Anthony Horowitz: Building Sizewell C would be a nuclear-sized disaster

The Spectator, 19 December 2020

https://www.spectator.co.uk/article/building-sizewell-c-would-be-a-nuclear-sized-disaster

I love Suffolk. This Christmas I will be there with my family and we’ll almost certainly walk up the coast, joining dog-walkers, bird-watchers, hikers and even swimmers in one of the most beautiful and unspoiled parts of the UK. The secret of Suffolk is its relative inaccessibility. No major motorway connects it and once you arrive you’re committed to a sprawling network of country lanes that twist through heathland and grazing marsh, mudflats and reedbeds. Minsmere, a nature reserve that’s home to 6,000 wildlife species, is among its glories. The nightjar, the woodlark, the Dartford warbler and the silver-studded butterfly are just some of the rare species found there.

At least for the time being.

Not just the heritage coast, but quite possibly the entire county, could be changed for ever by the arrival of two new European pressurised reactors (EPRs). ‘Sizewell C, a proposed new nuclear power station in Suffolk, has the potential to generate the reliable low carbon electricity the country needs for decades to come’ is the claim made by EDF Energy, the French-owned company behind the project. It also has the potential to be a disastrous and expensive mistake. Many believe it already is.

First there’s the site, which, if this were an episode of Yes Minister, might have been chosen for its comedy potential. Next to a world-famous bird sanctuary? In an area well-known for serious coastal erosion? As the avocets and warblers take flight, the entire thing could be reclaimed by a vengeful sea. The site is too small. It’s poorly connected. (EDF put forward the idea of an 800m jetty to allow access by water. The idea sank.) Imagine 1,000 HGVs arriving every day, 10,000 cars, hundreds of buses. Actually, if you know the area, you can’t.

As for EDF, perhaps you should judge a company by the company it keeps. EDF is in bed with CGN or China General Nuclear — blacklisted by the US government after the FBI and Department of Justice uncovered a nasty propensity for stealing American technology for its own use.

EDF may have lots of things going for it, but money isn’t one of them. Already stretched to the limit by its 66 per cent stake in Hinkley Point (with a budget that has risen from £16 billion to at least £ 21.5 billion, making it the most expensive power station in the world), it needs £20 billion and hopes the UK government will come up with most of that through either a large stakeholding or a tax added to energy bills known as Regulated Asset Base.

To be fair, EPR nuclear reactors are notoriously difficult and expensive to construct. Look at Olkiluoto Island to the west of Finland, which went wrong almost at once when the slab base was incorrectly laid, a design fault which could have caused the entire thing to collapse if anyone sneezed. The project has been swamped by lawsuits. Or Flamanville in France, where costs have risen from €3.3 billion to €12.4billion and the EPR is already eight years late. The French energy minister has described it as a ‘mess’.

Here are two simple truths.

Right now the main beneficiary of the nuclear industry is… the nuclear industry. No western European country has commissioned new builds apart from the fiascos in Finland and France. Why is EDF even suggesting an EPR when there are other options that could be considered? There are the small modular reactors, for example, proposed by Rolls-Royce and put together in factories off-site, each one producing 440 megawatts of electricity, enough to power a small city. But that’s not what EDF does. It’ll stick with what it knows, even if what it knows is cumbersome and expensive.

And slow. Sizewell C needs planning consent and operating licences that won’t be in place before 2022. It will take 12 years to construct. The earliest it could power even a single Christmas tree light is 2034, and it will need another six years to offset the CO2 created by its construction. Net zero is of course the ultimate goal. But there are other ways to achieve this. Suffolk has offshore wind farms with more planned. Hydropower, geothermal energy, hydrogen cell technology — there’s every chance that by the time Sizewell C opens it will already be outdated.

But will it actually go ahead? Nobody knows. The Prime Minister has approved the start of negotiations with EDF and he does like his ‘big’ projects, but in this case that’s exactly the problem. As Alison Downes, a human rights campaigner now leading the Stop Sizewell C protest group, told me: ‘We have no ideological opposition to nuclear power. It’s the sheer scale and intensity of what’s required to build these huge reactors — the workforce and the materials and all the rest of it — that have angered local people.’ A petition against the project has been signed by 19,000 of them.

They may well know what to expect. Look at Leiston, just a few miles away, which bought into the myth of Sizewell B. Huge social problems involving pop-up brothels and drug dealing arose during its construction (1987-95) and what has been left behind is hardly glorious. The town looks tired and a little sad. Anthony Douglas CBE, chair of the Suffolk Safeguarding Partnership which protects children and adults at risk in the county, describes ‘a significantly deprived population… with little social mobility’. This is the legacy of Sizewell B, and he worries that years of disruption during the new construction will further impact the health and wellbeing of local people.

Call me a Nimby if you must. How cleverly Donated (the Department Of Nasty Acronyms To Eliminate Debate) attacks our quality of life with easy insults. Not in my backyard — yes, but how else are we to protect the world if we don’t look out for our backyards, for our neighbours, for each other? By the time Sizewell C is actually producing electricity I could well be dead, so in fact it’s your and my children’s backyards that concern me.

And on that cheery note, COTS! Work it out.

EADT 14 December 2020

https://www.eadt.co.uk/news/government-could-invest-in-sizewell-6746048

Government signals support for Sizewell C by seeking stake in project

Proposals to build a new nuclear power station on the Suffolk coast at Sizewell have taken a significant step forward as the government confirmed it is seeking to invest in the project.

It has said it will start talks with EDF Energy over investing in the power station – although a final decision on whether it can go ahead is still some way away, and subject to planning approval.

The government statement said the negotiations were part of its “options to enable investment in at least one nuclear power station by the end of this Parliament”

The energy giant is currently applying for planning permission for the 3.2-gigawatt plant, which could create thousands of new jobs during construction and operation if given the go-ahead.

However the proposal has prompted widespread local concern because of proposals to use large areas of environmentally-sensitive land which is part of the eco-system with the Minsmere Nature Reserve at its heart.

The government has also warned that it will have to be convinced about the economic benefits of the project.


In a statement, which also set out its Energy White Paper, the Government said: “This is the next step in considering the Sizewell C project, and negotiations will be subject to reaching a value-for-money deal and all other relevant approvals, before any final decision is taken on whether to proceed.

“The successful conclusion of these negotiations will be subject to thorough scrutiny and needs to satisfy the Government’s robust legal, regulatory and national security requirements.”

Humphrey Cadoux-Hudson, EDF Energy’s Managing Director, Nuclear Development: “The Government’s decision to enter negotiations on Sizewell C is great news and further recognition of the vital role large scale nuclear will play in getting to net zero.

“The go-ahead for Sizewell C would bring the Green Industrial Revolution to life, creating thousands of British jobs and apprenticeships, and delivering a huge boost for thousands of nuclear supply chain companies up and down the country. It will be a project Britain can be proud of.

“We are eager to start discussions with the Government on a suitable financing model for the project and we look forward to the next phase of scrutiny of our plans by the Planning Inspectorate.

“Sizewell C will build on the great progress being made at Hinkley Point C and, as a copy, will benefit from lower construction and financing costs. We are confident that we can arrive at a funding solution which will provide value for money and help to lower energy bills for consumers.”

The proposals have already sparked widespread concern among local politicians with MPs Dr Therese Coffey and Dr Dan Poulter and both Suffolk County Council and East Suffolk Council saying they have major worries about the plans for the station – even though they are not opposed in principal to the aims of the project.

Alison Downes of Stop Sizewell C

Alison Downes from the Stop Sizewell C campaign. – Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

Alison Downes from the Stop Sizewell C Campaign did not feel today’s announcement was particularly significant: “We have known the government is in talks about this, but this does not take things forward.

“They are talking about whether they should take a small stake in the project – but there is still a very long way to go before any final permission is given. From that point of view I don’t think this changes things at all.”

Terry Baxter from Inspire Suffolk believes Sizewell C would be good for the county. – Credit: SIZEWELL C/NICOLE DRURY

But Terry Baxter, chief executive of Inspire Suffolk and a keen backer of the project, felt it was very significant: “This is the largest infrastructure project proposed for East Anglia and the government wants to show its support by investing in it.

“That will be very good for jobs in the area – giving real hope to people and families who need good, well-paid, work right here in Suffolk.”

City AM 14 December 2020

Government enters funding talks with EDF over Sizewell C nuclear plant

The government has today confirmed that it has entered talks with EDF over funding options for the Sizewell C nuclear power station in Suffolk.

The announcement, which came as ministers unveiled the long-awaited energy white paper, could see the government take a financial stake in the project.

It comes after months of uncertainty regarding the future of the UK’s nuclear stations, which many consider to be central to Boris Johnson’s climate change commitments.

Twin-reactor plant Sizewell C is a clone of Hinkley Point C in Somerset, and could provide up to seven per cent of the country’s electricity.

At the moment, the project, which is slated to cost around £20bn, is part-funded by Chinese state-owned firm CGN.

However, in recent weeks there have been reports that the company is looking to pull out of the plant amid a worsening of relations between London and Beijing.

Until this morning, doing so would have called the future of the project into question, a potentially grave blow for the nuclear industry in this country.

Tom Greatrex, Chief Executive of the Nuclear Industry Association, said: “The Government’s decision to enter advanced negotiations with EDF on Sizewell C is very good news for our environment and our economy.

“Sizewell is a vital next step towards the net zero power mix we need for the future. As well as at least 60 years of constantly available clean electricity, this project will provide thousands of highly skilled, well paid and long term jobs across the supply chain, at a time when they are badly needed.”

Unions GMB and Unite both welcomed the talks, saying that the project could create 25,000 jobs – and 1,500 apprenticeships – during the construction phase.

But representatives for the Stop Sizewell C campaign pointed out that the talks were no guarantee the project would go ahead.

“As Alok Sharma said, this is not a green light to build Sizewell C and the idea that it could provide value for money is pie in the sky”, said campaigner Alison Downes.

“Costing at least £20bn, Sizewell C remains too slow and expensive to help our climate emergency, and both the government and any pension funds considering the project must beware the reputational risk of investing in a still unproven reactor design that even the French are abandoning.”

At the moment, the UK has eight working power plants, providing around 20 per cent of the country’s power, but four of these are due to shut by 2024.

In recent years, a number of newbuild projects championed by former Tory governments have stalled, including Wylfa in north Wales, which Japanese firm Hitachi pulled out of in the summer.

With officials still consulting on a new funding model – the Regulated Asset Base – which would see consumers pay for the project through higher bills – the sector seemed to have reached a standstill.

But last week the government’s climate advisers said that the country would need to develop eight gigawatts of new nuclear power by 2035 in order to hit its climate targets.

New plan a ‘decisive shift’ away from fossil fuels

Alongside the nuclear commitment, the white paper will also lay out a number of extra pledges, which it said would support 220,000 jobs around the country over the next decade.

These include a plan to save consumers money through a system which automatically switches them to a lower energy tariff.

In addition, it confirms that the UK will set up its own Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) from 1 January to replace the EU ETS, ruling out the prospect of a carbon tax.

The replacement scheme will be more ambitious than the original, with the cap on emissions allowed within the system will be reduced by 5 per cent from day one.

The government also extended its commitments to developing carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies, including plans to bring one such project online by 2030.

It is hoped that the development technology, alongside other low-emissions energy sources such as hydrogen power, can support the North Sea oil and gas industry through the transition away from fossil fuels.

The paper also revealed that a North Sea Transition deal laying out these plans would be signed in the first half of 2021.

Energy executives welcomed the new commitments, with SSE chief executive Alastair Philips-Davies commenting:

“Cost efficient renewables coupled with cutting edge carbon capture and storage technology and a robust and stable carbon price is the pathway to net zero and we welcome the Government’s focus on all three.

Today’s commitments follow shortly after Johnson’s 10 point climate change plan, which was released last month, and included a pledge to ban the sale of all new petrol and diesel cars by 2030.

Business secretary Alok Sharma said: “Today’s plan establishes a decisive and permanent shift away from our dependence on fossil fuels, towards cleaner energy sources that will put our country at the forefront of the global green industrial revolution.

“Through a major programme of investment and reform, we are determined to both decarbonise our economy in the most cost-effective way, while creating new sunrise industries and revitalising our industrial heartlands that will support new green jobs for generations to come.”

Daily Mail 14 December 2020

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-9050475/Government-gives-green-light-Sizewell-C-nuclear-power-station.html

Boris gives the green light on £20bn Sizewell C nuclear plant: Government opens talks with French energy giant EDF on funding Suffolk power station

  • Government has begun discussions with EDF on construction of £20bullion nuclear plant in Suffolk 
  • Update comes amid claims by industry sources that China could pull out of the nuclear plant project 
  • EDF says plant could meet 7% of UK energy’s demand when running but cost has proven controversial
  • Stop Sizewell C group warns it will divert investment from other green energy sources such as renewables

The Government has opened talks with energy firm EDF on the construction of the £20billion Sizewell C nuclear power station, which could generate enough electricity for around 7 per cent of the UK’s power demand.

The site in Suffolk would be a near replica of Hinkley Point C in Somerset, which is Britain’s first new nuclear plant in more than two decades and is already being built by the French energy firm with backing from China’s CGN.

The Government said it would enter into negotiations with EDF – but any deal must be affordable and provide value for money, with the project having already proven controversial with protesters slamming its huge cost.

The Stop Sizewell C campaign group which was formed seven years ago has warned the site will divert investment from other green energy sources such as renewables and would damage tourism and nature in the area.

But EDF claim it will generate enough ‘always-on’ low-carbon electricity to power six million homes and create 25,000 jobs. The energy firm is currently applying for planning permission for the 3.2-gigawatt plant.

The government has opened talks with EDF over the construction of the £20 billion Sizewell C (lighter grey on the right, next to Sizewell B) nuclear plant in Suffolk.

The site in Suffolk would be a near replica of Hinkley Point C in Somerset, pictured being constructed in September

Caroline Lucas, Green Party MP for Brighton Pavilion, told BBC News: ‘When renewables costs are plummeting, it’s madness to waste £20billion on another nuclear white elephant. It will leave consumers with higher bills, destroy important habitats and unlikely to be online till the late 2030s.’

In a statement, the Government said the discussions with EDF are part of its ‘options to enable investment in at least one nuclear power station by the end of this Parliament’.

It came as the Government put forward its Energy White Paper, which outlines plans for a clean energy system it said will support 220,000 jobs in the next 10 years.

Business and Energy Secretary Alok Sharma said: ‘Today’s plan establishes a decisive and permanent shift away from our dependence on fossil fuels, towards cleaner energy sources that will put our country at the forefront of the global green industrial revolution.

‘Through a major programme of investment and reform, we are determined to both decarbonise our economy in the most cost-effective way, while creating new sunrise industries and revitalising our industrial heartlands that will support new green jobs for generations to come.

‘At every step of the way, we will place affordability and fairness at the heart of our reforms – unleashing a wave of competition so consumers get the best deals possible on their bills, while protecting the vulnerable and fuel-poor with additional financial support.’

But he stressed that EDF has not yet been given a ‘green light’ for construction. ‘We are starting negotiations with EDF, which would be the developer at Sizewell C,’ Mr Sharma told BBC Radio 4.

‘What this is not is a green light on the construction, so what we will be doing is looking to see whether we can reach an investment decision in this parliament on that particular project.

‘We will only do so if this delivers value for money for taxpayers and consumers.’

Alison Downes from the Stop Sizewell C group said today: ‘As Alok Sharma said, this is not a green light to build Sizewell C and the idea that it could provide value for money is ‘pie in the sky’.

‘Costing at least £20billion, Sizewell C remains too slow and expensive to help our climate emergency, and both the government and any pension funds considering the project must beware the reputational risk of investing in a still unproven reactor design that even the French are abandoning, to be constructed on an eroding coastline, neighbouring the world famous Minsmere reserve.’

But Simone Rossi, EDF’s UK chief executive, said: ‘We’re right behind net zero and, by investing in renewables and nuclear at Hinkley Point C and Sizewell C, we’re supporting decarbonisation while creating jobs across the UK.

‘We will continue to help our customers find affordable, low-carbon ways to travel and heat their homes and businesses. The time for action is now and we look forward to working with the Government to implement its energy and climate policies, including the financing of new nuclear.’

Business Secretary Alok Sharma meets Imperial College staff at a carbon capture lab in an undated photo released today

Sizewell B is a nuclear power station located on the Suffolk coast, which is Britain’s only pressurised water reactor

Emma Pinchbeck, chief executive at Energy UK, said: ‘Today’s White Paper reveals the scale and opportunity of the energy transition, with aims in it to at least double the amount of clean electricity produced today, start making our homes warmer and greener, and help the switch to electric vehicles.

‘The energy industry will do our bit to innovate, supporting our customers so that they benefit from the net zero transition and investing in the green infrastructure we need – but clear policies from government help us do that.

‘This is what the White Paper – and other publications over the next year – should provide.’

The White Paper will outline moves to deliver the pledge to develop 40 gigawatts of offshore wind, including floating wind turbines, and invest £1 billion in technology to capture and store carbon emissions underground.

There will also be details on investing £1.3billion to accelerate the rollout of electric vehicle charging points in homes, streets and motorways, and measures to improve the energy efficiency of homes and move away from fossil fuel boilers.

Consumers will be offered a simple method of switching to a cheaper energy tariff, and testing automatically switching customers to fairer deals to tackle ‘loyalty penalties’, the Government said.

The White Paper will also include measures on establishing a new UK emissions trading scheme, which the Government said will be more ambitious than the current EU scheme it replaces.

In a statement, which also set out its Energy White Paper, the Government said: ‘This is the next step in considering the Sizewell C project, and negotiations will be subject to reaching a value-for-money deal and all other relevant approvals, before any final decision is taken on whether to proceed.

‘The successful conclusion of these negotiations will be subject to thorough scrutiny and needs to satisfy the Government’s robust legal, regulatory and national security requirements.’

The White Paper set out plans to transition to net zero emissions by 2050.

Sizewell C will provide 900 skilled jobs over its operating lifetime and support UK energy resilience by meeting seven percent of its demand for electricity, thus reducing the need for imports, EDF said.

Today’s update comes after it was revealed that China was considering pulling out of the Sizewell C nuclear plant.

The country’s nuclear agency, China General Nuclear Power (CGN), is planning to duck out of the next phase of the £20billion project, claim industry sources.

The change in power supply since 1998 is shown in a graphic, released as part of the Government’s Energy White Paper today

Analysis shows electricity demand could double by 2050, with power displacing petrol/diesel in cars and gas for heating. The difference in demand scenarios is driven mostly by how much electricity replaces gas for heating or petrol/diesel in cars

Analysis shows electricity demand could double by 2050, with power displacing petrol/diesel in cars and gas for heating. The difference in demand scenarios is driven mostly by how much electricity replaces gas for heating or petrol/diesel in cars

CGN holds a 20 per cent stake in the Suffolk plant and has spent years developing it with EDF.

The agency has not revealed how much it has invested in the Sizewell C development phase, though it is estimated to be hundreds of millions.

Its departure at the construction stage could leave a huge hole in the project’s funding – and could deal another body blow to the Government’s energy strategy.

The reports come as tensions between London and Beijing have flared since the Government’s decision to exclude Huawei’s equipment being used in new 5G networks.

The recent clampdown on foreign investment and takeover rules have also added to the hostility.

An industry source said: ‘If the UK were to lose Chinese know-how in nuclear it would be a shame given their expertise in building and operating the reactors that would be used at Sizewell C.’

Economy-wide analysis has suggested deep 'decarbonisation' in most sectors, such as through electrification. The final 5 per cent are based on the hardest to decarbonise elements of aviation, agricultural, industry and buildings

Economy-wide analysis has suggested deep ‘decarbonisation’ in most sectors, such as through electrification. The final 5 per cent are based on the hardest to decarbonise elements of aviation, agricultural, industry and buildings

This graphic, also in the Government's Energy White Paper, shows the electricity mix today and illustrative mixes for 2050

This graphic, also in the Government’s Energy White Paper, shows the electricity mix today and illustrative mixes for 2050

EDF submitted proposals for Sizewell C in 2012 and CGN signed on as a partner in 2016.

The pair are also working together on Hinkley Point C and on plans for another plant in Bradwell, Essex.

They had been hoping to start building Sizewell C in early 2022. It is estimated the plant could create 25,000 jobs and the Sizewell C consortium, a group of businesses and unions, have said it is crucial for supporting the nuclear industry’s supply chain and preserving skills learnt at Hinkley Point C.

The Government is under pressure to unveil a detailed strategy for the nuclear industry as a number of plants come offline in the early 2020s amid fears the UK could suffer blackouts by the early 2030s.

Ambitious plans have so far fallen flat and of six sites earmarked for new sites to replace the ageing nuclear fleet more than a decade ago only one, Hinkley Point C, is being built.

The latest of a string of setbacks came in September, when Japanese group Hitachi pulled out of the Wylfa project on Anglesey in North Wales.

Britain, which will host the UN’s next major climate summit COP26 in the Scottish city of Glasgow next year, announced the EDF talks in its Energy White Paper.

BBC 14 December 2020

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-55299511

Sizewell C: Government in talks to fund £20bn nuclear plant

By Roger Harrabin & Simon Read
BBC environment analyst & BBC business reporter

The government has begun talks with EDF about the construction of a new £20bn nuclear power plant in Suffolk.

The Sizewell C site could generate 3.2 gigawatts of electricity, enough to provide 7% of the UK’s energy needs.

But it has proved controversial with campaigners saying it is “ridiculously expensive” and that taxpayers will have to foot the bill for extra costs.

The government said any deal would be subject to approval on areas such as value for money and affordability.

EDF, the French energy giant, is also building the Hinkley Point C nuclear energy plant in Somerset in partnership with China General Nuclear Power.

The government said talks with EDF about Sizewell C would depend on the progress of the Hinkley Point C. However, that project is set to cost up to £2.9bn more than originally thought and will be up to 15 months late.

China General Nuclear Power has a 20% stake in Sizewell C but is thought to be planning to pull out after security concerns were raised about a Chinese state-owned company designing and running its own design nuclear reactor on UK soil.

If it does pull out, it would increase the need for new investors. One option could be for the government to take a stake in the plant.

Monday’s announcement is part of the long-awaited Energy White Paper, which ministers say will support up to 220,000 jobs over the next decade.

The paper sets out specific steps to cut emissions from industry, transport and buildings.

The policies should remove 230 million metric tonnes of emissions, which is equivalent to taking 7.5 million petrol cars off the road, the government says.

The paper outlines a policy to boost competition in the energy retail market to tackle the “loyalty penalty” in which long-standing customers pay more than new ones.

It will also provide at least £6.7bn in support to the fuel poor and most vulnerable over the next six years.Government in talks to fund £20bn nuclear plant

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Analysis box by Simon Jack, business editor

The government has always been clear that it remains committed to new nuclear power to meet its target of net zero emissions by 2050.

With other nuclear projects suffering recent setbacks, and an identical plant already under construction in Somerset, Sizewell was the clear front runner to get approval.

The high cost of big nuclear plants and the plummeting cost of renewables like offshore wind make a £20bn project like this controversial, but the enormous quantities of low carbon non-intermittent electricity it produces is considered by the government to be an essential part of the UK’s future energy mix as existing nuclear plants are phased out.

Any final decision to build the plant will be subject to a full regulatory and planning approval process. Some local opposition groups claim the project will damage the surrounding environment and important wildlife habitats, but there is also local support for the number of high quality jobs it will bring to an area which includes areas of high unemployment.

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‘Lessons learnt’

Commenting on the talks with EDF, the government said they would hinge on how Hinkley Point C is progressing, “and the developer’s application of lessons learnt from Hinkley Point C across to Sizewell C from development and design, through construction and commissioning, and into operations”.

Hinkley Point is now estimated to cost between £21.5bn and £22.5bn, with EDF blaming “challenging ground conditions”.

If the Sizewell C plant proceeds, it could create thousands of new jobs during construction and operation, the government said.

“We are starting negotiations with EDF, it is not a green light on the construction,” Business and Energy Secretary Alok Sharma told the BBC’s Today programme.

“The wind doesn’t always blow and the sun doesn’t always shine,” he said – referring to the variability of renewable power.

Business lobby group the CBI welcomed the news. “Building new nuclear capacity will give us a vital tool to help meet our global climate obligations,” said Rain Newton-Smith, CBI chief economist.

The Nuclear Industry Association’s chief executive, Tom Greatrex said: “Sizewell is a vital next step towards the net zero power mix we need for the future.

“As well as at least 60 years of constantly available clean electricity, this project will provide thousands of highly-skilled, well-paid and long-term jobs across the supply chain, at a time when they are badly needed.”

But campaigners hit out at the plans.

“The idea that it could provide value for money is pie in the sky,” said Alison Downes from the Stop Sizewell C campaign.

“Sizewell C remains too slow and expensive to help our climate emergency, and both the government and any pension funds considering the project must beware the reputational risk of investing in a still unproven reactor design.”

Caroline Lucas, Green MP for Brighton Pavilion, said: “When renewables costs are plummeting, it’s madness to waste £20bn on another nuclear white elephant,

“It will leave consumers with higher bills, destroy important habitats and unlikely to be online till the late 2030s.”

Clean energy

Talking about the energy white paper, Mr Sharma said: “Today’s plan establishes a decisive and permanent shift away from our dependence on fossil fuels, towards cleaner energy sources that will put our country at the forefront of the global green industrial revolution.”

The paper says that electricity demand will double due to transport and low carbon heat.

It proposes that by the mid-2030s, all newly-installed heating systems should be low carbon or to be able to be converted to a clean fuel supply.

Co-incidentally, on Monday the government faced criticism over two existing climate policies.

The Commons Environmental Audit Committee said the recently-imposed Green Homes Grant to help householders insulate their homes faced serious problems.

It said most people had difficulty using the website, and many could not find a contractor to install insulation.

Separately, the UK Energy Research Centre – a government-funded consortium of academics – said the government’s policy of banning the sales of new petrol and diesel cars by 2030 was insufficient.

It said ministers needed to tax such vehicles heavily now, or people would still be buying them in 2029 and running them for a couple of decades.

The Times 14 December

https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/boris-johnson-approves-talks-on-new-nuclear-power-plant-at-sizewell-kxcvg6tg7

Boris Johnson approves talks on new nuclear power plant at Sizewell

Boris Johnson has approved the start of negotiations with EDF about funding a new £20 billion nuclear power plant despite concerns that taxpayers would foot the bill for any extra costs.

The government is considering backing Sizewell C, a twin-reactor plant in Suffolk. It could generate 3.2 gigawatts of electricity, enough to provide 7 per cent of Britain’s energy needs.

The move is a vital part of the prime minister’s pledge to reach net-zero emissions by 2050. Most reactors are due to shut down this decade, leading to fears of blackouts in the 2030s.

China General Nuclear Power (CGN), a Chinese state company, has a 20 per cent stake in Sizewell C but is thought to be planning to pull out, increasing the need for new investors. The government is considering taking an equity stake in the plant amid concerns that private investment could still leave it with multibillion-pound liabilities. Taking an equity stake would allow taxpayers to benefit from any profits.

Sizewell C is now the only project in contention for government investment. The government offered to take a one-third stake in Hitachi’s Wylfa plant on Anglesey, but the Japanese company cancelled it in September.

Sizewell would be a sister project to Hinkley Point C, which EDF, the French energy company, is building in Somerset with CGN. Costs there have risen to £22.5 billion. Alison Downes, of the Stop Sizewell C campaign group, has said previously: “Sizewell C is a bad project — if EDF can’t make it work on their own terms they shouldn’t expect the British public to bail them out.”

Tom Greatrex, of the Nuclear Industry Association, said: “Any credible analysis of reaching net-zero shows you need lots of zero-carbon, including that which is not reliant on the weather.

“Nuclear construction isn’t expensive — financing nuclear projects is. Using a better model than at Hinkley would significantly reduce the cost for consumers.”

The announcement of talks with EDF comes as the government publishes its energy white paper, which includes plans to switch consumers to cheaper tariffs automatically.

Alok Sharma, the business secretary, will publish proposals today to end the “loyalty penalty”, which according to Look After My Bills, a price comparison website, costs loyal customers an average of £169 more a year. Under one plan to be tested, called “opt-in switching”, consumers will be offered a simple method to switch if their initial contract has ended. “Opt-out switching” will involve consumers being automatically moved to a more competitive rate.

Government’s hopes Sizewell C could provide ‘value for money’ are “pie in the sky”, say campaigners

For Immediate Release 14 December 2020

Government’s hopes Sizewell C could provide ‘value for money’ are “pie in the sky”, say campaigners

[SUFFOLK] The financial problems underlying the proposed new nuclear power station at Sizewell C are insurmountable, say local campaigners Stop Sizewell C, despite the government’s announcement today of negotiations with developer EDF. The government says it will explore funding the double-reactor plant through a ‘nuclear tax’ and consider a direct stake, subject to “a value for money deal” being achievable. [1] 

The government requires assurances that EDF has learned lessons at Hinkley Point, but none of this type of reactor being constructed in Europe are on time or budget. Hinkley Point is billions overspent, Olkiluoto in Finland and Flamanville in France also overspent and a decade late [2] and Sizewell C’s site next to protected habitats on an eroding coast will present different challenges to those at Hinkley. Huge questions surround who will pay for the inevitable cost overruns in any deal between the French-goverment owned developer and the UK. 

The Regulated Asset Base (or RAB) funding model suggested in the White Paper would require a levy on all electricity bills even before construction starts, to recompense private investors. Even consumers on ‘Green’ or ‘100% Renewable’ tariffs would have to shoulder this extra cost.

In the last week, Stop Sizewell C has been told by confidential sources that – if Sizewell C ever went ahead – China General Nuclear would withdraw from the construction phase, the government would take a 10% stake, EDF’s share would reduce to 10%, leaving at least £16 billion of the estimated £20 billion to be found. CGN’s withdrawal has been reported by the Daily Mail. Stop Sizewell C also opposes the project because it would have unacceptable impacts on host communities and east Suffolk’s fragile coast and natural environment, including internationally-famous RSPB Minsmere; it wouldn’t contribute to net zero until at least 2040 nor help ‘level up’ the UK. [3] 

Reacting to the Energy White Paper Stop Sizewell C [4] representatives said:

Alison Downes: “As Alok Sharma said, this is not a green light to build Sizewell C and the idea that it could provide value for money is “pie in the sky”. Costing at least £20 billion, Sizewell C remains too slow and expensive to help our climate emergency, and both the government and any pension funds considering the project must beware the reputational risk of investing in a still unproven reactor design that even the French are abandoning, [5] to be constructed on an eroding coastline, neighbouring the world famous Minsmere reserve.

Charles Macdowell: “The government’s financing ideas – which are still just ideas – will open a real can of worms. Both RAB and a direct stake in Sizewell C would suck vital funds away from renewable and storage  technologies that are already revolutionising our energy. Since both a direct stake and RAB go on the government’s balance sheet, they are also inextricably bound up in the ongoing saga of the UK’s transition out of the EU.” [6] 

 

Paul Collins: “EDF is more than a year from a decision on planning consent, and our energy landscape is transforming all the time. Just 18 months ago, then Business Secretary Greg Clark said the UK needed 40GW of ‘baseload capacity’ by 2050, [7] inferring that this would come from new nuclear, but none of the Climate Change Committee’s five energy scenarios published last week had more than 10GW; and three had just 5GW. [8] If Sizewell C went ahead, it would be obsolete before it was completed and interfere with the progress towards 80% renewable supply. Sizewell C is the wrong project in the wrong place: it should not be part of a truly green recovery and there is still time for the government to realise this.”

 

Opposition to Sizewell C is strong and growing as the impacts on local communities and the environment of the 10-12 year build become clearer,  alongside concerns that EDF’s claims of economic benefit are unproven. [9] Sizewell C is opposed by Suffolk MP Dan Poulter, thousands of individuals, [10] organisations such as the RSPB and Suffolk Wildlife Trust, and dozens of Parish and Town Councils including Aldeburgh and Woodbridge. Suffolk County Council has stated it “cannot support” EDF’s proposals. More than 100 rural businesses [11] and over 60 influencers have sent letters of opposition to Ministers. [12] National Infrastructure Commission Chair Sir John Armitt [13] and Committee on Climate Change Chair Lord Deben [14] have both raised questions about the need for Sizewell C. 

 

Notes

  1. https://www.gov.uk/government/news/government-sets-out-plans-for-clean-energy-system-and-green-jobs-boom-to-build-back-greener 
  2. No country in Western Europe has any operating EPRs or new builds besides Hinkley Point C and the catastrophic Flamanville (France) and Olkiluoto (Finland) projects which are a decade behind schedule and multiple times overspent.
  3.  Information from EDF’s application for Development Consent: Funding Statement and Climate Change docs (page 33). See also our report www.stopsizewellc.org/sizewell-c-and-climate-change/ and RSPB statement.
  4. Stop Sizewell C is a campaign group formed by local people in the community on the frontline of the project. We did not start out opposing Sizewell C but were driven to it after 8 years of EDF’s failed engagement and the destructive nature of its proposals. 
  5. The EPR has been described by Dr Paul Dorfman of UCL as “too complex to build to time and budget”. EDF will build no more of this design in France and aims to have a new EPR design by 2021,  but Sizewell C would be the old design.
  6. State aid is widely reported as one of the sticking points in Brexit negotiations
  7. https://www.edie.net/news/10/Clark-UK-may-need-40GW-of-new-baseload-generation-by-2050/38818/
  8. https://www.theccc.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/Sector-summary-Electricity-generation.pdf page 29
  9. See an independent critique of EDF’s Economic Statement www.stopsizewellc.org/economic-impacts/ 
  10. In the last 2 weeks over 50,000 people have signed an RSPB petition opposing Sizewell C https://e-activist.com/page/71193/petition/
  11. https://stopsizewellc.org/over-100-rural-businesses-oppose-sizewellc/
  12. https://stopsizewellc.org/bill-nighy-joins-campaign-to-stop-new-sizewell-nuclear-power-station/
  13. Sir John Armitt: “Hopefully by 2025, we will be able to rely on much smarter systems and won’t have to rely on nuclear” Quoted in https://utilityweek.co.uk/treasury-still-unconvinced-rab-model-nuclear/ 
  14. Lord Deben has described nuclear as a “transitional” energy source whose need reduces as grid-balancing improves. As reported in Utility Week http://www.utilityweek.co.uk/lord-deben-politicians-finally-grasped-reality-climate-change/ 

 

EADT Opinion by Andy Wood: ‘Be wary of Sizewell C’s promise of boom times’

https://www.eadt.co.uk/news/opinion-andy-wood-adnams-sizewell-power-plant-1-6950551

Dr Andy Wood, chief executive of Adnams Southwold, argues that building the proposed Sizewell C nuclear power station will not create ‘boom times’ for Suffolk and there are better and cheaper ways to create new jobs.

Suffolk Community Foundation’s latest report on our county’s Hidden Needs makes for some heart-breaking reading.

Whether it is somebody in an isolated village with no transport or a young person from a family where multi-generational unemployment is the norm, or someone old and lonely, this report highlights that targeted and often complex solutions are called for.

It reminds us that spending money to create long-term new jobs may be good for the economy but will not necessarily benefit everyone and not necessarily those that have been left behind. We should be wary of suggestions that the “boom times” are just around the corner because of a major construction project such as the proposed new nuclear power station at Sizewell.

Leiston, host to Sizewell A and B, was described by Suffolk Safeguarding Partnership in this newspaper earlier this month as “a significantly deprived population with higher levels of childhood obesity, tooth decay and smoking [with] little social mobility.”

If it ever found the funding, and overcame numerous objections locally and nationally, Sizewell C should create 900 new long-term jobs according to EDF, at a total cost of £20 billion. That’s over £22 million per new job. A fraction of this sum invested in the sort of solutions required to alleviate Suffolk’s hidden needs would have a much bigger impact and leave plenty of change to create new long-term careers in sectors which are much more suited to this county’s significant strengths, such as in tourism, offshore wind and IT to name a few.

Whilst we were told in the Prime Minister’s 10-Point Plan that the government was supportive of large nuclear projects, this is not unconditional. Tucked away in background materials is the phrase “subject to value for money”. That is key to my own and others’ opposition to Sizewell C.

Sizewell C would be the biggest construction site in Europe, adding 12,000 vehicles each day to the A12. EDF has made no secret of its need to save money and reduce the significant risks of a complicated build by using the Hinkley Point supply chain and workforce. 6,000 relocated workers will need accommodation, pushing up rents and house prices for local people, especially those in lower cost housing. Many of the remaining workers are expected to travel from 90 minutes away – not exactly local and well outside the county.

EDF admits many hundreds would be displaced from existing employers, causing recruitment problems. Meanwhile, independent studies found that up to £40 million would be lost to our valuable tourism industry each year of construction. With a build time in excess of a decade when its technology is highly likely to have been superseded, is this really worth the risk to Suffolk and its communities?

It would be wrong to object to Sizewell C without either evidence of its impacts or offer alternative solutions. Of course, our young people deserve training and the opportunity of a rewarding career, but Sizewell C is not the only option. This part of Suffolk needs more well-paid, long term jobs which work with the grain of the existing economy rather than threatening it.

Both public and private sector leaders need to come together to celebrate the area’s many strengths and help it to remove remaining barriers so that it becomes the best place to start a new business. Small and medium-sized businesses create most of the new, long term employment opportunities in our area and there is huge potential for these to expand and grow. Many exploit ideas and technologies which do not depend on being in cities to succeed and Suffolk, with all its amenities, has much to offer.

Local estate agents have reported a tide of interest from city dwellers who already realise this and want to bring their own business ideas to less-congested counties like Suffolk.

There are significant opportunities linked to our green recovery. Investment in offshore wind, responsibly delivered to shore, is going to bring us much cheaper energy and many more jobs in the medium and long term than the eye-wateringly expensive Sizewell C.

The green think tank e3g has calculated that labour intensive tasks like insulating homes can cut CO2 emissions and create jobs at a fraction of the cost of Sizewell C.

Despite EDF’s many years and millions of pounds spent persuading us that Sizewell C will be good for Suffolk, more and more of us are realising that the opposite is true.

We have no issue with the existing Sizewell B, but it is time we fought back against a proposal which will damage existing jobs and could ruin the place upon which so many of our livelihoods are founded. It is not too late to stop Sizewell C.

EADT: Top-level talks on funding for Sizewell C but no green light yet

https://www.eadt.co.uk/news/boris-10-point-plan-sizewell-c-reaction-1-6935670

Top-level talks on funding for Sizewell C but no green light yet

PUBLISHED: 17:28 18 November 2020 | UPDATED: 19:04 18 November 2020

Campaigners said opposition was “strong and growing” and the government’s financial commitment to nuclear was a “drop in the ocean” compared with Sizewell C’s cost.

Mr Johnson said £525 million would be earmarked to help develop “large and smaller-scale nuclear plants”, and research and develop new advanced modular reactors. This could support 10,000 jobs in total.

Sizewell C managing director Humphrey Cadoux-Hudson said “Sizewell C is the only large scale nuclear project ready to begin construction. It will deliver the always-on low-carbon power Britain needs.

“Sizewell C will be a great British project: It will copy the UK-adapted design being built at Hinkley Point C, with 70% of the value of engineering and construction contracts going to suppliers based in this country, and can be majority owned by British investors. When it gets the go-ahead, it will create thousands of jobs.

“Sizewell C builds on the great progress being made by UK nuclear at Hinkley Point C and, as a direct copy, it can benefit from lower construction and financing costs.

“We look forward to moving ahead quickly with the Government on an innovative funding arrangement to achieve best value for money for consumers.”

Alison Downes, from Stop Sizewell C, said: “Despite heavy briefing by EDF and the nuclear industry, the Prime Minister’s 10 Point Plan has not yet given a green light to Sizewell C, nor any suggestion on how it might be funded.

“The pledge of £525m to be split between large, small and advanced reactors is a drop in the ocean compared to the £20billion cost of Sizewell C.

“Of course, we continue to wait for the Energy White Paper, but Sizewell C remains a ridiculously expensive project that won’t contribute to net zero until at least 2040, won’t help ‘level up’ the UK and threatens RSPB Minsmere. Quite simply, Sizewell C has no place in a truly green recovery and there is still time for the government to realise this.”

Charles Macdowell, also from Stop Sizewell C, added: “If EDF were hoping the Prime Minister’s announcement would give the go-ahead to Sizewell C, they will be sorely disappointed.

“Even with the PM’s restatement of his support for nuclear energy, history has shown that it isn’t easy to deliver on political promises to build such projects. Nuclear may be the third point in the PM’s plan but it is neither green nor clean.”

EDF says Sizewell C – if given the go-ahead – could be contrubuting to net zero by the early 2030s and woudl continue to do so as electricity demand increases substantially due to electrification of heat, transport and industry – roughly doubling from today’s level.

Together Against Sizewell C (TASC) said the Prime Minister’s plan was “lacking imagination, ambition or vision” and called for a programme which commits to at least 80% power generated by renewables by 2030, mandatory solar panels on new homes and buildings, a comprehensive programme for retrofitting of buildings to make them more energy efficient, a scrapping of the National Grid and a more radical shake up of the way electricity is generated and distributes.

TASC chair and deputy chair of the Sizewell Stakeholder Group, Pete Wilkinson said: “Whatever you were hoping for in the statement, it’s likely that you’ll be disappointed. The Tory government has been in labour for years and has produced a mouse. An opportunity to show vision, imagination and to lay the groundwork for how it sees the ‘build back better’ programme unfold has been squandered.

“Large-scale nuclear can only mean Sizewell, Bradwell and possibly a revived interest in Wylfa, all of which, as Treasury knows only too well, will need funding from sources other than EdF which is hugely in debt and has admitted it does not have the funds to complete a £20bn Sizewell project.

“Support for small modular reactors (SMRs) offers a handout to Rolls Royce for the development of reactors which are untried, unlicenced and which will require complicated planning approvals if they are to be used close to centres of population to make use of their district heating potential from waste heat. It’s unlikely that communities will accept the generation of nuclear waste and live with the risk of a nuclear accident on a ‘local’ basis. SMRs are yet another attempt to throw a lifeline to the failing nuclear industry at the public’s expense and represent another nuclear expensive punt more in hope than expectation.

“We are pleased that, despite heavy lobbying by EDF and the nuclear industry cheerleaders, Sizewell C has not been given the green light but we are mindful of the fact that the government is yet to publish its energy White Paper. We call on the government to reject the nuclear option in that paper and to recognise that nuclear’s climate change credentials have time and again been roundly demonstrated to be greatly overstated. Even Secretaries of State continue to claim it is a ‘zero carbon’ source of electricity, which it is not.”