Plans to build an £18 billion nuclear power station at Hinkley Point in Somerset could be halted by the industry regulator over safety concerns, The Times has learnt. The nuclear watchdog is yet to give final approval to the French-led project amid increasing worries about the reactor’s steel dome. “We have to give permission at every level,” a spokeswoman for the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) said. “It could still not go ahead.” The regulator said that the design of the French reactor, which is not yet active anywhere in the world, had been cleared for use in Britain but that the company retained powers to stop the project at any point under the terms of its 2012 licence. A spokeswoman said that British regulators were also monitoring the situation at Flamanville, a site on the Normandy coast where EDF is building a reactor with the same design as at Hinkley Point. France’s nuclear regulator, ASN, warned last year of “very serious anomalies” and weak spots in the steel reactor vessel being constructed at Flamanville. “We have been following it closely,” said the ONR, adding that British regulators had been in regular discussion with ASN and had travelled to France for regular briefings. “It is ongoing.” Tim Yeo, formerly an MP and chairman of the energy and climate change committee, said it was highly unlikely that the ONR would grant final consent for the reactor at Hinkley Point until the French regulator had resolved the problems at Flamanville. Another nuclear industry source agreed, saying: “That would be impossible. It would just get murdered politically.” The French regulator raised the alarm when it found high concentrations of carbon, which weakens the resilience of steel and its ability to prevent cracking, in the reactor dome at Flamanville. It said that it would decide later this year what action EDF needed to take. Experts said that if the problem could not be resolved EDF would have to break the dome out of the reactor building, which is near completion. The Flamanville plant is already years behind schedule and its budget has swelled from €3 billion (£2.3 billion) to €10.5 billion.
Times 9th March 2016 read more »
George Osborne was so desperate for a new nuclear power station at Hinkley Point that he was prepared to agree a deal that would have meant customers paid even more for electricity, a former cabinet minister has claimed. The chancellor “would have shaken hands with EDF [the French company building the station] at a higher price” because he was so keen that the Somerset-based plant should be approved, according to Sir Edward Davey, the former Liberal Democrat energy secretary. Sir Edward led negotiations with EDF over the Â£18 billion project, which has been hit by the resignations of the French company’s finance director and the project’s director in recent weeks. That has led to intense scrutiny of the deal signed between the government and EDF in October 2013 under which the company would be guaranteed £92.50 for every megawatt hour of electricity, plu s compensation for inflation.
Times 9th March 2016 read more »
Ed Davey: Should Britain abandon the Hinkley Point C nuclear power plant? Is it too expensive? My answers are “no” and “no”, which puts me at odds with The Times and many analysts. First, consider the deal reached by the last coalition government in which I was energy secretary. After much debate, my department, No 10 and the Treasury agreed that EDF, the company in charge of the project, should be paid £92.50 for every megawatt hour of electricity produced by the plant. Interestingly, the Conservatives, most notably the chancellor, would have shaken hands with EDF at a higher price. George Osborne was desperate for infrastructure, particularly if the Chinese might invest. They’re not European, you see. Indeed, my determination to get the price lower had Tories thinking I was trying to scupper a nuclear deal. But my job was to ensure there would be no special favours for nuclear. We had to deliver a price below £90/MWh to do that. Which I did. Because if a new nuclear power plant at EDF’s Sizewell C site goes ahead, the price for Hinkley C falls to £89.50/MWh.
Times 9th March 2016 read more »
Letter Dr Thomas Rose Department of Science and Technology Studies, UCL: In addition to Matt Ridley’s financial arguments there are safety aspects. Hinkley Point C is claimed to be especially safe, with one core melt accident per reactor in 1.6 million years — better than older reactors with one in 20,000 or one in 50,000 years. However, our empirical research just published in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientist Scientist suggests one core melt accident in 3,700 years for present reactors. Furthermore, whether “small is beautiful” improves safety is questionable: smaller units mean more units. Interestingly, nuclear power cannot solve the carbon dioxide problem. Recent research has shown that the carbon dioxide footprint of nuclear power is comparable with that of a gas power station.
Times 9th March 2016 read more »
French utility EDF said it would push ahead with a plan to build nuclear reactors in Britain, despite its finance director quitting over the risk he sees it poses to the company’s future. France and Britain also pledged their support for EDF’s 18 billion ($26 billion) Hinkley Point project in southwest England, which their leaders last week called a pillar of the countries’ relationship. With the nuclear industry in the doldrums following the 2011 Fukushima disaster and fierce competition from Russian firms in emerging markets, the UK contract is the only real market for France’s nuclear industry and critical for Areva, which designed the reactors EDF plans to build in Britain.
Reuters 7th March 2016 read more »
Burnham-on-sea.com 8th March 2016 read more »
Management upheaval at EDF has exposed Britain’s reliance on the French energy group’s ability to deliver a planned 18 billion pound nuclear power plant in southwest England.
Reuters 8th March 2016 read more »
The uncertainty engulfing the Government’s flagship project to build a super nuclear reactor at Hinkley Point demonstrates the folly of Britain outsourcing its energy supplies to foreign powers. In spite of a hugely subsidised electricity price offered by the Government to EDF and its Chinese partner, there is still no timetable for the final approval of the £18billion project.
Daily Mail 8th March 2016 read more »
Delays, rising costs and now a rift at the top of EDF, the giant French company we are relying on to build a new Nuclear power station to replace this one at Hinkey Point. The chief financial officer Thomas Piquemal, is reported to have warned that EDF’S future could be jeopardised by the Hinkley Project, his resignation raising more doubts over the power station itself. Tom Burke: “What’s quite clear now is that there is a real internal debate inside EDF. We have now had two senior people leave within a month, both clearly having trouble convincing their colleagues not to go ahead in the direction that their colleagues want to go. So I think that this is a really serious question mark against the whole future of Hinkley. ”
Tom Burke 7th March 2016 read more »
Strange as it may seem, there is now a plausible argument for anti-nuclear campaigners to call for Hinkley C to be built. Why? Because the financial catastrophe that would, as a result, envelope, and destroy, EDF would mean the end of prospects for new nuclear power in Europe. EDF are now in the position whereby they can only build the plant if they finance it on their balance sheet since the Treasury (in an argument that formed a key basis of their EU state aid application) will not sanction a loan guarantee before a European EPR has been seen to work. This criterion cannot be met until 2019 at least. Even then if similar cost overruns occurred in Hinkley as they have done in France and Finland, that would sink EDF anyway, even with a loan guarantee. EDF face bankruptcy even with their escalating liabilities from their EPR construction disasters as well as increasing costs of refurbishing their existing nuclear fleet. Don’t imagine for a moment that the Chinese will come to the rescue. They have no further political interest other than they have gone so far, and certainly don’t want to pay for any costs overruns on the project.
Dave Toke’s Blog 8th March 2016 read more »
The government is in something of a hole over Hinkley C. It’s a hole entirely of its own making, because since David Cameron and George Osborne came to power they have had numerous hints that it resembled a turkey more than a golden goose. And they’ve chosen to ignore them all. Even the politics are making less and less sense, with a range of high-profile Conservative thinkers including the Chancellor’s father-in-law Lord Howell (‘one of the worst deals ever’), Boris Johnson (‘disgraceful’), and now Matt Ridley (‘white elephant’) condemning the project’s earth-wateringly high cost. The government is painting itself into a corner here: the more it protests that it needs Hinkley for security of supply, the harder it becomes to let the project go.The security of supply argument is, to use the technical term, balls. Even in an impossibly optimistic world it’s impossible to see the first current flowing before 2025 – and by then, all of the UK’s coal-fired power stations will have closed, assuming the coal phase-out decision announced last year is confirmed. That’s the security of supply issue – and it can’t be solved by a power station that’s still being built. Baseload generation may rapidly be coming to an end anyway, which makes the government’s plan of securing Hinkley as a source of baseload electricity until 2085 (60 years of operating life after completion in 2025) seem suspect at best. The real prize for President Xi is not Hinkley, but Bradwell. On this Essex peninsula, adjacent to the Magnox station that ceased operating in 2002, China is to build its first nuclear reactors in Western Europe, provided they meet safety standards. Securing the approval of western regulators is of course very helpful if China is to become the dominant international supplier of nuclear reactors, just as it plans to dominate the global wind turbine and solar panel markets. It’s looking more and more likely that EDF will at some point either pull the plug unilaterally – politically tough, given that it would signal the end of its EPR programme, but perhaps unavoidable given its financial peril – or ask the government to put it out of its misery. But what would happen to Bradwell, China’s essential project, if EDF scrapped Hinkley? These two power stations were after all parts of the same bilateral nuclear deal. The only arrangement, frankly, that suits all parties politically would be for China to take over the Hinkley project and offer to build its own reactors there in addition to Bradwell. the Chinese design will probably be submitted in 2016 anyway; and as it’s based on the Toshiba-Westinghouse AP1000, which the ONR is already looking at, it might not prove a particularly arduous process. Sure, in that case Hinkley might not be up and running precisely by 2025 – but who would place any money on that as things stand anyway?
Business Green 8th March 2016 read more »
ECIU 7th March 2016 read more »
The mystery of Britain’s love affair with new nuclear: If EDF and the French and British governments do announce next month that construction will proceed, it will be at a massive cost to the British taxpayer. The British government faces serious questions as to why it is persisting. To understand the seriousness of these questions we need to look at the history of Britain’s enthusiasm for this particular plant and technology. In 2010, Hinkley Point was one of eight sites identified by the government for new nuclear power stations. This followed a new enthusiasm by Tony Blair’s Labour government for new nuclear power following almost two decades of disinterest in the subject following the Chernobyl disaster. Commentators at the time credited Tony Blair’s conversion to lobbying by the nuclear industry using the argument that nuclear power could help to fight global warming. David Kennedy, the watchdog Climate Change Commission’s chief executive, went on to talk of the country’s carbon emission reduction target of a 90 per cent cut in power sector emissions being delivered by 40 gigawatts of new nuclear, wind and clean coal and gas power – equivalent to 25 large power stations. why does the British government instead not aggressively pursue energy efficiency, when it is proven to be far more cost-effective than investing in new generating plant, especially nuclear power? Only last week the government’s own National Infrastructure Commission issued a report, Smart Power, arguing that a smarter use of power built around three innovations, interconnection, storage, and demand flexibility, could save consumers up to £8 billion (AU$15.3b) a year by 2030, help the UK meet its 2050 carbon targets, and secure the UK’s energy supply for generations. In the same week, a report from UNEP shows that the potential for energy policy to increase energy efficiency in industry alone is massive. In a webinar to promote the report’s release, co-author Kit Oung made the overwhelming case, based on research: “A report from the University of Cambridge has said that 73 per cent of energy used in industry can be saved using currently available technical know-how and technology. This could result in 22 power stations not needing to be built in 2020 if just between 21 and 47 per cent of those savings were to be achieved in the UK. And yet, according to the International Energy Agency less than one per cent of global average energy savings are achieved by industrial energy efficiency around the world.” The above statistics, taken together, point to a complete failure to use economic and scientific evidence in the design and implementation of a sensible UK energy policy that would put security, efficiency, emission reductions and value for money at its heart. It’s unlikely that we will get a proper answer to either of these questions from the British Government. So we must supply our own. As another of the report’s authors, Stephen Fawkes, puts it: “The problem is, politicians like big projects. By contrast, energy efficiency, although much more beneficial, is almost invisible, and is certainly lots of small projects.” And energy projects don’t come much bigger than nuclear power. As Jimmy Cliff might have put it: “the bigger they come, the harder they fall.”
The Fifth Estate 8th March 2016 read more »
Lisa Nandy: The Energy Bill must promote these three things: gas-fired power stations; a national CCS strategy; and onshore wind projects with local support. Together they amount to a plan to help close our looming energy gap. There is no single silver bullet to solve Britain’s energy crisis. We still need a mix of gas, nuclear and renewables. Most of all we need a strategy. By unravelling plan A without a plan B, we’re all left guessing how the lights will stay on or how we will be cooking our turkeys next Christmas.
Telegraph 7th March 2016 read more »
Calls made to scrap ‘worst ever’ Hinkley Point nuclear plant and save the taxpayer £17BN. Dominic Whittome, energy consultant at Mainline Energy, said: “The subsidies just look staggering. “The government just didn’t know what they were doing. It’s the worst deal I’ve ever seen.” He suggested using cheaper technology, developed by rival tech firm Hitachi, which has already started generating electricity in Japan.
Express 8th March 2016 read more »
Management upheaval at EDF in France has exposed Britain’s reliance on the French energy group’s ability to deliver a planned £18bn (€23bn) nuclear power plant in southwest England.
Irish Independent 9th March 2016 read more »
The first concrete has yet to be poured in the construction of the £18 billion (€23.2 billion) Hinkley Point C project. But already it is turning into a nuclear disaster for both the British and French governments – and their nation’s taxpayers. Martin Young, an analyst at RBC Capital Markets, summed up the views of many, saying that for EDF to proceed with the British nuclear project would be “verging on insanity”.
Irish Times 9th March 2016 read more »
The minister who struck a deal to guarantee the French firm EDF would be paid nearly three times the present wholesale price of electricity to build the Hinkley Point nuclear power station now works for a lobbying firm that advises the energy company. The £18billion deal with EDF to build the power station in Somerset – which would be the most expensive in the world and would generate 6 per cent of Britain’s energy – was described by one energy expert as the ‘worst deal I’ve ever seen’. It was announced by the then Lib Dem Energy Secretary Edward Davey in 2013 and he hailed the project as the first time a nuclear power station was being built without money from the UK taxpayer.
Daily Mail 9th March 2016 read more »
The chief financial officer of French state-owned EDF has sent shockwaves through Somerset after resigning over the company’s plans to build a new £18billion nuclear plant at Hinkley Point.
Western Daily Press 8th March 2016 read more »
Ed Davey, the energy secretary who signed off on the deal, said on Tuesday: “If this was such a raw deal for Britain, why is it taking so long for EDF to sign off on it?” Ministers and EDF argue that the project is good value for money compared to the alternatives, partly because offshore wind is more expensive, currently being signed off at a subsidy cost of Â£120 per megawatt hour. Critics point out that both onshore wind and solar – for which the government has recently cut funding – are cheaper, at Â£50-85 per MWh. Others advocate new gas-fired power instead. But that would sacrifice the low-carbon benefit of nuclear power and could tie bill-payers into fluctuating gas prices.
FT 8th March 2016 read more »
Energy policy in Britain has been a self-destructive mess for as long as I can remember, and by the look of it, things may be about to get messier still. The resignation of Thomas Piquemal as chief financial officer at EDF has been widely depicted as another, potentially fatal, blow for the planned Hinkley Point nuclear power station in Somerset. Would that it were so, for this eye-wateringly expensive and wholly unnecessaryfolie de grandeur has long deserved to be scrapped.Unfortunately, Mr Piquemal’s dramatic exit may, by removing one of the last remaining obstacles to the required project finance, act in precisely the opposite manner. Mr Piquemal has been an opponent of the £18bn investment all along, arguing that EDF can ill afford such a high risk project at a time when the same technology is facing multiple challenges and cost overruns at Flamanville in Northern France and Olkiluoto in Finland.
Telegraph 8th March 2016 read more »