This is not where we expected to be this morning, and it is very difficult to imagine what the government will discover in a few weeks time that it doesn’t already know. So I think that it is fortunate that this is giving us a chance to look again at what is a very bad deal for Britain, a 37 billion pound punt by the British government with energy bill payer’s money on an unproven technology. It is a 20th century technology that locks us into the wrong kind of infrastructure for the 21st century. It shuts us out from building an energy infrastructure that will be cheaper, faster, cleaner and much more reliably delivered than Hinkley Point.
There were lots of hurdles even if the government had gone ahead and signed the contract today, there were lots of hurdles it would have had to overcome. There is already a legal challenge by the Austrian government in the European court against the British government’s financing for this.
There is a legal action in the French courts by some of the French Unions seeking to quash the decision that EDF made yesterday. There is a very high chance that the French government’s attempts to refinance EDF, which is in a parlour state economically will also run into State Aid problems, and that will also be legally challenged. So you could end up with the final decision on this really ending up in the European Courts.
There are also problems with the fact that the safety of some of the components is under review by the French nuclear regulator. There is an investigation by the Financial markets authority in France, into the misreporting of financial matters by EDF. So there are a lot of obstacles still to be overcome, even if this decision had been taken today.
I share concerns about the implications, of the extraordinarily casual treatment of a very big project, for employment. It’s not just in the nuclear industry that this government had been careless. We have lost 12,000 jobs in the last couple of years in the solar industry because the government can’t make it mind up about energy policy. We lost even more jobs in the energy efficiency industry again because the government seems to treat energy policy like a political bagatelle, that it can just change in an arbitrary way.
But the risks associated with Hinkley Point are enormous, in terms of what we spend our money on. Actually there are three of these reactors already built. All of them, including the one that is being build in China are years late and billions of pounds over budget. I just think this is too risky a project to go ahead with when there are lots of other things that we could do that are faster, cleaner and cheaper ways to meet our requirements for energy going forward. By the way if we went ahead with this, it wouldn’t help us with the immediate problems we have securing supplies of electricity because this won’t be generating electricity until 2030.