Problems mount for UK nuclear programme

Centrica has abandoned plans for building 4 new nuclear power stations in the UK blaming rising costs and construction delays – Centrica announces decision not to participate in UK nuclear new build and launches £500 million share repurchase programme. The move is a blow to the Government’s plans to build new nuclear power stations.

Centrica will forfeit its 20% option on four new nuclear plants planned by EDF in Somerset and Suffolk, writing down £200m in the process. EDF, owned by the French state, has been in talks with the state-owned China Guangdong Nuclear Power Corporation, which may pick up Centrica’s option.

The problems of what to do with nuclear waste are still unresolved as the only local authority that was conducting feasibility studies for underground storage, Cumbria, recently rejected the proposals. This came after evidence from independent geologists that the fractured strata of the county was impossible to entrust with such dangerous material and a hazard lasting millennia – Cumbria rejects underground nuclear storage dump.

The rising costs of reprocessing at Sellafield were also sharply criticised by the Public Accounts committee as the lifetime costs of dealing with waste has now risen to £67.5 bn.

Margaret Hodge MP, the committee’s chair, said: “Taxpayers are not getting a good deal from the [Nuclear Decommissioning] Authority [NDA] arrangement with Nuclear Management Partners.

“Last year the consortium was rewarded with £54m in fees despite only two out of 14 major projects being on track.

“It is unclear how long it will take to deal with hazardous radioactive waste at Sellafield or how much it will cost the taxpayer. Of the 14 current major projects, 12 were behind schedule in the last year and five of those were over budget.”

Environmentalists such as George Monbiot have, in recent years, softened their stance on Nuclear Power, viewing it as a low carbon stop gap or to underpin growing renewable capacity. The inconvenient truth here is that if a private company wanted to build a nuclear power station in the UK, they could. It’s just the economics of running a power station for 50 years, and then having to deal with the waste for millennia make government subsidy a key part of the financial viability.

More information here:

We don’t need nuclear power to meet climate goals and keep the lights on

The end of nuclear power? Careful what you wish for

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