Five years on from the Fukushima, the human and environmental impacts of the disaster continue to grow in scale, writes UK Green MEP Molly Scott-Cato. This is a key reason why I am fighting so hard to prevent the new reactors at Hinkley point in Somerset from being built. Nuclear-power is not commercial; it cannot survive without government subsidy and never has been able to during the 60 years of its existence. That in itself should be enough to close the question of whether we wish to build new nuclear power stations in Europe. But somehow the commercially unviable deal to build at Hinkley has slipped between the scrutiny of commercial and political interests, and between the political authorities at Westminster and in Brussels. It is extraordinary that such a shaky deal could have got so far and endured for so long as it was never going to survive in a commercial market. For me one of the most shocking aspects of the deal was how little concern was raised by UK politicians. We are talking about a deal that involves two Chinese nuclear companies that are ultimately under the control of the Chinese Communist Party gaining access to our civilian nuclear industry. I am astonished that Conservative MPs are prepared to countenance such a risk to our national security. And this is to say nothing of the risk of suicide terrorism which we are left open to when nuclear stations are operational anywhere in the country. Commercially the Hinkley deal has been a dead duck for some time. In spite of the fact that EDF has been offered a price for electricity more than twice the current market price guaranteed for 35 years, the vast expense of developing nuclear power means that the capital investment is still beyond the company’s capacity. The resignation of chief financial officer Thomas Piquemal was a clear indication that he was coming under political pressure to make a decision that was against the commercial interests of the company. He refused. This led to a drop in the company’s share price and EDF has now looking to the French government for financial support directly related to Hinkley.
Euractiv 16th March 2016 read more »
Roughly five years ago, the British government and French utility EDF began a process to build another nuclear power plant at Hinkley Point, an investment still awaiting the approval of EDF’s board. As odd as it seems, the tragic disaster and botched business deal have a common thread (other than the fact that EDF shares sell at one-third of their 2011 price): the role of government in nuclear power. EDF’s CFO just quit, reportedly because he opposed the firm’s involvement in Hinkley Point (described by BBC as “the world’s most expensive power project”), which is a key component of David Cameron’s UK energy policy and of François Hollande’s plan to revive France’s nuclear industry. Yet despite being 85% state-owned and the world’s largest nuclear operator, with 58 plants in France alone, EDF required UK government guarantees for debt and power pricing before it signed on to the project. EDF then sold 33.5% of the project to a Chinese state nuclear company and may be seeking additional investors. (Holding more than half of Hinkley Point would require EDF to consolidate the project on its books, opening it up to investor scrutiny for decades.) Not even a company as large as EDF can take on a project like this alone. Does Hinkley Point, needing so much government aid to get off the ground, stand at the end of the road for big nuclear reactors? Maybe, but as American philosopher, Yogi Berra, said, “When you reach the fork in the road, take it.” Hinkley Point, we believe, is at that fork. One path leads to more strained efforts to make a gigantic public works project — with hidden and unknown costs and unspecified and dubious public benefits — look like a commercial business. (Maybe energy prices skyrocket and that private owner of the power plants keeps the benefits and the consumers and taxpayers still pay the fixed costs.) But the strain seems hardly worth the effort, since other means exist to produce low carbon, secure power at similar or lower costs.
USA Today 15th March 2016 read more »
Electricite de France SA remains committed to an 18 billion-pound ($25 billion) atomic-reactor project in the U.K. to help the state-controlled power company win more contracts from India to South Africa. EDF wants to make an investment decision on the two 1,600-megawatt EPR reactors at Hinkley Point as soon as possible, Xavier Ursat, the company’s head of new nuclear projects, said Wednesday at a conference in Paris. “It will be an exceptional opportunity and a business card for our industry to best address promising markets such as South Africa, India, part of Eastern Europe, and to build on our presence in China,” Ursat said.
Bloomberg 16th March 2016 read more »
An apparent ultimatum from the chief executive of EDF suggests he is confident that the French government will provide the additional financial support he wants for a plan to build nuclear reactors in Britain. Sources familiar with the company’s thinking say the letter to staff last week should be read as an attempt to mollify French unions who are resisting the Hinkley Point project, and also a sign that the government, which owns an 85 percent stake in EDF, has already agreed in principle to give this support. Levy, who has spent years working with ministers and in state-owned firms, is seen as too politically astute to make such public statements without government clearance. Several sources close to EDF expect a final investment decision will be made before the EDF shareholders meeting on May 12, and possibly at its March 30 board meeting. Levy did not specify what form state support could take, but insiders say one option would be for the state to take future dividends in shares rather than cash. Such a move last month bolstered EDF’s coffers by 1.8 billion euros.
Reuters 16th March 2016 read more »