30 protestors from Chard, Ilminster, Glastonbury, Bristol and Shepton Mallet occupied EDFs premises at Cannington Court today, urging EDF to cancel it's long-delayed Hinkley C project. While some protestors scaled a wall and went inside, others blockaded the entrance and deliveries were turned away. Photo: Stop Hinkley via Facebook.
EDF's Hinkley C offices occupied as UK nuclear hopes wither
15th February 2016
An occupation of EDF's site office for Hinkley C turned into a celebration today as the EDF Board postponed its 'final investment decision' for the tenth time. With strong opposition among French unions and the project afflicted by severe technical and financial problems, it's not just Hinkley that's going down, but the UK's entire nuclear programme.
The board is clearly split. They need to understand that opposition to Hinkley C has grown in Britain. We do not want any more public money - whether from French or British citizens - poured into this bottomless nuclear pit.
30 anti-nuclear campaigners have occupied EDF's 0ffice in Cannington this morning in a protest against the proposed Hinkley C nuclear power plant near Bridgwater, Somerset.
The action was planned ahead of EDF board meeting tomorrow at which the company's directors were due to receive the annual accounts and make their 'final investment decision' on the deeply troubled nuclear project.
But news emerged this morning that the decision has been postponed for the tenth time amid continuing financial difficulties and with the Board riven over the issue, which some fear would bankrupt EDF if the project runs adrift.
A 'source familiar with the situation' told Reuters that a new internal report by Yannick d'Escatha, the former head of France's state nuclear agency CEA, raised "serious doubts about whether the Hinkley Point C project could be realised on schedule."
"We have heard today that EDF are once again going to pull back from committing to Hinkley C, and it looks as if they are in turmoil behind the scenes", observed anti-nuclear campaigner campaigner Shana Deal.
"The board is clearly split. They need to understand that opposition to Hinkley C has grown in Britain. We do not want any more public money - whether from French or British citizens - poured into this bottomless nuclear pit. We will keep coming back 'til it's cancelled once and for all."
French unions warn - Hinkley C could sink the ship
Unions representing EDF's workforce, which have six seats on the 18-member board, have come out strongly against the "suicidal" project and are understood to be ready to vote against it. They believe EDF should prioritise the upgrading of its own ageing nuclear fleet in France, budget for its immense decommissioning obligations, and focus on getting the long-delayed Flamanville EPR completed.
Other board members are also understood to be troubled at the risks of going ahead, however the French government, which owns some 85% of EDF, is keen to pursue the project for political reasons, to maintain good relations with the UK government.
The Hinkley C project's £18 billion pound budget (over €23 billion) currently stands greater than EDF's €22.5 billion market value based on its current share price. This means that any substantial cost and time over-runs - as seen at the three other EPR projects under way at Olkiluoto, Flamanville and Taishan - could sink the company altogether.
Hinkley C opponent Nikki Clarke from Bridgwater said today: "Pressure on EDF ito abandon it's EPR programme is mounting in France. On Friday, Greenpeace France took action against the transport of a faulty reactor lid to Flammanville, and called for an end to public subsidies. We call on the people of Britain & France to say 'non merci' to Hinkley C and to come together to create the renewable energy revolution that we all know is necessary to combat climate change."
Ornella Sabeine of SouthWest Against Nuclear added a sideswipe against the UK's trade unions, among them GMB and Unite, which - in marked contrast to their French counterparts - are strongly supporting Hinkley C in the hope of jobs for their members.
"It is about time that British Unions realised that nuclear workers will be always be needed for decomissioning and waste management tasks", said Sabeine. The only secure future for British jobs and power supplies, she inisisted, are in renewable sources of energy like wind and solar, which are constantly falling in price.
Joe Fox, also from South West Against nuclear, said: "It's becoming increasing apparent that this project is 'unconstructable'. The head of the project has resigned and even nuclear engineers have said that this type of plant is too complicated to be constructed. Nuclear is getting in the way of a clean-energy future for Britain, and the idea that nuclear has a role to play is a red herring."
The protest is part of the Groundswell year of action for climate justice. It coincides with other actions happening at EDF premises in Manchester, Plymouth and London.
Could Hinkley C fiasco sink UK's whole nuclear dream?
The government had originally planned to have 16GW of nuclear capacity - equivalent to five Hinkley C sized nuclear projects - on stream by 2025. But three years ago in March 2013 the target slipped five years to 2030.
Now, with the continuing unresolved problems with Hinkley C, it now appears that 2030 is likely to come and go without a single watt of new nuclear power having been generated. The Hinkley C failure may also prejuduce the UK's wider nuclear ambitions.
The chief operating officer of Horizon Nuclear Power, Alan Raymant, yesterday told the Telegraph that Hinkley C was having a 'knock-on' impact on its plans to build a twin-reactor nuclear plant at Wylfa on Anglesey, Wales, followed by another twin reactor plant at Oldbury, Gloucestershire. Both would use the Advanced Boiling Water Reactor (ABWR) design.
The Wylfa project is due for completion by 2025, says Raymant, but few believe that is now possible. He says that to achieve that date a final investment decision on the plant would need to be made in "early 2019" - giving Horizon just three years to gain planning consent, get safety approval for the ABWR, line up a Government subsidy contract, receive state aid clearance from the EU, and secure finance from investors.
Unlike the EPR, there are examples of actual AWBRs, with four reactors in Japan. However investors will need a lot of convincing to invest in the design: the Japanese ABWRs had a very low capacity factor of just 45% between 2006 and 2010. With a new plant's operators being paid per megawatt-hour (MWh) of electricity produced, that means they woud receive only about half as much as they were counting on assuming a 90% capacity factor.
Meanwhile China General Nuclear Corporation's (CGN) plan to build a new reactor at the EDF site at Bradwell looks like running into trouble if the Hinkley C project - in which CGN is meant to take a 33.5% stake as a quid pro quo for taking on the Bradwell site - is stalled. Another problem is that the 'Hualong' reactor design that CGN wants to build there is completely new and untested anywhere in the world.
EDF's plan for twin reactors at Sizewell is also looking tenuous as it wants to use the same failed EPR design that it is unable to progress at Hinkley, or complete anywhere else.
That leaves only Nugen's planned 3-reactor nuclear project at Moorside next to the Sellafield nuclear reprocessing plant. But there's no cause for optimism there either. The AP1000 reactor design planned for Moorside is already failing badly at sites in the US and China with multi-year delays reported, huge cost over-runs, and damaging lawsuits.
Oliver Tickell edits The Ecologist.
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