Monday, 21 October 2013

Hinkley C go-ahead

The UK headlines today are full of the news that a new nuclear plant will be built at the site of the existing Hinkley Point power station in Somerset.  The news media seem largely to have concentrated on the joint political aspects of the fact that it is being built by the French state (via their EDF operation) with major investment from the Chinese state, and on the fact that the deal promises a minimum price that the National Grid will buy the energy at - which is around twice the current wholesale price. 

On the latter point, I don't really know if that is a good deal or not.  As I understand it, that price is not index-linked, so it is a long-term gamble on the side of both participants in the deal.  Presumably a UK civil servant, the Chinese government and someone at EDF all think it is a good enough deal to go ahead.

As for the fact that the contract has gone overseas - well, it has long been government nuclear policy, and no-one should be surprised.  Perhaps most worthy of recording is that on the Today program on Radio 4 this morning, the Energy Secretary Ed Davey said that with investment in UK nuclear education and training, the next nuclear build would be a UK design, not a French one.  I won't hold my breath on that, but it would be nice to see.

Frustratingly the government are proud of the fact that this is "the first time nuclear power stations in this country will be built without money from the British taxpayer."  That might be nice if it were not for the fact that it is the British taxpayer who will be paying for the electricity, with the profits going to the French and Chinese taxpayer.  Why is that something that a government minister should be crowing about?  Of course, the quote above was from Ed Davey, who is a Liberal Democrat.  If a Conservative were giving their opinion, the "British taxpayer" would have read "hardworking (sic) British taxpayer".