TRT News: Joining me now from London is Tom Burke, Chairman of the environmental think tank E3G , and a former government advisor on climate change.
Hinkley Point, what’s your biggest problem with it?
Tom Burke: It’s a very expensive strategic mistake for the country. It’s going to produce electricity at more than twice the current wholesale price for 35 years. It’s going to cost 37 billion pounds in subsidies from the British consumer, and all of that for an untried reactor, no example of which is working anywhere in the world. So it’s a very bad deal, there are cheaper, faster, cleaner, and more reliable ways to meet a low-carbon, affordable and secured electricity supply for the future. So what you are really seeing is a 20th Century solution to 21st Century problems.
TRT News: Just to be clear, Tom, you are emphasising cost over security? How big are your security concerns?
Tom Burke: I am not very worried about the prospect of taking Chinese money, and the way that you fit nuclear power stations into your grid, doesn’t give them access to the kind of software that would expose you to security worries about crashing you grid. I think that the government is right to have taken a golden share, in order to prevent the reactors from being sold on, but the security worries aren’t really the biggest worries. There are of course other worries about what happens to the radioactive waste at the end of its life, and there is no available solution to that problem yet in the United Kingdom, or indeed anywhere else in the world.
TRT News: Is the price you have to pay 24 billion dollars to have warmer relations with the Chinese?
Tom Burke: I certainly agree that, that looks like it was a major factor in the decision. In a sense it was a white elephant that got so big that nobody could shoot it. That doesn’t make it anything like a good deal. It’s just, you’re basically selling out you energy policy for some marginal gains in the headlines. The really strategic problem is that is begins to point Britain in the wrong direction in term of the future architecture of it electricity system. We are moving into a world in which digitisation makes available all kinds of strategic and structural change in industry, that’s true of the electricity industry as well. What it means for Britain’s electricity consumers is all that they will continue getting through their letter box for the next 35 years will be big bills, and actually the world that we are moving into in for electricity systems is one in which consumers won’t only be getting bills through their letterboxes, they will be getting revenue cheques as well.
TRT News: Tom, post-Fukushima there was a taboo connected to nuclear energy, might a deal like this begin the process of reversing that taboo? Reversing the questions that people have been asking about whether nuclear energy is the way to go?
Tom Burke: I don’t think so. I suspect Hinkley will be a one off. Rather like Sizewell was in a previous government when there were big nuclear ambitions. Ten nuclear power stations were promised, but only one was actually built. I think that the economics are a real killer for nuclear. If you are worried about safety, what you should be more concerned about is the Chinese government proposing to build sixty nuclear power stations in the next few years. The idea that you can maintain the necessary level of safety and quality of build in order for those programs to be successful, I think that is a very, very big question mark.
TRT News: Tom, 25,000 jobs will be created between now a 2025, aren’t you at least a little bit excited about that?
Tom Burke: I’m not at all excited about it, I’m much more concerned about the 14,000 jobs in energy efficiency that the British government destroyed by an arbitrary change in its policy, and the 12,000 jobs in the solar industry that were also destroyed by an arbitrary change in policy. We could have got more than that number of British jobs, that would be long-life jobs, if we had continued with those policies and we simply wouldn’t have needed Hinkley at all for our secure supplies of affordable electricity. The thing to remember is that the cost of renewable, and the cost of batteries that allow you to deal with their variability, those cost are going down consistently. Nobody has ever built a program of nuclear power stations where the cost didn’t go up over time.
TRT News: Ok, good points. Unfortunately, we are out of time. It’s been great to talk to you. Thank you so much.