There are still a number of key obstacles facing EDF and HMG before the fiasco that is Hinkley Point C begins to unravel.
EDF and Areva are facing significant challenges in France due to the flawed and falsified nuclear parts in at least 18 current operational French nuclear plant. EDF/Areva have already installed a flawed reactor pressure vessel in Flammanville – and it looks like they will have to rip it out and start again at huge cost. And then there’s the details of the UK loan guarantees which link Hinkley to the successful demonstration and first power generation from Flammanville. And let’s not forget the Austrian and German utilities legal challenge to the UK government subsidising Hinkley that is making it’s way through the EC Courts.
Although the nuclear industry are crowing that this heralds a new nuclear dawn in the UK – the reality really is otherwise. As the environmental think-tank E3G point out:
- Renewable costs are tumbling dramatically – Dong Energy, the world’s largest wind energy company, say they could provide all Hinkley’s electricity sooner and at lower cost. Offshore wind costs are continuing to fall. Solar power is now also cheaper than Hinkley, having fallen by half in the last five years. From almost no solar panels in the UK, a third of a Hinkley has been added since 2010. Half of that was delivered in just 18 months.
- Electricity demand is falling, the National Grid are slashing their forecasts for the need for big centralised generation (ie nuclear)
- The National Infrastructure Commission reports that inter-connectors could supply 2-3 Hinkleys by 2025; and investment in storage and smart grids would provide the equivalent of 4 Hinkleys by 2030 and save £8 billion.
Everyone knows that Hinkley will be a white elephant. The decision to go ahead is a set-back – but the tide is turning strongly against nuclear. It comes down to the practical reality of costs – and the smart money is fleeing nuclear.
The reality is that is that the nuclear industry and the UK government have had such a huge media/press/policy/legal battle to get Hinkley through – this has real implications for any proposed following reactors (such as the AP 1000, ABWR, and Hualong 1), who must expect the same level of resistance, and may not be so lucky. The UK Government is now thinking about subsiding new nuclear, but the economically hard-pressed UK public may well have a different view.
The renewable evolution (and all it entails for job creation, markets, CO2 reduction, and the environment) is coming over the hill at a gallup – whilst the nuclear industry is forever mired in huge construction and waste costs.
Dr Paul Dorfman
Founder, Nuclear Consulting Group