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Spending £4bn on a new nuclear station at Sizewell will not solve the government’s energy problems

Spending £4bn on a new nuclear station at Sizewell will not solve the government’s energy problems

Instead of sensible short-term measures to help those facing energy poverty, the government is focusing on a technology with a track record of failure Prospect Magazine 

ByNick Butler March 30, 2022In the face of surging energy prices and the prospect of more problems as Europe turns off Russian gas supplies, the UK government is struggling to find a coherent energy policy. The latest move, a £4bn investment in the proposed new nuclear station at Sizewell, is both a mistake and an irrelevance. Private investors who are being asked to stump up the majority of the £20bn total cost should politely decline the offer

……………………………………………………………..There are no instant solutions but on and offshore wind and solar power could be increased relatively quickly at a reasonable cost. The government could also accelerate its investment in developing the crucial technology for energy storage. This would capture more of the power produced by every wind turbine and limit the need for back-up plants (usually requiring more gas) to deal with the times when the wind is not blowing. On top of this, direct support for simple measures to enable people to use energy more efficiently would limit demand and cut bills.

Instead of such sensible short-term measures, ministers have chosen to focus on a technology which has a track record of failure and which, even if it could be made to work, will take at least a decade to provide any new electricity supplies………….
Of all the available options, however, the choice of EDF’s European Pressurised Reactor (EPR) technology is the worst from any perspective.

In 2009, EDF promised investors and the government at the time that the EPR to be built at Hinkley would produce power at a cost of less than £50 per MWhr. By Christmas 2017, we were told Hinkley would be onstream and providing the power to cook our Christmas turkeys. We were the turkeys for believing such claims.

Hinkley is still being built and 2027 now looks like the earliest date for production to begin. In France, the comparable EPR development at Flamanville—which was due onstream in 2013—is still unfinished, having experienced a series of crucial technical problems. In both cases the costs have overrun the original budgets by many billions. 

Hinkley, if it ever comes onstream, will charge consumers £92.50 per MWhr index linked from 2013 when the deal was agreed. While the costs of renewables such as offshore wind have fallen dramatically over the last decade, the costs of nuclear power from Hinkley have continued to rise. After almost a decade of inflation, that price has already risen to around £110. Who knows what it will be in 2027?…………..

March 31, 2022 - Posted by | ENERGY, politics, UK

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