Hinckley point_Oblique_Aerial_View_1.70_MFINAL_RGB_croppedFrench state owned EDF Energy is still negotiating with our government about the level of subsidy that will be needed in order to build the two new EPR water pressure reactors at Hinkley Point and another two at Sizewell in Suffolk.  The EPR is new third generation reactor that has been developed by Areva, EDF Energy and Siemens.  There are a number of these reactors being built in France and China, however no single reactor is currently operational.  Not only has this reactor not established a track record for performance, it’s most notorious failure is still going on in Olkiluoto, Finland where construction began in 2005 and ten years later the power plant has still not been completed at a cost of billions in overruns to their taxpayers.  The capacity of the Olkiluoto EPR plant is half of the generation capacity of the planned site at Hinkley Point, in Somerset.

Considering that most investors won’t put their money into unproven technologies,  One has to wonder who does think that this kind of investment is sensible for Britain?

The plant at Hinkley Point was first projected to cost £16 billion.  Now the price has been set at £24.5 billion, including the millions of finance that will be needed for neighbouring communities to keep them sweet so they agree to play host to such dangerous radioactive toxins in their backyard in what is otherwise a pristine area of natural beauty in Somerset.  This government has just overseen the first round of contracts under their new Contracts for Difference.  One of the envisioned  contracts for this new program involves the new nuclear power station at Hinkley Point.  The contract guarantees a strike price of up to £92.50 per MWh for the electricity generated by the plant.  This guarantee appeases the shareholders, of which 40% will be Chinese and the rest French, who have no special interest in the well being of the British people.

In order to secure the construction of this nuclear power plant, the UK consumer is being forced to accept a deal where the price of electricity generated will be fixed at twice the current price,  applying the export tariff for solar photovoltaics (PV) of 4.5p per kWh as our measurement.  BHESCo believes that we should be concerned that this government is entering into contracts which will insure that energy prices will increase.   Our argument is that EDF will not be able to compete if its prices have to be that high to support its fleet of new nuclear power stations.  We have more confidence  that the renewable electricity generated from the fleet of offshore windfarms will be half that price.  So, if EDF is to offer its price on the market at twice the price, no one would buy it, except the taxpayer.  We are concerned that the costs of nuclear power will most likely be spread to all of our purses, including our most vulnerable people.

Hinkley Point is projected to produce sufficient electricity to power 5 million homes, year in, year out, without breakdowns in performance for the next 25 years.  This, we know from experience with the current nuclear power stations, is not true.  They are periodically taken out of commission for maintenance that can last for months.  The Dogger Bank wind farm in Yorkshire that was approved last February, will be one of the largest offshore wind farm in the world, generating enough electricity to power 2 million homes.  The costs to the ratepayer after the plant is built are minimal and predictable, including maintenance and a small subsidy.  Compare that to a nuclear power plant where the costs are spiraling ever higher.  Nuclear power plants must be decommissioned at the end of their lives, which takes 100 years, a cost traditionally financed by the taxpayer.  Nuclear waste must be stored.  Then, it must be transported securely to a processing plant where it is then put into canisters for storage over the next 10,000 years, although there is no long term solution for storing highly toxic radioactive waste.   We estimate that at least 50% of the budget for the Department of Energy and Climate Change is attributed to the management of these types of issues around our nuclear legacy.  We cannot cut this budget, it would pose too much of a national security threat.  So we cut other public services.

Does this make any sense to you?

With the fossil fuel industry up to capacityred box Treasury, the government has ignored the obvious alternative and decided to hand out tax breaks for dirty gas, oil and nuclear power, despite overwhelming scientific and economic evidence of the benefits of renewable alternatives.

So, the air gets more polluted and unnecessarily cold homes continue to contribute to the misery and deaths of thousands of vulnerable people each winter.

We have the resources and the research, and most significantly the will to overcome the energy challenges we face in the UK. Within the space of a year 15 community groups in Sussex alone have joined forces to support energy savings and the devecold home2lopment of locally generated renewable energy. But those in power are sidestepping the obvious solution diverting taxpayers funds to uneconomic investments.

Instead, the government offers tax breaks for the big energy companies to build more fossil fuel plants and new nuclear.  The autumn statement promised £15billion for roads. It overhauls stamp duty ignoring the opportunity to link it to environmentally friendly buildings. Even the flood defense proposals are inadequate, according to experts. The treasury continues to endorse shale gas production, despite overwhelming public concern about safety and the impacts on land, water and air, including the emission of even more greenhouse gases.

As taxpayers we are right to have a say in where our money goes, and insist on value for money on government spending. One may ask how this major investment in roads and tax breaks for fossil fuels will meet the immediate need to address fuel poverty and its consequent pressure on the NHS.  Furthermore, how will it encourage the generation of locally controlled renewable energy which has been proven to reduce energy prices in Germany and is supported by millions of people across the country as a way of taking back control of our own energy supply and improving energy security?


Hinckley point_Oblique_Aerial_View_1.70_MFINAL_RGB_cropped

photo courtesy of EDF Energy

This week, the Government announced that the taxpayer would be subsidising the construction of a £16 billion, 3.3GW new nuclear power plant at Hinkley Point in Somerset.  The deal was stuck with EDF, the French state owned utility.  In the wake of the disaster at Fukishima, with dangerous levels of radioactive Strontium entering into their water, any investment in the construction of a new nuclear facility is short-sighted, presenting a formidable threat to the economic health and potentially the physical well being of future generations.

The subsidy presents the threat of a dangerous economic legacy for us now and for future generations.  The guaranteed strike price of £92.50 per MWh lasts for 35 years, and is twice the current price of electricity in the market today.

What this means is that every taxpayer, regardless of whether one benefits from it or not, will be financing the generation of this electricity for the next 35 years.  Because of the base load nature of nuclear power, there may be times when no one is consuming this electricity yet, the taxpayer will still be paying EDF and the investor consortia for generating it.

Foreign investment could comprise more than 50% of the ownership of the plant, which means our taxpayers’ money is contributing to the wealth of foreign nations instead of being invested at home.   It’s a no brainer for the Chinese to take up to a 40% stake in the consortium, because for them it is a guaranteed investment return with very little risk.  The move creates distortions in the supplier market and sets a greedy precedent for other suppliers.

Energy subsidies EnergiewendeThis graph, prepared by the EEG to analyse the level of subsidy to be provided for Hinckley Point demostrates that even when the taxpayer subsidy for decommissioning the plant and the long term storage of the nuclear waste is excluded, the subsidy for nuclear power far exceeds any subsidies for solar PV or Wind (either on or offshore).

It doesn’t make any sense to continue to invest good money into an expensive and dangerous source of electricity.  The lion’s share of the budget for the Department of Energy and Climate Change is allocated to the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority to manage our legacy of radioactive nuclear waste.

The UK has the highest stockpile in the world of radioactive Plutonium buried in a temporary storage facility in Cumbria.  The cost of managing our nuclear legacy is estimated to be about £100 billion, the equivalent of the entire investment required to upgrade our electricity network.

We must reject this plan to expand the facility at Hinkley and support investment in clean, renewable energy generation and energy efficiency investment.  We must invest in a smart grid that would transform our network into a low carbon, clean energy generation, transmission and distribution network.  Please contact your MP and let them know you do not support any subsidy for nuclear power.

Photograph: Annie Griffiths Belt/Corbis

Photograph: Annie Griffiths Belt/Corbis

Cumbria County Council has taken the pivotal decision to reject the placement of a nuclear spent fuel storage site in the Lake District, an area of outstanding national beauty and importance.  In a report[1] prepared in March 2011 by Sir David King, the storage facility would cost about £14 billion and create about 500 jobs in construction and about 300 jobs to operate.  Ed Davey, the Energy and Climate Secretary, said “there will be a substantial community benefits package, worth hundreds of millions of pounds. That is in addition to the hundreds of jobs and major investment that such a huge infrastructure project could bring.”  We congratulate the Council for their courage and sensibility in rejecting  a proposal that would only bring more hazardous waste to the region.

Sellafield is already the unfortunate repository of 6,000 tonnes of heavy metal (radioactive materials) being stored in ponds.  This storage is estimated to be viable until 2075 when this material will have to be stored again safely in some kind of newly constructed deep geological storage facility – costing billions – all financed by the taxpayer.

DECC generation table
DECC 2012

Nuclear power produced 19% of our electricity production in 2011[2].  This was the total portion of generation, although 67% of that electricity is lost in transmission and distribution across high voltage wires that traverse the land.  The government insists that nuclear power is an important part of our energy mix.  One must question the logic of building new nuclear power plants when there are so many alternatives available that do not poison our environment and cost the taxpayer absurd sums of money to maintain.  The nuclear power legacy will cost the taxpayer billions to ensure that the toxic waste is safely decommissioned and stored.  None of this money contributed to the generation of electricity. The renewables contribution increased 3% in one year.  This is attributed to the success of the Feed in Tariff for Solar electricity.

At Brighton & Hove Energy Services, we are dedicated to providing the people with low cost energy now and in the future.  By joining BHESCo, you can participate in the creation of a new energy future, one that is powered by the sun, wind and biomass.   We are starting now, so that you can rest assured that as nuclear power plants are shut down, the lights will stay on and you will stay warm in winter without paying a fortune for the privilege.  Go on, join us.

[1] A low carbon nuclear future: Economic assessment of nuclear materials and spent nuclear fuel management in the UK, Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment, University of Oxford, March 2011

[2] Digest of United Kingdom energy Statistics 2012 – Department of Energy and Climate Change

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