To directly compare Calder Hall to EDF’s project at Hinkley Point in Somerset would be unfair. For one thing, Calder Hall was tiny, generating less than a tenth of the electricity of the proposed £18 billion plant at Hinkley Point, nearly 300 miles to the south. For another, the engineers behind it had a secret motivation to work swiftly. As well as providing electricity to illuminate nearby Workington, Calder Hall helped to produce plutonium for Britain’s nuclear weapons programme (a fact the Queen politely omitted from her speech at the opening ceremony in 1956). Nevertheless, ten years after Tony Blair first publicly threw his weight behind plans for a revival of Britain’s nuclear industry, it’s worth asking why the UK’s drive to construct a fleet of new reactors is stuck in the starting blocks. It’s not as if there is a lack of political will, but, after nearly a decade of unflinching government support for new UK reactors, not a single brick has been laid. Next spring, Korea Electric Power Corporation will flick the switch on the first of four new reactors under construction at a site in the United Arab Emirates. On time and on budget, once complete Kepco’s Barakah power plant on the Persian Gulf will generate 5.6 gigawatts of electricity, almost double the capacity of Hinkley Point. With an estimated price tag of £17 billion, Barakah isn’t exactly cheap, but the project still looks compelling and better value than what is proposed in Somerset, where EDF warned this month that costs could rise to nearly £21 billion.
Times 23rd May 2016 read more »