I see that George Osborne, while in China on a mission, has promised £2,000,000,000 of UK taxpayers’ money to underwrite the construction of the new nuclear power station at Hinkley Point. The reason for this is that he’s trying to curry favour with the Chinese, since they’re the people coming up with the money to fund the construction.
Let’s ignore the pros and cons of nuclear power just for now. However, we cannot ignore the fact that the Chinese economy is in freefall at the moment. If it really goes tits up, we are £2,000,000,000 in the hole, and we still don’t have a new power station.
Also, if I were building this I’d be looking for some hefty cost ‘overruns’ to make sure I got my hands on the lucre. This becomes more likely given that the construction contract was awarded to another company in another country. EDF got the job. I don’t quite understand why my tax pounds are being used to shore up a construction project in England by a French company that’s being funded by Chinese money. If it all goes wrong, why don’t we have the French and the Chinese bite the bullet? They’re the ones running the show, so if they screw up, they can sort it out. Investment is, by nature, risky. Things can go down as well as up. It’s their problem, not ours.
Then it gets even more dumb. The price for the electricity, as and when the reactor comes on-stream, has been guaranteed by the UK government to be £88/kWh. Right now, the cost is £42/kWh. Guess where the differential will come from? Consumers’ bills. It won’t come of EDF’s bottom line, you can rest assured of that. Meanwhile in France, even now EDF charge their customers a whole bunch less than they charge their UK customers.
Meanwhile the energy secretary, the Right Honourable Amber Rudd, told Radio 4 that this £2,000,000,000 represented ‘great value for money.’ When pressed by John Humphreys she snapped, ‘I didn’t say it was cheap.’ Of course she never said that, because it would be a lie, and we all know how trustworthy politicians are.
Lastly, there’s the possible issue of national security. When you get foreign countries, of whatever political or international stance, deeply embedded in your own country’s vital infrastructure, it opens a whole can of worms. Even The Times, bastion of Tory values and vigorous proponent of Conservatism, is getting edgy about this, to the extent that their lead editorial today was putting up red flags.
Oh, did I mention that the design is so flawed it’s not even allowed in the US? And the bits that are flawed can’t be repaired or changed once the reactor goes live?