Hinkley Point near melt-down as French socialist party calls for freeze. Britain’s Hinkley Point nuclear project is close to unravelling after France’s ruling socialist party threw its support behind dissident trade union leaders and called for a fundamental review of the high-cost venture. The whole saga has now become freighted with politics and misunderstandings in a three-way jostle between France, Britain, and China, with no outcome in sight that can please everybody. The French socialists warned that Hinkley threatens the financial viability of EDF, the state-owned energy giant responsible for two thirds of the £18bn funding and for limitless liabilities if it all goes wrong. Tong Zhao from the Carnegie-Tsinghua Centre for Global Policy in Beijing said Chinese leaders were flabbergasted by the sudden decision to freeze the plan and they doubt assurances that the dispute is over costs. Tong Zhao said Hinkley was a flagship project for China and was hailed at the time as a break-through into the Western nuclear market. “President Xi Jinping himself promoted the project when he was in London and it became bigger than a mere contract. It has taken on symbolic meaning at a political level,” he said. Socialist senator Yannick Vaugrenard warns that Hinkley Point risks becoming the “Concord of French energy”, a view widely-shared since EDF’s chief financial officer resigned in protest alleging that the company was gambling its future on an unknown risk. Nuclear power cannot easily be switched on and off. It is ill-adapted for use as a back-up source to cover lulls in renewable power. “In a world moving towards cheaper, flexible, decentralized power systems, investing in eye-wateringly expensive, always-on ‘base-load’ plants increasingly looks like a 20th Century solution for a 21st Century problem,” said Richard Black from the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit.
Telegraph 9th Aug 2016 read more »
France’s ruling Socialist Party has said it has “cause for reservation” over the government’s continued pursuit of a much-protracted deal to develop nuclear reactors at the Hinkley Point power plant. Socialist president François Hollande has consistently supported the deal, but the leadership of his party released a communiqué citing “structural concerns” over a plan from France’s EDF to build two new nuclear reactors at the Somerset site, citing financial risks and “contextual concerns” stemming from the Brexit vote.
FT 9th Aug 2016 read more »
Fresh evidence of links between the government and EDF Energy has led to concerns over the firm possibly receiving “preferential treatment” for its flagship nuclear project planned for Hinkley Point in Somerset. Ten advisers and civil servants who worked at the now defunct Department for Energy Climate Change (DECC) in the last five years had ties to EDF, according to an analysis of online professional networking accounts by Energydesk. Among the 10 EDF-linked government employees is a regulatory and licensing officer currently working for the French company — recently employed by DECC and previously an operating reactors programme manager at the Office for Nuclear Regulation. There also features an EDF strategy manager, who has been working for the company since 2014 following a 13-month secondment to DECC’s commercial team (from October 2011) while at previous employer KPMG. DECC’s commercial team played a crucial role in deciding to press ahead with the Hinkley project and NNB Generation Company Limited, an EDF subsidiary, submitted a proposal to the National Planning Inspectorate for a new nuclear power plant at Hinkley on October 31st 2011.
Energydesk 10th Aug 2016 read more »
Theresa May’s first test as British premier has come from the Chinese in the form of a remarkable article in the Financial Times. The article is puzzling. What sort of diplomat negotiates on serious issues through the media? Wouldn’t they normally work discreetly to identify the cause of the problem — if there is one — and then seek to find a quiet solution? Issuing threats is not very diplomatic. Indeed, the article reads as if it had been written by a PR firm instructed to put pressure on ministers. One wonders how Beijing would react if the British ambassador there were to write an article demanding that Hong Kong be allowed to choose its own leaders. The point that seems to be missed is that Mrs May as a new prime minister cannot afford to give in to the first threat she faces. To blink is to fail and to be seen to have failed. How could she go into a tough European negotiation on the terms of Brexit having bent to the first gust of wind from the east? The challenge, therefore, is to find a way out of the problem that saves face on all sides. Here is a suggestion. The development of any new nuclear station at Bradwell is some years away and will remain so whatever happens to Hinkley Point. The Bradwell development will no doubt be tendered openly. Whatever half promises have been made to the Chinese are irrelevant. No British government can bind its successors. Beijing, which may actually be pleased if the ill-fated Hinkley project is dropped or postponed indefinitely, should be told it would be welcome to bid for Bradwell or other projects provided it can be demonstrated that all cyber espionage against UK commercial and industrial targets has been stopped and has remained stopped for five years. Of course, some espionage can go undetected. That is why real trust will only come when a comprehensive cyber security treaty is signed that binds all sides.
FT 9th Aug 2016 read more »
The SNP has today urged Prime Minister Theresa May to bring an end to the Hinkley Point nuclear power project after trade unions in France called for the EDF investment in the £18 billion plant to be declared invalid. Three French trade unions have stated that information on the delay was withheld from board members by EDF ahead of a vote approving investment – further showing the utter chaos at the very heart of the nuclear project. The SNP have repeated calls for the UK government to not simply delay the beleaguered project further, but bring an end to the proposals as soon as possible with the cost to the taxpayer continuing to run out of control. SNP MSP Gillian Martin, a member of Holyrood’s Economy & Jobs Committee, said: “There seems to be no end to the confusion and chaos running at the very heart of the Tory government’s nuclear power project – from ongoing uncertainty and delays, to problems emerging from France. Theresa May must pull the plug on this costly white elephant project immediately. Experts have already stated that Hinkley is yesterday’s answer to today’s energy needs – and I urge Theresa May to listen to expert opinion and take the long overdue decision to end the project for good.”
Scottish Energy News 9th Aug 2016 read more »
The Chinese authorities’ claim to legitimacy rests upon their ability to provide economic wellbeing, which is proving increasingly tough, and this idea of renewed national pride, seized and amplified by Xi Jinping since he took power. It is one reason he wanted his people to see his red carpet welcome in London last year: the former aggressor was now bowing its knee. It also increases Beijing’s sensitivity to the 11th-hour halt on Hinkley Point and the public airing of suspicions about China’s behaviour and intentions. The undiplomatic handling will be almost as unwelcome as the decision. But the Chinese are pragmatic and the real lesson from history is that remembering the days when Britannia ruled the waves accentuates its decline. The UK is a waning power, especially since voting for Brexit, which “show[ed] a losing mindset”, in the words of one populist state-run Chinese newspaper. Beijing might, in fact, describe the UK somewhat as Lord Macartney, the first British envoy to China, described China: “An old, crazy, first-rate man of war, which a fortunate succession of able and vigilant officers have contrived to keep afloat …” What the UK and other western countries want most, as the former chancellor George Osborne’s strategy highlighted, is a stable China with which they can do business. Whether or not Theresa May decides Hinkley Point should go ahead, that is unlikely to change.
Guardian 9th Aug 2016 read more »
The relationship between the British and Chinese governments is under strain after the prime minister, Theresa May, decided to delay approval of the planned £18bn Hinkley Point C nuclear power station because of concerns over China’s 30% stake in the project. The move has prompted a warning from the Chinese ambassador to the UK, Liu Xiaoming, who said in a pointed Financial Times comment piece that relations with Britain were at a “crucial historical juncture”. Here are some of the key questions regarding the Sino-British relationship after the Hinkley Point delay.
Guardian 9th Aug 2016 read more »
The Conservative Government has defended its handling of an £18bn Chinese-backed deal to build a new nuclear power plant, following criticism from Beijing. Prime Minister Theresa May stunned the energy sector and the international community when she ordered an eleventh hour pause in the project last month.
Herald 9th Aug 2016 read more »
Belfast Telegraph 9th Aug 2016 read more »
Reuters 9th Aug 2016 read more »
The relationship between the UK and China was at a “crucial historical juncture” over the development of the Hinkley Point nuclear power plant, Beijing´s top diplomat in the UK said. China’s ambassador to the UK, Liu Xiaoming, wrote in the Financial Times that there was a link between the government’s decision to delay going ahead with the nuclear reactor and the future of bilateral ties between the two nations.
Share Cast 9th Aug 2016 read more »
The Chinese Government has waded into the row surrounding plans to build a new nuclear power station at Hinkley Point.
Bristol Post 9th Aug 2016 read more »
Theresa May was today urged to speak out about Chinese human rights abuses as the row grew over Hinkley Point nuclear power station. Tory MP Fiona Bruce, chair of the Conservative Party’s Human Rights Commission, said the Government should review its policy on the country. “Early indications are that this may be more likely under Mrs May,” she said. “Of course we must continue to engage and trade with China, but we can and also should speak out more on its appalling human rights abuses.”
Evening Standard 9th Aug 2016 read more »
The High Court of Paris on 5 August rejected a request by EDF’s Central Works Council to suspend the final investment decision for the Hinkley Point C nuclear power plant project in the UK. Meanwhile, China’s ambassador to the UK has called for the UK government to make a prompt decision on the project. In a statement, EDF said it welcomed the court’s decision. The Central Works Council submitted its request to the court on 28 July – the same day as the EDF board of directors agreed to go ahead with the £18 billion ($23.6 billion) project to construct two EPR reactors at Hinkley Point in Somerset. In addition, EDF said its chairman and CEO, Jean-Bernard Lévy, plans to bring legal action against the Sud Energie union which claimed he was aware ahead of the board meeting that the UK government planned to conduct a further review of the Hinkley Point C project. EDF said the union issued a statement on 5 August which “inaccurately claimed that he had lied to journalists when he confirmed he had not known before the meeting”.
World Nuclear News 9th Aug 2016 read more »
Sinn Féin MP Mickey Brady has described the pending news that the Nuclear Plant in Hinkley Point, Somerset is supposedly set for final approval as unwelcome and unwanted, saying it added ‘another deadly danger off our coastline’. Brady said the £18 billion nuclear plant, if approved, would join the ‘discredited Sellafield’ as another source of deadly danger and potential contamination to the island of Ireland.
Newry Times 9th Aug 2016 read more »
Almost half of Engineer readers think that a UK-developed small modular reactor would be a better option than the current deal to build and operate a new nuclear power station at Hinkley Point. With over 700 responses to our poll and a lively comments section with over 5 contributions, the decision to allow EDF to build a new twin-reactor nuclear power station at Hinkley Point in Somerset with China supplying a significant proportion of the finance is clearly one that still arouses strong feelings among Engineer readers. A very large majority of respondents agreed that the government’s last-minute decision to delay committing to the deals agreed by former Chancellor George Osborne represented a good chance to rethink the project, with only 11 per cent saying that the deal should go ahead as per the existing agreements. The largest group, 48 per cent, thought that UK-developed small modular reactor would be the best option for the UK’s nuclear future (presumably abandoning the entire EPR strategy in the process) while 19 per cent though the deals could be reworked to give more opportunities for UK industry. The next group, 13 per cent, thought new nuclear build should be abandoned altogether, while 8 per cent thought China’s roe in the project needed to be renegotiated. Just 2 per cent declined to choose an option.
The Engineer 9th Aug 2016 read more »