Sunday, July 24, 2016

Hinckley Point C.

Over the last few days I've received many emails from constituents and others asking me to press new Chancellor, Philip Hammond to withdraw Govt support for the proposed Hinckly Point C nuclear power station. I cannot do that. I must explain why. For the UK to withdraw from agreements it has signed up to with the French energy company, EDF and the French Govt would seem to me to be an unthinkable breach of faith with our good friend and neighbour, France. 

At this stage I should make clear that I'm no great enthusiast for the Hinckley Point C nuclear power station which looks as if it may receive the final go-ahead this coming week. It's a huge investment and would make an important carbon-free contribution to Britain's 'base load' energy needs. It involves the construction of two EPR reactors with a combined output of 3,200MWh. A meeting of the EDF Board has been called for Thursday, when the final decision should be made to go ahead and build - after much delay. It has become a major issue for EDF and the French Govt. To understand why the UK cannot just walk away, we need to look at the background. 

The last nuclear power station to be given the go-ahead in the UK was in 1987. Because of political difficulty, Gov't's have failed to face down anti-nuclear protest, and British expertise was lost. Which meant that when the Liberal-Conservative Coalition decided in 2010 to go forward with 8 new nuclear power stations, it had to look overseas for the expertise needed to build them. While the Japenese are leading the only Welsh-based new build at Wylfa B on Ynys Mon, the French energy generating company, EDF, largely owned by the French Govt is building Hinckley Point C, with significant financial input from the Chinese. The UK's involvement is through a guarantee (the strike price) that it will pay £92.50MWh for 35 yrs. This adds up to lot of money. On the basis of this agreement, EDF and the French Govt have carried on preparing to build Hinckley Point C, at great cost. It would cause huge damage to the UK's reputation and to future investor confidence when dealing with the UK Govt if we were to walk away now. It would a shocking betrayal of the French Government, at a time when we are looking to work through with the French the Brexit negotiations.

It will be good news if EDF make the final decision to go ahead on Thursday. It will be a very strong statement that France does not see Brexit as an obstacle to investment in the UK. It will give us some reassurance that the Government's nuclear ambitions are on track. But what is absolutely crucial is that if Hinckley Point C does not proceed, it will as a result of a decision by the French, and not a U-turn by the UK, which would do huge damage to the Entente Cordiale. It's why I cannot agree with those who have written to me, demanding that the the Government tears up the agreements previous British governments have made.


mairede thomas said...

You are right in your assessment of the situation with Hinkley. However what is most important for the future is a programme to develop 4th generation nuclear power reactors that are walk-away-safe, such as small modular molten salt reactors. This technology can also reduce waste and can be operated more flexibly, so it can provide not only reliable baseload power but also responsive capacity to meet peak demand. This should be at the heart of the UK’s new industrial strategy. SMRs can be built almost anywhere and located next to industry, so the transmission costs will be reduced and the reactors will be cheaper to build and operate than the designs being build today

David Williams said...

So, we are to ignore the poor performance of Areva in attempting to build EPR reactors in Finland and France - both behind schedule and exceeding their initial cost estimates by up to 3 times. Then there's the guaranteed price per MWh at more than twice the current rate, which will cost the UK more than £30 billion over the 35 year lifetime of the plant. This reflects badly on your government's preference for austerity measures - clearly, nuclear power is more important than public services.
And, lastly Glyn, take a look at Hinckley on Google Earth. The coastline, on which the plant will be built, is no more than 5 metres above mean sea level. The necessary sea defences (remember Fukushima?) will increase construction costs and add further to the bill.
But you regard the entente cordial as more important than value for money or the opportunity to invest in renewables. I respectfully ask that you think again.

David Williams said...

Just heard on Radio 4's Today programme (Thursday 28Jul16 at 8.30 am) that EDF (√Člectricit√© de France - the utility largely owned by the French Govt) is likely to announce its agreement to go ahead with Hinckley 'C', today. The projected cost is £18 billion and will take 10 years to build. I wonder how close to these estimates the final project will be, Glyn?