Monday, 15 February 2016

Horizon boss's statement exposes fantasy nature of UK nuclear power programme

The boss of one of the three supposed consortia claimed to be building Britain's nuclear power stations has all but admitted that his project is a fantasy one. As can be read in the Telegraph story below, the boss of the 'Horizon' project has said that new nuclear power in the UK depends on private investors. Well, that is not going to happen. Who would want to put shares in a venture that might (as in the case of its project in Taiwan) take 15 years not to be completed, or which may not work very well? Nobody.   The only possible exceptions to this are (foreign) governments with political, rather than than money-making, objectives. Even they are disappearing! (France and China).

The Hitachi based 'Horizon' project with two 'planned' developments in Wylfa and Oldbury has always looked unlikely, especially given the chequered operating record of the chosen reactor which would, on its own, scare off any investors. I certainly wouldn't want my pension to depend on this, for financial, never mind radioactive, reasons.
Of course, some people, breezily argue, the government could pay for the power stations. As if we need to spend billions and billions money on nuclear power stations that never seem to be finished instead of hospitals......

In reality the nuclear power programme collapsed in 2012 when it emerged that the Treasury insisted that nuclear power should not receive a state blank cheque. E.ON, RWE, SSE and Centrica all withdrew from nuclear power construction plans. But now for four years our energy and carbon reduction programmes have been distorted in order to preserve the British engineering establishment's soft spot for nuclear power. The current government defends its lack of investment in real green energy by referring to its fantasy plans for new nuclear power stations.

Nuclear power 'expansion' plans are collapsing all around the world, the only few exceptions being where there are state sanctioned electricity supply monopolies where nuclear interests can control government policies. Even then, there are limits, as in the case of  EDF. This mainly state owned dinosaur is heading for financial collapse as the long term costs of nuclear power come home to roost, and the failure to implement new 'safer' reactor designs become apparent (see earlier blog posts on this).

EDF has announced once again (Feb 16th), that its decision on building Hinkley C will be taken 'soon' (soon has meant the same for the last 3 years) and in practice it is waiting, in effect, for the French Government to agree that French electricity consumers/taxpayers should subsidise nuclear power for the British! All to save the pride of the EDF leadership! It sounds bizarre, and I doubt whether even EDF's hold on the French Government can engineer such an outcome.

EDF could still turn their ship around of course, by helping achieve France's targets to expand renewable energy. But are they capable of dragging themselves away from their nuclear-dream-turned-sour, or will they waste what few reserves they have left in planning new reactor designs?

 See the Telegraph article:

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Does FOE attack signal move towards authoritarianim in the UK?

Freedom of activity and expression for green causes is under attack in the UK. That's the message we get from the various laws being enacted about what NGOs can or cannot do, and what organisations can or cannot do if they are charities. The latest piece of right wing attack on our freedoms comes with the attempt by the fracking industry to curb opposition to its activities by mobilising the regulations on what charities can do. This was given a platform by the Times newspaper today. You can see some commentary at
Since the 1980s the trade unions rights to strike have been curbed by a thousand cuts. Now the right wing are moving on to curb mere criticism by green groups. Bit by bit the laws are being strengthened to make it ever more difficult for people to express opposition to government policies if they offend commercial interests which the government favours. Fracking companies claim that Friends of the Earth and anti-fracking campaigners are 'lying'. Well, that is a matter of opinion, I think.
But some energy companies have been, er, a little wayward from the truth for years. How much was nuclear power supposed to cost? A lot more than was claimed! When would the nuclear power stations be built?  A lot sooner than was said! We don't expect regulations to emerge to clamp down on what such companies say in their press releases, but apparently excuses are to be found to stop NGOs arguing against government policies. Apparently in this new world of only-business-supported by government knows-the-truth other people's rights to give their version are being gradually curtailed.
The Government are failing miserably to support fracking through democratic means. People just don't like the idea. So they are resorting to clamping down on councils who object to fracking proposals. In future, it is suggested, Councils won't even get to take any decisions on them! See
Of course we're not like Russia yet, and that's because we are evolving much more subtle means to curb opposition to the Government. But in the ultimate objective of silencing NGOs our Government and Vladimir have a lot in common! See

Monday, 1 February 2016

Treasury ruling spells final end for Hinkley C....surely?

The Treasury has, in effect, ridiculed any notion that EDF could take a final investment decision on Hinkley C within the next three years - if ever. The announcement by the Treasury that their offer of loan guarantees for the EPR at Hinkley C is linked to successful functioning of the Flamanville EPR means that short of absolute lunacy reigning at EDF HQ the power plant could not possibly be given a final go-ahead until 2018 at the earliest, and most probably never.

The date of earliest completion of the Flamanville reactor is 2018, and even that assumes that things go a lot better than they have so far. To cap this, the Treasury have said that if the reactor hasn't demonstrated it is working properly by 2020 then there will be no loan guarantee for Hinkley C. (see Sunday Times piece, link below). There is no chance of Hinkley C being funded without this - EDF haven't got anywhere near the money needed and it would be financially crazy to pay for it without the guarantees - so EDF cannot take the chance of going ahead without a firm loan guarantee.

This leaves people wondering about the motives of  EDF in announcing that they are 'restarting' work on Hinkley C. They can't do this, or at least carry on with this indefinitely. EDF is in difficult financial straits as it is without this sort of action. It is no surprise that employees and shareholders of EDF are up in arms about the prospect of a 'final investment decision' being taken by the EDF Board. They are nowhere near being able to do this - as you can see from the European Commission documents, before such a decision can be taken they have to have a signed contract with the UK Government and the agreed funding in place for the company that develops the project. None of this has happened or seems likely to happen.
EDF may manage to convince some press reporters that the show is still on the road, but, as I said in my previous post, the only explanation, in effect for EDF's behaviour is that they are desperately clinging to the notion that their (failing) EPR technology can still carry on, knowing that the alternative is the end of their dream upon which they have based their careers.

EDF now seem to be hoping that the French Government will take responsibility for not only the mounting losses from the French and Finnish (and I presume Chinese) EPR disasters AND promise to underpin the British reactor (as if it is the role of the French state to pay for crushingly expensive nuclear power stations for the UK!).

It requires quite a big nudge on Douglas Adams' 'improbability drive' to swallow all this!

For some relevant coverage, see...... (see page 9)