The prospect that Toshiba will withdraw from the nuclear power business after its embarrassing and expensive experience with the American company Westinghouse poses a serious problem for the UK’s plans to make new nuclear the core of future energy supply. If those plans are to be delayed, as looks almost certain now, the government will have to come up with an alternative. Hinkley Point is still in doubt because a new French government after elections in May could decide that subsidies to the state-owned company hoping to build Hinkley are unsustainable. EDF is deeply indebted and its finances have continued to deteriorate since its finance director, Thomas Piquemal, resigned last spring. A recapitalisation of the company is essential and for that to succeed drastic change is necessary. The management, imposed by President François Hollande in 2014, could be turfed out and a radical restructuring launched. The questions around the technical integrity of the EPR reactor and the ability of the company to complete a construction project remain unresolved. If Hinkley itself is in doubt so, too is Sizewell. Beyond Hinkley the next planned project is at Wlyfa in North Wales. Hitachi is in better shape to lead the project, and the technology is simpler. But the financing of the construction remains an open question. The Japanese government could provide funding, perhaps as part of a restructuring of the country’s nuclear sector which brings together the scattered elements of expertise from different companies, but may be reluctant to do so if the UK itself remains adamantly opposed to putting in any public money. And then there’s China. China’s nuclear design is being examined by the UK’s industry regulator. That will take four to five years. All this suggests a serious risk of delay to the programme. That will be compounded by Britain’s decision to leave Euroatom. Additional capacity backed by investment has to be put in place to cover a gap that will open up as each old station is closed. Plan B is urgently required.
FT 6th Feb 2017 read more »
Global nuclear power capacity grew slightly in 2016, writes Jim Green, but it was more a dead cat bounce than the long-awaited nuclear ‘renaissance’. Meanwhile, nuclear utilities are in crisis, and no major commodity had a worse 2016 than uranium.
Renew Economy 6th Feb 2017 read more »