The UK party conference season is upon us and the first lot up are the liberal democrats, who have for the first time endorsed nuclear power. Albeit in a “limited role”. Its disappointing but not surprising. I’ve spoken to a number of liberal democrats in the past who have made it plain they support nuclear power. Its also another example of them caving into the tories.
One thing I’ve never quite understood is why the political right is so keen on nuclear power. Nuclear plainly cannot be built without subsidy and the right should hate this. In fact the treasury and the chancellor don’t like it, for this reason, although he is keen on shale gas and is throwing tax breaks at that instead.
The current situation for nuclear new build in the UK is looking perilous to say the least. EDF have delayed and delayed on announcing whether they are going to go ahead with Hinckley C. Currently they are supposed to be announcing this in September. We are more than half way through and nothing, although with a lib dem being the energy and climate change secretary of state maybe the motion and conference presaged something. The other European companies as we wrote in our book have dropped out leaving the Chinese, but its very quiet on that front too. Maybe “limited role” means just Hinckley C? The problem is money, the nuclear power industry want huge subsidies for up to 40 years above 10p/unit, a figure the treasury are rightly very worried about crossing. They also are said to want this figure when not generating as well. Currently wave and tidal, solar and offshore wind get more than that. However the hope is to get offshore wind to 10p and within a few years (5 at max) solar will not require any subsidy at all. Wave and tidal are decades away from being major players. One problem is with nuclear power (amongst many) is how slow it is to build, removing it as an option to tackle climate change or energy security.
Meanwhile one country is pressing on with its nuclear power plans. Iran has announced today its going to build another nuclear reactor. The new President Rouhani is a breath of fresh air. Whilst I am suspicious of Iran’s motives we should put the diplomatic outrages against the US and UK diplomats since the revolution behind us, negotiate and lift sanctions for a short period in the meanwhile to give the moderates something to show for it. Pray for this. Maybe the answer is to get the Iranians to build Hinckley C…