Something is not quite right with the UK’s nuclear power plans, as this Click Green exclusive shows. Anti-nuclear legal action by Austria and reports of serious technical issues can’t be helping the cause.
The UK’s nuclear watchdog has stopped safety inspections at the planned site of the Hinkley C nuclear power station after EDF Energy ordered a stop to all groundwork, ClickGreen can reveal.
Despite recently publishing a list of preferred suppliers for the £24 billion project, the French firm were in behind-the-scenes talks with the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR), during which they informed them of their decision to mothball the site.
In April, bosses at contractors Nuclear New Build Genco (NNB) – a consortium including EDF Energy, China General Nuclear Corporation and investors – introduced a spending cap because of uncertainty surrounding the Final Investment Decision.
Preparations for construction continued to move forward, but all work has now been stopped and the site has been placed in a state of “care and maintenance”.
Hinkley C is supposed to be the first new nuclear plant in the UK since the 1980s and is scheduled to start producing electricity in 2023. EDF, however, is still negotiating with Energy Ministers about Government guarantees for the project, along with decommissioning costs.
A statement by the ONR confirmed: “Until it is ready to fully remobilise the project, NNB GenCo is retaining a core capability to maintain oversight of the continuing programme of activities associated with development of the detailed design, production of the Hinkley Point C site.
“ONR is monitoring the impact of the budget constraint upon NNB GenCo Ltd’s competency and capability. Furthermore, ONR inspectors continue to engage with the programme of design and safety case activities so that ONR is ready to respond when NNB GenCo decides to fully remobilise the project.
“However, the reduction in spend means that work on preparing the site for start of construction has stopped. Until NNB GenCo is ready to resume preparations for deep excavation ahead of start of construction, activity at the site is limited to the management of material stockpiles and water management zones, remediation of asbestos contaminated land and archaeological surveys.”
ONR said it had taken the decision to suspend the production of future inspection reports until after NNB GenCo has made its Final Investment Decision and is ready to remobilise the project.
Its statement added: “ONR also intends to suspend attendance at the Cannington Forum until the site exits the current period of Care and Maintenance and resumes its preparations for the start of construction.”
A DECC Spokesperson commented: “The UK Government and EDF are continuing to work together to finalise the project.
“The deal must represent value for money and is subject to approval by Ministers.”
An announcement on the Final Investment Decision is expected later this summer.
‘Value for money’ is hard to measure in the nuclear industry with the very high cost of decommissioning.