For an island built on coal, swept by tides, buffeted by offshore winds and surrounded by oil and gas, Britain makes very hard work of energy policy. Last year’s story was how EDF, the French firm that is to build a new reactor at Hinkley Point in Somerset, was torn by misgivings about the viability and affordability of the project despite being given eye-watering price guarantees. The big story today is of trouble with Toshiba, the Japanese giant scheduled to construct a plant at Moorside, near Sellafield in Cumbria. Toshiba’s problem is that its American nuclear business has turned into a horror story of cost overruns and delays building a couple of reactors. Bizarrely, while Moorside is unravelling, the Government is dragging its feet on what could be an effective alternative. Rolls-Royce has a scheme up for consideration in which the technology it uses to power nuclear submarines could be adapted to generate electricity. This would open the door to local nuclear plants, small enough to be transported by lorry but powerful enough to supply a city the size of Leeds. Half our big cities could get one for a fraction of the cost of a Hinkley Point. It would also be quicker, and it works. Rolls today announced its biggest-ever loss, driven largely by fines for bribing people to buy its engines. This has no doubt made ministers unwilling to be seen to favour a company in the doghouse, but they need to man up. We could lead the world in this with only a fraction of the financial support the Government has engineered for Hinkley and probably for Moorside.
Evening Standard 14th Feb 2017 read more »