Britain’s nuclear industry faces sharp U-turn. Given the balance of cost and risk, a renewables-based energy system now looks a safer bet than building new nuclear power plants. With China’s investment in future British nuclear projects looking uncertain given the increasingly fraught relations between the two countries, the conversation has turned to new funding models that rely on taxpayers picking up the bill. “If there is such a thing as evidence-based UK energy policy, then a new large nuclear plant looks more or less [to be] a thing of the past,” says Professor Paul Dorfman, a nuclear industry expert . One of the few viable alternatives to Chinese investment is the so-called regulated asset base (RAB) model, which would add a fixed charge to consumers’ energy bills to finance the development of new nuclear power plants. The Government is currently considering using the RAB model for future projects, and industry sources say that it is likely to publish an official study in the autumn outlining its decision on the matter. Since Osborne’s declaration about Chinese funding for nuclear energy in 2013, the UK has only made headway on one project, the £22.5bn Hinkley Point C nuclear plant in Somerset. The UK Government has repeatedly insisted that nuclear power is central to its clean energy ambitions. Nuclear offers the benefit of being highly reliable when compared to renewable energy such as wind and solar, despite the latter two being vastly cheaper. According to the engineering group Atkins, nuclear power will be essential to Britain’s hopes of being net zero in the next three decades. But despite an insistence that countries and companies are queuing up to build new nuclear plants in Britain, the list of those who can actually afford to do so is limited to just China. If ties between Westminster and Beijing continue to deteriorate, Chinese funding may no longer be an option. With the French government becoming increasingly irritated with EDF over its hefty financial losses – going so far as to fine it £4.5m for misleading investors over the cost of Hinkley Point C – that option also looks like it may have run out of road. “Given the balance of cost and risk, a renewables-based system looks a safer bet at present than constructing multiple new nuclear power plants,” the National Infrastructure Assessment (NIC), a government advisory body, said in its most recent report on the sector.
Telegraph 3rd Sept 2020 read more »