The Nuclear Free Local Authorities (NFLA) shares the large level of media and informed criticism to the UK Government’s recent £2 billion guarantee to China in order to realise a deal for the development of a £24.5 billion new nuclear reactor at Hinkley Point in Somerset.
The opposition to this exorbitant deal for the most expensive new nuclear facility in history is rife, even amongst those that support the need for new nuclear. The Financial Times, The Times, The Daily Telegraph, The Guardian, Bloomberg Finance and even influential pro-nuclear environmentalists like George Monbiot and Mark Lynas have sharply criticised the proposed deal.
The NFLA agrees with ‘The Ecologist’ that it appears the Treasury is dictating UK energy policy at present, not the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC). Whilst recently slashing financial support for renewable energy – putting a nascent industry and thousands of jobs at direct risk – it would now seem the Government will do virtually anything it can in its bid to bring in external finance to fund Hinkley Point C. (1)
As the Guardian points out: “The problem is that, apart from those with political or real capital riding on the deal, virtually no-one thinks the Hinkley plant is the answer. Let’s start with well-known energy analyst Peter Atherton, who is no tree-hugger. He said the deal is “one of the worst ever signed by a British government”, who are buying the “most expensive conventional power station in the world”. When serious people queue up to condemn Hinkley as a colossal waste of time and money, risking security, affordability and the climate, ministers should swallow their pride and ditch it”. (2)
The Financial Times comments:
But before we (the UK) rushes to sign, there should be public disclosure of the full offer to the Chinese on Hinkley Point …We are told, for example, that the Chinese will also build, own and operate another new nuclear station at Bradwell in Essex. Will they, for example, be required to meet all existing UK nuclear safety and labour standards or will the new stations be largely built in China using local labour and assembled in the UK?
Another pressing issue that should be clarified is whether the chancellor has seen and read internal reports from EDF and Areva, the two state-owned French nuclear firms, on what has gone wrong with the construction of the two “EPR” European pressurised reactors (the reactor design that will be used at Hinkley) in France and Finland. Both projects are billions over budget and years behind schedule. Once he has read the reports, he should make sure they are published. If they are not to be made public, we should be told why not. The mystery in all this, given Mr Osborne’s apparent confidence in nuclear technology, is why he is asking for Chinese money at all. EDF, it seems, will not itself invest more than half the necessary money in its own project at Hinkley Point, despite the high price and extensive guarantees it has been offered. All the parties seem to want someone else to take the risk”. (3)
The new Shadow Energy Minister Lisa Nandy said:
Hinkley is on course to become the most expensive power station ever built and could leave households and businesses paying over the odds for decades. (4)
NFLA shares all these concerns and more besides over this ill-considered and now exorbitantly expensive project. NFLA calls on a full strategic review by DECC of the UK’s energy needs and requirements. It calls for an energy policy which focuses on developing a wide renewable energy mix, supporting local authority energy companies, whilst increasing support for energy efficiency programmes, microgeneration schemes and new energy storage technology.
NFLA Vice Chair Councillor Bill Butler said:
The wide ground-swell of opposition from pro as well as anti-nuclear supporters to the UK Government’s push, at any cost, for developing a new nuclear station at Hinkley Point should be telling. The Government should heed their sensible and well considered concerns. NFLA calls for a strategic energy policy review as it fears critical mistakes are about to be made that could have a detrimental effect on UK energy security, nuclear safety and climate change mitigation policies. That review needs to happen now.
For more information please contact Sean Morris, NFLA Secretary on 0161 234 3244 or 07771 930196.
Notes for editors:
(1) Ecologist, 21st September 2015
(2) Guardian, 21st September 2015
(3) Financial Times, 21st September 2015
(4) Business Green 21st Sept 2015