The NFLA notes further delays have been announced in the planned opening dates of EDF’s European Pressurised Reactors (EPR’s) at Flamanville in France and Olkiluoto in Finland, forerunners of the type of reactor being planned for Hinkley Point in Somerset. Such delays appear to be endemic with this reactor design, and suggest that any low carbon benefits from new nuclear are many years away.
‘Le Monde’ reports that the Flamanville EPR in France is likely to experience further delays. The French Nuclear Safety Authority is expected to order the repair of defective welds or additional studies to ensure their longer-term reliability. It has been suggested in media reports these delays could add as much as another two years to the project.
As ‘Le Monde’ note, construction began at Flamanville in 2007, and was expected to commence operation in 2012, costing 3.5 billion euros. It now may not open until early 2020 or even 2021 – i.e. eight or nine years later than planned, for a bill of nearly 11 billion – 7.5 billion euros over budget. While the site is almost finished, a core factor in the delay is quality differences found in the welding of the secondary circuit discharging steam to the turbine. The nuclear regulator remains highly concerned over the quality of such weldings – a critical nuclear safety issue for the operation of the reactor. (1)
Furthermore, more delays to the opening of the Finnish EPR planned for Olkiluoto have also been announced. ‘Nucnet’ reports that commercial operation of the reactor in southwest Finland could be delayed by a further few months by its operator TVO. Nuclear fuel was to be loaded into the reactor in June 2019, but that will not now happen before the end of August. Its first connection to the grid was planned for October 2019 and the start of regular electricity production was scheduled for January 2020.
The construction of Olkiluoto-3, a 1,600-MW EPR unit, began in August 2005 and is about nine years behind schedule. In March 2018 TVO signed an agreement with Areva-Siemens over costs and losses caused by delays to the project. The settlement included compensation of €450m, to be paid in two instalments, part of a project with a cost overrun of around 6 billion euros. (2)
Such delays and cost overruns do not bode well for the Hinkley Point C reactor site being planned in Somerset, for which the concrete base is being put in place; or for Sizewell C, which has just gone through its third round of local consultation, being widely criticised for a lack of specific information by local Councils, environmental groups and local pressure groups.
It is no real surprise to NFLA that EDF is lobbying the UK Government so hard for a new financing scheme for new nuclear. The Regulated Asset Base scheme is likely to be consulted upon this summer, Brexit permitting, and could be potentially seen as a ‘souped-up PFI’ (Private Finance Initiative) scheme which puts much of the cost and liability on to the taxpayer. Let’s remember, Hinkley Point C is likely to come in as the most expensive new nuclear reactor in history – and one of the most expensive developments of any kind ever built – at least £18 billion and possibly much more. (3)
EDF has brought in Chinese financial support to assist it in delivering the immense costs for this project, but it still must be of concern whether it can fund the project should it get the type of cost overruns being seen to its EPR’s in France and Finland.
Meanwhile, the costs of renewable energy continues to fall, the developments into large-scale batteries for energy storage continues to improve and energy demand is held back through improvements to energy efficiency and ‘smart’ energy. NFLA believe it is time, for once, for government to take stock of energy policy and change it markedly behind renewable energy to deal with the ‘climate emergency’.
NFLA’s latest meeting will be considering energy issues in Wales after the collapse of the other new nuclear project in the UK – Wylfa B – as well as a critique of small nuclear reactors, the radioactive waste debate and the benefits of local, community energy. (4)
NFLA Steering Committee Chair, Councillor David Blackburn said:
“The announcement of further delays in the EPR reactors being developed in France and Finland, and more cost overruns, does not bode well for Hinkley Point C or Sizewell C. New nuclear is becoming simply too costly in the new energy finance markets. Now is clearly the time to move to fully embrace renewables and assist Councils and others in decentralised energy as well. The time for change is now – no more of this outdated new nuclear, rather renewables with energy storage and energy efficiency. Cheaper, cleaner and sustainable. The way forward too.”
Ends – for more information please contact Sean Morris, NFLA Secretary, on 00 44 (0)161 234 3244.
Notes for editors:
(3) National Audit Office, 23rd June 2017
(4) NFLA Welsh Forum / PAWB / CADNO / CND Cymru joint seminar, Telford Centre, Menai Bridge, 13th April 2019 – Welsh Energy at a Crossroads – charting a sustainable energy future.
- Rob Idris, PAWB / CADNO – The Mon-Gwynedd Manifesto for energy transformation.
- Professor Stephen Thomas, Greenwich University – A critical analysis of Small Modular Nuclear Reactors
- Sean Morris, NFLA Secretary – What should we do with our radioactive waste?
- Beca Roberts, Community Energy Wales – How do we support community energy projects?