England couldn’t cope with a nuclear accident at Hinkley Point. An EDF board meeting today could spell the end of the wretched Hinkley Point C nuclear power station and its hugely over-priced electricity, for which electricity distribution companies would be obliged to pay double the current wholesale electricity price for 35 years. EDF’s finance director Thomas Piquemal resigned in March claiming that the project could put the entire future of the company at risk. The UN’s Economic and Social Council has put its own boot into the project, saying that the UK has failed to consult with neighbouring countries over the risk of a nuclear accident. But never mind neighbouring countries, the government has failed to take into account the economic consequences of a nuclear accident on local populations. The crushing problem with nuclear accidents is the economic cost of having to evacuate large areas. At Chernobyl, a 30 km exclusion zone still applies. The Fukushima disaster of 2011 was also followed by the evacuation of residents up to a 30 km radius. A 20 km exclusion zone remains in place, which the Japanese government has suggested may begin to be relaxed from next year. If such an accident were to occur (if not a tsunami, the Severn Estuary is nevertheless prone to tidal surges – and there are plenty of possible causes of a nuclear accident other than flooding) the following areas could require evacuation: 10 km: Burnham-on-Sea (population 20,000); 20 km: Bridgwater (41,000) and the southern half of Weston-Super-Mare (76,000); 30 km: Taunton (109,883 with surrounding villages). In addition the M5 might have to be abandoned, along with the main railway line to the West Country, as the latter falls into the 30km zone and the former the 10km zone. Has the government assessed the economic costs of an accident on this scale? If it has, perhaps it would care to publish its assessment. The blunt reality is that nuclear power might be a risk worth taking in lightly-populated areas. The experience of the world’s two major nuclear disasters to date suggests that it is a risk too high in crowded southern England.
Spectator 11th May 2016 read more »
EDF will face fresh pressure from its investors today over its plans to build Hinkley Point. The board of the French state-controlled energy group will address shareholders’ questions directly at its annual meeting in Paris. The gathering comes as EDF prepares to make a long-delayed final investment decision on Hinkley Point, amid widespread opposition from employees and unions. A minority of the company’s board members also remain firmly opposed to the project. Yves Marignac, director of Wise-Paris, a Paris-based energy policy consultancy, said that EDF would not be able to proceed before the completion of a 4 billion euro refinancing package led by the French state, which owns 85 per cent of the company. “What the government and EDF need to go ahead is to refinance EDF, which will take a lot of time,” he said. “They are not yet in a position to be able to make a decision [on Hinkley Point].” The French government, which has said that a decision is due in or near September, is thought to be eyeing the sale of its stakes in Renault and airports at Nice and Lyons to fund a capital injection. On Tuesday, EDF reported a 6.7 per cent slide in first-quarter sales. In France, sales slumped by more than 600 million to 12.1 billion, while in the UK revenue fell 13.2 per cent to 2.93 billion euros.
Times 12th May 2016 read more »
The controversial Hinkley Point C nuclear power plant station is expected to be divisive at the annual meeting of French utility giant EDF later today. It was due to receive the final go-ahead today, but this was recently kicked back to September amid a tussle with unions over whether the company’s strained balance sheet can stomach the £18bn project. EDF said yesterday that it would make a final investment decision on Hinkley after the company has consulted its works council, but gave no date.
City AM 11th May 2016 read more »
The UK government has completely censored a key internal report into the proposed nuclear power plant at Hinkley Point because it could threaten international relations. In documents obtained by Energydesk via Freedom of Information, every single part of the Whitehall spending watchdog’s assessment of the troubled Hinkley project was redacted. Officials drew upon various legal clauses to justify withholding the information — including the exemption for potential of ‘harmful consequences’ for international relations. It’s hard to know which international relations officials had in mind: France or China? The redacted documents originally came from a review by the National Audit Office (NAO) of the UK’s major infrastructure projects. It found dozens of major UK infrastructure projects ‘at risk’ of significant delays and spiralling costs, but none of the 37 problematic projects – some of which may be ‘undeliverable’ – have been named. The Telegraph reported that Hinkley, along with the HS2 rail line and universal credit, could be on the list. The NAO has previously been sceptical about the timeline associated with the project. Now it’s not especially surprising that the government would withhold information on Hinkley; it has been notoriously secretive about it. But one of the key reasons for the redactions is interesting. The NAO cites the Environmental Information Regulation 12(5)(a), which says disclosure would an ‘adverse effect’ on international relations. The Hinkley deal, which has faced so many hiccups and controversies I don’t even know where to begin, involves at least two energy companies owned by foreign governments. EDF, which has still yet to sign off on the deal after high-profile resignations, internal opposition, financial woes and technical issues forced a series of delays, is majority owned by the French government. CGN, meanwhile, is controlled by the Chinese government. The exemption therefore makes sense, and we have been assured by FOI experts that it is appropriate in this instance. The invocation of this exemption serves to highlight two of the major issues with the Hinkley project: Transparency and Diplomacy. On the transparency front, it’s perhaps most galling the the government has not been clear about either the size of the subsidy offered to EDF and CGN or the cost of the project overall. Diplomatically speaking, the Hinkley project may have become in many ways ‘too big to fail’ — key to how the government, and Osborne in particular, sees its relationship with China. The Telegraph recently reported that a second Chinese state-owned nuclear company (CNNC) intends on investing in Hinkley.
Energydesk 12th May 2016 read more »