Tuesday 1 September 2020

Nuclear Power in the UK: Scary Scenario Looms

At the end of last month, EDF called time on the Hunterston nuke in Scotland.  It's been plagued with cracks in the graphite core, and not generating properly for quite a while now.  They'd been hoping to nurse a few more years output from it.

Now obviously, if the UK power system has been managing without it for all that time, it isn't needed per se.  BUT - it's the same design as all the other currently-operation UK nukes, except for Sizewell B.  A grim example of "concentration risk" ...  Could we get by OK without any of them?  They are all being nursed along, with successive extensions having been announced to their lifespans over the years.  

EDF, of course, has every incentive to squeeze the last drop from them, and not just for the electricity sales-revenues.  Decommissioning is very expensive, and as I wrote in an earlier story, relating to the North Sea oil & gas sector: 
... abandoning North Sea platforms comes at a huge capital cost: so every day’s delay in recognising the inevitable is money in the bank. And every small thing that can be done to eke out its life is an effort well spent.
The range of options for a nuclear operator is not as great as for an oil company (safety considerations):  EDF doesn't have available to it any real parallels to the strategy adopted in the North Sea case I related there.   

Furthermore, EDF is not exactly flush with money ..!  -  if it's bad for them in the UK, their French decommissioning liabilities are astronomical, as we've been noting periodically since this blog first began.  There's a rather obvious scenario where this could get extremely awkward.



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Anonymous said...

I'm sure EDF will be standing under the magic money tree with Boris and Rishi more than happy to shake way more off than is actually needed for them.

E-K said...

We should never have relied on foreigners for things of strategic importance.

Anonymous said...

Why? Are foreigners better at fleecing the government?

Elby the Beserk said...

No worries, Nick - remember, we are constantly told that renewable energy will be cheaper than fossil fuels. Isn't that great?

E-K said...

Anon 10.25

Because we can be manipulated politically as well as fleeced.

E-K said...

Forgot... "foreigner" is a trigger word, isn't it.

Anonymous said...


Foreign ownership is such a part of our global vision, it is impossible for it to be removed e.g.

the internet;
the bits that connect to the internet
the gas distribution network
parts of the banking sector

Which bits are not manipulated politically eg. Huawei?

It's not that simple is it.

Ted’s Heath said...

In the future green energy will be too cheap to meter.

E-K said...

Not simple now, it isn't, Anon.

Which is why I used the past tense in my first comment.

Don Cox said...

New proposals for nuclear cost reduction:


Don Cox

andrew said...

@EK at 9.02 am

"We should never have relied on foreigners for things of strategic importance."

On foreigners (german, netherland) for our royalty, agree
On the US around 1940, not so sure

rwendland said...

Don, the biggest item in that nuclear cost reduction report is changing to Regulated Asset Base (RAB) financing, which transfers the project risks from the builders/owners to electricity consumers, or as even the Telegraph reports "it leaves British households on the hook for any delays or additional costs". And plenty of nuclear projects overrun with enormously increased costs - look at the recent attempts to build an Finnish and French EPRs.

The report says of HPC costs at £92.50+RPI inflation/MWh, 67% is finance and risk costs (28% finance + 39% construction risk). Essentially the idea of RAB is to transfer this ~67% to the consumer, leaving nuclear seemingly economic against other generation means. But if competitors could likewise transfer finance + their lower construction risk to the consumer, they would become even cheaper.

So its largely a powerful lobby trying to get subsidies in another way. As the Telegraph concludes:

"with mounting opposition to transferring the risk of these mammoth projects on to British consumers via the RAB model, Britain’s nuclear industry finds itself at a crossroads."


E-K said...



And are you fully aware of what that cost us ?

Elby the Beserk said...

Brave Anonymous said...
Don’t be dick and argue that defeating nazi German had too high a price.

If you don’t think paying for America’s involvement in WWII then there’s is something wrong with you.

Now crawl back under your stone you odious little man.

10:24 am

E-K made a perfectly good point. Most of us don't really see the Yanks AS foreigners.

E-K said...

I said nothing of the sort.

But we did, indeed, pay a truly sacrificial price to the Americans in the defeat of Germany.

Our towns and villages were occupied by a foreign army, our culture and economy was taken over by a foreign power - our streets are festooned with American litter (not Lovin' it) and our walls daubed with American (hip hop) graffiti.

I prefer not to use the term 'Nazi' as this gives young children the impression that there was a mysterious 1940s tribe that had nothing to do with the German people.

In fact the BBC never mentions 'Germany' at all out of sensitivity to the Germans and has completely substituted in their place 'Nazis' whenever the war is discussed but never holds back on slagging off the English by name in order to indoctrinate impressionable young minds.

I notice that the term 'Nazi' is used a lot to put a full stop on debates too.

So whatever defeating 'Nazi' Germany did for us having our slate wiped clean and being free to speak without being accused of being supportive or complacent about Nazism is not one of them.

E-K said...

Thanks Elby

Previous response is to Anonymous.

E-K said...

Well... 'E-K' doesn't exactly reveal who I am either... I'm more swampy than rocky (those who know my real name will get that !)

Water off a duck's back.

Nick Drew said...

Swampy Kev - did you know they are planning to build Sizewell C in a swamp?!

They've run out of bedrock on that site (upon which they put SZA and SZB) so SZC will be on some adjacent bog. And then they say the costs will be coming down ..!

E-K said...

Dread to think what 'C' stands for. We have enough of those involved in HS2 !