UK nuclear power plant gets go-ahead

 

Will the new nuclear plant mean cheaper bills? Energy Secretary Ed Davey is challenged at a news conference

The government has given the go-ahead for the UK's first new nuclear station in a generation.

France's EDF Energy will lead a consortium, which includes Chinese investors, to build the Hinkley Point C plant in Somerset.

Ministers say the deal will help take the UK towards low-carbon power and lower generating costs in future.

Critics warn guaranteeing the group a price for electricity at twice the current level will raise bills.

"For the first time, a nuclear station in this country will not have been built with money from the British taxpayer," said Secretary of State for Energy Edward Davey.

Start Quote

If the electricity price is below the strike price, then bills will probably go up. If it is above the strike price, then bills could go down.”

End Quote

The two reactors planned for Hinkley, which will provide power for about 60 years, are a key part of the coalition's drive to shift the UK away from fossil fuels towards low-carbon power.

Ministers and EDF have been in talks for more than a year about the minimum price the company will be paid for electricity produced at the site, which the government estimates will cost £16bn to build.

The two sides have now agreed the "strike price" of £92.50 for every megawatt hour of energy Hinkley C generates. This is almost twice the current wholesale cost of electricity.

This will fall to £89.50 for every megawatt hour of energy if EDF Group goes ahead with plans to develop a new nuclear power station at Sizewell in Suffolk. Doing both would allow EDF to share costs across both projects.

The wholesale cost of generating electricity in £/MWh
Cost of generating electricity £/MWh, Nuclear £92.50, Onshore wind £100, Offshore wind £155, Tidal and Wave £305, Solar £125, Biomass £105, Electricity (coal and gas generated) £56.06:

Mr Davey said the deal was "competitive" with other large-scale clean energy and gas projects.

Ed Miliband: "The prime minister... can't freeze prices now for the consumer"

"While consumers won't pay anything up front, they'll share directly in any gains made from the project coming in under budget," he added.

John Cridland, director-general of business lobby group the CBI, welcomed what he said was a "landmark deal".

"It's important to remember this investment will help mitigate the impact of increasing costs. The fact is whatever we do, energy prices are going to have to go up to replace ageing infrastructure and meet climate change targets - unless we build new nuclear as part of a diverse energy mix."

However, Dr Paul Dorfman, from the Energy Institute at University College London, said "what it equates to actually is a subsidy and the coalition said they would never subsidise nuclear".

He added: "It is essentially a subsidy of between what we calculate to be £800m to £1bn a year that the UK taxpayer and energy consumer will be putting into the deep pockets of Chinese and French corporations, which are essentially their governments."

Hinkley Point C Hinkley Point C is set to take 10 years to become fully operational. It will be made up of two nuclear reactors and will be built next to Hinkley Point A and B.
Sea wall at Hinkley Point C The land will need to be flattened and then the sea wall will be built. After this, excavation work can start to lay the foundations of the nuclear plant including two underground two-mile (3km) tunnels for the cooling water.
Turbine hall The building of the two reactors will be staggered with the first reactor expected to be operational by 2023.
Turbine hall The other aspects of the build include the turbine halls, standby power generators and a pumping station for the cooling water, interim waste storage facilities as well as a visitors' centre.
Workers' campus (artist impression) Workers' accommodation will be built across three sites, with two in Bridgwater and a third on site. Other infrastructure includes building two park and ride sites and developing Combwich Wharf.
View of Hinkley Point C with Hinkley Point A and B in the background The power station is expected to provide up to 25,000 jobs during the lifetime of the project and once built will provide about 900 full-time jobs.
China invests

Chinese companies China National Nuclear Corporation and China General Nuclear Power Corporation will be minority shareholders in the project.

The move follows Chancellor George Osborne's announcement last week that Chinese firms would be allowed to invest in civil nuclear projects in the UK.

Prime Minister David Cameron said that the new Hinkley Point plant was "an excellent deal for Britain and British consumers".

"This underlines the confidence there is in Britain and makes clear that we are very much open for business," he added.

David Cameron:"It kick-starts again the British nuclear industry"

Labour leader Ed Miliband, who has pledged to freeze energy prices for 20 months if he wins the next election, said the party supported the development of new nuclear power stations, but would scrutinise the terms of the deal to ensure it delivered value for money for consumers.

"We've got the Prime Minister who says he can fix prices 35 years ahead for the energy companies but he can't freeze prices now for the consumer. No wonder we've got a cost of living crisis in this country," he added.

The existing plant at Hinkley currently produces about 1% of the UK's total energy, but this is expected to rise to 7% once the expansion is complete in 2023.

UK map of nuclear power sites

The announcement is not legally binding and it will be 2014 before EDF makes a final investment decision on the project. The plans will also require state aid clearance from the European Commission.

But it comes as concerns about domestic energy bills move up the agenda, with SSE, British Gas and Npower, three of the UK's "big six" gas and electricity suppliers, all having announced price increases.

The government estimates that with new nuclear power - including Hinkley - the average energy bill in 2030 will be £77 lower than it would have been without the new plants.

Energy UK, the trade body for the industry, said the agreement on Hinkley was "good news".

"Building new power stations is never quick or cheap, but in the case of Hinkley development, nothing goes on the bill until 2020," it said.

About 25,000 jobs are expected to be created during construction of the power plant, as well as 900 permanent jobs during its 60-year operation.

 

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  • rate this
    +8

    Comment number 1608.

    After years with its head in the sand over increasing energy demand vs decommissioning nuclear generating capacity, the Government (backed into a corner) has taken the only option available to it to plug the gap. This and the "dash for gas" have left us overly dependent on foreign sources of energy and expertise.

    A sad day for UK engineering brilliance.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 1606.

    Pleased with the announcement; although disappointed that it is taking so long with what is a mature and well known technology.
    If we are to move away from damaging the environment, especially climate change threats, then it will be costly.
    Now, let’s press ahead for the rest.

  • rate this
    +17

    Comment number 1430.

    As well as paying double the subsidy we the taxpayers will also be paying for the decommissioning of the plant at the end of it's life.

    Our so called 'green taxes' on current power bills is being used to pay the decommissioning costs of the existing nuclear plants which runs into billions of pounds and not for investment in renewable energy sources.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 826.

    A good deal for the taxpayer I wonder? £16bn and ten years at least before a single Megawatt comes out of it. The installed and connected cost of a 2MW wind turbine (average) is £2.5m. So we could have 6.500 x 2Mw turbines for £16bn and they would be adding to the grid incrementally from day one and with grid scale battery tech moving apace, Hinkley would emerge as a costly white elephant.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 655.

    Germany has a much more progressive government than ours. Science and engineering is at the core of the German economy with important decisions made by scientists and engineers. Phasing out nuclear fission in Germany is quite sensible. Unfortunately we are stuck with politics, history and economics graduates making decisions in the UK. No surprise the UK is going backwards.

 

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