06:28 GMT +322 August 2018
Listen Live
    Nuclear power plant

    British Nuclear Power Plans Thrown Into Chaos After Surprise Gov't Delay

    © Flickr / lee vickers
    Europe
    Get short URL
    136

    Plans to build a new nuclear power station in Britain have been thrown into disarray after the government announced it would reconsider the proposals just hours after the project had been given the financial go-ahead by the French Government.

    French energy giant EDF has been working on building a new nuclear power station at Hinkley Point, in south west England for years. It was initially invited to put forward its proposals in 2012, but its startup has been delayed because of financing and technological problems. 

    Hinkley Point C CGI view
    © Photo : EDF Energy
    Hinkley Point C CGI view

    EDF finally gave the financial approval at a board meeting on Thursday night (July 28) and its chief executive Vincent De Rivaz had been due sign documents and hold a press conference in England Friday (July 29). The project's Chinese backers had also been expected to attend.

    However, in a surprise move, British Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Secretary, Greg Clark said the government would postpone a final decision on the project.

    "The UK needs a reliable and secure energy supply and the government believes that nuclear energy is an important part of the mix. The government will now consider carefully all the component parts of this project and make its decision in the early autumn."

    Justin Bowden, the GMB union's national secretary for energy said:

    "[UK Prime Minister} Theresa May's decision to review the go-ahead on Hinkley Point C is bewildering and bonkers. After years of procrastination, what is required is decisive action not dithering and more delay. This unnecessary hesitation is putting finance for the project in doubt and 25,000 new jobs at risk immediately after Brexit."

    Contractors on site at Hinkley Point C, May 2014.
    © Photo : EDF Energy
    Contractors on site at Hinkley Point C, May 2014.

    ​The decision comes at a difficult time for relations between Britain and France, following the referendum on British membership of the EU, which resulted in Brexit. The nuclear deal will do much to retain strong ties and may act as a bargaining chip in negotiations on the UK's future relationship with the EU. The delay has added further uncertainty to the situation.

    The project has been beset with difficulties from the outset. The UK plant is based on the same technology as two other plants being built in Flamanville in northern France and Olkiluoto in Finland — both of which have encountered technical problems and cost overruns.

    Workers are seen on a construction site of France's first new generation nuclear reactor in Flamanville, northwestern France.
    © AP Photo /
    Workers are seen on a construction site of France's first new generation nuclear reactor in Flamanville, northwestern France.

    Financial Risks

    The project has been hit by financial woes because of a drop in demand for nuclear power since the Fukushima disaster, in March 2011, when a magnitude nine earthquake set off a tsunami that hit the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, resulting in the meltdown of three of the plant's six nuclear reactors.

    A coast guard vessel (back R) patrols the waters off the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Okuma, Fukushima prefecture on October 9, 2015.
    © AFP 2018 / Toshifumi Kitamura
    A coast guard vessel (back R) patrols the waters off the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Okuma, Fukushima prefecture on October 9, 2015.

    EDF has been struggling to get building underway at Hinkley Point because the sheer cost of building the plant has been a major sticking point, with British taxpayers being forced to back the deal by providing a guaranteed price of generated electricity from the plant.

    EDF Energy — the UK subsidiary of EDF — agreed a "strike price" with the UK Government, which guarantees EDF a price of US$141 MWh for generating electricity over 35 years and a debt guarantee — double the current price.

    Despite this, problems with EDF's partner Areva — which manufactures the nuclear reactor — have led to delays in putting finance into place.

    In 2015, EDF's construction partner, Areva, announced huge losses and the French Government is attempting a rescue plan that will include a bailout from EDF. This in turn has had a knock-on to Hinkley, where — despite China General Nuclear Power Corporation (CGN) agreeing to pay a third of the cost of the US$25 billion project in exchange for a 33.5 percent stake. EDF is said to be having trouble raising its 66.5 percent of the cost.

    Related:

    Euro Lawmakers Call for End to 'Uneconomic' Nuclear Power
    Over 70% of Japanese Against Nuclear Power Plants After Fukushima Tragedy
    EDF Energy Fails to Make Final Commitment to New UK Nuclear Plant
    EDF Energy to Close Four UK Nuclear Reactors
    Tags:
    nuclear power plants, electricity supply, nuclear power, energy, EdF, United Kingdom, England
    Community standardsDiscussion
    Comment via FacebookComment via Sputnik
    • Сomment