Hinkley Point C revisited

Further developments in the Nuclear Power Contract

by Simon Deakin, Charlotte Sausman & David Howarth, University of Cambridge

The contract to build Hinkley Point C signed in September 2016 by Ministers and EDF energy and the Chinese company CGN is by far the most complex and one of the longest running UK contracts agreement ever entered into by a British government. It puts other PFI contracts in the public sector to build schools and hospitals into the shade and has given lawyers much food for thought on how it can be implemented particularly as the UK now plans to BREXIT the EU and this may lead to additional problems for the contract itself if challenged.

But how secure is civil nuclear energy and whatever the so called strike price high or low that electricity is eventually offered to consumers at in 35 years time when Hinkley is completed and is operational do we really need to continue a nuclear programme when post the Japanese Fukushima accident other European countries like Germany and Switzerland have abandoned theirs? Not only is the nuclear technology still in question with issues such as nuclear waste disposal still largely unresolved but the price of other carbon neutral technologies in the renewables sector such as wind, wave, and solar is dropping dramatically making their use more viable and competitive.

Some even question if nuclear energy really is carbon neutral and if smaller SMG reactors will ever be viable given the existing sites where nuclear stations sit are themselves in costal areas which if global warming continues at its present rate could be under water within 20 years. Future generations will be inheriting an energy future with many complex problems to resolve and some in the sector even say another nuclear accident or act of nuclear terrorism somewhere in the World could mean Hinkley is abandoned before it is completed.

China’s involvement in the Hinkley C contract has been controversial particularly as civil nuclear and weapons nuclear development are linked. However without French or Chinese involvement the UK could not afford to fund the project itself and the ten years it has spent negotiating the contract has built in safeguards and so called break clauses.

China by working with the UK and the French will be able to improve its industrial expertise in this area by developing another generation of reactors in a highly regulated market and by gaining such accreditation it will enable it to build nuclear elsewhere in the World and maybe also move on to build Bradwell and Sizewell C in the UK if our so called small scale nuclear Renaissance goes ahead as planned.

A portfolio approach to UK energy policy using a mix of nuclear and renewables is likely to continue in the short term but who knows what the longer term holds as both public opinion which is now largely supportive of nuclear and political opinion could change in the longer term. Reducing our energy consumption is another policy which could be used more rigorously.

These issues and others were discussed at a recent Workshop at the University of Cambridge.

This Cambridge Public Policy Workshop was

organised by Cambridge Public Policy Strategic Research Initiative Supported by Cambridge ESRC Impact Acceleration Account.

You can listen to our six podcasts with nine of the Workshop participants here:

Listen to the podcasts

Professor Simon Deakin and Professor David Howarth

Dr David Lowry and Professor Emeritus Andrew Blowers

Dr David Reiner and Chris Huhne

Tony Roulstone 

Dr Ding Chen

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