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Booker On Hinkley

July 30, 2016

Booker’s take on the Hinkley Point saga:



In the nick of time, it seems, a glimmer of sanity is at last breaking in on what I have long been describing as the most insane single project a British government has ever put its hand to. We can credit the decision to put on hold our agreement for EDF to build the most expensive power station in the world at Hinkley Point to Theresa May’s joint-chief of staff Nick Timothy: the man who, having back in April described the Climate Change Act as “a monstrous act of self-harm”, was also behind the abolition of the Department for Energy and Climate Change (Decc).

                Until now, the absurd story of Hinkley has been as vivid an example of the self-deluding power of groupthink as could be imagined. All those ministers swept along by it, such as Ed Miliband, Chris Huhne and Ed Davey, should hang their heads in shame. This culminated in that humiliating spectacle last year (as also  noted by Mr Timothy in April) when David Cameron and George Osborne invited the President of China to London, to beg him to lend us billions of pounds towards buying a reactor design so flawed that it could almost certainly never be built.

                Nothing should have brought this home more forcefully, as I noted last year, than the contrast between the Hinkley project and the way South Korea is building four nuclear reactors for the United Arab Emirates, to an already proven design and at only a fraction of the cost.

                Although the UAE only began talks with Korea in 2009, the year we began negotiating with EDF for its two 1600 megawatt (MW) reactors at Hinkley, the four 1400MW reactors for the UAE (hence their name APR1400s) are already under construction, with the first due onstream next year and the rest to follow by 2020. For £15 billion, they will thus supply 5600MW of electricity, much more than Hinkley’s 3200MW, so grotesquely subsidised that even Decc admits its cost could eventually be £37 billion.

                This is the dreadful fiasco from which, literally in “the Nick” of time, it seems we may now be saved., Of course we desperately need reliable nuclear power, to make up for the inadequacy of all those intermittent  windmills. But we should forget about the French and Chinese and get on the phone to Korea as fast as possible, We should also be looking hard at “mini-nukes”, using industrially-produced small nuclear reactors similar to those which will be powering our Trident submarines, But that is a story for another day,

  1. July 30, 2016 8:42 pm

    The EPR should be ditched and the AP1000 and ABWR should be given the go ahead at a reasonable strike price.

  2. July 30, 2016 8:46 pm

    My country, South Africa, also had the brilliant idea of selling small modular reactors. The design was wonderful but they couldn’t find a single taker world-wide because kilowatt for kilowatt the modular reactor is far more expensive than conventional nuclear.

    • AlecM permalink
      July 31, 2016 9:22 am

      Capital cost is within reason irrelevant for power stations. It’s the thermodynamic efficiency and reliability that matters. Otherwise you could make bits of it out of gold.

  3. Charliei Moncur permalink
    July 30, 2016 9:37 pm

    Chris Hume still gets air time on the BBC spouting his climate propaganda. India has discovered/proven vast methane hydrate in the Bay of Bengal, shale gas is everywhere – even in UK. Likely to be an oversupply of gas in coming years/decades with cheap fuel for CCGT’s in future. Now is not the time to be paying well over the odds for unproven technology. If not Hinkley – what? UK still needs electricity – as cheap as possible to support manufacturing regeneration?

    • slingshot permalink
      July 31, 2016 6:21 pm

      Is it true shale gas is a hopeless cause? I hear that Poland’s shale gas is so contaminated, it won’t burn.

  4. July 30, 2016 9:48 pm

    The cost alone should be enough to tell May & co that Hinkley C is a nonsense.

  5. Green Sand permalink
    July 30, 2016 10:12 pm

    Happy Hols! Enjoy!

  6. Don Keiller permalink
    July 30, 2016 10:28 pm

    Let’s hope this outbreak of common sense is contagious.

  7. stuartlarge permalink
    July 30, 2016 11:06 pm

    Check out moltex energy, a British designed SMR which can be built for the same or cheaper than coal fired

    • Charlie Moncur permalink
      July 31, 2016 8:21 am

      Many countries are developing MSR’s. If technology is available why are we not deploying it? I can think of a few. Government tax from fossil fuels. Oil & Gas company revenue. End of climate scam!!! How can the government be encouraged to exploit this technology to the full in UK and as an export revenue stream? Seems like a no-brainer is Moltexenergy is as good as they say.

  8. tom0mason permalink
    July 31, 2016 12:17 am

    Thank-you Mr Booker, you are pointing out the same thing I’ve been saying for more than a year. Four APR1400 would more than cover the UK requirements with a proven, cost effective, standard installation that would be able to supply reliably for many decades.
    Mr. Booker I hope you get through to the power that be but as recent history worldwide indicates governments have little to no engineering acumen, indeed they seem fully allergic to the idea of using the best engineering option when required.

  9. July 31, 2016 5:40 am

    Over at the GWPF John Constable has a good take on Hinkley C.

  10. Ex-expat Colin permalink
    July 31, 2016 6:22 am

    Will the Smart Meter con come under review…or better ditched?

  11. Malcolm Bell permalink
    July 31, 2016 7:42 am

    Thank the Lord. This thing must not be attempted. I am beginning to like Mrs May. All we need now is to cancel HS3/3/4 etc. and restore the Great Central Railway as an exclusively freight line and push ahead with restoring (improved) local networks.

    In parallel lets get the mini “submarine” power stations built and commissioned (and being exported in large numbers to earn real revenue to pay for this stuff) as fast as possible.

    Suddenly it is all looking very exciting.

  12. Keitho permalink
    July 31, 2016 8:21 am

    All I can say is YAY! \o/

  13. Mike Jackson permalink
    July 31, 2016 1:49 pm

    I wish I shared your optimism, Malcolm.
    Nothing major will change without a fundamental change of attitude in Westminster and Whitehall (my finger slipped and typed an ‘s’ instead of that second ‘w’; maybe I should have just left it!) equivalent to a brain transplant.
    As tom0mason says above, there is little or no understanding in that part of the world of engineering and certainly none in the brains of the SPADs whose degrees are entirely in the humanities or PPE (which I heard described again last week as ‘Media Studies for toffs’).
    All they can do is listen politely to lobbyists and then pass on to their masters (increasingly ‘mistresses’ these days, it seems) a probably garbled version of the sales pitch.
    Hinkley and HS2 are both vanity projects (as, I suppose, is Osborn’s Northern Powerhouse, though that had at least some chance of doing some good) and there will be a whole procession of (dis)affected officials, lobbyists, and other vested interests muttering to anyone who cares to listen that we are too far down the line to cancel now and it would be a blow to national pride to back out and would embarrass the French and the Chinese which we can’t afford to do because ….
    Already The Times is reporting that the taxpayer may be saddled with a £2.5bn bill because of the preliminary ground work already carried out. Watch for more stories like that between now and September.
    I shall keep my fingers crossed since I think that May’s instincts are right, as are Timothy’s, but until we once again can discern the vested interests from the objective advice I fear we are going to commit more errors like this.

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