The China deal heralded for UK new nuclear shows that the UK  is
better at public relations than energy policy.

EADT said - before the television hype - that a £2 billion taxpayer guarantee for the French Hinkley reactor was a 'step closer' for Sizewell. That was a lot more accurate than the tv hype.

What needs to be understood is that the news is truly only a very tiny step in the UK’s nuclear-led energy marathon. The £2bn won’t stretch very far.  Mr Osborne’s official Treasury press statement admits that it is only the first slice of a guarantee.

And if EDF and China were to get the guarantees, the other two companies doing Anglesey and Sellafield, Moorside will properly want the same guarantee from the taxpayers’ pockets. That’s going to be really big money we simply do not have. The Treasury is already cash-strapped for its big infrastructure Pipeline programme which provides these guarantees.

A second public relations sleight of hand on the nuclear subsidy remains important. It is implied that Europe agreed a subsidy “strike price” for Hinkley and Sizewell. Not true, if you read the documents. What Europe said was that if EDF were to build Sizewell, the strike price for Hinkley would be reduced a bit to reflect the economies of scale. And there certainly wouldn’t be a subsidy for China at Bradwell without that having to go to Europe separately.

Influential people who are not anti nuclear are not being taken in by the PR and hype. They are queuing up to say Hinkley is a bad deal, a white elephant, a waste of public money. Mr Osborne’s father in law, Lord David Howell, an energy minister to Mrs T, says think again.The Daily Telegraph has joined in the chorus alongside a former Cabinet Secretary. HSBC bank says no thank you to Hinkley. A former Cabinet Secretary has joined the throng.

Happily, for a saner energy policy, there are still many obstacles in the nuclear marathon: have the two Chinese companies come up with the 45% of funding which EDF apparently needs ? Is Bradwell worth enough if sold  by EDF to China to fill the funding ago for Hinkley and Sizewell ? That’s not a credible arithmetic. EDF maybe doesn’t have the promised money either. Then, court cases are still awaited in Europe from Austria and a powerful German group on the Hinkley subsidy decision.

Further, if China, by hook or by crook, goes for anything like a controlling interest in Hinkley ,Sizewelland Bradwell, it will raise new questions for Europe. French dominant ownership because of its European role is one thing. China using the UK as a platform for getting its nuclear technology into Europe is a different matter. The economic questions will then be joined by political questions about China.

The hype may work for a few days in the UK, but the rumour machine in Brussels says what is really going on is that the UK government and EDF want out of the whole sorry EPR reactor story but need someone to blame other than themselves. One can only say we must await further announcements without bated breath. Can China’s Premier really add anything next month ?

Meanwhile, the real question is whatever happened to a sensible UK (and increasingly realistic) carbon-free energy future ? Other countries have got this in their sights. Why not the UK too, instead of so much destructive, time-wasting posturing ? Amber Rudd, Energy Secretary, has a standing legal duty to review the nuclear renaissance because of evidence of non-nuclear and non-fossil options for the UK. But for the moment she and Osborne seem to believe their own PR. For the rest of us, the 'golden decade' with China is a very different matter.

 

Regan Scott,

Sizewell Dormatory Accommodation.
 
One hardly knows where to start in reply to letter from G. Bickers (letter 23rd June). The issue he raises about affordable accommodation should hardly start with EDF (Electric de France), an 85% state owned electrical company, providing affordable homes for us! Particularly here in Suffolk.
 
Private house builders are certainly not concerned. Just take the recent Framlingham application by Hopkin Homes as an example. The original approval allowed for 47 out of 140 proposed houses to be affordable. After Hopkin Homes contested the building of 47affordable homes, the requirement was dropped. This condition applies to other applications in the wider area also. Affordable homes seem to be 
 a low priority when planning applications are submitted to the Local Authorities here in Suffolk.
 
This is borne out by the latest summer issue "Coast and Country" from a local estate agent. They quote that they have a great demand for properties over £450.000, but, of their 1500 clients 80 have a budget of over a million pounds! What prospect is there of building affordable homes on this basis as our builders are too busy providing "unaffordable" homes.
 
Mr G. Bickers thinks the French should build their dormitories well dispersed in local areas. Maybe Aldeburgh? Saxmundham?  Leiston or where? To keep traffic to the minimum the 3000 main workforce needs to be close to the workplace as 2000 more are to travel in from elsewhere, as well as 600 lorries movements per day plus commercial vans. Chaos will prevail in any case, for as long as 10 or more years. He says these dormitories should eventually to be converted to affordable apartments. At least the French do know how to build a decent apartment block for families, unlike us. Who would do all this converting? EDF again? Our government is currently washing its hands of everything and selling the remaining public housing stock at knock down prices.
 
EDF have endless problems with current projects in Olkiluoto, Finland and Flamanville in France. These have serious delays which will effect the Hinkley Point funding and Sizewell is in the queue behind Hinkley Point. If the worst case scenario happened and Sizewell got started there would be a ten year contract, add a year or two for delays, as has been the case elsewhere, and it is unlikely electricity would be generated before 2035. What state these dormitories would be in after all these years is a matter of conjecture.
 
The bulk of the workforce would need to be close to the site so this is EDF's first choice as a dormitory site. Cast your mind back to the building of Sizewell A and Sizewell B, when the whole area became overrun with imported workers.
 
Bob Hoggar, Halesworth,

 

Dear Sir:
 

You report in todays edition that EDF's Stephen Walls is 'hopeful of progress' regarding the building of Sizewell C & D (let's not forget that two reactors are  planned). Well, he would say that wouldn't he? By now, we must all be well used to the company's spokespersons turning up at venues from street corner to county show to proclaim the usual corporate P.R. spin. It is interesting to note that when Mr Walls talks of developments at Hinckley Point on which Sizewell C depends, he forbears to tell us that potential costs of that project have escalated from £16 billion to £24 billion. Meanwhile, EDF's on-going nuclear power station build in Normandy, France is now more than twice over budget and several years off schedule. As the cost of building these massive power stations continues to spiral, renewables are becoming cheaper and more efficient while smaller, less costly molten salt reactors offer a more realistic nuclear alternative.  You quote Mr Walls as saying he wants to 'make sure we do our best by the local community, the environments and wider area'. The way to do that, I suggest, is to accept that this last-century technology with its campsites of thousands of workers,  traffic disruption, environmental impairment and massive industrialisation is a concept that has long run out of energy.

 

The numerous delays in the dates for consultation and construction of Sizewell C & D must be good news for many so called ‘interested parties’ ( EADT 5 Feb,11,19 and 20 March). It opens up the opportunity for a really thorough and well-informed debate which is certainly not evident so far. 

The reported community consensus about building two major roads -one the four parishes A12 bypass, the other the resurrected Layfield D2  new road from the A12 - will take a fair amount of time with land purchase and the now widely adopted ‘Grampian’ principle that any associated works for a big development need to be in  place before the development starts. 

The numerous organisations supposed to be representing the environment and wildlife should welcome the extra time to reconsider their apparent support for EdF. This has not being going down well with their members from what one hears. They seem to have got in bed rather too quickly instead of sticking to their primary responsibilities to wildlife and protected nature habitats. 

The tourist industry, which the recently  reported Suffolk conference says needs to up its act might now find time to consider the impact of two new huge reactors, and a big waste store and coastal bridge on their future customers too, not forgetting the traffic and blight of a vast construction site for maybe 10 or more years.

Councillors above all should welcome the delays, and if they are really following events rather than being led by the nose - should know that the delays could be even longer. This is because of unsettled business at Hinkley, and the likelihood that Sizewell would not ‘enjoy’ a special strike price subsidy. Hinkley claims to have a so-called green light, but there is still no money, negotiations drag on, and the green light is truly only half an amber, with lengthy legal appeals in Europe only just getting going. 

The majority of councillors who seem to have been kept in the dark by the Joint Local Authority Group, who do all the talks with EdF, should be able to start asserting their rights and doing their duty, demanding to know what is going on in their name.

And then after the general election, a new government will have to realise that if the lights are going to go out, it will be years before any new nuclear power could even dream of being up and running. And the little publicised operating life extensions for existing nuclear plants present problems too: recent micro cracks in steel containment vessels in Sizewell B type reactors in Belgium means that this is not a reliable project either.

Add to all this the severe financial problems of EdF and French reactor builder Areva back home in France, and the fact that Sizewell would be a very much more expensive operation. Hinkley has cost over £100 million in so called ‘mitigations’, although the Government banned a property blight offer to ‘refurbish’ affected private homes, knocking a bit off the bill. Sizewell with so much nature and protected wildlife and such huge road and traffic problems would cost a whole lot more, and we now know it has not been allowed for in the Chancellor’s five year austerity forecast.

 Next comes our government’s launch of a new financial model with a 'golden share'. This poses new competition and investment problems and is meant to mollify public concern about foreign (Chinese and Middle Eastern?) ownership of British nuclear plants. After all, EdF could sell it all off.  What a load of extra headaches coming down the policy pipelines ! 

So it’s a chance for a real debate, and one stresses ‘real’:  key facts have to be on the table. One still to be properly understood is that Suffolk does not have to have these reactors. There are eight chosen sites for seven new nuclear projects. That’s in the national planning law. Secondly, and to be argued out, there are energy alternatives which will be more flexible, quicker to build, cheaper long-run, safer (of course) and better for the environment and nature. Protecting nature (that’s landscape and tourism jobs and property as well as birds and creatures and their habitats) is a legal duty, not an obstacle to be overcome. These laws require full alternatives to be explored. 

EdF are supposed to be considering alternatives energy sources too: how about a big solar park on the estate in place of dangerous new reactors ? Or a wind farm …….

Regan Scott

The government’s back-down on key aspects of fracking because of campaigning in distant Lancashire may turn out to be very close indeed to the big issue in Suffolk and Sizewell.

Crucial is a new all-party consensus to change the fracking bill to ban all and any fracking in National Parks, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and Sites of Special Scientific Interest. Suffolk Coastal, up, down and around Sizewell nuclear power ‘park’ is all AONB (now the same planning status as National Parks) and SSSIs, let alone European and international protected sites.

The environmental reasons against fracking are above and below ground - lorries, big construction, land and water contamination, in effect industrialisation, and fear of big events - earthquakes and geology movement. What’s so different about the proposed Sizewell C & D? Same here about the big new nukes, except you can’t fill the holes in afterwards because they will have nuclear waste in them, the land above remains contaminated for decades, and the big ‘event’, a nuclear accident, if it happened, is at land level.

The political reasons are clear: people’s rights to quiet lives, enjoyment of their property (and its sale value) and maybe also insurance problems. And disruption of the special landscape, the tourist economy dependent on it and agriculture.

Quick lessons can be drawn: if you kick up enough fuss about real environmental problems, politicians do have to respond. Second, energy politicians, planners and investors do get things wrong and don’t do joined up thinking. What we have in Britain is an energy mess, not an energy strategy, and it’s a dangerous and environmentally damaging mess too.

Third lesson is not Lancashire but the London to North West HS2 railway. Quietly government has conceded compensation for noise - and maybe more - for folk living 100 meters away while the works are carried out. Not much, or anything like enough, you might think, but it’s early days here too. Nevertheless, the principle of compensation for construction blight has been established on a big national infrastructure. For Sizewell C & D, and the waste stores etc, it may be as much as 15 years on the designated lorry routes, and be assured, that awesome compensation potential should come to rest not on taxpayers or home energy bills but on the polluter, under European law.

So why do C&D when there are and will be perfectly workable and less expensive and damaging alternatives ?

Regan Scott