More construction worries for new Hinkley C nuclear reactor

“A French-designed nuclear reactor ordered by Britain is facing further scrutiny after the disclosure that defects were detected in one of the same models under construction in China.

The revelation adds to the string of setbacks that have hit the European Pressurised Reactor (EPR) designed by Areva, the French nuclear group.

Britain has ordered two of those reactors for Hinkley Point C in Somerset, the first new nuclear power station to be built in the UK for a generation. They are being built by EDF, the French state energy giant, and China General Nuclear Power Corporation at a cost of £19.5 billion.

China General Nuclear Power Corporation, which is building two reactors in a joint venture with EDF near Macau in southern China, said it had found “local defects” in the Taishan 1 reactor.

It said that welding in the deaerator, which is used to remove oxygen from water circuits, was defective. The parts had been replaced, it said.

Taishan 1 is due to come on stream this month to become the world’s first functioning example of the European reactor. The second Chinese reactor, Taishan 2, is due to come online next year. The $8.7 billion project was initially due to be completed last year, but was delayed by safety concerns.

The problems in China pale by comparison with those affecting other projects. Work on a similar reactor at Olkiluoto in Finland began in 2005 and was supposed to finish in 2009. It is now expected to be in action from 2019.

EDF is also building a reactor at Flamanville in Normandy which was due to begin operating in 2012. Jean-Bernard Lévy, EDF’s chief executive, said yesterday that the reactor would be working by the end of next year.

The reactors at Hinkley Point were originally due to be operational in 2025 but EDF said this summer that they were likely to be 15 months late.”

Source: The Times (pay wall)

Hinkley C gets its own posh hotel thanks to OUR LEP

Anyone know of any hotel that got LEP funding in Devon? Seaton, Honiton Premier Inns perhaps? Certainly not!

From an LEP report:

“In October Deepak Chainrai of DC Hotels (Bridgwater) Ltd welcomed representatives from HotSW LEP, Bridgwater Town Council and Sedgemoor District Council to the site of the new Mercure Bridgwater Hotel, which is visibly taking shape, as an opportunity for all to see the work and progress behind the construction hoarding.

Before touring all five floors, the group was shown around the lobby area, meeting rooms, lounge and bar, leading to the destination restaurant that will be operated by The Marco Pierre White Steakhouse Bar & Grill.

The new hotel was partly financed by a loan from the LEP’s Growing Places Fund, which aims to get projects off the ground that would otherwise not be immediately served by the commercial marketplace. The site is strategically placed as an asset for the area with the development of the nearby Hinkley Point C. The establishment of a modern hotel with an international restaurant chain and commercial units is an important amenity that will boost the local economy and generate new jobs.”

Government money for UK, US and Chinese-backed mini-nuclear power stations but not cheaper green energy

“Ministers are expected to back the first generation of small nuclear power stations in Britain with tens of millions of pounds this week, in an attempt to give the UK a competitive edge on the technology and provide a new source of clean power.

Rolls-Royce and a host of US and Chinese companies have been lobbying and waiting for the support since George Osborne first promised them a share of £250m two years ago.

Now, after industry frustration at huge delays to the government’s competition to find the best value “small modular reactor” (SMR), funding to develop and test the power stations will be confirmed.

The energy minister, Richard Harrington, is expected to announce support for the embryonic technology on Thursday, industry figures told the Guardian. The funding is likely to be up to £100m, one source said.

Small modular reactors provide about a tenth of the power of a conventional large nuclear power station, such as the one EDF is building at Hinkley Point C in Somerset. But their backers pitch them as a cheaper and quicker way to generate the new, low-carbon power the UK needs.

Rolls-Royce has been publicly and privately lobbying the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) over its SMR design, which it positions as an industrial opportunity for Britain that would generate thousands of UK jobs.

The firm argues that with electric cars likely to drive up future energy demand, the reactors will become a vital part of national infrastructure. …

…The funding is designed to help Rolls and other consortia, including the US companies NuScale and Terrapower and the controversial Chinese firm CNNC, undertake the research and development for a small nuclear power station to be built in the UK. It is not yet clear who will win a share of public funds, or how the pot will be carved up between the 33 participants in the SMR competition. …

… However, energy experts said the case for SMRs was far from proved, especially given the falling cost of alternatives such as offshore windfarms.

Paul Dorfman, a research fellow at University College London, said: “The real question the government must ask is this: given the ongoing steep reduction in all renewable energy costs, and since SMR research and development is still very much ongoing, by the time SMRs comes to market, can they ever be cost competitive with renewable energy? The simple answer to that is a resounding no.”

An energy industry source also questioned how credible most of the SMR developers were. “Almost none of them have got more than a back of a fag packet design drawn with a felt tip,” the source said.

A BEIS spokesperson said: “We are currently considering next steps for the SMR programme and will communicate these in due course.”

Hinkley Point – the case against grows stronger – part 2

MOwl’s view: meanwhile, all those board members (and former board members) of our LEP with nuclear interests are very happy – those providing the roads to the site, those building houses near the site, those recruiting staff for the site, those building new facilities for site workers and extending their colleges and universities on the back of nuclear training courses they will run. It really doesn’t matter if it is a Somerset white elephant.

AND they are using OUR money for this.

”The government has saddled families with inflated household bills for decades because of the poor deal it negotiated over the Hinkley Point nuclear plant in Somerset, MPs have said.

The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) criticised a contract awarded to EDF to build the first new nuclear station in Britain since 1995 as too expensive, with the burden falling most heavily on poorer households.

Meg Hillier, the committee’s chairwoman, accused the government of “grave strategic errors” in crafting the deal, which will leave consumers paying £30 billion in subsidies over 35 years — five times more than expected.

“Bill-payers have been dealt a bad hand by the government in its approach to this project,” she said. “Its blinkered determination to agree the Hinkley deal, regardless of changing circumstances, means that for years to come energy consumers will face costs running to many times the original estimate.”

The government signed a preliminary deal in 2013 with EDF, the French state-owned nuclear generator, to pay a fixed price of £92.50 per megawatt hour for the electricity produced by the Hinkley station for 35 years, indexed to inflation. The costs are to be met via a levy on consumer bills once the station enters service, expected to add £10 to £15 a year to the average household bill.

But when wholesale energy prices plunged sharply in 2014, amid growing doubts over the French reactor technology earmarked for use at Hinkley, following delays and cost overruns at other plants, the government failed to revisit the terms.

The PAC accused ministers of pressing ahead and locking consumers into an expensive deal.

“The economics of nuclear power in the UK have deteriorated since the government last formally considered its strategic case for nuclear in 2008,” the report said. “Estimated construction costs have increased while alternative low-carbon technologies have become cheaper. At the same time, fossil-fuel price projections have fallen.”

A spokesperson for the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said that it was a “competitive deal”.

EDF Energy said: “The cost of Hinkley Point C for customers has not changed and they will pay nothing for its reliable, low carbon electricity until the station is completed . . . Construction is fully under way and is already delivering a huge benefit to British jobs, skills and industrial strategy.”

Hannah Martin, head of energy at Greenpeace UK, said the PAC report showed that the government should revisit the project because it “makes absolutely no financial sense”.

Source: The Times (pay wall)

Hinkley Point – the case against grows stronger – part 1

See part 2 (above) for Owl’s cynical view. Things MUST be bad if The Times and The Guardian agree!

MPs have accused the government of failing to protect consumers over the price it has promised to pay for power from the Hinkley Point C nuclear plant.

The Commons public accounts committee said the subsidy contract for Hinkley Point C, agreed in 2016 after years of delays, would hit poorest households hardest.

The power station is expected to cost billpayers £30bn over the lengthy of the 35-year contract, adding £10-£15 to the average household energy bill.

Hinkley nuclear site radioactive mud to be dumped near Cardiff
But an assessment by the committee concluded that no one in Whitehall was championing consumers’ interests during negotiations with French company EDF Energy.

The final bill for consumers was exacerbated by government not renegotiating the guaranteed power price for fear that EDF and its Chinese partner CGN would walk away from the project, which the MPs said was a questionable assumption.

Officials agreed a price of £92.50 per megawatt hour in 2013 but fossil fuel price projections fell between then and the contract being signed in 2016, pushing the cost to consumers up fivefold from £6bn to £30bn.

At the time the Department of Energy and Climate Change – now the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy – did not consider a ceiling on the guaranteed price, the MPs were told.

Meg Hillier, chair of the group of MPs, said: “Billpayers have been dealt a bad hand by the government in its approach to this project.”

The criticism from the committee follows a damning report by the UK’s spending watchdog, the NAO, which found the contract for Hinkley had locked consumers into a “risky and expensive project”.

The NAO attacked the government for failing to explore alternative financing models, such as taking stake in the project, a criticism that the MPs echoed.

The public accounts committee said it was also disappointed that the government appeared to have no plan in place to maximise the wider benefits of the project, beyond the clean power it will provide.

“The department does not know to what extent UK workers and companies will benefit from Hinkley Point C and the wider follow-on new nuclear programme, and has no plan in place to show how it will maximise the wider benefits of the project,” the report said.

A BEIS spokeswoman said: “The government negotiated a competitive deal for the construction of the first new nuclear power station in a generation as part of our energy mix, which ensures consumers won’t pay a penny for any construction overruns and until the station generates electricity in 2025.”

The MPs urged the government to publish a plan B for keeping the lights on, in the event the power station does not come online in 2025 as planned. EDF has already warned that the plant could be completed 15 months late.

French, Japanese and Chinese developers hope to secure financial incentives from the UK to build other new nuclear power plants, but the MPs said the government should re-evaluate the strategic case before going ahead with more projects.

“The government made some grave strategic errors here and must now explain what it will do to ensure these are not repeated,” said Hillier of the Hinkley contract.

EDF defended the deal and said Hinkley would help cut costs for other future nuclear power stations, such as the one it hopes to build at Sizewell in Suffolk.

A spokesman said: “The agreed price is lower than 80% of other low carbon capacity contracted so far and the project has restarted UK nuclear construction after a quarter century. Construction is fully under way and is already delivering a huge benefit to British jobs, skills and industrial strategy.”

Can productivity and growth be increased outside the South East except for Hinkley C?

Our Local Enterprise Partnership’s draft economic strategy is making enormous claims about how much it will increase productivity in Devon and Somerset – its predictions outstripping those of historic precedent and some of the most productive areas of the UK. This in spite of our ageing population and the effects of austerity on skills and training (our LEP’s investment in this sector appears to be limited to training only for Hinkley C nuclear plant).

Our councillors might well examine our LEPs claims with some disquiet:

“… Cities such as Stoke, Blackburn, Mansfield and Doncaster had productivity 25% below the national average, the Centre for Cities said. Raising all parts of the UK to the national productivity average would increase the size of the economy by £203bn – equivalent to Birmingham’s output four times over.

The report showed that cities outside the greater south-east had weaker productivity because they were failing to secure the higher-skilled work of productive sectors and firms.

“Firms choose to locate their high-skilled operations in cities which can offer them access to a high-skilled workforce and other relevant businesses, and will base lower value components in places where land and labour is cheaper,” the thinktank said.

“Barclays bases its high-value banking activities in London and its low-skilled call centre in Sunderland. Similarly, clothing company Asos has a large distribution centre with low-skilled jobs in Barnsley, but its headquarters is located [in London].”

The report said another factor explaining the regional divide was that highly productive sectors and firms made up a larger shares of jobs in cities in the greater south-east than in urban areas in other regions.

On average, cities in the region had a larger proportion of workers in sectors and firms that contributed most to national productivity – in 2015, the information and communications sector made up 7% of jobs in cities in the greater south-east, compared with just 3% in other cities. The financial services industry accounted for 6% of jobs in cities in the region compared with 4% of jobs in cities elsewhere in the country. …”

Want to comment on LEP’s business plan for us? Go to Torbay council website says Sidmouth Herald!

Sidmouth Herald (as part of Archant a BIG supporter of our LEP) prints a press release on the Sidmouth Herald website on “consultation” on the LEP’s new, improved, answer to all our prayers business plan, citing the enthusiastic words of Paul Diviani, the Deputy Chair of an un-named committee.

Unfortunately, according to the press release, the consultation document appears to be only on Torbay’s website! No link to an EDDC website or the LEP’s own website!


Perhaps the first consultation comment might be: put your own house in order before you attempt to put a nuclear cell in those of other people!

Here is the press release, in full, in all its glory, where 20 or so business and council members, many with nuclear interests or nuclear-industry-supporting industries attempt to persuade the rest of us that most of their (ie our) money going to Hinkley C is a good thing:

County and district councils in the two counties, along with the Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), Dartmoor and Exmoor national park authorities, and NHS commissioning groups from Northern, Eastern and Western Devon, South Devon and Torbay, and Somerset, have worked together to come up with a draft productivity strategy for the area, referred to as the Heart of the South West.

This has now been put out for a consultation, which will run until November 30.

The partnership is said to be seeking the views of businesses, organisations, groups and individuals.

It says its ambition is to double the size of the area’s economy to £70 billion by 2036 and is seeking the right interventions and Government backing to achieve this.

The partnership says the area has ‘unprecedented opportunities’ in sectors including nuclear, marine, rural productivity, health and care, aerospace and advanced engineering, and data analytics.

Councillor Paul Diviani, deputy chair of the prospective joint committee of the leaders of the Heart of the South West, said: “The Heart of the South West economy is larger than that of Birmingham, so we need to be recognised for our true potential as a cohesive economic area.

“Our vision is for all parts of the Heart of the South West to become more prosperous, enabling people to have a better quality of life and higher living standards.

“To achieve that, we have to create a more vibrant and competitive economy where the benefits can be shared by everyone, and by working in partnership we can present a stronger proposition.

“We urge our stakeholders in business and the wider community to give us their views and help us create an effective strategy for delivery.”

The results from the consultation will be considered by the joint committee of the leaders of the Heart of the South West and the Heart of the South West LEP board, before a final productivity strategy is agreed early in 2018.

The consultation documents are available to view on Torbay Council’s website at