Every government makes mistakes, but it takes a really special administration to make a massive blunder and then go on to make the same fundamental error again, just months later. The blunder is the £20bn Hinkley Point nuclear power station, which Theresa May bottled out of scrapping, and which will force UK customers to buy some of the most expensive electricity on the planet — an inflation-linked £105 per MWh in today’s money. Despite this fabulous, guaranteed price, the project is so financially toxic that it threatened to break EDF, its contractor. It seems that Hitachi, which fancies building a £16bn nuclear power station at Wyfla in north Wales, has noticed and wants us to share the risk. Ominously, it seems we are going to. The Hitachi design is said to be better than EDF’s, in that there is an actual working example, and the guaranteed price is rumoured to be about £15 per MWh less than Hinkley’s (though still wildly expensive). Yet if even this is not attractive enough for Hitachi to go ahead unaided, is any big nuclear plant worth building? While wind and solar costs are falling, ever-stricter safety rules continue to drive up those for nuclear. Changing patterns of use and advancing storage technology also undermine the “base load” case on which nuclear is built. Elsewhere in the land of white elephants, here’s the Swansea barrage, optimistically priced at £1.3bn and recently described by business secretary Greg Clark as “an untried technology with high capital costs and significant uncertainties”. Pulling the plug on that would at least avoid a hat-trick of terrible energy policy decisions.
FT 7th June 2018 read more »
Fred Pearce: Pumping £5bn into a new plant in north Wales as a way to fight climate change is a solution at odds with the rest of the world. or once, ministers have put their money where their mouth is – into taking another stab at nuclear power. This week the business secretary, Greg Clark, announced plans to pump £5bn into a new nuclear power station at Wylfa in north Wales. It was a reversal of a longstanding Conservative policy not to underwrite nuclear construction. So why the sudden enthusiasm? And what does Clark know that the rest of the world does not? For almost everywhere else, governments and corporations are pulling the plug on nuclear. Even in a world fearful of climate change, in which nations have promised to wean themselves off fossil fuels by the mid-century, almost no one wants to touch nuclear. Nuclear power today is a largely friendless industry: uneconomic without heavy government support, uninsurable, stuck with a military heritage from hell, overtaken by cleaner competitors, beset by waste problems that no one has resolved, and always vulnerable to public panic after the Chernobyl or Fukushima accidents. Some believe it may have a future when the waste problems are resolved and if radical new reactor designs emerge. That may be so. But the truth is that in the 60 years since the bomb-makers first promised us “atoms for peace”, nuclear power has gone from a sunrise to a sunset industry. Only the British government seems not to realise it.
Guardian 8th June 2018 read more »
Developers of new nuclear power plant projects in the UK agree that an experienced supply chain, together with a stable reactor design, will be key to significantly driving down construction costs, delegates heard at the Global Nuclear Investment Summit held yesterday at London’s Guildhall. The event was hosted by global nuclear energy financial services provider Ocean Nuclear and the Financial Times. Under a strategic investment agreement signed in October 2016, China General Nuclear (CGN) agreed to take a 33.5% stake in EDF Energy’s Hinkley Point C project in Somerset, as well as jointly develop new nuclear power plants at Sizewell in Suffolk and Bradwell in Essex. The Hinkley Point C and Sizewell C plants will be based on France’s EPR reactor technology, while the new plant at Bradwell in Essex will feature the Hualong One design. Robert Davies, chief operating officer at CGN UK, told the event that the focus should be on how the industry can best deliver new nuclear in the UK. CGN, he said, has identified four key issues in keeping down the cost of constructing new nuclear power plants. Firstly, the design of a plant should be fixed. Secondly, you should use experienced engineering, procurement and construction contractors, as well as develop an experienced supply chain. Costs are also reduced by buildings lots of units, he said. Referring to a study by the OCED, he said if you build six units, the price of the sixth unit will be 60% less than that of the first. Fourthly, he said the price should be fixed or capped.
World Nuclear News 8th June 2018 read more »