Hinkley C falters

It is looking like Hinkley C is finally dead.  With a lot of other stuff in the news such as the EU referendum the subject of EDF’s decision to delay the process for 3 more years has not been covered as it should be.  Officially EDF have merely “postponed” the start of construction until 2019.  This will make the reactor a mere 13 or so years late and that is at the start of construction!  That is also looking very tight on the 2030 cut-off date at which the UK government can cancel the whole thing without paying EDF.  The reason EDF are not going ahead they cannot raise the money.  EDF is under intense financial pressure.  The reactors its building in France are way over budget and behind schedule.  There is a problem with the pressure vessel at at Flamanville in France, where it contains too much carbon.  This may render it unsafe and could even sink the project.  The same problem seems to have happened in China with two reactors of the same design which are also delayed.  In addition at least €100 billion needs spending on the existing fleet of nuclear reactors in France.  EDF has spent £2 billion on the Hinkley C project so far and is supposed to be trying to get this money back.

The question is what this means for UK energy policy, most of which has been scrapped since the general election.  As I wrote about a few weeks ago the contracts for difference is not yielding any new plants, old coal fired plants are closing fast and there is no sign of any fracking.  The only kit the energy companies are interested in building is off shore wind, with the largest plant in the world being announced the other week.  Hitachi seems to be moving ahead to a certain extent with its reactor project in Wales.  One possibility being floated is the Chinese buying the EDF stake in the Hinkley C project in this way EDF getting its money back.  Then the Chinese would build their reactor design.  This would mean further delays since this design would need licensing.  It does look to me that Nuclear in the UK and therefore the West is dead.   Would the Chinese really want to take the risk with this project and the others they are supposed to be considering?  Hinkley C was supposed to be the flagship.  And all the time renewables are getting cheaper than nuclear.

Finally I must say our book came for a lot of criticism from someone at the world nuclear association.  You can see the review on our books Amazon page.  I see no reason to alter our view about nuclear power in the least, in fact exactly the opposite.  I repeat a reactor that is 13 years late before construction starts!

Neil

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