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Green light for Hinkley

Campaigners warn financial, legal and technical obstacles ‘can’t be brushed under the carpet
Green light for Hinkley

Just days after a Greenpeace survey revealed public support for Hinkley Point C nuclear power station is at an all-time low, Theresa May has given the £18bn deal the green light.

But campaigners warn that a number of financial, legal and technical obstacles remain, and that today’s decision is far from a ‘grand finale to this summer’s political soap opera.’

‘Today’s decision hasn’t been made on the cold, hard facts that show Hinkley will not deliver competitively priced, low carbon energy any time soon. Instead it seems that Hinkley became too big to fail. The potential for political embarrassment for the new Prime Minister was too high.’

Executive director, Greenpeace

The obstacles

We still don’t know if it’s even possible to build this kind of reactor – and there’s no evidence to suggest that EDF will be fourth time lucky in Somerset. EDF started trying to build the first of its type in Finland in 2005, and it still isn’t ready. The same is true in France – the plant is nearly a decade late and a major flaw has been found in the reactor vessel. The French nuclear regulator is expected to decide next year whether the flaw is so grave that EDF needs to start from scratch.

The economics of Hinkley don’t add up. In recent years the price of renewables and storage has fallen and the technologies have developed: they are now cheaper, even when you take back up power into account when the wind isn’t blowing and the sun isn’t shining. EDF’s financial position is dire; Moody’s has said that it will reduce its credit rating further if the Hinkley deal is made.

‘Support for Hinkley is at rock bottom. The public knows what the government has yet to learn – investment in renewables should be prioritised over nuclear power. The government shouldn’t risk taxpayers’ money on old-fashioned, flawed technology. It should be investing in the future.’

Executive director, Greenpeace

There are several outstanding legal cases that muddy the waters considerably. There is an Austrian State Aid case that won’t be resolved for years and a possible new State Aid case against France.

Greenpeace and Ecotricity have this week asked Greg Clark to review the 2010 decision that Hinkley provides an overall benefit to society, and there are two outstanding French cases of the EDF board attempting to overturn the FID. Greenpeace also has a case against the Information Commissioner, asking for the modelling on which the Hinkley decision was made initially to be made public.

‘This decision is unlikely to be the grand finale to this summer’s political soap opera. There are still huge outstanding financial, legal and technical obstacles that can’t be brushed under the carpet. There might be months or even years of wrangling over these issues. That’s why the government should start supporting renewable power that can come online quickly for a competitive price.’

Executive director, Greenpeace

Public opposition

Just a quarter (25%) of the 2,000 people surveyed by Populus say they support Hinkley, whilst nearly half (44%) oppose it. Before this result the last major poll on public support for the project was commissioned in April this year by New Nuclear Watch Europe, a pro-nuclear group. Support was at 33% according to a YouGov poll, down from 57% in 2013.

‘Advances in renewable energy like offshore wind, alongside battery storage, energy efficiency innovations and wires that carry electricity under the sea connecting us to other countries are the future for keeping the lights on. It is time the government embraced these developments, rather than locking us into a contract that will leave future generations with more hazardous nuclear waste, higher bills and dependent on French and Chinese state-owned companies for our power.’

Executive director, Greenpeace

Greenpeace also commissioned a poll in October 2015 – just before the deal was signed with the Chinese President – that showed public support at 29%.

In a question on what they think the energy priorities should be nearly two-thirds (62%) said the government should prioritise an energy system based around renewable energy. 16% believed that the government should prioritise nuclear and 5% want the government to prioritise gas-fired power stations.

These results were supported by the 330,000 people who signed a Greenpeace petition calling on Theresa May to drop the eye wateringly expensive Hinkley and invest in renewable power instead.

Click here to read the government announcement confirming the Hinkley Point C project.

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