Australian news, and some related international items

UK’s “nuclear renaissance” now collapsing as Hitachi looks like dumping Moorside nuclear project

FT 13th Jan 2019 Nick Butler: Who could blame the board of the Japanese company Hitachi if
its members decide at their meeting this week to scrap plans for a new nuclear power station at Wylfa on the North Wales island of Anglesey?

Hitachi has invested more than £840m in the project over the past six years. The technology has passed all the tests set by the UK’s nuclear regulator. But the company has been unable to get the government to put in place the clear and credible financial structure necessary to underpin the investment.

That failure has already led other investors to abandon the new plant planned at Moorside in Cumbria. Talk of scrapping the Wylfa project could be a bargaining tactic on the part of Hitachi but the reality is probably much simpler. Hitachi’s doubts have been well signalled during the
past few months and the company’s purchase of ABB’s power grid business at the end of last year gives it a range of investment choices.

Given Whitehall’s chronic indecision, the company is ready to use its capital elsewhere. Hitachi’s withdrawal would mark the collapse of the energy policy adopted in 2013 by the UK’s coalition government. Facing what were believed to be ever-rising energy prices  the policy plumped for new nuclear, promising that 35 gigawatts of new capacity would be on stream by the mid 2030s – more than replacing the first generation of nuclear plants, which would by then have reached the end of their useful lives.

Because the price of gas seemed doomed to keep rising, new nuclear would come to look highly competitive over time as well as reducing dependence on imports. Since then much has changed, and the assumptions which underpinned the old policy now look laughably wrong.

The costs of all forms of energy (apart from nuclear) have fallen dramatically and there is no shortage of supply. Electricity demand is down thanks to efficiency gains and new technology.

The contract for the first new nuclear station being built at Hinkley Point in Somerset, which enjoys a guaranteed index-linked price for 35 years from the moment the plant is commissioned, looks exorbitant. The demise of Wylfa forces the need for a comprehensive review of energy policy.

Since the UK government is too busy preparing for Brexit to focus seriously on any other issue, the review should be conducted independently. Advances in energy technology offer more
possibilities each year. But those options will never be taken up unless the old outdated policy is scrapped and a more realistic approach put in place.

January 15, 2019 - Posted by | General News

1 Comment »

  1. Reblogged this on AGR Daily 60 Second News Bites.

    Comment by A Green Road Daily News | January 15, 2019 | Reply

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