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Political importance to world’s nuclear powers, of getting Hinkley project happening

text Hinkley cancelled

“The governments of the UK, France, and China have invested huge amounts of political capital in seeing Hinkley Point C come to the point of construction,” he said.

“This political capital lies with the public, convincing them that nuclear is part of a low-carbon future; [with the] the financial institutions, convincing them that when the UK makes a decision it sticks to it and hence the UK is an investable proposition; and with international governments—when the UK makes an international agreement it is binding.” 

The UK’s Next Nuclear Power Plant Could Collapse Before It’s Built  Motherboard, BY NICOLE KOBIE 15 March 2016 The UK could face power outages and missing emissions targets if the nuclear plant isn’t built – but that doesn’t mean it should be

Nuclear power stations are always controversial, but the UK’s proposed Hinkley Point C is particularly so. It may well be the most expensive object ever built; it guarantees higher power bills; and it’s already taken down executives, despite construction yet to start.

Hinkley Point C is set to be the first new nuclear power station built in the UK since 1995, poised to hit the grid as older nuclear sites and coal are ditched. However, its high costs are now leaving the project—and the future of the UK’s power supply—in danger.

Set to be built in Somerset by energy company EDF, which is majority-owned by the French government, there’s a chance Hinkley Point C may collapse before it’s built, and it’s nothing to do with protesters or environmental complaints. The problem with Hinkley is money: its costs risen to £18 billion ($25 billion)—with some projecting the final cost to be £24 billion ($34 billion)—and EDF has yet to finalise funding. Though it is expected to sign off on the project soon, financial analysts stressed last week that EDF can’t afford to build it.

The delays may already cause shortages in the UK’s electricity supply as it’s currently planned, which would naturally worsen if the project fails to get off the ground. The plant is supposed to start operations in 2025, when several older nuclear sites are decommissioned and the deadline hits for shutting down coal plants. Tony Roulstone, a professor setting up the University of Cambridge’s new MPhil in nuclear energy, believes the project will take ten years to construct, and given work isn’t expected to start until 2018 or 2019, will miss its deadline. “This will put the UK in a difficult position because they were counting on electricity from Hinkley by 2025,” Roulstone said.

“As some have said, the UK does not have a plan B,” he added. “The AGRs [advanced gas-cooled reactors, which make up most of the UK power stations] will close down by 2030 and at that stage we would have just one nuclear power station, Sizewell B.”

Hinkley Point C is expected to provide 7 percent of the UK’s energy. At the moment, about a fifth of the UK’s power comes from the eight currently-operating nuclear plants, but seven of those are due to be decommissioned. That, alongside theplanned closure of coal plants, which make up 22 percent of our power today, led the Institution of Mechanical Engineers to claim in a report we could see a potential supply gap of 40 to 55 percent by 2025…………..

EDF is set to make a final decision on funding the project soon, ahead of a board meeting in April, after multiple delays. However, back in February the project’s director, Chris Bakken, stepped down to “pursue new professional opportunities,” and more recently the company’s finance director, Thomas Piquemal, departed, with rumours suggesting he believed the project would damage EDF’s finances too much.

The board-level turmoil might actually be a sign that EDF’s remaining executives plan to approve the project, according to Martin Freer, director of the Birmingham Centre of Nuclear Education and Research and a professor of physics at the University of Birmingham. “My take on the resignation of the chief of finance signals that the HPC [Hinkley Point C] decision is being pushed through against the judgement of financial caution,” Freer told me. “EDF are at a point in their history where they roll the dice and hope to be lucky.”

Roulstone noted that the new plant’s construction cost is the same as EDF’s capitalisation. “Only major sales of assets and/or funding by the French government can rescue EDF and hence Hinkley,” he said………

Freer suggested that there’s more than power supply and emissions targets at risk. “The governments of the UK, France, and China have invested huge amounts of political capital in seeing Hinkley Point C come to the point of construction,” he said. “This political capital lies with the public, convincing them that nuclear is part of a low-carbon future; [with the] the financial institutions, convincing them that when the UK makes a decision it sticks to it and hence the UK is an investable proposition; and with international governments—when the UK makes an international agreement it is binding.” http://motherboard.vice.com/en_uk/read/the-uks-next-nuclear-power-plant-could-collapse-before-its-built

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March 16, 2016 - Posted by | 2 WORLD, politics, politics international, UK

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