Three perspectives on deal with China to build new reactors in Britain: FoE, IME, WNA

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Friends of the Earth: The UK should invest in green energy solutions for the 21st century, and not the white elephant of nuclear power. Institution of Mechanical Engineers: This development is positive news, which will help put the wheels in motion into developing the new generation of UK nuclear power plants creating capacity in power generation. (But) the UK has been too slow to address nuclear waste. World Nuclear Association: we need to accelerate our deployment of low carbon generation. Nuclear power provides the stable foundation.

Friends of the Earth

The UK should invest in green energy solutions for the 21st century, and not the white elephant of nuclear power, Friends of the Earth said yesterday, ahead of an expected deal with China to build new reactors in Britain.

The deal is expected to lead to Chinese investment in a proposed new reactor at Hinkley in Somerset, in return for allowing China to build a new prototype nuclear power station at Bradwell in Essex.

Solar and wind energy schemes constructed today are already cheaper than new nuclear. The Government has guaranteed state-owned French firm EDF a subsidy price of £92.50 per megawatt hour for 35 years to build a new reactor at Hinkley. This is almost double the current wholesale price of electricity, which is currently around £50 per megawatt hour.

Meanwhile, UK Government proposals to slash financial support for the UK solar industry has already led to over 1,000 job losses, and over 25,000 more are in severe jeopardy.

Ministers are threatening to pull the plug on UK renewable power just as the technology is really starting to deliver. New onshore wind farms are now the cheapest way for a power company to produce electricity in Britain, according to a report earlier this month by Bloomberg New Energy Finance, and solar costs are falling fast.

Commenting on the expected deal, Friends of the Earth CEO Craig Bennett said: “George Osborne’s desperation to get Chinese investment at almost any cost means a shockingly bad deal for Britain. And even with eye-wateringly huge cash subsidies, many experts believe a new reactor at Hinkley will never be built. While the nuclear industry is being lavishly wined and dined by David Cameron, the UK renewable industry has been left to survive on crumbs, threatening tens of thousands of jobs.

“The Government’s energy strategy is a complete mess. Ministers are pulling the plug on UK wind and solar just as these new power sources are on the cusp of delivering the clean and affordable energy we need. The Government must end its love affair with nuclear power and fossil fuels, and build a clean energy system fit for the challenges of the 21st century.”

Institution of Mechanical Engineers

Dr Jenifer Baxter, Head of Energy and Environment at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, said in response to China’s commitment to investment into the Hinkley Point nuclear power station: “This development is positive news, which will help put the wheels in motion into developing the new generation of UK nuclear power plants at Hinkley Point C, Bradwell and Sizewell and creating capacity in power generation.

“Nuclear is currently one of the least CO2-intensive ways to generate base-load electricity. If we are to secure the UK’s energy future, while at the same time meet the country’s challenging emissions target, nuclear must play a part in the electricity mix, in addition to gas-generation and renewables.

“But while it is important to look to secure future energy supplies, the Government also needs to encourage significant investment in the whole nuclear life-cycle. We still need proper research and development into methods for recycling and maximising the energy returns from nuclear waste. We haven’t yet found a way of dealing with the large stockpile of nuclear waste at Sellafield, which is set to include an estimated 140 tonnes of plutonium by 2020.

“It is clear the UK has been too slow to address this issue. Long term deep geological disposal offers a potential solution, however around 20 years of testing is required in the UK for this approach to be used with confidence and we are yet to start this process.”

World Nuclear Association

World Nuclear Association Director General Agneta Rising said “Globally, it is clear we need to accelerate our deployment of low carbon generation. Nuclear power provides the stable foundation to support other climate-friendly technologies.”

The mechanisms that are enabling Hinkley Point C and other low carbon projects in the UK are one way of addressing weakness in deregulated markets. Currently deregulated markets fail to correctly value longer-term benefits such as carbon avoidance, price certainty and reliability of supply.

Agneta Rising said, “New nuclear construction around the world is at the highest level for 25 years, but we need to see more countries learning from the UK’s example to support nuclear energy among a mix of generation technologies that are fit for the future. Governments must act to ensure that markets support new investment in technologies such as nuclear, the UK is showing one way this can be achieved.”

In addition to avoiding up to nine million tonnes of carbon dioxide emission each year the Hinkley Point C project will also support tens of thousands of employment opportunities.

Agneta Rising said, “Hinkley Point C’s international partners and those new nuclear projects planned to follow it will bring investment and jobs for decades to come.”