Quelle surprise

EDF has reignited fears over its troubled new nuclear project at Hinkley Point C after admitting it will cost the French energy giant over £20bn and could be delayed by almost two years to 2027.

An internal review of the project by senior executives at EDF confirmed fears that the state-backed group will not be able to deliver Hinkley in line with the protracted timeline or its multi-billion pound budget.

It revealed that the cost of building the UK’s first new nuclear plant in a generation had climbed by £1.5bn in two years to £19.6bn after a string of delays to the project. A further delay of fifteen months could add a further £700m to the spiralling costs to push them over £20bn.

The real problem with this being not actually the cost of this one plant. It’s that it’s so damn expensive that it gives every other barking mad idea – Swansea Barrage, we’re lookin’ at you – the ability to say “But we’re only a little more expensive than Hinkley Point.”

40 thoughts on “Quelle surprise”

  1. Basic common dog says it’s expensive first time, then cheaper once you get to know the ropes. Doesn’t appear to work with nuclear. Heisensberg’s uncertainty principle, sub-atomic theory or some government chappies is hi vis vests? My bet’s on the third.

    An idea for Jeremy Corbyn: bring the nuclear subs back to Pompey and hook them up to the grid.

  2. Presumably the contract terms have incentives for EDF to finish the project on time.

    This would, I very much hope, mean that the period (of 35 years) of non-competitive (ie excessive) pricing does not slide along with them being late. So that would look like that the 35 year period being now closer to 33 years.

    Best regards

  3. The ONLY reason nukes cost this much is the mixture of eco-freak marxist bullshit and state meddling.

    Sans both nuclear would be extremely cheap and the best form of power. The insane cost is in line with the US Army classic of paying $450 for a hammer that could have been purchased from Walmart for less than $10.

    EDF are also classic—classic corporate socialist parasite “businessmen” .

  4. An internal review of the project by senior executives at EDF confirmed fears that the state-backed group will not be able to deliver Hinkley in line with the protracted timeline or its multi-billion pound budget.

    Sounds as though the project delivery team has been passed some documents by the sales team. I’m sure with enough corner-cutting the schedule can be met.

  5. Cancel it, and cancel HS2 as well. Repair and widen the ruddy roads. Sack 40% of state employees and drop tax a bit. Tally-ho!

  6. Does anybody know why Excavator Man’s advice isn’t followed? There are presumably risk management advantages to sticking with a tried and tested design. Whatever the benefit of a radically new design is supposed to be, it doesn’t seem to be “cheaper energy” if Hinkley is anything to go by.

  7. MyBurningEars,

    Efficiency on the old designs is less, perhaps unsurprisingly. And perhaps more awkwardly, they produce a lot of highly radioactive waste in comparison to the newer designs (probably actually a feature of efficiency now I type it…). This is a bit of a problem since there seems to have been no progress in persuading anyone that they want the big hole with all the waste in it in their backyard.

    Normally I would presume that the old designs were not upgradable to the same sort of efficiency, but frankly as this is government I would not be sure on that. It could simply be that there is no organisation in the UK that can (or at least will) build these designs, but I would sort of suspect government’s tendency to try and pick winners (rather than sensible options) lies behind this…

  8. @MBE: Just a guess, but decommissioning wasn’t considered in the early designs Also a lot of lessons will have been learnt in the last 50 years (not necessarily making things cheaper) and a lot of associated technologies (sensots, computers, robotics) have changed beyond aoll recognition.

  9. When do we find out if the overruns are edf’s problem or ours? Or is that hopelessly naive?

    What’s the odds edf supplies us with free leccy till the reactor starts production?

  10. It’s amazing what bargains you can get when you borrow tons of money for other people to repay.

    But then, if it gets built for less than £40 billion I’ll eat my left foot. Still, at least we’ll never know.

  11. Why would the British care if it goes over budget if the Frogs and Chinese are financing it? As long as the (overpriced) electricity generated remains the same it makes no difference to the UK, right?

  12. Could someone explain to me what he argument FOR this is? You don’t have to agree with it; just be prepared to offer it

  13. Social Justice Warrior

    On the understanding that I don’t have to agree with all the following:
    1) We need new baseline capacity
    2) What we’re paying is the market price for a new nuclear power station – the EDF board only just voted to go ahead with the project
    3) We’re paying by guaranteeing the price of the electricity – EDF is wearing the construction risk

  14. EDF is wearing the construction risk

    I be they’re not. Either the French taxpayer, British taxpayer, or a combination of both will ultimately be on the hook for the inevitable delays and cost overruns.

  15. What SJW said.
    It’s all down to the eco-freaks who blocked development of nuclear power stations so we lost the know-how and also want all the benefits of modern ciovilisation without fossil fuels.

  16. Just build it on a platform at sea then sink it at its useful life. It’s not like the plutonium is going to rise to the surface.


  17. Just build it on a platform at sea then sink it at its useful life. It’s not like the plutonium is going to rise to the surface.

    Can the lessons of Godzilla have been forgotten so soon?

  18. Just build it on a platform at sea then sink it at its useful life. It’s not like the plutonium is going to rise to the surface.

    The eventual “cold slug” incident will be, candidly, extremely unjoyous to behold. Or to be within 1000km of.

  19. I see a lot that hasn’t been addressed. I don’t know the British side of the story so I will focus on American details.

    The first thing to understand about nuclear is that it is expensive because of government meddling. For example, the cost of regulations passed after Three Miles Island added 200-300%(depending on the specific reactor) to construction costs. Since that time more regulations have been piled on. For proven designs, regulations account for more than 90% of the construction cost.

    The second thing to understand about nuclear is that we basically stopped development in the late 60’s. What we ended up getting were power plants based off of military research. These reactors were designed with two goals, just getting something working and having a supply of plutonium that could potentially be recovered. Safety and waste handling were not pressing concerns and therefore didn’t get the necessary R&D funding. The military was happy with light water reactors so that is what we got. One of Nixon’s early acts was to shut down funding to projects, like Oak Ridge’s molten sodium reactor, that were focused on safer, cleaner, civilian uses. The setback cost 25 years of research. In the early 90’s we did finally have a new program, Integral Fast Reactor, but Kerry killed that over proliferation concerns. Note that recovering plutonium from a commercial breeder reactor is roughly 10,000 times harder than recovering it using the processes for commercial light water reactors. There was no proliferation concern as anyone who wants plutonium will just use the cheaper and easier option.

    At this time we could have had safe, cleaner(Note: No form of energy production is perfectly clean.) nuclear power plants installed. The problem is that so many people became so rabidly anti-nuclear that we never were able to get funding to fix the problems with the first couple of generations in nuclear plants. This would be the equivalent of still using pre-James Watt steam engines today because those engines were dangerous. Luckily Russia, China and India don’t have the same combination of environmental groups backed by fossil fuel money. The Russians are testing commercial prototypes(BN-800 for reprocessing existing waste with the BN-1200, which looks to close the fuel cycle[zero nuclear waste] under construction). China has dozens of research reactors and expects to have commercial prototypes in testing within a decade. India just joined the club and has a handful of research reactors.

    While I would love to see nuclear progressing, Hinkley C isn’t progression. Instead, what you have is 15+ billion invested in bureaucrats bureaucratting. Swansea appears to be even worse though. I came across an estimate, on a green site no less, that it is expected it will take the barrage 120 years to repay the investment. Add in other follies, like Drax, and I have to wonder how badly increased atmospheric CO2 concentrations have degraded mental capabilities in Blightly. Something has to be causing this insanity.

    Disclaimer: Purdue’s nuclear engineering program was near the top of my college list. A lack of job opportunities in the field, made painfully obvious by the cancellation of IFR, lead me to pick electrical engineering instead. I have followed the industry from afar for decades but I have limited direct experience.

  20. If providing electricity is such a required neccessity, surely the market will charge in shovel ready to do it, rather than needing to bribe a state-owned company to do it.

    And if we have to resort to bribing a state-owned company to provide our leccy, why aren’t we spending Brits’ taxpayers’ money bribing a Brit company?

  21. The Inimitable Steve

    LY – good info.

    Energy policy in the UK is broken. Brexit offers a window of opportunity to escape back to sanity (because the EU was making everything worse) but we’re still chock-full of:

    a) idiot virtue-signalling politicians, and
    b) useless and/or eco-cultist civil servants, and
    c) a no-longer-fit-for-purpose scientific establishment whose teeth are glued to the Green Tit so as to greedily guzzle voluminous lactations of taxpayer cash

    Sad to say, we can’t blame the EU for the continued existence of the idiotic Climate Change Act, the insanity of importing American wood chippings to burn as fuel, etc. etc. Our own idiots truly are world class.

    I also wonder if brownouts might be karmic justice for allowing lawyers and PPE graduates and other undesirables to become our lords and masters.

    A lot of the preventable crises the Western world has seen fit to bumble into of late can be traced to the fact that our decision-making elites are now overwhelmingly people who talk for a living.

    Not that Parliament was a font of wisdom back in, say, the 70’s, but at least then your common or garden Labour MP would’ve been a former manual labourer turned union rep turned politician, while bog standard Tory MP’s were drawn from the local businessman/farmer/army officer ranks.

    In other words, men who’d actually been responsible for something other than just flapping their gums, fishing for applause, and preening on Twatter. Men with perhaps a foggy notion that numbers are real, the physical world can’t be soundbitten away, and you can’t actually power a hospital or heat a house using the magic power of words…

    Anyways. We suck at big energy projects, so perhaps what we need is lots of small energy projects instead. Rolls Royce’s plan to flog us a load of mini nuclear reactors, based on their proven experience with the Royal Navy and small enough to fit in a site no bigger than the average telephone exchange, seems promising to this layman.

    It’d also cause every cardigan-wearing, Volvo-driving, Greenham-Common-bothering, Atomkraft Nein Danke-ning middle aged eco-fart to simultaneously lose their shit in an epic tsunami of organic Fairtrade temper tantrums.

    And why not?

  22. As I understand it the thing driving nuclear is the beyond stupid Climate Change act. Problem is, like nuclear this is now so emotionally hard wired in to the snowflakes that openly scrapping the act is a no no. So we follow SIr Humphrey and declare that the urgent need for base load and need to replace evil coal means a rapid switch to the latest ultra-efficient gas fired power stations – which cost about a tenth of Hinckley – while we work hard on delivering cost effective and consistent renewable alternatives. Build a dozen gas fired power stations and put all the renewable projects on (permanent) hold until they can be built without subsidy. Turn Drax to gas and make clear why. Ridicule the idea that cutting down forests in the US and shipping them across the Atlantic to burn in the UK is sensible in any way whatsoever unlesss you are a former environment minister on the payroll of the company that makes a fortune from this madness. Chris Huhne is hardly a beloved figure in any event. Put Owen Patterson onto this. Cut energy prices and then counter every bid for more wind farms with ‘energy costs will have to rise by x to subsidise this’. Use emotion against Big Green because no one listens to logic.

  23. We’ve also had 30 years of “coal, eugh! dirty” when instead we could have had 30 years of technological improvements in coal power generation to provide the base load while improving other technologies. It’s as though it’s the 1920s and Parson’s Turbine was never invented and we were still generating electricity using pistons.

  24. @ jgh
    coal *was* dirty.
    coal-mining was worse
    You must have heard of asbestosis – but have you heard of silicosis which crippled sound three times as many men?
    For the last thirty years and more gas-fired power styations have been preferable to the world’s best coal-fired (just a bit more expensive thirty years ago, cheaper for a long time by now).
    The argument isn’t about coal – it’s what LY said, but in our case it was Tony Benn, not Nixon, who decided to destroy our nuclear industry.

  25. Blimey, I didn’t know the 2nd Viscount Stansgate had fucked up the UK nuclear industry as well, on top of the UK computer industry (see the history of LEO and ICL)

  26. Social Justice Warrior

    I didn’t know the 2nd Viscount Stansgate had fucked up the UK nuclear industry as well…

    That’s because it’s a fabrication by john77. As Secretary of State for Energy, Benn was responsible for commissioning three nuclear power stations (AGRs at Heysham and Torness, a PWR at Sizewell).

    Construction of nuclear power stations in the UK stopped because of Thatcher’s decision to privatize the CEGB. That forced them to make a realistic attempt to account for decommissioning costs, with the result that the nuclear power stations were split off from National Power so that it could be sold.

  27. James Macpherson


    CEGB _was_ acounting for, and accruing, a fund derived from income from their deliberately, appropriately, diverse fleet of generating capacity. At privatisation, that was assigned to the non nuclear chunk which was privatised (making it more attractive). Some years later, those ignorant of history as well as technology threw up their hands, and said “Oh look – what a surprise, whoda thought? – we have all this nuclear decommissioning coming at at us! Government funding, please (nuclear bad)”.

  28. @SJW
    Dounreay was cutting edge technology before Tony Benn cut it. He then destroyed the UK nuclear plant manufacturing industry by buying American junk.
    PWR was inferior technology – if we had wanted to import technology, CanDu was better.
    I don’t fabricate stuff.
    Thatcher split up the CEGB into FOUR companies, National Power, PowerGen, British Energy and National Grid. There were also two companies in Scotland – NSHEB and the South of Scotland Hydro-Electricity Board. “National Power” was just a name for the largest of the SIX companies.
    I remember going to a meeting where the chairman of National Power was trying to persuade investors to buy shares in the float and he claimed that because there were three men for every two jobs in the CEGB that he would have the largest redundancy programme in history so I asked him whether it would match Julius Caesar’s redundancies for his legions after defeating Pompey. It’s not memorable because I was being a smart-alec schoolboy but because *he actually believed it*.
    British Energy was NOT split off from *National Power* – you seem to forget that I am old enough to remember what actually happened!
    IF British Energy had been floated it would have had to account for decommissioning costs which it was unable to do because the civil servants had not seriously thought about them. So are you arguing for continuation of state control because the civil servants failed to do their job properly? Or what?
    If Tony Benn had not closed Dounreay and thrown away the technology that could have led to using fusion reactors to consume the spent fuel of fission reactors, then decommissioning costs would have been much smaller.

  29. Social Justice Warrior

    JM: the fact is that decommisioning cost estimates were revised sharply upwards in the run-up to the proposed privatization in 1989, with the result that Kleinworts advised the government that the nuclear power stations could not be included in the privatization unless the government fronted up several billions. (The government offered to toss in an additional £1.5bn while excluding Magnox reactors, but that turned out not to work.)

  30. Social Justice Warrior

    john77: your memory fails you – the nuclear power stations were to be part of National Power until Cecil Parkinson was persuaded that it wouldn’t work.

    I’m saying that Tony Benn was responsible for commissioning the last three nuclear power stations built in the UK. It’s ridiculous to accuse him of destroying the industry. They were the last three because impending privatization revealed the true costs of decommissioning. Which, for what it’s worth, I think was a good thing.

    What you say about fusion reactors is gobbledygook. No, you can’t get energy by fusing heavy elements. In fact Dounreay was working on fast-breeder reactor technology. If I remember right, the Dounreay PFR was shut down in 1994, when John Major was Prime Minister. Tony Benn was not a member of his government. (Fast Breeder technology is attractive on paper, but no one’s yet made it work well in practice. Liquid sodium is difficult to work with.)

  31. @SJW
    Yes, my memory slipped – fast breeder, not fusion. Closed in 1977, when John Major was working for Standard Chartered before entering Parliament.
    The decision to replace UK nuclear technology with inferior US technology (Westinghouse is now bankrupt) had nothing to do with privatisation which was not on Wilson’s agenda. So you are talking balderdash. Privatisation in 1990 could not have anything to do with commissioning power stations in the 1970s

  32. Social Justice Warrior

    As I said, Benn commissioned two AGRs, using the latest British design, and one PWR. Now that I’ve checked, I see that the final decision on the PWR (Sizewell B) was taken in 1980 by Thatcher’s government.

    You’re just wrong about the fast reactor programme. There were two fast reactors at Dounreay. The first one, the DFR, ran from 1959 to 1977. The second, the much more powerful and advanced PFR, ran from 1974 to 1994. It was Thatcher’s government which decided to end fast-breeder research in the late 1980s, and Major’s which closed down the PFR.

  33. john77: “coal *was* dirty. coal-mining was worse”

    Yes, and the technological progression was to remove humans from the coal-mining process.

    In the 1980s we were reaching the end of the coal that could be extracted using humans at an economic cost, the natural progression was either assign a lower cost to extraction using humans, or develop technology to remove the human causing the cost from the process.

    Collectively, we decided to partially follow the first option and buy human-produced coal from furriners with a lower price than our human-produced coal. My preference would have been to remove the cost by removing the humans.

  34. @ SJW
    The SSEB petitioned the Secretary of State for Scotland permission to build Torness in *1973* and it was commissioned in 1988.
    No AGRs started construction while Tony Benn was in power.

    Those of us who were old enough to read the Times (a politically unbiased newspaper in those days) were aware of the controversy about the Wilson government’s decision to “Buy American” because it was claimed to be cheaper (by someone incapable of adjusting the nominal cost for tax paid by workers in the UK and the USA to their respective governments). Your repeated statement that Tony Benn commissioned two AGRs suggests that you were not old enough to be following the debate.

  35. Social Justice Warrior

    Construction of Heysham II (AGR) started in 1979
    Construction of Torness (AGR) started in 1980
    Construction of Sizewell B (PWR) started in 1987

    Tony Benn was Energy Secretary from 1975 until the 1979 General Election.

    It’s utterly bizarre for you to insist that he was responsible for the Sizewell B decision but not the two AGR decisions. It suggests that you’re too old to remember anything much. I suggest that you refresh your memory by reading Hansard.

  36. So Hinkley is now looking to cost above£20bn for 3200 MW and Swansea less than £2bn for 320 MW.

    Looks like you mis-characterise Swansea as being sold as slightly more expensive. Cheaper not just absolutely but relative to output.

    Sounds like the barrage represents excellent value once the complex running costs of nuclear are considered.

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