Giant portions of public spending are now at risk of pouring down a nuclear power black hole as calls for the Government to make direct investments into new nuclear power plant intensify. Ultimately the sums at risk would be much larger than the Government's own estimates of the cost of the Trident nuclear weapons system.
Former Minister and House of Commons Energy Committee Chair Tim Yeo is the latest to call for the Government to take 'minority' equity shares in new nuclear m projects. There has been a flurry of such demands in the wake of the near bankruptcy of Toshiba, who spearhead the 3GW proposed plant at Moorside in Cumbria.
In fact nuclear power is proving to be virtually undeliverable and ruinously expensive in western countries. Toshiba's problems stem from the fact that they own Westinghouse who are responsible for the construction (so-far non-construction) of AP1000 reactors in South Carolina and Georgia in the USA. These plant are as costly as the failing French EPR design that is so disastrous in the cases of the Finnish and French reactors, something which is bankrupting the French nuclear industry and EDF.
Despite the manifest bankruptcy of the technology, rather than question whether it is right to continue with the new nuclear programme, its supporters are in effect wanting to bet the British economy on it. If the Treasury are forced against their will to sanction 'equity' stakes in new nuclear reactors, the losses and., eventually, all the liabilities will fall on the UK Government. Nobody else will invest in the projects unless the Government guarantees the lot. Hinkley C (3.2GW planned) will cost over £24 billion according to the European Commission. The reactors at Moorside and Wylfa, assuming they cost similar amounts, would thus make the taxpayer responsible for around £50 billion of debt. People will claim that the Government is 'only' taking a minority equity stake. That's how it will start, and then would represent an enormous amount of state spending and liabilities. After all one quarter of £24 billion is still £6 billion. But it won't end there, as sure as night follows day, not with the construction costs as well as the rest. It never does with nuclear power!
Normally of course under the Government's 'low carbon' programme, project raise their own finance and the project owners earns their money from premium price contracts (CfDs) awarded through the Government. That is always the case with renewable energy projects. They find their own money. Electricity consumers pay a premium price to enable this on their bills. But now for nuclear to go ahead, so it is said, not only will the consumers have to pay a high premium price, but taxpayers will have to fund at least part of the construction as well. This is money, please note, that will disappear from the Government's coffers as the plant is built - it is not something that will be shuffled onto future generations like decommissioning
The fact that the Government is effectively financing the building will produce a conflict of interests with the Government negotiating with itself in setting the CfD price. No doubt a 'lower' CfD price will be set (that is less than the notorious Hinkley C price) when in fact it will be the taxpayer that will end up paying out countless billions for the projects.
Annual spending on primary education is around £26 billion. Hence building just Moorside will give the Government liabilities (which are likely to be paid by the Government) which will rival this spending.
But then to listen to some people, you'd think building Moorside was more important than closing down all primary schools for a year.