Even many of the supporters of nuclear energy in the “environmentalist” camp — such as George Monbiot, Mark Lynas, and Chris Goodall — are now advocating for the cancellation of the Hinkley C project in the UK, as evidenced by an article recently published by the three mentioned above.
When even supporters of the broader cause begin to question a specific project, it’s probably worth taking note. Is the Hinkley C project really such a boondoggle that even support from otherwise erstwhile supporters is nearing its end?
In the recent article from the above authors, the argument is made that the project possesses “all the distinguishing features of a white elephant: (it’s) overpriced, overcomplicated and overdue” — and also that the most recent delay should be used to sound the death knell for the project.
The exact words used in the article are pretty blunt: “The government should kill the project.”
The authors’ article in the Guardian provides more:
The new delay should not surprise anyone who’s aware of the technological issues. Tony Roulstone, who runs the masters programme in nuclear engineering at Cambridge University, argues that the plan for Hinkley C is like “building a cathedral within a cathedral”. It is, he concludes, “unconstructable”.
Attempts to build to the same design – the European pressurised reactor – are underway at two other European sites, Olkiluoto in Finland, and Flamanville in Normandy. Olkiluoto, where construction began in 2005, was supposed to have been finished by 2009. Now the promoters say it should be ready by 2018, but even that is not guaranteed.
The design is so complex that at one point 5,000 workers were on site. The workers had to be drawn from all over northern Europe; communication problems have been so severe that different teams appear to have been building to different specifications. Its costs have more or less quadrupled. Already the plant is bogged down in lawsuits, as the different contracting parties blame each other for the delays and costs.
A classic case of reach exceeding grasp, and all the issues that go with that, to my eyes. Considering how relatively simple most renewable energy technologies are for the generation of electricity (and how generally reliable they are), one would think that that’s where most of the governmental support would be — not in the Hinkley C project.
Here’s more on that:
Work at Flamanville began in 2007, with the promise that it would be finished by 2012. Now it won’t be completed until 2018 – all being well. The costs have risen, so far, threefold. The European pressurised reactor is a proven design all right – a proven formula for chaos.
So how do the operators, the French company EDF, expect Hinkley C – even if it can be built – to be economically viable? By extracting from the government a price guarantee of £92.50 per megawatt hour for the electricity it produces, index-linked for 35 years.
This is simply astronomical. It is more than twice the current wholesale price of electricity, and more than the government is now paying for solar power, whose costs are expected to fall greatly during the lifetime of the nuclear plant. Against current prices, the government’s guarantee represents a subsidy of over £1 billion a year.
All true points. A final note here: if the project ends up failing, it’ll mean that taxpayers funded the construction of the project to the tune of £17 billion. If the project “succeeds,” then the number will rise far higher than even that. And for what exactly?