The Nuclear Free Local Authorities (NFLA) notes with interest an article in ‘The Times’ which reports more serious delays in the financing and control of the Hinkley Point ‘C’ proposed nuclear reactor in Somerset.
‘The Times’ reports that the two Chinese utilities proposed to put around 40% of the financing into Hinkley Point ‘C’ – China General Nuclear Power Corporation and the China National Nuclear Power Corporation – are balking at providing such support unless they get guarantees from the French Government that it will bail out the ailing nuclear utility Areva, who would build the reactor for EDF Energy. (1)
Areva is in serious financial trouble due to major time delays and cost over-runs with developing nuclear reactors – of the same proposed design as at Hinkley Point – at Olkiluoto in Finland and Flamanville in France. Both projects are now billions of euros over original budgets and many years late.
The report also notes that the Chinese utilities are seeking to take control of the Bradwell site in Essex from EDF to develop their own reactor design – which itself would require going through at least a four year design assessment process with the nuclear regulators. The report also notes real and justified concern with the Austrian Government’s decision to legally challenge the European Commission’s approval of the UK Government’s state aid for the Hinkley Point C reactor with EDF.
This clearly indicates to the NFLA that EDF’s proposed investment decision for Hinkley Point C, of the end of March 2015, simply cannot happen, and it will have to be delayed until the autumn at least. This also means the project – begun already 5 years ago – is still many years from fruition and even the most optimistic start date for it is being pushed back again to around 2025. It also means that, with a general election in May, the next Government has a major energy policy decision to take.
NFLA calls on all political parties to consider the profound impact of these delays and start to think about radical changes of direction in UK energy policy. This would involve developing a wide renewable energy mix, promoting more comprehensive energy efficiency programmes, and taking forward the positive developments around more definitive local authority energy policies and community microgeneration opportunities.
NFLA also commends politicians to read the Vienna Ombuds-Office report comparing the costs of renewable energy and nuclear power in the UK and across the EU. This report emphasises the need for an urgent change of policy towards a ‘renewables revolution’. (2) This report has received the attention of the Environmental Audit Select Committee and is now even influencing the debate over nuclear power in Australia. (3) If economies as successful and dynamic as Germany, Austria and Denmark can follow such a direction of travel with their energy policies, then why not the UK?
NFLA Chair Councillor Mark Hackett said:
The report in ‘The Times’ shows yet more delays in the investment decision for Hinkley Point C. Now the Chinese are sensibly taking their time in determining whether to invest in Hinkley due to the serious financial problems affecting Areva, and the Austrian Government’s legal challenge. Surely the writing is on the wall for this project? It is high time many of our national politicians give up on their obsession to bring new nuclear to Britain. If the effort could rather be diverted to a renewable energy future I believe a safe, sustainable and cost effective series of alternatives can be rapidly developed. This should be a major issue in the upcoming general election and I hope the next Government can be both bold and brave in changing direction and giving up on the behemoth that has become Hinkley Point C.”
For more information please contact Sean Morris, NFLA Secretary on 00 44 (0)161 234 3244.
Notes for editors:
(1) The Times, 7th February 2015
(2) Vienna Ombuds-Office for Environmental Protection, ‘Renewable Energy versus Nuclear Power – Comparing Financial Support’, December 2014: Summary – http://www.wua-wien.at/images/stories/publikationen/renewable-energy-versus-nuclear-power-summary.pdf
Full report – http://www.wua-wien.at/images/stories/publikationen/renewable-energy-versus-nuclear-power.pdf
(3) The Guardian, 9th February 2015