Former energy secretary berates Hinkley Point C nuclear project

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The UK’s flagship new nuclear power project at Hinkley Point C has been described as “one of the worst deals ever” for British consumers and industry by a Conservative former energy secretary.

Speaking during the second reading of the Energy Bill, Lord Howell of Guildford called for the project to be abandoned in favour of smaller nuclear plants at a later date and warned no reactor of the kind planned for Hinkley Point C has “ever been completed successfully”.

The World Nuclear Association has responded to his statements, and emphasised the importance of nuclear  terms of the country meeting its decarbonisation goals.
Lord Howell
Lord Howell told peers: “By far the biggest obligation or future burden on consumers and households is the Hinkley Point C nuclear project. I’m very pro-nuclear, I’m pro its low-carbon contribution but this must be one of the worst deals ever for British households and British industry.

“When you add to this that the component suppliers to EDF are in trouble, costs keep rising, no reactor of this kind has ever been completed successfully – those that have been built are years behind – workers at the site have been laid off. Our far better hope lies with Japanese nuclear plans at Wylfa and Moorside. They can build quicker with more tested and reliable reactor designs, and because of cheap gas for years to come we will not need them so soon anyway."

The new secretary of state for energy, Amber Rudd, defended the project earlier this week, saying, “We have to have secure base-load, so you should not be surprised that we are prepared to pay more for that in order to ensure nuclear is part of the mix. The requirement for nuclear is absolute.”

*Dr Jonathan Cobb, Senior Communications Managet at the World Nuclear Association, in a statement to Power Engineering International, responded to Lord Howell's comments, saying, "Lord Howell’s statement continues his long record of advocating greater use of gas. Another dash for gas would significantly damage the UK’s decarbonisation goals as well as putting customers at risk of the future volatility of gas prices and supply concerns."

"We are glad that Lord Howell is pro-nuclear and supports plans for new reactors at Wylfa and Moorside. But, as Energy Secretary Amber Rudd’s recent statement makes clear, the decision to build the first of the UK’s next generation of nuclear plants is set to take place with Hinkley Point C later this year."

"For secure and affordable electricity supplies for industry and domestic customers the UK needs to forward with all its nuclear energy plans as part of a low carbon electricity mix and not get side-tracked into a further reliance on gas."

Lord Howell briefly responded to a request from PEi for more information on the data behind his comments, mentioning 'strike price over 35 years, indexed, plus announced capital costs. But see also reported statistics on Finland and Flamanville.' 

*The WNA would like it clarified in relation to their response to Lord Howell that they did not "question the motivation behind his statements" nor mention his "commitment to gas", as was prefaced to their comments in the original publication of this article.

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