The new nuclear power station will be the costliest engineering project Britain has ever embarked on, and a total waste of money
Illustration of Hinkley Point: The new reactors at Hinkley would be the first of eight new nuclear power stations to be built in the UKPhoto: EDF Energy
Two bizarre interviews last week again highlighted how woeful has been much reporting on the costliest engineering project Britain has ever embarked on. Their cue was George Osborne’s announcement that UK taxpayers are to “guarantee” £2 billion of the money paid to firms owned by the Chinese and French governments, to build in Somerset the most expensive nuclear power station in the world.
Although it was originally claimed that Hinkley Point C would cost only £10 billion and be “cooking Christmas dinners by 2017”, its completion date is now likely to be well after 2023, and its cost has spiralled so fast it will be way over the current figure of £24.5 billion. This would already make it more expensive than the Channel Tunnel and half the estimated cost of the vast, as-yet unapproved HS2 rail project.
But all we might get for this colossal sum would be 3.2 gigawatts of heavily subsidised “low-carbon” electricity, when the latest £1 billion gas-fired power station at Pembroke can already provide 2GW of unsubsidised power at half the price and at less than a 20th of the capital cost. Furthermore, the two obsolete European Pressurised Reactors the French firm EDF plans to install in Somerset have so many design problems that those it is already building in France and Finland have massively overrun on cost and time, while a modern nuclear plant built by South Koreans in Qatar is completed on time and at a fraction of the cost.
Everything about Hinkley Point indicates that it is as absurd a project as any government has ever fallen for. Yet when Channel 4 News reported the story on Monday, Jon Snow could think of no one better to interview on it than that great energy expert Vivienne Westwood, the dress designer, who could only repeat that “renewables” are getting “ever cheaper”, while subsidies to fossil fuels (non-existent) are rising ever higher.
At least when John Humphrys interviewed the Energy Secretary, Amber Rudd, that morning on the Today programme, he began by gabbling some of the more obvious objections to Hinkley. But he then gave Rudd a free run to babble about how thankful we should be to the Chinese and the French for helping to give us “low-carbon energy security”. Please, guys, we know you are besotted with climate change and “low-carbon” energy. But even in your own terms, can you not recognise a truly massive national scandal when it is staring you in the face?