The key nuclear power players have been called in by the Government for crunch talks on plans to meet Britain’s energy demands with new small reactor technology, amid mounting fears over delays and Whitehall paralysis. Industry giants including NuScale, Rolls-Royce, Hitachi and Westinghouse have been summoned by ministers in a bid to reignite interest in the project. They have been asked to present their plans in meetings over the next few weeks. Small modular reactors (SMRs) are a fraction of the size and cost of major nuclear power stations such as EDF’s controversial Hinkley Point C project. The Government signalled a key role for the technology in efforts to secure the energy supply and meet climate change targets two years ago. An apparent lack of action since then has drawn criticism and raised industry concerns that the project has fallen by the wayside amid the political instability of Brexit and the general election. In May, a House of Lords report branded the Government’s failure to publish the results of a competition for development funding as “particularly alarming”. Companies considering investments in the technology had hoped that ministers would indicate which proposals they would support months ago, but they received no communication, fuelling the speculation that SMRs were being quietly abandoned. Hinkley Point C, currently under construction in Somerset, is set to generate 3.2 gigawatts. Cost projections on the project have soared from £6bn in 2013 to £20bn, and the first new power is not expected to be generated until at least 2025. Last month, the National Audit ¬Office (NAO) hit out at Hinkley Point, saying taxpayers could face a final bill of as much as £50bn, because the wholesale market price for electricity is falling steadily while nuclear power construction remains expensive and high-risk. Under a 2013 deal between the Government and EDF, Hinkley is guaranteed to earn £92.50 for every megawatt-hour (MWh) of energy produced through a combination of wholesale market prices and a levy on consumer energy bills. At the time, the Government said this would require top-up payments totalling £6bn from consumers’ energy bills to meet the “strike price”, but falling market prices have widened the forecast gap every year since then.
Telegraph 13th Aug 2017 read more »