Monday 9 February 2015

Not Looking Good for Supporters of Nukes

The whole 'EDF nukes in Britain' saga is an ever-deepening farce.  To re-cap: prior to 2008 EDF was one of the smaller 'Big 6' players with a substantial net short energy position.  With Gordon Brown's brother as EDF's head of PR, and Tony Blair having come out of the nuclear closet as soon as the 2005 election was done and dusted, time was ripe in the mid '00s for EDF to make a strategic move on us.

Specifically, the UK looked like fertile territory for offloading some more of the goldplated French 'EPR' design of nuclear power plant, by then already running into early troubles in Finland and France.  We've covered this blow-by-blow from before EDF's acquisition of British Energy, under the 'EDF' tag here.

It's easy to summarise.  The existing European EPR installations have run deeper and deeper into the mire of cost over-runs and delay (and lawsuits etc etc).  EPR builders Areva are in serious financial trouble, as well they might be based on their track record.  Successive UK governments - yes, even notionally anti-nuke LibDem ministers - have been suckered into promising ever more subsidy and support towards at least 2 new nukes from these incompetents (4 were promised by EDF back in 2008).  The EC has given the thumbs-up to this blatant nonsense.  But EDF still prevaricates. 

Now the Times has this:
The project to build Britain’s first nuclear reactor in a generation has been delayed until months after the general election because its Chinese backers have demanded that the French government protect them if it goes bust. The fallout threatens to delay the £16 billion Hinkley Point scheme’s start date of 2023 and further undermines confidence in Britain’s faltering nuclear rennaissance. EDF ... originally promised to give the go-ahead by July last year, but is now expected to wait until this September or October.
(July last year?  In 2011 I myself sat in a room hearing EDF swear to the then energy minister the go-ahead would be given before that year was out: it's been the same every year since they started the pantomime in 2008.)

In short. much as predicted on C@W exactly one month ago.

There are supporters of nukes amongst the ranks of C@W readers and it would be interesting to hear their views.  Surely, commitment to a price of  £92.50 per MWh, indexed-linked, paid to Johhny Foreigner over 35 years, in a world of $50 oil, is utterly ludicrous.  There are many better ways of achieving post-2023 security of supply than that - and some of them are nuclear!



James Higham said...

The project to build Britain’s first nuclear reactor in a generation has been delayed until months after the general election because its Chinese backers have demanded that the French government protect them if it goes bust.

Inspires one with confidence.

dearieme said...

Western nuclear reactors, apart from the Canadian design, largely consist either of scaled up submarine motors (US and thereby France) or scaled up atomic bomb factories (UK).

It's a pity that the long pause in building nukes wasn't used for the sort of innovation that might have yielded logically attractive designs for power reactors. Ah well.

CityUnslicker said...

Nukes are not going anywhere with prices so volatile. Any Governemtn signing up to this derivatice arrangement as agreed would be out of its collective mind.

Oh, on the other hand...

Suffragent said...

Simple really
We want to build a nuclear PowerStation but we don’t have the expertise? We are the final customer who have offered an eye wateringly good deal? The supplier is a dodgy dealer with a bad reputation and even worse financials?
Start our own industry and pull the deal.
Without this future commitment EDF and Ariva hit the wall. All the expertise are suddenly jobless and so desperate for work where do they go? (at slightly lower rates) To our shiny new company which has also paid fire sale prices for the equipment.
With all the commuters tripping over from France, there is an increase in cheap booze and cigs available to offset the public’s increase in fuel bills. All salaries to be paid under British tax. Lots of British youngsters get to learn how to drive a JCB (done it, loved it and designed them). To top it all, one in the eye for one of Mrs Browns Boys (not to mention the cheese eating surrender monkeys)
What’s not to like Win Win Win Win
It’s time to let the Big Boys and Girls play in Government. It’s not Dave, its Prime feckin Minister and I’m not here to be your friend, I’m here to get the best Feckin Deal for our country.
But CU is probably correct
We will add another 20% on to the build cost so the refund accumulator doesn’t kick in (can’t remember what the official name was)
"Any Government signing up to this derivatice arrangement as agreed would be out of its collective mind" or just bent

Nick Drew said...

Suff, your line of thinking s straight and true, & your strategy is masterful

(I particularly like the bit about the Big Boys - yes, the grown-ups should take charge)

unfortunately, in the real world we can guess that

- it would be the Chinese that swept up the distressed assets
- it would turn out 'we' have already signed a cancellation clause and owe EDF billions in compo
- EDF and Areva would announce that they can no longer afford to decommission the ageing French nuclear fleet, so that an EU 'Common Nuclear Policy' is required and everyone else must pay (see this prediction from 2007)

Sebastian Weetabix said...

The EU is really French cynicism and naked self-interest by other means. Their diplomats run rings round our Oxbridge twats, as far as I can see.

rwendland said...

Nuclear Engineering International has some amusing news from EDF: "EDF has also signed a separate agreement with Chinese electric utility, Huadian, for future cooperation on cycle (sic) gas-turbine power plant" ... Keeping future options open I see.

Nick Drew said...

my French friends tell me it's only a matter of time before Total gets the frog govt to overturn the shale gas drilling moratorium

there are big shale plays there

Wildgoose said...

Our resident Scots dearieme and Sebastian Weetabix have both nailed it.

We need to scrap the ridiculous EDF project and build Thorium Molten Salt reactors for ourselves.

We built the first Nuclear Power Plant at Windscale, I'm pretty sure we can build the first commercial Thorium Plant if we put our mind to it. Safer, and with the advantage that we can transform nuclear waste into fuel.

It would kick start a new industry in which we would be the world-wide leaders and we could lessen our dependence on Middle Eastern Oil and its funding of jihadist terrorism against us. What's not to like?