Posted by Stephen Tindale

Greg Clark MP, Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

29 July 2016

Dear Greg

Congratulations on your appointment to run BEIS. I welcome the creation of the new department (see http://climateanswers.info/2016/07/15-july-2016-new-british-government-a-step-forward-for-climate-strategy/). And it is great to have you back working on energy and climate change.

I also welcome your decision to review the Hinkley Point C proposal, following yesterday’s Final Investment Decision by EDF. The UK needs new nuclear power stations, for energy security and climate action reasons. Britain needs to send a clear message that we are ‘open for business’ post-referendum. And there is a strong need for greater policy and regulatory stability on energy and climate matters going forward. But none of these reasons require you to implement decisions inherited from the Cameron/Osborne government without proper consideration.

It is quite possible – indeed very sensible – to be pro-nuclear without supporting all forms of nuclear technology. The European Pressurised Reactor (EPR) is a complicated reactor design. Construction of EPRs in Finland and France is proving very problematic; construction in China seems to be going better, but is also taking longer than planned. You should consider whether the delays and difficulties are due to these being the first constructions of a new reactor design, or whether they are caused by the complexity of the EPR design. I recommend that you consult professor Wade Allison, Emeritus Professor of Physics at Keble College, Oxford. Wade strongly supports nuclear energy, but thinks that the complexity of the design means that an EPR will never be built on time or on budget.

You should also question whether it is consistent with national security to have Chinese state-owned companies involved in UK nuclear infrastructure. Given Nick Timothy’s comments on this (http://www.conservativehome.com/thecolumnists/2015/10/nick-timothy-the-government-is-selling-our-national-security-to-china.html), I am very confident that you will.

If you decide against signing the Hinkley contract with EDF, I recommend that you accompany the announcement with two other statements to emphasise that nuclear energy has a future in the UK. First, a statement that a decision against Hinkley does not represent any change in the Government’s approach to nuclear more widely. You should highlight and welcome the Office for Nuclear Regulation’s plan to deliver decisions on the Generic Design Assessments for Wylfa and Moorside in 2017. Second, confirmation that the £250 million over five years for nuclear innovation, promised by George Osborne in last year’s Autumn Statement, will be delivered, and that the £30 million Small Modular Reactor competition will continue.

Nuclear energy should be an important part of a decarbonised energy system. But it will not be all of it. Continued expansion of installed renewable capacity is essential. Energy efficiency measures to replace the Green Deal are urgently required. And the Government should re-engage with Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS).

George Osborne’s cancellation of the CCS competition was a serious error, undermining investor confidence and leaving the UK facing either higher costs or dependence on technology imports to reach the carbon budgets. The Committee on Climate Change has been clear about the importance of CCS. Restarting UK activity in this area would make financial sense, and also demonstrate that a decision against Hinkley did not represent any lessening of your commitment to decarbonisation.

Good luck.

Stephen Tindale

Director

 

 

Comments

  1. Alan Bucknall says:

    Whilst the government has got off to a good start, it must quickly show that it will deliver on this. For a start, Hinkley Point C should be abandoned. Politics aside, to pursue Hinkley is to bet our economic well-being on EPR’s technology which remains unproven and may yet prove to be unworkable. The state of UK generating capacity, today, allows no room for new build technology failure, delay or doubt. We need to know that new-build will deliver within the short timescale remaining before energy infrastructure failure on a grand scale befalls us. We must resort to alternative suppliers, such as Hitachi-GE and KEPCO, who have operational units built to time and cost, (more-or-less).
    Whilst these alternatives may well deliver power at wholesale cost below the £92.50/MWh, Hinkley price, the reduction is not likely to translate into lower consumer prices. Gen III /III+ LWRS are saddled with additional regulatory burdens , apparently justified in pursuit of enhanced safety levels which are, themselves, matched only by renewables. Complex engineering and regulatory burden come at a cost.
    We must support the rapid development of other nuclear technologies which could have world-wide utility and approach the ideal of ‘energy cheaper than coal’, advocated by Professor Hargraves. To meet this ideal, technology development requires concurrent safety regulation development, which reflects today’s understanding of process control, materials behaviour and human ionising radiation tolerance.
    Hopefully, government’s support for NuScale’s SMR technology is a welcome indicator of future intent. But, for all its merits, it is LWR technology and, as such, still requires uranium enhancement and regulation appropriate to this technology. SMRs will have a role but their development and government support must not be at the expense of molten salt reactors. These offer the real prospects of affordable energy and, later, the use of LWR ‘waste’ material as part of the fuel mix. Maybe the new LWR stations should have an MSR(s) on an adjacent site?

  2. Jim says:

    Why can’t the UK’s government just go for broke and build a prototype reactor of Moltex’s or some other MSR design?

Leave a Reply

Sign up for our Weinberg Next Nuclear Newsletter
* = required field

The Alvin Weinberg Foundation has played a really vital role in helping to promote research into next-generation nuclear power systems and fuel cycles, including work to assess the potential role of thorium in the energy mix.

— UK National Nuclear Laboratory

@thorium_wf

Highly recommend this Rushlight Summer Showcase event at the @RGS_IBG this June. Have a look and register here https://t.co/xTuCD5r11i
- Monday Apr 24 - 2:26pm

The Power to Change the World. See our Technology Officer @JohnCHLindberg in this thought-provoking TED talk https://t.co/ogi2Km37aR
- Thursday Apr 20 - 7:19am

Categories

  • Economics (90)
  • Efficiency (54)
  • Policy (14)
  • Proliferation (34)
  • Regulation (10)
  • Safety (65)
  • Security (18)
  • Technology advances (24)
  • Uncategorized (54)
  • Waste (54)
  • © The Alvin Weinberg Foundation 2014
    The Alvin Weinberg Foundation is a registered UK charity. Charity number: 1155255
    The Alvin Weinberg Foundation web site uses cookies to record visitor patterns.
    Read our data protection policy

    Design by Tauri-tec Ltd and the Alvin Weinberg Foundation