With news that the Hinkley Point C power plant is now set to go ahead, there are many on both sides who still believe that it is either a very bad decision or the right one for the UK. The idea that this is a big white elephant that will cost too much and deliver too little cannot be escaped according to the anti-Hinkley groups. Nuclear is a necessary component for our future energy security in the UK, say the pro-Hinkley supporters, and despite this projects problems, it’s needed badly.
It’s difficult for the average man or woman in the street to decide which group is right.
The Case For Hinkley Point
There has always been a case for more nuclear power in the UK, both to improve our energy independence and provide a reliable source of power that doesn’t depend on when the wind blows or the sun shines. Our existing nuclear power stations are reaching the end of their natural lives and now need to be replaced if we are to continue with this energy strategy and make sure there is no overlap where we find ourselves stripped of resources.
Hinkley Point will, when completed, produce 3.5 GW of electricity and deliver 7% of the power we need. It will also be the first nuclear power station we have built in the last 20 years. There are other, knock on, advantages for the Hinkley Point project. It’s thought that there will be thousands of jobs created during the construction, which is vital for the area. An additional £200 million economic boost is expected for the area during the time the plant is being built. It’s no wonder that local unions were in favour of the project going ahead.
For the Government, their point of view is that we can’t just rely on renewables and green technologies to power homes and businesses . Nuclear is low carbon and we need a variety of energy sources if we are to prosper in the future.
The Case Against Hinkley Point
While most green supporters will talk about the impact of nuclear, and how it is disposed of, as one of the primary reasons not to build a new power plant, the majority of objections are over the cost of the plant and the reliability of EDF. The initial cost is set at £18 billion but this is undoubtedly going to rise. EDF, the French company tasked with building the power plant, don’t have a great track record for getting builds in on time. Indeed, the Guardian reported recently that the price of the plant could rise as high as £37 billion. The other problem is the highly subsidised tariff for producing power from the plant and that it is going to cost consumers a lot, certainly more than many in Government and in favour of the project are letting on.
Even as far back as last September the Hinkley Point power station was tagged as a white elephant. Green MP Caroline Lucas asks the question:
“The only two nuclear power stations under construction in Europe today are billions of pounds over budget and facing increasing delays. With Germany, Italy, Switzerland, Belgium, Holland, Spain, Sweden and Denmark all rejecting new nuclear, why is the UK still obsessed with keeping this expensive and unnecessary technology alive?”
In the end, the go ahead has been given and there’s not much that can be now done. Hinkley Point will be our first nuclear power station in 20 years and it may be a vital part of our energy infrastructure. Alternatively, it could be a big drain on valuable resources and take several decades before it comes online. Only time will tell.