“Alarm rings over rising nuclear power plant bills”

Our Local Enterprise Partnership has much of OUR money invested in Hinkley C.

“New nuclear power plants are likely to blow their budgets and arrive late unless their designs are completed before construction starts, a report has warned.

Ministers, wary of cost hikes and delays, are wrestling with how to financially support replacements for ageing coal-fired and nuclear plants across the UK.

Hitachi is trying to strike a deal with ministers to build a £10bn-plus plant at Wylfa on Anglesey, where taxpayers are likely to take a stake.

Developers in Europe and America have been wounded by a series of nuclear projects, from Flamanville in France to Vogtle in the US state of Georgia, where costs have soared beyond budget. Plants in the Middle East and Asia have far better records on costs and schedules.

Researchers at Energy Technologies Institute found that most high-cost projects had started construction with incomplete designs, whereas work on low-cost plants had begun only once design and planning had been finalised.

The falling cost of renewable power such as offshore wind and solar has posed more questions about the financial viability of nuclear projects.

The institute’s report on costs in the nuclear industry says new plants could be affordable and help the country move to low-carbon energy, but only with better development and collaboration.

The institute calls for multiple reactors to be constructed at each site to achieve better value for money.

It urges government support for new plants, but only if the developers commit to cost cuts, efficiency and shared best practice. Government support could lower the cost of financing plants, it said, helping to cut the interest bill on a developer’s debts. Also, a new body should be set up to share information about technological innovations and lessons learnt from each project.

The institute is a collaboration between the government and industrial giants including BP, EDF Energy and Rolls-Royce. Its intervention is timely as ministers are demanding that any new nuclear plant must cost less than EDF’s Hinkley Point scheme in Somerset.

The £19.6bn project has been underpinned by a “strike price” that guarantees the state-owned French energy giant a set price of £92.50 for every megawatt hour of electricity for 35 years.

The Somerset plant has soared over budget and is about a decade behind schedule. Its former boss had predicted households would be cooking their 2017 Christmas turkey on Hinkley’s electricity.

The government will soon announce a sector deal for the nuclear industry — one of the programmes designed to boost the country’s key industries, from automotive to life sciences.

The business department said: “This independent report is helpful in looking at cost reduction in the nuclear sector.”

Source: The sunday Times (pay wall)