Despite the majority of the British public being opposed to a new nuclear power station at Hinkley Point C, according to various surveys, Theresa May has approved the £18bn project. The arguments against it are well understood – cost, safety and national security. On the first point, George Osborne, the former chancellor, was on the radio supporting the project last week, claiming that the costs would be borne by French group EDF and its Chinese partner CGN. That is disingenuous at best, misleading at worst. EDF and CGN expect to make a profit from their investment and the National Audit Office has said the project could cost taxpayers almost £30bn in subsidies to these companies. Other factors May had to consider when making a final call about whether to go ahead with Hinkley included the diplomatic repercussions of scrapping a project that was significant to France and China. The shadow of Brexit also hung over the decision: this is not a time to be damaging relationships with two key trading partnerships. Britain’s energy strategy beyond Hinkley is another matter. It was surprising that alongside the government’s announcement that the nuclear power plant would go ahead there were suggestions emanating from Whitehall and Beijing that similar projects in Bradwell, Essex, and Sizewell, Suffolk, were also on track. The Bradwell B project is particularly noteworthy because CGN will design the reactor and own two-thirds of it. The Chinese company plans to submit its design for Bradwell within weeks. May and her government must seriously think about whether they want more nuclear power stations popping up around the country. While the decision on whether to proceed with Hinkley became wrapped up with diplomatic issues, Bradwell and Sizewell must only be approved if the government genuinely believes they are the best solution to Britain’s energy issues. Most experts would say they are not. Stopping Bradwell and Sizewell would not be straightforward: one of the main reasons that CGN supported Hinkley Point was so it could develop its own power station at Bradwell. However, it is possible that the Office for Nuclear Regulation and the government could, for example, reject CGN’s design for the reactor. Or the Chinese could be offered the opportunity to invest in another high-technology project on attractive terms, such as High Speed 2. So, while Hinkley could finally become a reality, the debate about nuclear power stations is far from over.
Guardian 18th Sept 2016 read more »
Paul Dorfman, senior research fellow at University College London’s Energy Institute, argues that the EPR can be regarded as “a failed reactor”. He says: “I think it’s generally understood now that the EPR is too complex to be built on time or to cost – you simply cannot do it.” He adds that the other two reactors that will be put into the UK’s new nuclear units, the Toshiba-Westinghouse AP1000 and the GE Hitachi Advanced Boiling Water Reactor, also have issues with their designs. The backers of Hinkley C argue that, although it’s a stretch to call what happened at Olkiluoto and Flamanville teething problems, that is basically what they are. Diane Coyle, professor of economics at Manchester University, says: “The people at EDF Energy have learned the lessons from Flamanville, and the two EPRs that are due to be installed in China’s Taishan power station are still due to start up next year.” Ben Britton, a research fellow in advanced nuclear engineering at Imperial College London, echoes this, and adds that the French and Chinese engineers at Hinkley will be the ideal team to tackle EPR five and six. “The Chinese have built very similar designs in Taishan, they have done cold tests, and they are likely to start switching on the reactors in the next four months,” he says. As for EDF, failure simply isn’t an option. “Getting Hinkley right really matters to them: they’ve got a huge amount invested and they’ve had many boardroom discussions and engineering and technical discussions about this project, and they’re very confident about taking it forward. I would take that as a good sign that it’s a horse worth betting on.”
Construction Manager 18th Sept 2016 read more »