Skip to content

The Cost Of Liz Truss’ Nuclear Future

October 31, 2014

By Paul Homewood  



New DEFRA Secretary, Liz Truss, was given a bit of a mauling by Andrew Neil last week, but what drew my attention was her constant reference to expansion of nuclear power.

So, let’s see how that might work out.


Current capacity looks like this.


Coal 21
Gas 35
Oil 2
Nuclear 10
Hydro 4
Wind 11
Bio 2



With peak demand running close to 60GW, consumption likely to rise during the next decade, and the need for a sensible reserve, we would certainly need at least 90GW of capacity by 2030.


Wind and solar cannot be included in any calculations of capacity, as they are intermittent, while all but 1GW of current nuclear at Sizewell B is due for closure well before 2030.

Assuming that the current level of gas capacity remains in place as standby, we would need 55GW of nuclear capacity, equivalent to 17 Hinkley Point C’s.

So, how much would all of this new nuclear cost in subsidies?

The contract for Hinkley Point C gives a guaranteed price of £89.50/MWh, assuming two reactors are built. This is based on 2012 prices, so is equivalent to about £94 at today’s prices. With a current wholesale electricity price of under £50/MWh, this implies a subsidy of £44/MWh.


Now for the sums.


Assuming plants are run at 80% utilisation, 55GW capacity would produce 385TWH pa.

A subsidy of £44/MWh would therefore cost £16.9 billion pa!

Yes, you read that right – an incredible £16.9 billion, an annual cost per household of £651.

This would, of course, be in addition to the subsidies that would also be thrown at wind and solar.


Liz Truss kept warbling away about how people are concerned about forests and bees. But I suspect that they would be a bit more concerned about the way their energy bills are going to skyrocket in the next few years!

  1. Bloke down the pub permalink
    October 31, 2014 1:47 pm

    On Channel 4 tonight @ 19.35, Unreported World on how India is increasing it’s coal fired generation. I’m betting on it focusing on carbon emissions and open cast mining rather than providing electricity to millions of people.

  2. October 31, 2014 2:07 pm

    So, what exactly is your solution? Coal forever? What is the price of not having enough power?

    I am not a blind advocate of wind of solar, but I will note that intermittent power from these sources can be effectively mated with gas generation to provide what functions as a steady load.

    The fact that anthropogenic global warming is nonsense, does not mean that hydrocarbons are the best solution for energy generation. Simple examination of production figures, and demand that would be generated if additional 5 billion people who are now mostly poor tried to join western civilization, tells you that the era of hydrocarbons has it’s limits. It is kind of silly to turn opposition to fraud in science into partisanship of coal.

    • October 31, 2014 3:30 pm

      Prosperity = Birth Control.

      The sooner the poor in the world get reliable electricity, the sooner they will stop having families of 5 or 10 children and start having 1 or 2 or 3.

      The world cannot afford to deprive them of cheap coal powered electricity.

      • Brian H permalink
        December 22, 2014 8:14 pm

        The population, per the always-correct Low Fertility Band of the UN Pop. Survey will peak at 8bn in 2045, and decline indefinitely thereafter, hitting 6+ bn by 2100.

        There will by an Under-Population crisis. Hope the androids can keep up.

    • Otter (ClimateOtter on Twitter) permalink
      October 31, 2014 3:52 pm

      I’d prefer we doubled or tripled nuclear, myself.

    • October 31, 2014 5:36 pm

      Hey, who’s pimping for coal?

      I’m simply pointing out the ruinous costs of the current strategy information which our govt is seeking to suppress.

      As for gas backing up wind, its ability to do this will be increasingly restricted by decarbonisation targets. This was the thrust of Andrew Neill’s questioning – where will our power come from when CO2 is cut by 80%? Truss’ answer was wind/solar/nuclear.

      As for solutions, perhaps instead of wasting money on renewables, we should start investing in new technologies such as thorium, or Owen Paterson’s idea of mini nuclear. The problem is that our energy policy is being run to address the non existent problem of climate change, instead of to provide cheap, reliable energy.

      One last point – Carbon Storage. CCS decreases the power station’s efficiency, and therefore increases the use of coal/gas, by I believe about a third(?). As coal/gas are finite resources, this seems to be an incredibly wasteful process, just to save CO2

    • Brian H permalink
      November 1, 2014 12:05 am

      “Effectively mated” my hinney. It must be fully backed up by conventional as it may fail and fall at any time. So you might as well go with the conventional ONLY, and spare yourself the egregious expense of the renewable.

      CCS, btw, is not only unproven, it’s unavailable in the real world, and IAC entirely pointless. Leave the damn CO2 in the atmosphere where plants, including agriculture, can make good use of it.

  3. robinedwards36 permalink
    October 31, 2014 3:19 pm

    Hello, mf, I recommend that you buy the book by David MacKay “SUSTAINABLE ENERGY – without the hot air”, and then read it. He was once the government’s chief adviser on this sort of thing. He goes into the physics of sustainables with simplicity and clarity, and, crucially, numerically. I can see no reason to doubt either his ideas or his physics/arithmetic. It is very interesting reading indeed. I was greatly enlightened, and I’d guess that you will be too.

  4. October 31, 2014 4:03 pm

    Add to all this two recent articles I have seen. One: the nr Hinkley nuclear power station will be the last of its type because of huge cost.Two: is the new nuclear powers station too complicated to build?

    Not very reassuring.

    That interview was stunning. I’m told she is taking lessons in plant biology from her scientific advisors. Nitrogen fixation was the first. Apparantly she is a big fan of British apples. Bless.

  5. John F. Hultquist permalink
    October 31, 2014 4:14 pm

    Time is not on your side. First is deciding what you need. Seems you haven’t gotten there yet. Then what type and where. Then legal holdups and protests – the usual suspects. Execution of the plans is next. Never smooth. Seattle’s tunnel project (stalled because of broken equipment) is now delayed by sea shells (perhaps Native artifacts?).

    Some folks think the next few to 30 years will be colder than now. There isn’t time to do much about that . See above.

  6. October 31, 2014 5:01 pm

    The Hinckley Point power Station is NOT the way to provision nuclear power. Small Modular Nuclear Power plants are the way forward. These are factory built leveraging all our experience of building in quality and reliability and can be easily serviced and refuelled. They can be built in multiples and the new technology nuclear does not need the same level of cooling as the out of date one off prototype monstrosities such as Hinckley Point, and therefore can be nearer where the electricity will be used and the waste heat used to heat homes or schools and hospitals. These SMR are also of a failsafe design and if both water and power are lost safely shut down without risk of meltdown and leakage.

    In the meantime people need to keep in mind that we can burn coal so that all that comes out the stack is CO2 and H2O. When we burn methane the calculation is CH4 + 2 O2 = 2 H2O + CO2. Coal is made up of pure carbon (C ) in fused with the whole range of hydrocarbons from CH4 upwards. These volatile hydrocarbons burn first and heat the carbon so that the pure carbon turns to CO2. The trick is to stop the Nitrogen which makes up 78% of the air you pump into the combustion chamber from combining with free oxygen and forming NOx, the stuff that turns the air brown, and capturing the impurities such as sulphur which contribute most to SO2 that may form acid rain but more importantly is a source of particulate matter.

    We have the technology to do all this and burn coal cleanly without overbearing costs, but we can’t because the idiots in power deem CO2 a pollutant and want it captured and buried. By the way hydrocarbons are not fossils. They are everybit as much a part of earth as water and CO2 and NH3 which we find in aboundace through out the solar system.

  7. October 31, 2014 6:02 pm

    I don’t believe in nuclear energy
    it is too expensive to be save….
    I made a comment somewhere about what are the best options
    but I cannot find it anymore…

  8. October 31, 2014 6:25 pm

    Just have a look and see what I wrote?

  9. October 31, 2014 6:38 pm

    I found it from the original…..

    I note that Japan is now officially admitting that nuclear energy is not safe. Obviously, it never was safe in the first place, if only because of the waste problem. They (Japan) apparently have so much claims and clean up costs that they have decided to halt all plans for new nuclear plants. Germany has stopped using nuclear energy. Holland has also shelved all plans for new plants. These people are not stupid. The world is currently still sitting with two enormous problems in Chernobyl and Fukushima.
    Obviously, nobody of those still singing the praises of nuclear energy is prepared to volunteer to clean up the mess that we still have there. The 300 people that were involved in the encapsulation of Chernobyl, have all since died. And the job actually needs to be re-done, but the government in the Ukraine does not have the money for it. Can you believe that?
    I therefore would like to add my voice to those opposed to nuclear energy.I would not ask you to stop all nuclear energy here in SA, if I had not carefully studied the possible alternatives>
    1) There have been proposals to use “renewables” like wind. However, I found several report backs from those using wind, that wind power is very unreliable.(you could ask a report from Denmark or USA about this)
    2) In the case of using solar power for generating electricity, it was found that this was very, very un-economical. Subsidies in Spain have recently been withdrawn. They cannot afford it anymore. (perhaps you could also ask for a report from Spain about this)
    3) I don’t have a problem with us using coal, as, contrary to popular opinion, I found that your carbon footprint is actually good for life.
    The pattern of global warming that I observed on earth, prove that it (i.e. the global warming) is mostly a natural process and has nothing to do with the increase in carbon dioxide.
    I suggest your department lodge their own official investigation as to my results on this:
    This may become relevant as time moves on. People will have to get used to the idea that our carbon footprint (carbon dioxide) is actually good for life.
    However, when using coal, you still sit with the heavy metals, sulphurous gases and carbon monoxide. These are poisons that have to be removed from the exhaust.This may prove a bit expensive.
    4) I believe some discussion is currently going on about fracking and using gas for generating energy.
    It has been proved all over the world that using gas is the most economical and efficient way to generate electricity.
    It will also generate many more new jobs, which the country needs badly.
    5) Obviously, where possible, hydro power is probably the cheapest, cleanest and most reliable option for generating electricity.
    We should investigate if there are not more possibilities in southern Africa to pursue this option.
    I would appreciate it if you will consider all of this, as our future is at stake.

    • Evan HIghlander permalink
      December 21, 2014 12:15 pm

      …….’ these people are not stupid……’ No! they are just on the W E E D ! Have to be! – it’s not just CLimate change, etc, there are soooo many other issues being fudged or dreamt up – What planet are the Politicians on? The Planet of Waste and Money perhaps ? Gets my Goat ! -Think I’ll let Billy loose! – I don’t have Kids like everyone else according to current Olde Engl Speke nowadays. I am not a GOAT! – THEY have Kids. I seem to have had a wasted Education from 50 to 60 yrs ago when I thought we were all well educated to the best of our resources. I went on to University and tried hard to “Spread the Word ” and have CHILDREN to carry on with the message . BUT thanks to a well-fed society becoming between lessez faire & PC, we have lost our way of common sense. Everything has to be boxed so’s they can be ticked. As a wise man said to me some time ago …. we used to have one big box, or / in a, shed and everything you needed was in it – never got lost. NOW we put things in little boxes, marked full of ticks, – but we cannot find them in amongst the myriad of boxes. WE now have more boxes to tick than we ever had articles to put in the Shed – so the shed ids full to bursting with not much of substance in them,,,,,,, Your Thought for the Day
      Discuss over Christmas!

  10. Herve D permalink
    October 31, 2014 6:45 pm

    Greens, alarmists and politicians have all exaggerated nuclear MWh costs for propaganda reasons. Same thing occured in France where a solid concensus about this exists for decades, quoting it (wastes and return to lawn included) around 32€ (circa £26). Then, due to renewables propaganda, within past 6 years, all governmental and public concerned institutions started to “drift” costs just to stay quiet with their “masters”, indeed those who fund them! They are now claiming it to be around 80£… The pain for them is the law forcing EdF giant to deliver 25% of its nuclear production AT FULL COST to its competitors in order to maintain an apparent “free market competition” (never mind, french administration does not know what economics is). The forced top down price is….£34….!!!
    If Osborne negociated the crazy new granted nuclear selling price at £92, this is his problem and he has to explain this to population: It’s probably to avoid too much distorsion when comparing it to off-shore contract prices around £150…
    EdF, granted a 13.5% return profit for 35years has performed its best economic deal in history. Sorry for britons….

  11. October 31, 2014 7:06 pm

    @herve d
    problem (in France) is
    how safe is it?
    Belgium closed all nuclear reactors due to doubts about safety
    Similar reactors in USA have also been shut down.

  12. October 31, 2014 7:27 pm

    The problem with the EPR is that it is basically an enlarged and over-engineered copy of a Westinghouse design from 50 years ago. If we’d had a sensible Energy Minister, we’d have gone for a much cheaper, better and intrinsically safer design, such as the AP1000 or the ABWR and then put development effort into thorium or other small modular designs. The money that could be put into R&D is being wasted on subsidising unreliable and unaffordable renewable energy schemes.

    But then I don’t need to tell anybody that we’ve had a succession of idiots running our energy policy for over 20 years.

  13. October 31, 2014 7:46 pm

    your comment makes sense to me
    but fracking for gas and making more Co2 is also OK

  14. John F. Hultquist permalink
    November 1, 2014 1:15 am

    HenryP at 6:38 in point #1 expresses interest in wind being unreliable.
    In the western USA along the Columbia River (border between OR & WA) there are many wind towers and the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) that began as a hydro-power operation is in charge of adding alternative sources into the grid. The results in near real time are here:

    The chart has a green line near the bottom – that is the wind power. Scroll down a bit and read the text that helps explain what you see in the chart.

    Joanne Nova often has posts about alternative energy. Comments by “TonyfromOz” are enlightening and she has at least one guest post by Tony, namely:

    Many of her posts dealing with energy will have a comment by TonyfromOz well worth reading but I do not know how one could find them – except search for related posts and then his name.

  15. R2Dtoo permalink
    November 1, 2014 3:18 am

    Congrats on your 1,000,000 hits- and thanks!

    • Bloke down the pub permalink
      November 1, 2014 10:39 am

      You beat me to it. See3pee Oh!

  16. November 1, 2014 9:42 pm

    Strange you get so many comments when actually there is no story. It’s all based on what Truss mumbled in the interview BUT it was clear she’s not the organ grinder, she’s just the monkey..marionette not decision maker.

  17. December 21, 2014 8:15 am

    Reblogged this on Tallbloke's Talkshop and commented:
    Paul Homewood points up more holes in government thinking on energy.

  18. December 21, 2014 10:32 am

    It is more a reflection of the collapse of the UK nuclear industry. Sizewelll B cost £2 billion to build in 1995 which is the equivalent of about £3.6 billion today. So if the CEGB still existed and nuclear expertise hadn’t been killed off the UK could have build 50 GW of nuclear capacity for £150 billion, which spread over a 60 year lifetime is say £3 billion per year. So at 80% capacity that works out at an investment overhead of under £10 per MWh. Operating and fuel costs are cheaper than coal.

  19. December 21, 2014 8:55 pm

    October 31, 2014 5:01 pm

    The problem with small modular nuclear is manning requirements. Let us suppose that the nuke side requires zero manning. You still have steam generators, condensers, and turbines that need to be watched. And the watchers need a fair amount of training and capability. Expensive. And all that steam eqpt needs maintenance. Steam is corrosive. You have to keep an eye on it. Sea water for cooling is very corrosive. In fact water is corrosive. Especially oxygenated water.

    The people advocating this sort of thing have NEVER run a steam plant.

  20. steverichards1984 permalink
    December 22, 2014 11:40 am

    Indeed, small reactors being ‘fail safe’ !!!!!

    I am sure there are scenarios that show most reactors ‘getting into trouble’.

    They are engineered for, but to how much depth?

    The Fukushima plant apparently survived the tsunami initial effect, but secondary equipment failed which was needed and assumed to be always present.

    All well designed systems are safe all of the time when you have 100% availability of all of the plant.

    Placing smaller reactors closer to population centers does not sound like a clever move to me.

    Large and remote sounds good.

    20 large nuclear power stations should sort out the electrical power needs for the future.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: