclear power stations. One of the flagship schemes, the £15 billion ($19.5bn) Moorside development in Cumbria in north-west England, made 70 of its 100 staff redundant in September because the current owners, Toshiba, are unable to finance it and cannot find a buyer. Tom Samson, the managing director of NuGen, the company set up to construct the power station, said he was fighting “tooth and nail” to save it but that there was “a real danger” the whole idea would be abandoned. With renewable electricity becoming much cheaper than new nuclear power in the UK, the proposed stations have the added disadvantage that they are remote from population centres and would need expensive new grid connections. There seem to be two main reasons for the government’s continued enthusiasm for nuclear power – the need to keep the nation’s nuclear weapons properly maintained, and political considerations about providing new jobs in remote areas where there are already nuclear installations that are being run down or decommissioned. A similar affliction of lack of financial backers is affecting plans by another Japanese giant, Hitachi, to build an equally ambitious project at Wylfa on the isle of Anglesey in Wales. This is also a remote site with an existing but redundant nuclear station and, coincidentally, a marginal constituency where voters badly need new jobs. Again, finding a company, or even a country, with deep enough pockets to help build this power station is proving difficult, even though the UK government has offered to underwrite part of the cost. In France EDF has 58 ageing reactors in its fleet, most of which need upgrading to meet safety requirements, with others more than 40 years old due for closure. The costs of the upgrades plus the decommissioning will create an even bigger debt problem, making investment in new reactors virtually impossible. This financial hurdle may yet halt construction of Hinkley Point’s twin reactors, effectively killing off nuclear new build in Britain. Officially, however, the Chinese are still hoping to build a reactor at Bradwell, east of London, and EDF two more reactors at Sizewell in Suffolk, further east on the coast of England.
Climate News Network 4th Oct 2018 read more »
The Business and Industry minister Richard Harrington joined a panel of energy experts including the Nuclear Industry Association and Sellafield, to discuss nuclear power and renewables at Conservative party conference. Richard Harrington, the Business and Industry minister explained that the gap which exists in energy provision in the UK cannot be solely filled by renewables and that nuclear is required, with the costs hopefully reducing, saying “I still believe the whole base case with nuclear power that we do need this base of power production.” He stated that the arguments have matured a lot from “do we have it, do we not.” He said the costs of new nuclear power stations needed to come down, as they are currently only met by national government’s or mean a higher ‘strike price’ for the length of a project where a loan needs to be repaid. “The second thing is the reduction in the actual cost of it; the cost of producing the reactors. Some of that will be because of change in technology… Some of it will be if there’s a consistency of supply i.e. it’s not just building a one-off, I’m sure that the basics of any form of business, that will lead to lower construction costs and therefore lower strike prices”. Mr Harrington welcomed the jobs the industry provides, given they are often highly paid and in remote parts of the country: “So as far as the government is concerned it is often forgotten, not by Jamie Reed at Sellafield or Tom Greatrex at the NIA, that there are more than 80,000 people currently working in the nuclear industry in the UK. The spin on for it is that they are often in geographical areas that have struggled with other sorts of high paid employment because of where they are, in quite isolated places”.
Politics Home 4th Oct 2018 read more »
At the Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham this week, energy minister Richard Harrison asserted on a 100% pro-nuclear panel: “I still believe the whole base case with nuclear power that we do need this base of power production,” while widely praising new nuclear as reliable and increasingly cost-competitive. A week or so earlier, a pro-nuclear lobby group, New Nuclear Watch Institute, which masquerades as a think tank, issued a tendentiously inaccurate 34 page report, arguing that new nuclear is essential to meet carbon emission reduction targets. It was reported in The Guardian. [David Lowry has] challenged this nuclear low carbon myth: “It is about time this dangerous falsehood was confined to the dustbin of history.” Sadly it seems, like Freddy, it seems it is going to be resurrected each mellow autumn!
David Lowry’s Blog 4th Oct 2018 read more »