A seemingly positive message of hope for nuclear came from the East today, as Chancellor George Osborne announced from his tour of China that this “golden business relationship” had yielded £2billion pounds of UK tax-payer-guaranteed investment for the elusive Hinkley C power plant. Osborne said “Britain was the home to the very first civil nuclear power stations in the world and I am determined that we now lead the way again”.
But back in the West, and perhaps in reality, many have been questioning whether Hinkley C would actually be a positive development for Britain. Three prominent environmentalists, George Monbiot, Mark Lynas and Chris Goodall, have written “yes, we are pro-nuclear, but not at any price”. Hinkley, they argue, is too high a price to pay. They point to the £24.5bn construction costs, the price guarantee of £92.50 per megawatt hour for the next 35 years, and the time and cost overruns experienced at the two other European Pressurised Reactors (EPRs) in France and Finland. Hinkley, they say, should be scrapped.
Our Director Stephen Tindale has echoed these sentiments. He believes that the contract with EDF energy to build an EPR at Hinkley is reasonable, despite its high, costs, because the plant would provide 7% of UK electricity: carbon and air pollutant free. But this belief only holds if the new reactor were built on time and on budget – conditions that it is widely accepted Hinkley will fail to fulfill. Stephen told this morning’s Today Program that “there are many different types of reactor and the UK government has unfortunately chosen a bad one: the European Pressurized Reactor is impossible to build on time and on budget”. He continued that now there is an opportunity for Amber Rudd to say “this was a mistake and lets start again”.
A new start, and a genuinely positive development for the UK, would be for the government to stop wastefully ploughing time and money into the stagnant Hinkley project. There are a wealth of more advanced reactors that could potentially promise better safety, higher security, greater sustainability and importantly, lower costs. The government has funding, sites and support it could and should offer to make a prototype of one or many of these designs a reality – this is what the British nuclear industry should really hope for. Listen to Stephen’s BBC Today Programme interview here: