Following a comprehensive review of the Hinkley Point C project, and a revised agreement with EDF, the Government has decided to proceed with the first new nuclear power station for a generation.
However, ministers will impose a new legal framework for future foreign investment in Britain’s critical infrastructure, which will include nuclear energy and apply after Hinkley.
The agreement in principle with EDF means that the Government will be able to prevent the sale of EDF’s controlling stake prior to the completion of construction, without the prior notification and agreement of ministers. This agreement will be confirmed in an exchange of letters between the Government and EDF. Existing legal powers, and the new legal framework, will mean that the Government is able to intervene in the sale of EDF’s stake once Hinkley is operational.
According to the government website, Hinkley Point C will provide seven per cent of Britain’s electricity needs for sixty years. UK-based businesses will benefit from more than 60% of the £18 billion value of the project, and 26,000 jobs and apprenticeships will be created.
Greg Clark, Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, said “Having thoroughly reviewed the proposal for Hinkley Point C, we will introduce a series of measures to enhance security and will ensure Hinkley cannot change hands without the Government’s agreement. Consequently, we have decided to proceed with the first new nuclear power station for a generation.”
A project with little support
This news will undoubtedly come as a shock to the many people in support of the Stop Hinkley campaign, who announced yesterday that they would be joining Greenpeace at 11am on Thursday 15th September to hand in a petition containing over 300,000 names at No.10 Downing Street (at 100,000 signatures a petition can be debated in Parliament).
A recent public opinion poll commissioned by Greenpeace which showed that support amongst the general public for Hinkley Point C has fallen to a new low of only 25%, whilst nearly half (44%) oppose it.
Stop Hinkley spokesperson Sue Aubrey said: “Virtually all major national newspapers and commentators have been calling for Hinkley to be cancelled for months. This petition and recent opinion polls show that the public agrees with them and supports Stop Hinkley’s view that there is no widespread support for new nuclear, particularly at Hinkley Point. Consumers can tell that the project may be unconstructable, requires vast subsidies and would generate electricity too expensive to use.”
One argument for the building of Hinkley is job generation within the county of Somerset. However, calculations suggest that the 900 direct permanent jobs which could be created at Hinkley Point C would cost electricity consumers an extra £800,000 per job per year compared to jobs in renewables in terms of increased costs of electricity. Renewable energy is a far better job-creator than nuclear, and already employs three times more people, according to Dr Ian Fairlie writing on The Ecologist website.