China’s threat to boycott Britain’s insane nuclear plan is wonderful news. It no longer makes any commercial sense to build large nuclear plants ever again in Britain. They are prohibitively expensive. Reactors are being shut down across the US despite Herculean efforts by the Trump administration to save the industry. One reactor at Indian Point in New York closed in April. Its sister unit will go next year. Construction of the V.C. Summer project in South Carolina has been abandoned after $7bn of sunk investment. The state governor says the misadventure will cost the average household in Horry County some $6,200. Reactors have been zero-carbon workhorses since the 1950s but trying to meet post-Chernobyl and post-Fukushima safety demands has priced new models out of the market. New nuclear cannot compete in the US with cheap shale gas. It cannot compete in the UK with this island’s particular bonanza: limitless wind on the Dogger Bank and the shallow waters of the North Sea, backed by galloping cost gains in energy storage. Britain’s nuclear expansion plan is therefore lunacy, and China’s threat to walk away is an unexpected Godsend. It frees the Government from an irksome commitment made years ago in an entirely different energy landscape. “It is a get of gaol card,” said Tom Burke, chairman of E3G and a professor at Imperial. Ambassador Liu Xiaoming has linked nuclear power to Britain’s decision on Huawei’s roll-out of G5 mobile: “a litmus test of whether Britain is a true and faithful partner of China”. He is inadvertently confirming that the Guangdong nuclear company CGN answers to the Chinese state, an arm of geostrategic policy rather than a commercial venture seeking only profit. [Hinkley has] become a nightmare for EDF itself. Costs have ballooned to £23bn (in the fine print). The project is repeating the disaster script of EPR reactors at Flamanville in France and Olkiluoto in Finland. “EDF know they can never make money out of it,” said Professor Steve Thomas, a nuclear expert at Greenwich University. “We would be doing them a kindness to pull out so they can concentrate on extending the life of their reactors in France for another twenty years. There would have to be a political sweetener to save face.” If China pulls the plug, it clarifies the issue. We can bin the whole misguided notion of nuclear expansion and look to cheaper, cleaner, safer, and quicker sources of power. Hinkely’s strike price is £92.50 per MWh (2012 prices). The latest auctions for offshore wind on the Dogger Bank have come in at £39.65 and £41.61. In 2015 they were £117. Such is the miracle of scale in a nascent technology.
Telegraph 10th June 2020 read more »