The Nuclear Free Local Authorities (NFLA) is alarmed to see that the UK Government has begun active discussions with other governments and the companies seeking to build new nuclear reactors at Wylfa and Sellafield Moorside, going directly against previous government policy of ‘no subsidies for new nuclear build’. (1)
Reports in the media suggest the Chancellor Philip Hammond and the Business and Energy Secretary Greg Clarke have been in talks with Hitachi and the Japanese Government over overt state financial support for its proposed new nuclear reactors at Wylfa. (2) The Chief Executive of Nugen has already publicly proposed that new nuclear reactors at Sellafield Moorside should receive state support, and the media outlet the ‘Japan Times’ suggest Toshiba are also in talks with both governments. (3)
Schemes including government equity, direct loans and credit guarantees are amongst the options being explored by Hitachi and Toshiba with the UK and Japanese Governments.
What is clear to the NFLA is that the excessive cost of new nuclear is the main reason why these companies are going ‘cap in hand’ to the taxpayer for state subsidy. The eye-watering cost of Generation 3 nuclear reactors – between £18 billion and £24 billion at least – comes at a time when the UK public debt is at record levels and public services are being cut to the bone. Councils are crumbling under the weight of these cuts, and yet it now seems to be acceptable for the Government to spend billions of pounds of public money propping up an industry that has proved unreliable, for which costs are rising and under the continuing concern of safety incidents and accidents, whilst having no final long-term solution for the management of higher activity radioactive waste.
Let us not forget that the taxpayer continually subsidises the nuclear industry on an annual basis, for example with the £3.2 billion budget of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority to manage radioactive waste and decommission the previous generation of nuclear reactors. (4) Substantial state support has also been given in indirect subsidies to EDF for proposing to build nuclear reactors at Hinkley Point.
It is clear that the alternatives to new nuclear are much cheaper than these figures and are getting cheaper year on year – including a wide mix of renewable energy technologies in particular solar, wind, hydro and geothermal; combined heat and power district heating schemes; energy storage solutions and energy efficiency schemes.
For example, solar power is becoming the cheapest way to generate electricity of any energy source. Data produced by Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) showed the cost of solar in 58 countries – including China, Brazil and India – had fallen to about a third of levels in 2010 and was now slightly cheaper than onshore wind energy. In August, an auction to supply electricity in Chile achieved the record low price of $29.10 (£23.30) per megawatt-hour – a record low price and about half the price of even a coal competitor, and much lower than existing or new nuclear power. (5)
If the Government put as much effort into these schemes and assisted local government in its aim to develop decentralised energy projects it would be using scarce economic resources in a more effective manner as well as generating new, high quality and well paid jobs without the concerns of new radioactive waste or new nuclear accidents. (6)
This policy needs to be challenged by opposition political parties in Parliament and by green groups at what remains a critical juncture in the challenge of mitigating climate change. New nuclear should not be seen as one of the key infrastructure policies following the decision for the UK to leave the European Union. Such a policy would rather funnel billions of pounds away from more effective low carbon energy solutions and other parts of public policy.
NFLA Steering Committee Chair Councillor Ernie Galsworthy said: “A few months ago the Government reviewed the need for the Hinkley Point site. Their conclusion to go ahead with the scheme went against expert wisdom and the views of virtually all major media outlets. Now it seems to be going full steam ahead with state funding of new nuclear. This policy is deeply flawed and such types of centralised energy infrastructure are the wrong answers to UK energy policy or employment strategy to deliver new jobs. I urge the Government to think again and change direction. In 2016 renewable and decentralised energy grew rapidly all over the world. As did energy storage and energy efficiency projects. Outside China, new nuclear is floundering. As the UK looks to build a new post-Brexit economic strategy let us not start it by repeating the same mistakes of the past.”
For more information please contact Sean Morris, NFLA Secretary, on 0161 234 3244.
Notes for editors:
(1) The previous Labour and Conservative / Liberal Democrat Government policy on nuclear power was that they could be built by private companies but without direct state subsidy.
(2) Financial Times, 16th December 2016 https://www.ft.com/content/8204883c-c2eb-11e6-9bca-2b93a6856354
(3) Japan Times, 12th December 2016
(4) World Nuclear News, 14th December 2016
(6) NFLA Policy Briefing 152, November 2016