The Nuclear Free Local Authorities (NFLA) welcomes today’s reports that EDF has postponed a final investment decision to go forward with new nuclear reactors at Hinkley Point. It sees it as a sensible decision that could allow for an equally sensible review of UK energy policy. NFLA is looking forward to bringing some of the issues around nuclear power to MPs at a major joint seminar in Westminster tomorrow, with its keynote speaker the former Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan.
Insider reports from the French newspaper ‘Les Echos’ and Greenpeace noted that the decision to take the final investment decision off the agenda at EDF’s board meeting in Paris today is likely to be due to it struggling to find the finance for its 66.5% stake for Hinkley Point C, and it was now “putting pressure on the [French] state, which owns 84.5% of EDF, to come up with fresh funds.” (1)
The Financial Times also noted that two people with knowledge of the process within EDF informed it that the item had been taken off the board meeting agenda because of last-minute concerns expressed by some of the company’s most important backers. As the Financial Times quotes, one said: “There are apparently some serious concerns among the private investors about how this will be financed.” Another person said the main item on the agenda would now be the company’s merger with Areva, the French nuclear energy group. This merger is also causing EDF some practical and financing issues as well. (2)
It would appear for some time now that EDF has difficult issues to overcome to find the £18 billion required to fund Hinkley Point. There are critical design safety issues with its identical reactor being built at Flamanville in Normandy, which the French nuclear regulator has said will not be overcome before the end of 2016. One of its planned investors in Hinkley Point C, Areva, is in such financial problems that EDF needs to merge with it. And there remains a legal challenge to the European Commission’s approval of EDF’s Hinkley Point / Sizewell state aid deal with the UK Government from the Austrian Government and German renewable energy companies.
NFLA believes the huge financial costs and related risks of new nuclear build is one of the factors in why it will be difficult to move forward with this policy, no matter how determined the current Government is to deliver it. It appears to NFLA that EDF can only move forward if it achieves further investment in its business from an external partner. Other consortiums looking to build new nuclear power stations in the UK may well also encounter similar issues as they near final investment decisions.
NFLA calls on the UK Government to undertake an immediate review of energy policy and ‘reset’ it back to the promotion of a wide renewable energy mix, more comprehensive energy efficiency programmes and to support local authorities in the development of decentralised energy service companies, such as those created by Nottingham and Bristol.
NFLA is delighted to bring forward a consideration of energy policy to MPs of all political parties in an important seminar it is co-organising in Westminster tomorrow in conjunction with the Nuclear Consulting Group (NCG). The seminar, ‘Late Lessons from Chernobyl, Early Warnings from Fukushima’, will consider some of the major issues that have arisen from these two nuclear accidents and what they signify for future energy policy. The keynote speaker will be the former Japanese Prime Minister at the time of the Fukushima disaster, Naoto Kan. Mr Kan will consider lessons learnt from the Fukushima nuclear accident concerning nuclear safety, disaster preparedness and emergency response. (3)
Other speakers include Dr Paul Dorfman of the Nuclear Consulting Group, who will consider the state of UK nuclear policy. Dr Tetsunari Iida, Executive Director of the Institute of Sustainable Energy Policies (ISEP, Tokyo), will present the opportunities for Japan to meet its future energy needs without recourse to nuclear power. Mrs Yoshiko Aoki (from Tomioka, Japan) will conclude the seminar with a presentation on her personal experiences of the disaster, the emergency evacuation and the issues faced by those evacuated from towns close to the Fukushima accident.
NFLA Chair Councillor Ernie Galsworthy said:
This apparent move by EDF to postpone the final investment decision for Hinkley Point C for the ninth time is the clearest evidence yet of the large financial and risk related hurdles to be overcome to realise new nuclear build in the UK. I would argue those hurdles are becoming unrealisable and it is now time for the Government to reset energy policy to restore the support it has previously provided to renewable and community energy programmes over the past decade. I look forward to hearing tomorrow from Naoto Kan and other speakers in Westminster over the direction of travel we all should be taking in moving towards a low carbon, nuclear free energy policy. I encourage those MPs attending tomorrow to fully engage with the need for a change of policy in favour of renewables.”
For more information please contact Sean Morris, NFLA Secretary on 07771 930196.
Notes for editors:
(1) BBC, 27th January 2016
(2) Financial Times, 26th January 2016
(3) NFLA / NCG joint seminar, ‘Late Lessons from Chernobyl, Early Warnings from Fukushima’, Committee Room 10, House of Parliament, Westminster, 28th January, 1.15pm – 2.45pm.