Sunday 24 July 2022

New nukes in the UK: Sizewell, RAB etc (part 1)

For well over fifteen years here we've periodically asserted that France has a critical strategic objective of getting other nations, not least the UK, to pay for its monstrous nuclear liabilities.   As soon as EDF came away with Osborne/May's outrageously generous gold-plated deal for Hinkley Point C, they started lobbying for the next one, Sizewell C (CGI above); and - significantly - that this should be on a different contractual basis.  To remind ourselves of the salient details of HPC, bad and good:

  • there is no HPC completion date!  In fact, EDF isn't obliged, contractually, to build it at all!  
  • ... but if they don't, all the ever-increasing sunk costs are for the account of the project (80% EDF, 20% the Chinese)
  • any problems encountered along the way that are down to HMG, and most specifically any more-than-trivial changes in nuke-related regulations, are for the account of HMG (even if, for example, another nuke accident happens somewhere in the world that inevitably means every government everywhere will insist on a new type of widget being fitted on all nukes everywhere).  In other words, EDF - arguably the world's leading nuke institution - refuses to accept fundamental nuke-risk
  • the electricity sales contract strike-price (technically a CfD) of £92.50/MWh, was base-year 2012, indexed to inflation (it is now well over £100).  At the time that was some three times higher than prevailing wholesale baseload electricity, although obviously it looks a lot better right now, as our good friend Mr Wendland noted BTL the other day
  • the HPC deal gave EDF a put option on SZC at £89.50 (indexed) (which would then apply to them both); said (by EDF) to be a good deal at the time, since "of course" SZC would be cheaper to build than HPC, being able to call on all the HPC experience and the established construction labour force etc.
  • any problems encountered along the way that are NOT down to HMG are for the project's account
  • certain very mild contractual disadvantages (I won't call them penalties because they are trivial) kick in if EDF isn't finished by 2029; and the whole contract is cancelled in they aren't finished by 2035.   This for a plant that EDF told us in 2008 would be operational by Xmas 2017! 

But, pleased though they were to get this deal inked in 2016, this wasn't good enough for EDF - a company that is technically bankrupt, although as a recently fully-re-nationalised French state entity, this might not be as fatal as it would be for most companies being relied upon to undertake huge and critical enterprises.  Why not good enough?  Because EDF retains HPC construction risk, and is only remunerated (if at all ..! - see 2035 above) via electricity sales in due course, albeit at a price underwritten by HMG.

Construction risk?  Well, needless to say, at HPC there have been many problems along the way.  Obviously Covid wasn't expected - although hey, any firm undertaking projects with a construction period of more than a decade, and a lifespan of maybe a century, had better reckon on Shit Happening, no?  But Brexit happened before the contract was signed, so no sympathy there.  And likewise no sympathy for the many purely technical and design cock-ups perpetrated by EDF and its (mainly French) major contractors, e.g. getting the geology wrong on the bedrock at Hinkley, FFS.  So costs have been steady rising, and timetables steadily slipping.  Oh yes, there's construction risk aplenty.

So what about SZC?  Surely, as we've been assured by EDF ad nauseam, just as HPC was going to be a breeze, because of the prior experience obtained with EPRs at Flamanville (France) and Olkiluoto (Finland), so SZC in its turn would be an absolute shoe-in.  Hah!  All three European pre-SZC EPR projects have been fiascos; and the two EPRs built in China, apparently much more efficiently and on time / on budget, are in trouble already: one is shut down and the other on limited running, due to unresolved problems that the French nuke authorities are very troubled by.

And aside from the entire history of EPRs, there are SZC-specific reasons to believe it'll be more costly than HPC.  I won't bore you with the details, but every site is always different and SZC will bring all manner of new challenges, some of them pretty fundamental.  Nothing that engineers can't solve, mind - at a cost ...

SO.  We can easily see why EDF refuses to bear construction risk at SZC.  They are "even more bankrupt" today than they were in 2016.  In the next post we'll look at how HMG proposes to steam ahead with SZC anyway - and we'll ask the obvious question:  FFS, why?



andrew said...

Isn't it all a bit late?

Time to stock up on candles paraffin and logs

djm said...


Just how many nuke power stations do the Chyyyyyynese plan to build before 2035?

Clive said...

Can’t wait for Part 2! But, preempting somewhat (and possibly wrong here) but to answer the question “Why are HMG proceeding with Sizewell C? — Because TINA.

Sobers said...

"But, preempting somewhat (and possibly wrong here) but to answer the question “Why are HMG proceeding with Sizewell C? — Because TINA."

What about the Rolls Royce mini-nukes? Couldn't we just dot the country with them?

CJ Nerd said...

Or, indeed, GE-Hitachi mini-nukes?

Bill Quango MP said...

Orf Topic.

Shops will be fined up to €750 (£640) for breaking the air-conditioning rule.
Leaving doors open when air conditioning is on is "absurd", Ms Pannier-Runacher told local radio station RMC.

Two new rules.

"The first will widen the ban on illuminated advertising, whatever the size of the city, between 01:00 and 06:00," she said.
"The second will ban shops from having their doors open while the air conditioning and heating are working."

Many shops, especially in shopping centres, do not have doors. They have electric shutters that are open, or closed.
Some have a pull along glass frontage when closed. Again, no door.
And others have a door, that is designed only for use when the store is closed. It cannot be secured open in daytime.

As you would expect, if you thought about it, shops with an exterior onto an outside street, are usually equipped with external doors that can be closed to keep the cold out, But not all. And certainly not In south of France. Open front stores, no doors, being common. And the heaters and aircon is designed to operate with an open space. Gets very hot/ cold otherwise.

It’s not the worst set of laws made. Can’t find the wording as these are currently municipal decrees. May or may not include shopping centre internal stores.

However no mention anywhere of the actual cost to transform and the work involved.
If energy prices remain permanently at this current price, might even be worth doing.

Example frontage.

A steel shutter comes down from the ceiling, where the floor tiles change colour. If there are separate heaters to the aircon, they are mounted on the inside of the facia block by the ceiling. Doesn’t appear too difficult to change. Very expensive though.

Fit a new a glass frontage with minimum depth window, with 120cm split door at the very front of the facia. Security tagging system should not be badly affected. Could gain some useful till space behind the new window/ wall.

Nick Drew said...

To me, even lower-hanging fruit is the way lights and even escalators are left on at night in shops closed for business

There's a security-based minimum for lighting that is probably fair (& not just shops, of course). But escalators?

And of course urinals that flush on a fixed cycle

fixing some of these things requires 0 or almost no capex

how high do prices need to go before they get priced out?

rwendland said...

On nuclear liabilities, the UK is doing poorly as well, so not just the French. Our first generation Magnox are/will cost a queen's ransom to decommission, partly because they didn't think about how to decommission when they were designed.

Our Generation 2 AGRs, our current ones in operation to about 2028, had a much better decommissioning plan, with a Nuclear Liabilities Fund built up over their lifetime (planned to meet the full cost). Unfortunately the NAO early this year found that fund was well short. The govt had already contributed £5.1 billion extra in 2020 to strengthen it, but EDF's decommissioning estimates call for another £5.6 billion from the govt. That's getting on for £2 billion extra from the govt (taxes) for each AGR station. NB full decommissioning will take nearly a hundred years.

But decommissioning estimates have doubled in real terms since 2004, and if this continues when we actually try to do it, there is a good chance the taxpayer will have to cough up more. It certainly will end up a significant amount compared to build costs.

Elby the Beserk said...

Anonymous djm said...

Just how many nuke power stations do the Chyyyyyynese plan to build before 2035?

3:15 pm=

Around the same as the number of new coal power stations they are planning, I'd say....

China is planning to build 43 new coal-fired power plants and 18 new blast furnaces — equivalent to adding about 1.5% to its current annual emissions — according to a new report. The new projects were announced in the first half of this year despite the world’s largest polluter pledging to bring its emissions to a peak before 2030, and to make the country carbon neutral by 2060.

Elby the Beserk said...

Nick Drew said...
To me, even lower-hanging fruit is the way lights and even escalators are left on at night in shops closed for business

4:39 pm
I passed a posh light shop in Bath 3 or so weeks back.

As far as I could tell, EVERY light on the shop floor was ON.

Even this CO2 temperature dial sceptic* boggled

*Empricist actually. The Eemian was 2 to 3 degrees warmer than now. Withfar lower CO2 concentrations. And close watchers such as I of the CAGW arena are noticing more and more articles such as this .. this from the Energiewende feller I noted the other day

A Tropical Plant’s Warmth Threshold Affirms Mid-Holocene Temps Were ‘7.7°C Higher Than Today’
By Kenneth Richard on 25. July 2022

"A warmth-demanding plant can provide us with solid evidence of a much warmer than today Mid-Holocene climate.
Growth of the tropical aquatic plant πΆπ‘’π‘Ÿπ‘Žπ‘‘π‘œπ‘π‘‘π‘’π‘Ÿπ‘–π‘  ceases when air temperatures fall below 10°C.

A new study says that from about 8000 to 5000 years ago it was warm enough in winter that πΆπ‘’π‘Ÿπ‘Žπ‘‘π‘œπ‘π‘‘π‘’π‘Ÿπ‘–π‘  could grow at the 40°N latitude in northern China. Today its warmth threshold growth limit is ~34°N."

dearieme said...

The cost of decommissioning would surely plummet if we replaced the absurd "linear no threshold" model of radiation risk.

Adopt an evidence-based set of rules instead.

Come to that, the cost of building nukes would presumably fall a long way too.

Given how much damage The State does in almost every aspect of national life there's always hope for the future if you can envisage a radical restructuring of the state. True, machine guns may prove necessary but maybe not.