Nuclear policy: part of the Government’s omnishambles

The collapse of the Government’s nuclear policy is a somewhat overlooked part of its current omnishambles. In part this is because very few of the journalists writing about nuclear power know much about the subject. Most continue to assert that all but one of Britain’s current nuclear power stations will be shut in this decade even though it is three months since EDF announced that it was seeking life extension for its existing fleet.

This means that some of our current AGRs may still be working in 2030. After all, if you were EDF why wouldn’t you want to take advantage of the massive windfall created by the carbon support price for an extra ten years? Much cheaper and less risky than building new reactors.

Meanwhile the Government from the Prime Minister down is talking to anyone who will listen about buying Horizon, the nuclear consortium which EoN and RWE have just withdrawn from. Even if you thought that it was a good idea to hand over control of your energy policy to Russian gangsters or the Chinese government, the really big problem with nuclear remains unsolved.

Horizon is a joint venture set up by the two German utilities. It has no assets. In order to borrow the £30 billion or so that would be needed to pay for the reactors someone with very deep pockets is going to have to guarantee the loans. It won’t be the British Government.

Whoever it might be would be taking a big bet that a company with no track record in building nuclear power stations would be able to do so on time and to budget – something Areva with all its experience has so far found impossible. They would also be taking a very big bet that the Treasury will be willing to allow a 30 year lock-in to nuclear electricity costs that are on a par with off-shore wind.

For information on the press conference I will be holding on nuclear power, on Wednesday 3 May, follow this link.

About tomburke

Tom Burke is the Chairman of E3G, Third Generation Environmentalism, and an Environmental Policy Adviser (part time) to Rio Tinto plc. He is a Visiting Professor at both Imperial and University Colleges, London. He is a member of the External Review Committee of Shell and the Sustainable Sourcing Advisory Board of Unilever and a Trustee of the Black-E Community Arts Project, Liverpool.
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