In the United Kingdom, the renewal of the nuclear fleet at an impasse

The EDF site at Hinkley Point C, in the south-west of England, in October 2013.

Hitachi drove another nail into the coffin of Britain’s nuclear revival on Wednesday, September 16. The Japanese group has formally announced the abandonment of its power plant project in Wylfa, Wales. In question: the “Economic rationality” of the project, which was too expensive and too risky to finance.

This abandonment is a further disavowal for a nuclear industry which is accumulating setbacks in the United Kingdom. Twelve years ago, when the vast majority of the eight British nuclear sites in operation are due to close by 2030, the British government presented the ambition of a major renewal. It intended to do what no other country had attempted: build nuclear power plants entirely financed by the private sector.

Article reserved for our subscribers Read also Nuclear: the new drifts of the EPR in Finland could cost the French state dear

“Six sites had been designated, recalls Paul Dorfman of the Energy Institute at University College London. Today, three have been abandoned and two more have started badly. “ The only project under construction is the EDF Hinkley Point C EPR in the south-west of England.

In protest

In addition to the withdrawal of Hitachi (which also had the Oldbury site in the west of England, also abandoned), Toshiba had already thrown in the towel in 2018. For years, its Westinghouse subsidiary had studied with the French Initiates a power station project in the north of England. Here again, funding had proved to be the inescapable obstacle.

The great revival of the British nuclear fleet comes up against the price of power plants. Hinkley Point C, where two reactors are being built, should cost around 25 billion euros, according to the latest official estimates. The completion of the financing of this project had been daunting. On the EDF side, the financial director had resigned in protest, and it was necessary to bring in the Chinese CGN, who had agreed to pay the third, to find the money.

On the British side, the state had agreed to sign an extraordinary contract: Hinkley Point C received a guarantee to sell its electricity for thirty-five years at 92.50 pounds sterling (101 euros) per megawatt hour, more than twice the market price. Of course, EDF and CGN take full responsibility for the construction risk, including any delays and additional costs, but the exorbitant price has provoked an outcry in the United Kingdom.

Article reserved for our subscribers Read also Nuclear: on the Hinkley Point site, work continues

The British government is now clear: it will never sign such a contract again. Either the next plant will be cheaper or it will not be.

You have 49.13% of this article left to read. The rest is for subscribers only.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here