Plans to build the UK’s first new nuclear plant in decades, Hinkley Point in Somerset, received an unexpected setback when the government said it wanted to delay its final decision on the project.
The proposed plant is known as Hinkley Point C and would be built next to two existing facilities, Hinkley Point A and B. For the UK it would deliver 7 percent of UK’s electricity when most other nuclear power stations have closed down. At £24bn, it is the biggest and riskiest energy infrastructure project in British history and the decision as to whether it goes ahead lies with the new government that postponed the decision to September. The new UK government will “consider carefully” before proceeding with the project.
French firm EDF, which is financing most of the Hinkley Point project, approved the funding at a board meeting last week. Some in the new government are also concerned that the plant is being built by foreign governments. One-third of the total cost is being provided by Chinese investors. These funding arrangements mean the cost will not end up on the government’s books.
The low-carbon electricity will help towards EU and British climate change goals. The huge project, the largest in Europe, would provide an economic stimulus.
Ever since the UK government committed the nuclear energy in 2006, successive governments have argued that nuclear power is necessary as part of UK’s generation mix and to meet the UK’s climate change commitments.
Nuclear also delivers base load electricity – that is, the amount of power that is needed to satisfy minimum demand – because it is always available. That’s important as more intermittent renewables – such as the wind and solar power – come on to the grid.