Published in the Financial Times on 24 February 2016
The FT’s editorial, Britain’s nuclear strategy exposed at Hinkley Point (19 Feb), is far from the mark.
It is beyond dispute that there is an urgent need for new generation capacity in the UK, with the Financial Times reporting in September last year that between 2010 and the end of March 2016, 21.4GW of dispatchable generation will have closed, with just 6GW new capacity coming on line in the same timeframe.
Our energy system needs new nuclear power both to replace retiring plant, but also to help manage a system with an increasing amount of intermittent renewable generation. By matching output to demand, nuclear will help ensure we have low carbon power when we need it, improving security of supply and reducing reliance on the volatility of unpredictable fossil fuel prices.
The UK new build programme has three consortia with projects at various stages of development. The first project, Hinkley Point C, has the additional challenge of restarting an industry after a generation of dormancy. A nuclear station will provide low carbon electricity 24/7 365 days a year for 60 years. At Hinkley, the construction risk is being borne by the developers with eventual decommissioning costs factored in, and is price competitive with other, complementary, low carbon generation coming online in the mid-2020s.
With more than 25,000 jobs created during construction, and around 900 full time jobs during its 60-year operation period, there are tangible economic opportunities for the UK supply chain both at Hinkley and in future new build projects.
The UK needs new energy infrastructure, and a generation mix that reduces carbon emissions. All solutions have cost implications, just as all infrastructure projects attract scrutiny. Both the pressing energy requirements and the wider industrial opportunities from nuclear new build suggest that rather than pulling back, now is the time for industry and government to focus together on maximising the benefits of delivering new low carbon baseload power as part of a balanced generation mix.
Lord John Hutton
Chairman, Nuclear Industry Association