Civil Nuclear Road Map

Part of Backbench Business – in the House of Commons am 2:45 pm ar 22 Chwefror 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Alan Brown Alan Brown Scottish National Party, Kilmarnock and Loudoun 2:45, 22 Chwefror 2024

I commend Damian Collins for initiating the debate. It may not surprise him that I will approach it from a different angle, providing the opposition, as it were.

In my view, this should be called the nuclear road map fantasy. Even if we put aside my objection and that of my party to new nuclear power, all the evidence and all the understanding of the development or non-development of nuclear power in the UK over the past decade point to the fact that this will not happen. As the hon. Gentleman rightly pointed out, the 2011 plan never came to fruition. It is obvious that the nuclear ambitions have not been fulfilled in the past 13 years.

Every pro-nuclear enthusiast seems to ignore the fairly recent market failure whereby Hitachi walked away from Wylfa and Oldbury and Toshiba walked away from Moorside. Notwithstanding the intended competition for the construction of all these new nuclear sites, EDF and China General Nuclear remained the only show in town, and EDF is still the only show in town as the only company willing to build large-scale nuclear. EDF has a blank cheque when it is at the negotiating table, because there is nowhere else for the Government to go. Large-scale nuclear ambitions also ignore the fact that as a concept the EPR design has been a failure, with every single EPR project in the world being over budget, late and experiencing technical difficulties. Finland’s Olkiluoto 3 was 15 years late. Flamanville in France is 12 years late and at four times its original budget. Taishan in China was held up as the delivery exemplar when it was commissioned, but has been plagued by safety concerns owing to rod damage, and has been offline as much as it has been online since it was commissioned.

We were told that the lessons learned from all the problems with all the other EPR projects would be put into place in Hinkley and that it would be much more efficiently delivered, so let us look at Hinkley Point C. In 2016, its estimated cost was £18 billion, but EDF has recently updated that estimate to £48 billion in today’s prices—a mere £30 billion overspend. Instead of generating power in 2025, it will now be as late as 2031. As costs have continued to spiral, the Government’s attitude remains that it does not really matter for the taxpayer, because all the risk sits with EDF.

However, China General Nuclear, which is a partner in the project, has already reached its cap on the money and capital it is willing to put in, so clearly EDF is now having to find a lot more borrowing than it anticipated. Frankly, it beggars belief that the Minister and the Government claim not to be speaking to EDF about this, especially when just last week the chief executive of EDF, Luc Rémont, stated:

“We’re confident we can find a pathway with British authorities on Hinkley Point C and Sizewell.”

When will the Government admit that Hinkley Point C will need some sort of bailout to allow it to get to completion, or is the intention to throw more money at Sizewell to offset Hinkley’s financial black hole for EDF? The Government also need to come clean on why they put back the contractual payment cut-off dates for Hinkley by six years. Do they know that there is potentially further bad news for Hinkley?

The lessons learned have not worked out for Hinkley, but now we are told that it has been a good learning project and that Sizewell C will be different and will be delivered efficiently, learning from the lessons of the delivery of Hinkley. Again, this is head-in-the-sand stuff. The last Government estimate for Sizewell C was £20 billion, but we now know that Hinkley will cost nearly £50 billion, so it is quite clear that Sizewell C will cost £50 billion—a lot more capital than the Government have intimated they are required to raise. It is no wonder that pension funds have been running a mile from investing in Sizewell C.