One thing we have learnt this week- nuclear power

There has been lots going on in the energy world this week and even in the Christian world that is relevant to this book so it saddens me to have to return to nuclear power again.  The reason for this  is that Hinckley C has been waved through by the EU commission.  This looks like a very bad deal for the consumer at nearly 10p/unit for 35 years (inflation linked) and sets a precedent for other proposed nuclear power plants which would push up energy prices even more.  We have covered all this on the blog before and nuclear power in our book which brought us some criticism.  However, I see no reason to change our books stance, nuclear power is not the answer to climate change or energy security.  The technology appears expensive (installation cost) but if the cost per unit is really as small as I calculated the consumer is being ripped off*.

However according to the EU the cost of construction of these nuclear power plants has soared by 50% with almost the same in contingency payments being put on standby (surprise, surprise).  I will be very surprised if this does not require a taxpayer bail out mid-way through and there are huge construction delays.  Delays that have happened with the same reactor in France (x2) and Finland.  Then how EDF etc. will sell their power is also a mystery.  By the time these nuclear power plants have been built all renewables will be cheaper with the possible exception of offshore wind and very likely wave/tidal.  Even these could be on the way to being competitive.  All other forms of renewables will be subsidy free long before 2023.  We have also seen the first signs what I call the German conundrum here over the last week.  Briefly windpower overtook nuclear in output.  However,  that is not the main significance.  The problem of what to do with excess power was.  The wholesale price on the grid plunged to as low as 1p/unit.  We sold the excess to the French this time but without planning more energy storage we will have big problems in the future.  Nuclear power proponents will argue that nuclear provides more valuable base load.  But in 20 years time we are likely at times to have a vast excess of renewable electricity hitting the grid and its far from impossible to see nuclear power plants having to go off-line.  It takes weeks to restart them although EDF managed to arrange a payment even when off-line I believe as part of the deal.

A last thought it seems crazy to go ahead with new plants when we have not decided what to do with the waste…  From a Christian perspective this seems like very bad stewardship.

* does not include interest charges and cost of disposal of nuclear waste which the companies involved have to fund under the deal.

Neil

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