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.

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