This week the British and Chinese governments have signed a deal with the French to build a new “EPR” reactor at Hinkley C. Yes its the ongoing saga of Hinkley C again! And it looks like remaining a saga. The EPR reactor or European Pressurised Water reactor to give it its full title, is a “third generation” tweak of the design that went wrong at Three Mile Island. To say at the outset I think this deal that has been cooked up is a really bad one- so do loads of pro-nuclear people, a lot of people in the city of London etc. Even the chancellors father in law who was an energy minister thinks it stinks (Sunday lunch looks like being interesting for some years to come). The reasons why people are against it include; the cost, which is enormous (certainly the most expensive power plant ever built), the involvement of the Chinese who have somehow been persuaded to pay for a third of it and the reactors track record.
This last issue is worth looking at. Since Chernobyl democracies haven’t been awash with new reactor orders so all the manufacturers have small order books. This means to be fair the pool of EPR projects to consider is small to start with. However, every single EPR is behind schedule and over cost.
Finland Olkiluoto 3 construction started in 2005, due to go online 2009, now said to be 2018 (don’t hold your breath). It was built for a fixed cost which Areva its manufacturer has tried to get out of. Legal action continues between TVO (the consortium who ordered it) and Areva (I believe both ways).
France Flamanville 3. Like Finland mistakes in construction have made this reactor way over schedule and cost. Construction started in 2007, due to go online 2011, now 2018.
China two EPR’s being built. Construction of one EPR started in 2009, currently running 2 years late, may come on line this year.
Its a lamentable record, does not install confidence. There are still doubts that this Hinkley project will go ahead. EDF have said every year since 2008 its going to. However it does seem much more likely to at least start. I’ll look at some the other problems and issues in another post.