Nuclear winter for Britain as power plants close. Hinkley Point is last man standing as other power stations are scrapped. How will we keep the lights on without them? Hitachi president Hiroaki Nakanishi had a grand dream when the Japanese giant paid £696 million for the right to build two nuclear power stations in the UK. “Today starts our 100-year commitment to the UK and its vision to achieve a long-term, secure, low- carbon and affordable energy supply,” declared Nakanishi in 2012, as he signed a deal to buy the Horizon nuclear project from Germany’s RWE and Eon. Nakanishi’s plan was to use the UK as a shop window for its reactors, installing them at Wylfa on Anglesey in north Wales and Oldbury-on-Severn in south Gloucestershire. Wylfa would provide enough power to supply the whole of Wales. Together, the two sites could power about 10 million homes. Last week, that bold vision lay in tatters as Hitachi pulled down the shutters on Horizon, which it will wind up by the end of March. It has cancelled its application for a development consent order — a formal process needed to secure planning permission — for the £20 billion Wylfa Newydd plant, despite having spent £2 billion exploring every aspect of the project, from the rock strata on the island to the location of Roman ruins. British Gas parent Centrica scrapped plans to invest in new nuclear power in 2013 and for the past few years has been trying to sell its 20 per cent stake in the existing fleet of British Energy plants. Russian and Canadian operators have also abandoned attempts to build reactors in this country. Another planned EDF plant, at Sizewell in Suffolk, has been given encouragement by the government, but EDF faces years of negotiations with ministers over the financial structure of a deal. CGN hopes to install its home-grown reactor, the Hualong One, at Bradwell-on-Sea in Essex, but must overcome opposition from Tory MPs and the United States. The biggest obstacles to nuclear have always been cost and risk. The retreat of Hitachi and Toshiba showed that only governments dare take the risk of building nuclear stations — particularly when they are the first of a new design. Theresa May’s government eventually offered to take a third of the equity in Horizon alongside the Japanese government and Hitachi. Boris Johnson’s administration is exploring a new financial model, the regulated asset base, where investors could earn a return during construction. All that was too late for Horizon, led by Duncan Hawthorne. In a letter to the unions that had begged Hitachi to grant the project a reprieve, executive Toshikazu Nishino said that it had not received adequate backing from government.
Times 31st Jan 2021 read more »