The controversial Hinkley point C in Somerset has finally been given the go-ahead by the government. The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said,
“the Government has decided to proceed with the first new nuclear power station for a generation. However, ministers will impose a new legal framework for future foreign investment in Britain’s critical infrastructure, which will include nuclear energy and apply after Hinkley.”
The decision in July by Prime Minister Teresa May to stall and review the £18 billion project, planned to produce 7% of UK electricity, shocked the industry. The ensuing debate was weighty and is unlikely to subside as the “white elephant” project goes through its expected 10-year construction.
The questions and concerns over the project are wide ranging. The strike price is high, and many are worried about being committed to expensive energy for many years, whilst other options get increasingly cheaper. There are also concerns over the foreign investment, particularly that of the Chinese. New Nuclear Watch Europe dismissed this security issue in their recent guest blog for Weinberg Next Nuclear. The government’s “new legal framework” supposedly addresses some of the financial and security concerns though the opposition has called it “window dressing”. Perhaps the main concern is the technology. The European Pressurised Reactor, planned for Hinkley, has encountered extensive problems where it has been built in France and Finland and to a lesser extent in China. It has not yet been delivered on time or on budget anywhere.
In response to the news, Weinberg Next Nuclear’s director Stephen Tindale said,
“The EPR is not the most promising reactor design – very complex and so very expensive. But now that the Government has decided to go with the EDF proposal, I hope Hinkley Point C is built as quickly as possible, without major problems and without going significantly over budget. And Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial strategy Greg Clark can now turn his attention to other nuclear projects: those at Wylfa and Moorside, the Small Modular Reactor competition and some advanced nuclear reactors to use spent fuel and plutonium as fuel.”
Weinberg Next Nuclear previously reported and wrote to Greg Clarke, that there are more promising nuclear technology options than Hinkley. However we also strongly believe that new nuclear is necessary to mitigate the energy and climate crises. As such, we now hope Hinkley’s progress goes as smoothly as possible to provide much needed low carbon electricity, whilst advanced nuclear options continue to be pursued to ensure the UK has a bright nuclear future.