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What on earth is going on with Hinkley and UK nuclear?

STOP-PRESS (1) The existence of a ‘poison pill’ clause has broken through the secrecy surrounding the detailed agreement between the UK government and EDF. If political or policy change happens over the 60 year Hinkley lifespan, UK taxpayers would be required to ‘compensate’ EDF for commercial loss to the tune of as much as £22bn. (Guardian 21.03.16). ‘Poison pills’ are normal for inward investors, but this is hardly a ‘normal’ project.

STOP-PRESS (2) Greenpeace have won access to an oral appeal tribunal on a Freedom of Information refusal of key documents about the UK/EDF deal (Guardian 20.3.16).

STOP-PRESS (3) Private Eye (13.03.16) reveals that European ‘rules’ mean that agreed financial aid to Hinkley cannot be triggered until EDF have proved the EPR design by completing the Finnish and France’s own Flamanville EPRs. Both are now scheduled for 2019.

STOP-PRESS (4) EDF have agreed to take on part of the financial risk of construction delays faced by their China partner CGN. If costs overrun by 5bn Euros, EDF will have to meet 80% of this figure.

After another month of new dates, new financing models and new problems, the media are now mainly hostile if not openly deriding the Hinkley deal, and speculation is rife about what might really be happening. The Times leading editorial (3.03.16) dubbed Hinkley a “Nuclear Disaster” and called for its abandonment. What a way to run an energy policy.

So, what is going on? Certainly there are conjuring tricks, charades, blame games and, hard to dispute, uncertainty and blight for communities and businesses affected – not the least, here in Suffolk.

New information: The roller coaster is revealing interesting new information, some of which will hopefully be clearer after the questioning of EDF, the other 2 nuclear companies and experts etc by Parliament’s Select Committee for Climate and Energy on March 23rd (full report next issue).

New information is the revelation from EDF’s CEO JB Levy to Reuters that the design changes to Hinkley are “no more than 20%”. That’s new.

Second, again from French sources, is that at least one of the three or four French government new methods of subsidising EDF with French tax payers money is likely to arouse the active interest of the Competition authorities in Brussels. The design changes raise questions, not the least about whether the design of Hinkley’s EPR was approved before the changes.

Hinkley costs drop from £24.5 bn to £18 bn? Is the new EDF build figure of £18bn (uprated from £16bn when Brussels looked at it) a result of the design changes, and/or financing methods? An Imperial College academic expert asked on Radio 4 about this disparity in costs thought one way to cut costs might be to scrap the second containment vessel. This is claimed to be a key safety feature of the EPR reactor. And EDF have recently talked about a ‘modified EPR’ for France. Is this something entirely separate from Hinkley?

The huge price drop is most likely explained by changed financing methods, but maybe the other changes also contribute. Since EDF can’t get open market finance (equity/loans), it now has only direct China money (£4bn) and it’s own (or French Government capital) and more of this to come, apparently. If an element of the original high strike price was to cover normal outside finance risk, shouldn’t the strike price be revised downwards? If design changes have cut costs, surely the same argument applies. The case for Brussels to revisit the case looks reasonable, and France is certainly aware of this possibility. French commentators have asked whether giving money to EDF by transferring EDF’s existing stake in the French electricity grid to a state bank is a subsidy. The idea is that the state bank would then invest in EFD. Whatever emerges, the magically lower £18 (£16bn) figure looks important. However, STOP PRESS 4 indicates that costs may already been rising beyond the £18bn level.

French auditors downgrade it as well. Meanwhile, the ‘low amber’ credit rating for the project by the UK Public Audit Office (fourth lowest of five rankings) has been echoed by the French national audit bureau, making EDF’s UK plans an open French political issue. The professional engineering unions in EDF have now been joined by the manual workers’ union through their worker share funds in warning that Hinkley puts their whole future at risk.

New dates for old? All this has not (yet) changed any prospective dates. EDF chief JB Levy has not changed the promise that they will be ready to pour concrete in 3 or more years’ time. The next two top EDF meetings (the Board and the Shareholders) may discuss and decide something but who knows? May is now mentioned by the press as a possible decision period. No clues on this here at home, where Chancellor Osborne’s Budget did not say anything about the issue except for his already announced £250m backing of development for new 4th generation mini nukes. His roads announcements didn’t mention the A12 or Sizewell related matters.

Courts and profits. For the moment two further observations:

(1) the competition case at the European Court of Justice is waiting in the queue, and since European Treaty matters are involved, this will be long-winded with first an Advocate General ‘opinion’, and then, most likely, a Court examination afterwards. Second, even with magic money, if EDF can’t afford Hinkley without a huge capital subsidy as well as price subsidy, how on earth can it be credible that they can afford Sizewell?

(2) Along with other big energy companies in Europe, global low energy prices have hit company profits, with, for example, Npower (Germany’s RWE) announcing 2,500 redundancies from its 11,500 UK workforce. The parent company has made losses overall this year. The UK EDF operation was very profitable (£700m net profit last year, sent back to France after a little bit of UK tax). But since Sizewell B and the old EDF nuclear stations cannot cut their costs except marginally (one the economic problems of nuclear stations), even these profits won’t be available for some time. Further, with EDF’s privileged direct nuclear electricity contract with the UK government to supply public buildings – the biggest ever UK electricity supply contact – coming to an end now, their UK profits are likely to dip further. Global investors RCB Capital Markets, via Bloomberg’s financial news service have said EDF is “uninvestable” and needs to be fully re-nationalised if it pursues the Hinkley project.

Meanwhile, Government policy moves Energy Secretary of State Amber Rudd has “reset” - not reviewed - UK energy policy with life extensions for the old AGR nuclear stations and Sizewell B (World Nuclear News 4.2.15). And coal station closures by 2025. And who knows what will happen with the other two nuclear operators’ plans for Anglesey and Sellafield Moorside. It looks as though the whole energy strategy should just go in the bin.

It leaves Suffolk with uncertainty, blight, maybe even big surprises like EDF selling off sites to China, not just Bradwell. As we’ve said for some time, it is all bad news for Suffolk : maybe some of our politicians should start living in the real world and join us saying Sizewell C is just not suitable for Suffolk.

Road campaigners now want rail and sea jetty use. EADT (12.03.16) report that the B1122 Action Group now want a rail loop and a ‘successful’ sea jetty. The story reveals new traffic figures too: EDF say HGV movements could range from 200 to 600 per day, but maybe sometimes up to 900, and 510 small trucks (under 3.5 tons). No car figures though. EDF said its second stage consultation might be in the ‘next few months once a final investment decision has been made’, whatever this might mean.

Wildlife writer’s reminder about European protection laws in AONB. Welcome reflection by EADT wildlife writer John Grant, musing on the EU referendum issue, abut how important Europe has been protecting wildlife in our AONB. (EADT 27.2.16). TASC has been studying these laws and rules very closely as part of its case against more nuclear in Suffolk. Since Sizewell B, nature is weaker, protective laws in part stronger and the big build threat much bigger.

UK Energy Policy is ‘drifting aimlessly” So who said that and where? Well, it was former CBI (industry federation) chief Lord Adair Turner, to the Parliament Select Committee on Climate Change and Energy. MPs on the Committee warned that sudden cuts to renewable energy subsidies are spooking investors and will raise energy bills. These are already £400 a year too high for average families say WHICH (3.03.16). Meanwhile the Lord Adonis Infrastructure Commission reports that better energy management could save the UK £8bn annually.

Global investment boost in clean (renewable) energy. Global investment in 2014 (latest figures) jumped by 16%, a figure which purchased nearly twice the amount of clean power capacity that the same money bought in 2011. That’s real productivity growth. It comes mostly from rapidly falling solar panel costs, solar making up half of total clean investment. China’s investment tops the list at $90bn (32%), then come the USA and Japan. France opened the world’s biggest solar plant with 300MWhr capacity, while German and UK investment was very low at 3%, and mainly in offshore wind capacity.

Japan’s Nuclear Mess: still dangerous after 5 years, courts close re-opened reactors. Shutting its 40 nuclear reactors after the March 11th, 2011 Fukushima disaster, Japan’s investigations of radiation impact on people and wildlife continue, with 1,100 square kilometres of land remaining uninhabitable. Only robots are allowed into the melted down reactors, now facing another 5 years before even protected workers might gain access. The ex Prime Minister says Japan was on a “paper thin margin from disaster”. Two reactors which have been re-started have now been re-closed after re-opening. This month only 2 were operating, although 20 have applied to restart.

Suffolk homeowners air Sizewell C blight issues. At long last, the impact of uncertainty about Sizewell C plans has surfaced. EADT (3.03.16) front-paged ”doubt leaves us in limbo”. Businesses “can’t plan”, there is a “black cloud” on transport issues, there was a “huge impact” during Sizewell B building and “it was very disruptive”. The homeowner bit was not attributed, but it speaks volumes.

US firm exploring small nukes manufacture in UK. Toshiba’s American Westinghouse company, who are nuclear sub engine manufacturers, are looking at opening an SMR (small modular reactor) factory in the UK. Attracted by £250m UK government grant for five years to start SMR research, their existing AP1000 reactor is undergoing UK approval for Sellafield (Moorside).

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As a new 3 year Hinkley “delay” unfolds, what does this mean for Sizewell C (&D)?

Serious world commentators (Reuters, World Nuclear News) report that neither the management board of EDF, nor the following shareholders’ meeting in Paris actually discussed, as expected, the Hinkley crisis. But a new delay decision was nevertheless announced by the Chief Executive Officer J-B Levy on February 16th. He declared that EDF would be ready to “pour first concrete” at Hinkley in three or a bit more years. It was “on the horizon for 2019”. However, detailed agreement with China’s nuclear company CGN was not yet completed, and low energy prices in Europe meant, he said, no non-subsidised energy investment was taking place, and that EDF were still looking at Hinkley financing in this light. European energy producers have also agreed to a new lobby of the Brussels Commission on subsidies. Meanwhile, some landscaping by bulldozers will continue at Hinkley. He also said “we have the intention to proceed rapidly with the investment decision for Hinkley Point”, if that means anything in the context.

Whatever can be read into all this, a worrying and very real decision has been made by EDF to extend the lives of 4 of their very old AGR reactors at three of their other UK sites, by variously 5 to 7 years, to 2024 for two, and 2030 for the other two (Heysham, Torness and Hartlepool sites). Sizewell’s PWR has only been operating for 21 years so far for its 40 year life, but is also to be extended to 60 years. All of this may still be subject to approval by the Office of Nuclear Regulation which is, incidentally, reported to be short of funds and senior personnel.

----------TASC’s Viewpoint-------------

TASC points out that Suffolk will suffer more uncertainty, more economic blight, more local taxpayers’ cash spent on road building illusions (the Government has no money) and more uncertainty about the future of the real Suffolk assets. We continue to prepare for full opposition to the Sizewell C (&D) project: simply not suitable for Suffolk, wrong technology, utterly unfair new national planning fix etc. Our work programme on energy policy options, woeful emergency services, environmental issues – roads, tourism, property prices, social and physical infrastructure and the crucial 54 nature and wildlife assets – continues.

What does it all mean ? Our local newspapers and media don’t seem to know, other than repeating bland Sizewell statements (EADT 28.1.16 reported EDF playing down speculation about further Sizewell delays) and national and local politicians have said nothing. EADT did however concede that the whole matter of Sizewell consultation may be “stalled”, although a tiny editorial at the end of January “pitied” the delays and “trusted” the region would still get its economic spin-off boost. The core issue is whether this is (just) another delay caused by the EPR’s well-known problems and the restrictive European ruling on its subsidisation. Or, in reality, is this the end of the road for the EPR, subject to politicians finding someone to blame?

Some Brussels and Paris commentators reckon that both the French and British governments might, behind the scenes, rather like the European Court of Justice case –maybe taking another 18 months - to get them off the hook. Others reckon EDF will take at least 3 years to find the money from its sell-off programmes (plus maybe Bradwell to China) but even that will not be enough, so “pouring concrete” will be delayed again. Others that if the UK leaves the European Union, the European Court restraint will no longer apply and UK taxpayers would then be milked for 50 years (15 to build, 35 year’s operating subsidy) to save UK political faces with a direct government subsidy for EDF. If anything is clear, no private finance is going near Hinkley after its very low credit rating for Lord Adonis’ new Infrastructure Commission. This Commission ( Private Eye story) will be a Private Finance Initiative body (PFI2), guaranteeing high profits for UK and foreign investors from public projects. But if that were to be the approach of the Government, it would violate the terms of the Brussels agreement on the strike price of £92.50 per megawatthour. We think the high strike price and drop in world energy prices already does that in any case. This analysis points up the importance of the UK Brexit issue, and J-B Levy did respond albeit evasively to the effect it would make no difference !

There is also a ‘rabbit out of the hat’ line of speculation that somehow funds will be found to force this ghastly project through. Politicians and big companies being what they are, and UK and world energy policies being in such a mess, daft and in our view dangerous and unnecessary decisions can still be taken. Politicians, to save face, might simply pass the mess on to future generations (60 years operating life, 100 years nuclear waste run down) and think they can walk away.

What counts against this are the increasingly clear views that (1) the EPR is a bad and costly nuclear reactor and (2) that no-one serious is going to put any real money into it even if the government can afford the relevant level of subsidy. And (3) that global energy market trends and climate change politics make big nuclear solutions increasingly unattractive.

This view has come into the open through EDF competitor company Horizon (now Hitachi owned) who plan to build their own (American/Japanese) reactors on Anglesey (Wylfa) and at Oldbury in the Bristol Channel. Interviewed by the D.Telegraph (15.02.16) Alan Raymant, chief operating officer says private finance is crucial since state-owned firms like EDF (and maybe China’s CGN) simply can’t raise the cash. His Japanese boss says financing and delay problems raise ”very serious concerns” about their own project. It looks like round and round the mulberry bush…..

The best speculation so far (our own too, and we were right in earlier TASC Bulletins about EDF’s capital shortage even for Hinkley) is that delay is legally required in any case because of the European Court of Justice case being pursued by Austria, Greece and German renewable companies against the Hinkley subsidy price. The anti case could be boosted by market developments. This price itself is now massively out of line with foreseeable world energy prices on one side, and the EPR’s real and very high direct and indirect costs on the other side. The £92.50 strike price can best be seen as an unhappy compromise with neither market relevance nor real cost covering – or commercial profits. A sign of the times may be that EDF’s own Chief Development Officer for Hinkley has resigned and gone to work nuclear in America.

What rings true here in Suffolk is that if Hinkley is proving so impossibly difficult to finance, and EDF is not expecting any major business turn-round in the foreseeable future, there simply isn’t going to be any money for following up Hinkley with Sizewell.

However, we also think there might be a rather sad little Suffolk rabbit pulled out of the hat with EDF dropping the “financial investment decision” trigger for the second stage consultation and announcing a date, just as a face-saver, especially since the gap between Phase 2 and the final consultation is likely to be two more years.

‘No’ evacuation drill for Sizewell emergencies:

Andy Osman, Suffolk County Council’s Chief Emergency Planning Officer, has announced that there will be no ‘real time’ emergency drill to prepare people around the Sizewell plant for an evacuation in the event of a major off-site radiological incident.  This announcement comes in response to a call from one of the Site Stakeholder Group’s co-opted members, Pete Wilkinson, who requested such a drill to be carried out in the wake of a similar programme being conducted in Japan after the Fukushima disaster and to test the official claim that the Sizewell emergency plan would ensure peoples’ safety. The justification for the refusal to undertake an evacuation drill is that an exercise of the scale required to put the plan to a rigorous test would cause more alarm than it would help prepare people for a ‘low probability, high consequence’ accident on a Fukushima or Chernobyl scale.  Wilkinson argues that a full scale drill would show the plan up for what it is – inadequate and effectively useless in its ability to evacuate local residents to safety: ‘Suffolk Resilience Forum has an obligation to demonstrate the plan’s effectiveness but a few minutes’ thought will make it clear to even the most  ardent cheerleader for nuclear power that the plan is not fit for purpose’, he commented. 


EADT Letters this month (no TASC association implied)Pete Wilkinson - a long letter about appalling blue light services and refusal of real-life emergency evacuation exercises for Sizewell B (1.2.16). Tom Haslam ‘Poor transport links means Sizewell C is flawed’ (28.1.16) Another on the roads controversy argued ‘Not a gateway… more a nightmare’(19.1.16).

Sizewell A’s radiation zone removed: claiming A is no longer a threat to the public (not something admitted previously, of course) completed decommissioning (?) is announced like a bright sunny day. Truth is 10% of the official radiation hazard remains, radiation decay won’t reach a theoretically safe level till 2088, and only then can buildings be taken down. But a ‘future uses’ consultation exercise has been launched… who are they kidding ?

France’s nuclear accident exercise: 400,000 homes within 10 kilometers of nuclear sites have been issued iodine tablets in a 7 yearly exercise.

Henning Mankell’s nuclear waste swansong: the acclaimed Swedish thriller writer’s (TV’s Wallender series) final book before his death in October last year singles out nuclear waste burrowed under European mountains for 100,000 years as our generation’s worst gift to the future. How can we communicate to them “Danger: Keep out”, he asked.


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Please note that there is an error in our article which refers to the B1122 Action Group for which we have apologised.

EDF financial troubles continue
Serious financial problems at EDF headquarters in Paris are now becoming routine items for world money journalists and the world nuclear industry. Reuters press agency and World Nuclear News both report that EDF is having to open its books in advance of a shareholder meeting next month. Not only have they had to borrow money to pay shareholders (the French Government and a few others) a dividend, they are facing huge future costs for uprating safety standards after the Fukushima disaster in Japan. They have a big gap between the future estimates of waste storage, EDF saying it will cost €20bn and France’s official nuclear waste agency saying €36bn. Then they still have to absorb ailing Areva who make the very expensive and not yet completed European Pressurised Water Reactor planned for Hinkley and Sizewell. To put it all in perspective, EDF UK have been coining it at about £1.5 bn a year gross profit. Hinkley will costs EDF at least £12bn (and China £6bn and the UK at least another £2bn). It’s fair to guess that the UK profits have been going back to Paris not least because the £ is worth a lot extra to €shareholders. But even if all of the UK profit were retained here for Hinkley, it would take over 10 years to save up to pay for just Hinkley’s two EPRs. The bad overall EDF financial news means it is extremely unlikely independent investors will come forwards, and as world energy prices keep falling, even the falsely high strike price for electricity isn’t enough for them to risk good capital.

The big – but maybe not big enough – EDF sell-off
The Financial Times sister paper Les Echos in Paris announced in the New year that EDF is to sell off half of its stake in France’s national electricity grid and lots of other investments. Going are assets in Hungary and Austria, $2 bn in the USA, and the big news, a 29% share in their UK nuclear reactor fleet which is valued at a mere £9bn, producing about £2.7bn. The total sell-ff, to be completed by 2018 may raise about £ The news was explained by EDF’s overall debt figure in Paris of £27 bn. The report also reveals that some of this money is for Hinkley, but it can’t be used twice so has to be assessed alongside the first story above. Meanwhile December’s other news was that half of the £24 bn Hinkley investment (note the higher figure again) will go to overseas suppliers, and as much as 40% of these will be French. (Guardian 6.12.15).

National Audit Office (UK Government) downgrades Hinkley infrastructure project
The Government is so short of money (austerity/public debt etc) that an NAO report on priorities for national infrastructure spending has downgraded Hinkley to ”amber/red” on a 5 colour scale starting with green and yellow. This comes just before the new Infrastructure Commission under former Labour minister Lord Adonis starts his own review work. If you ask why is Hinkley a matter for public finance downgrading if it is private, well the truth will out: official statistics now count the guarantees and strike price subsidy as ‘public support’ which at the end of the day will be down to the Treasury, even though they want us to pay for it through a consumer levy. That’s the rub for them: a consumer levy is just a tax by another name. And the estimated cost of Hinkley ? Well, the 2015 figure for “whole UK cost” is £14,286 million. In 2012 it was £21 million – not billion, just £21 million. The murk and smoke and mirrors have really gone beserk….By comparison, the whole HS2 railway programme is now to cost £43bn.

Apologies for all this financial stuff, but it paints a very different picture to the one coming from Sizewell EDF’s public relations office. This suggests everything is hunky-dory and on track. It begs a big question about local politicians: do they know the truth about EDF finances ? If so, why are they cheerfully spending our money on new road plans for Sizewell C ? Suffolk County Council £450,000, Suffolk Coastal DC £50,000 ! Did we say spending, or should we have said wasting ?

Granite or blue clay?
An interesting aside is that France’s proposed geological nuclear waste depository will be in a 15 square km blue clay belt north east of Paris. The UK’s proposal remains in Lake District granite. There is some blue clay in the UK, some around North Norfolk/the Wash.

Both roads campaigns, for B1122 and 4 Villages are rebranded
The two local roads campaigns have gone in for rebranding, while maintaining they are not anti-nuclear, which we in TASC find rather odd and not at all necessary. There is a perfectly sensible set of arguments, on traditional planning grounds, to say that more nuclear and very big nuclear at Sizewell is just not good for Suffolk. So much has changed: nature is more extensive in the huge Coastal AONB, nature is much more precarious, environmental laws are necessarily tougher, tourism has developed to being a core industry, a lot more housing causes overdevelopment strains, property prices depend on nature and landscape, not nuclear plants and, crucially, new energy technologies and old nuclear problems and risks make nuclear quite unnecessary, if it ever was.

Anyhow, lecture over, the Four Villages bypass campaign is now to be called the Energy Gateway and our local politicians are spending yet more money on another transport study. The B1122 campaign group have produced a new leaflet with a demand for traffic engineers to find a new relief road direct from the A12 to Sizewell, south of Saxmundham and Leiston. This relaunches an old idea from Sizewell B days, then called the D2 road. There is to be a new local questionaire: we suggest that if there are questions that can be answered to tell the truth about the traffic havoc coming, fill in the answers and write “No to Sizewell C “ or something like that on the form. These campaigns are living in a phantasy world of national and local tax payers funding huge sums of money for EDF’s benefit. They should recognise the realities and come off the fence (it must have been painful enough already to produce the rebrandings !) There is also a piece of political trickery mixed up in it all: under the well known Grampian planning doctrine, big developers like EDF are supposed to do their own funding of access routes and do them in good time to minimise social disruption. But if the road plans can be dressed up as in the public interest, and be charged to gullible taxpayers, the Grampian rule might not apply so directly. EDF could then start up without doing real access road work except bits needed ‘directly’ like from the existing B1122 to the employee camp and the construction yard. Many thoughts will emerge as the rebrandings come under the microscope of pubic opinion. One thought is what would anyone do with a new A12 relief road afterwards? Can’t really see tourists flocking to visit the new Sizewell C reactors, especially if the wildlife has been trashed all around it…..

Meanwhile, the roads issues about Sizewell C are being played out amid campaigns for other (to be made much worse by Sizewell C) traffic problems in east Suffolk. The Saxmunden overdevelopment has led to a call for a big roundabout on the A12 access roads. Despite the dangers, Councillors say this won’t have priority. Then there are the business lobbies for a new bridge over the Orwell inside Ipswich, a northern relief road between the A14 and A12. “No More A14 delays” lobby group says investment would bring £362m extra annual income to the area. A hugely costly 3rd crossing for Lowerstoft is also being pushed. Sizewell C in context looks very different….

Emergency services.
The blue light services resource issue is breaking into public debate alongside continuing pressure from TASC supporters about totally inadequate, uncertain and paper exercise assurances about what would happen with a major incident at Sizewell. Fire brigade cuts and new mini emergency vehicles and shortages of retained firemen and women mean Sizewell ought to boost its own fire services. There is a public consultation ongoing. Police cuts impact too while hospital and ambulance services are already at full stretch. French experience (EDF nuclear plant near Bordeaux) poses another problem: though sea defences had been uprated some time ago, coastal flooding stopped outside emergency services even getting to a fire in the plant. Local coastwatch and border control experts are now starting to campaign about the lack of resources on Suffolk coast to deal with smugglers and the awful possibility of terrorism. Thanks to the extensive report in the ‘Anglian’ (Monday 11th January). The Sizewell dimension of these emergency issues is being pursued through the Sizewell (B) Stakeholder Group, and is becoming a focus for serious TASC examination. SSG co-optee Pete Wilkinson said the SSG is toothless and walked out of the December meeting. Lord Deben, ex Tory Minister, says Britain needs a unified coast protection organisation to cope with flooding from climate change, while PM Cameron is coming under increased political pressure with 10% cuts in flood defence spending (excepting a 2013/4 one-off payment). Hinkley has suffered from what the National Audit Office calls “undelivered” flood defences (Guardian 12.15 Damian Carrington). The emergency debate is centring on total lack of credibility of paper modelling exercises and he need for a real life exercise to test local authorities and ONR(Office of Nuclear Regulation) assurance that everything is OK. This current issue connects to equal and longstanding concerns about overall community protection and evacuation. If Sizewell B becomes Sizewell C & D plus all of the waste stored on site, wouldn’t there be 4 to 5 times the current risk levels ? No-one has ever claimed bigger nuclear is safer: the exact opposite is more like the truth.

Property prices truth emerges
Hidden away on Dec 30th, the ‘Anglian’ did a two page spread on property prices titled “Uncertainties over Sizewell C are a blight on property prices”. Local estate agents, as they would, denied any problem, but amongst the worried is a former MP having problems selling a farmhouse on the B1122 route. And just think, if this is the effect of ‘uncertainty’ blight, what would be the effect of real construction and traffic blight for 10,15 and maybe even 20 years ?

AONB takes Section 106 planning money from EDF for waste store
As the new waste store nears completion, perhaps the strangest story of the season is that the AONB with Sizewell at its heart has taken money off EDF for, well, what ? Section 106 money is supposed to compensate public authorities for developer costs. A small annual grant for a number of years and a six figure sum hopefully will not be enough to buy future silence from the AONB which is supposed to do its basic duty of protecting the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Since the AONB’s detailed management plan for the next few years hardly even mentions EDF at Sizewell, what does one expect ?

EDF pays “independent” Royal Town Planning Institute consultancy to advise towns and villages….
Well, more money slushing around as EDF pays the RTPI’s Planning Aid service to advise on how to make voices heard on the coming Phase 2 consultation. All legal, of course, since developers are supposed to pay all the bills, but it’s a still a funny old world, isn’t it ? (Anglian Dec 28).

Aarhus Convention now to be “fixed’ by Governmen
The international legal convention providing help to the public to challenge government on disputed environmental decisions is to be watered down by the government. The key bit about increasing the costs limit is likely to be challenged. What are they frightened about ?

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EDF employee shareholders say Hinkley puts whole company at risk: Everyone should take full note of the views of EDF’s own employee shareholders’ association in Paris. They own some shares alongside the French government’s 85%. EDF needs at least £40bn to upgrade its ageing nuclear reactors in France and more to refinance Areva, the ailing French nuclear constructor who are being taken over by EDF. The now miraculously cheaper £18 billion project (it was going to be £24.5 bn a few weeks ago) is “so expensive” and “so risky” it puts EDF’s “own survival” in question (Guardian 13.11.15). The price drop, announced by EDF in Paris last month, is apparently because of using direct capital instead of loans, maybe because of the Chinese funds. The figures look more like magic than real money, and EDF are still short of the full amount because the Chinese nuclear company promised cash, not a percentage of total costs which always escalate. EDF are themselves not flush because of the Areva rescue. The Areva Finnish reactor is 9 years delayed and £5bn Euros over budget. EDF has also had to borrow money to pay its dividends. EDF in Paris nevertheless have changed their tune from low key to high key about Hinkley. Why ? They make £750million UK (net) profit per year after only a little bit of tax and a lot of tax allowances. Given a high £ and a low Euro, this is worth 1 billion Euro a year in Paris. The big question is whether the Hinkley price guarantee of £92.50 per megawatt should be reduced now that the cost has fallen from £24.4 billion to £18 billion. Labour MP Paul Flynn asked Energy Secretary of State Amber Rudd on 9th October if she had notified Europe about the £2 billion “loan guarantee” for the Chinese investor. She claimed it was within the Europe agreement, and only a first payment.

Rudd reveals subsidy and waste cost truths: Amber Rudd, Energy Secretary, following Parliamentary rules, sent a letter to MPs on October 21st announcing that the deal with EDF and other investors might involve “liabilities” for the government and UK taxpayer. This formal notice exposes the claim that the Hinkley project will not be subsidized. The ten pages reveal that total subsidy support, paid by customers’ bills, could range between £4billion and £19 billion, and up to £22 billion if the project was shut down by a political decision. Then comes the question of who pays for decommissioning and waste storage. Here we read that the government will take over the waste and own it, charging EDF £2.3 billion, but if costs rise, no more than £5 billion. The last, legal date for Hinkley reactor actually starting to produce is 2037.

Paul Flynn, Labour MP asked Amber Rudd about her response to TASC’s legal challenge for an energy review: On October 20th, a junior energy minister replied that the Department of Energy and Climate Change had set up a working party to look at TASC’s challenge and “to discuss the Nuclear National Policy Statement”. TASC is taking professional advice.

Rudd “resets” energy policy in big November speech: All guns blazing for gas and nuclear, amid rumours that government cuts will see the Energy and Climate Change Department closed down and merged into the Environment Department. After paying for massive nuclear decommissioning of old Magnox reactors and Sellafield (with our taxpayer’s money) DECC doesn’t have much left, maybe another reason she’s cutting subsidies for windfarms, which are doing well but need expansion to meet the UK’s climate change targets. She announced closure of all UK coal plants by 2025, a headlong gas and nuclear strategy for the UK, and an end to helping renewables develop rapidly by removing subsidies. It increases overall investment uncertainty for renewable energy, for both big offshore wind farms and small scale renewables, including community solar and energy saving programmes. It’s been greeted with shock and opposition from anti-nuclear campaigners, is regarded as a slap in the face to climate change professionals facing next month’s big Paris climate change talks, and supports the big fossil fuel companies – the world oil and gas industry – who want a bigger market for the gas which is flooding world markets. Local Lord Deben, former Tory politician John Gummer, now chairman of the UK’s independent Climate Change Committee criticised the whole approach and “striking failings in government policy”. UK renewable energy production is very low by European standards at just 5.1% of the total, alongside Malta, Luxembourg and gas rich Holland. A detail is that Rudd seems to want to find a way of making offshore wind farms pay some sort of levy for variable access to the national power grid, which is itself not fit for purpose. TASC Chairman Pete Wilkinson pointed out that Amber Rudd’s claim that UK nuclear produces 20% of UK energy is wrong: it produces only about 3%, but 20% of electricity.

Hinkley still not in the clear: the Government has had to apply to the European competition authority for permission to have a golden share in Hinkley, to meet political concerns that France, China and maybe other foreign powers in future would control our key power assets. Meanwhile the Austrian legal challenge to Europe on the Hinkley subsidy has been joined by Greece and Luxembourg, and a group of renewable energy producers in Germany. A new issue for them could be the magically reduced cost of Hinkley: it’s high cost was used to justify the high strike price (subsidy) in the original European competition case.

Nuclear’s overall financial problems: after last month’s warning that EDF’s nuclear problems risked its financial credit rating, the big global credit rating agency Standard & Poors has focused on Europe’s decommissioning liabilities which they believe are about 100 billion Euros (£75bn). These add to other risk issues like debt and tighter regulation. Consultants CapGemini have called for decommissioning costs to be examined across Europe because they vary so much: Germany has set aside 4.7bn Euros per reactor, while France has allowed only 1.2 bn. (Reuters). It is believed that the UK Nuclear Liabilities Fund for AGR and PWR reactors is about £10bn short of funds.

Nuclear fuel producer to be privatised: URENCO, the joint UK government, Dutch Government and German company owned nuclear fuel producer –once part of BNFL – is on Mr Osborne’s sell-off list for a £3bn UK share but the German companies are causing delays. What will they sell off next ? EDF at Hinkley has the right to sell its planning consent.

FOE challenges EDF and planners about moving protected water voles: Thanks to Friends of the Earth Suffolk for following up EDF’s efforts to ‘create’ wetland to ‘compensate/mitigate’ for ‘taking’ land for the new reactors and vast construction site. At issue are water voles and drains on Sizewell Marshes. The voles – they’ve declined by 95% and now have maximum protection from ‘disturbance’ - are being very much disturbed, breaching rules by Natural England. FOE is also challenging efforts by EDF to change water management licences. Overall the 20 km environment study zone for nature impact at Sizewell includes 54 sites with differing levels of protection and maybe 200 or more of Suffolk’s 300 ‘priority’ protected species of bird, animal, insects and plants and trees. TASC is undertaking a comprehensive study of the issues.

Europe’s important Birds & Habitats laws defended by 100 UK organisations: Europe is reviewing the longstanding Birds and Habitats Protection Directives, causing widespread concern about them being weakened. A bad review could impact on nature protection at Sizewell, but the RSPB-led opposition is strong. Meanwhile, however, in the next two years the UK must adopt a much stronger revised European law about the assessment rules for protecting nature.
Another costly EDF roads study: Cash strapped Suffolk County Council and Suffolk Coastal District Council new study of a 4 Villages Bypass is to cost £500,000 of council tax payers money: EDF are not paying. Until EDF go to the second stage consultation it will not be known if they are prepared to pay for the 4VBP, although they may contribute to remedial work at Farnham bend. If the Government and the two councils agree on the need for the 4VBF, it will need a full environmental assessment and will cost upwards of £70 million. The spending of £50,000 by SCDC – their contribution - has been delegated to a Lead Officer of the Council by the Council’s Cabinet, ensuring that other Council members have no say.

Suffolk Fire Service cuts: bad news, but questions also need to be asked about the impact on existing disaster duties at Sizewell. TASC has been probing “resilience” issues about resources for public safety given the size now – and much bigger prospective size – of the Sizewell nuclear site. The threatened fire service cuts may also be associated with a call for fire tenders to deal with NHS calls in place of ambulances ! Meanwhile New Anglia LEP (business group) have called for better “resilience” for businesses against weather and climate changes. Not very joined-up thinking, is it? TASC notes that France had a big fire problem during a flood some years back when the Bordeaux estuary nuclear site was above water level but the roads around were flooded and stopped emergency services attending.

Chinese components for Sizewell nuclear reactors ? Mike Taylor, vice chair of the Sizewell Stakeholders Group, asked the obvious question after news that China would put finance into Sizewell C&D. Would EDF come under pressure to use components and supplies from China and what about UK quality standards? The reply was that EDF would apply UK standards regardless of where components came from.

Coastal flooding – National Trust call for urgent action: TASC concern about the impact of coastal flooding and rising sea levels over the long life of new Sizewell nuclear facilities is being echoed (without mentioning shore-based nuclear sites, of course) by the National trust. They name 80 priority coastal sites in the UK, and include Suffolk’s Dunwich Heath and Orfordness, which are not so very far from Sizewell.

UK nuclear regulators told to have regard for economic growth – TASC protests: UK nuclear regulators, the ONR, wrongly but routinely called the toughest in the world, have been told by the Government’s Business Department to consider the impact of their decisions on the “viability of projects” in a new Regulators’ Code. That’s business-speak for profit comes before safety. Pete Wilkinson, TASC Chairman said, “ agencies which even now act more like enablers than scrutineers for the nuclear industry are being dragooned into being cheerleaders for it”. ONR responded about their ‘core purpose being safety’ and ‘security and safety always being the priority’. Not a real answer.

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TASC Bulletin 3 - October 2015

Nuclear policy: new twists and turns?
A lot of strange are things happening in Government energy policy. First Chancellor Osborne in China announces £2 bn loan guarantees, presumably to secure capital from the two Chinese companies who are supposed to invest in Hinkley and Sizewell. Then it is added that the Bradwell Essex nuclear site –owned by EDF as are Hinkley & Sizewell – will be sold to the China companies for their own design nuclear plants. It emerges that there are no more investors for the missing 10% of capital for the £25bn Hinkley project, so the China/EDF split is now revised to 60%/40%. We observe, and it’s correct, that £2bn insurance is not much cover for £25bn, and note the Brussels figure of up to £17bn for associated costs in its OK letter to the UK re Hinkley. Then the Treasury press statement admits the £2bn is the first slice…… All this is to preview the China Premier’s visit this month to sign up for the full Monty deal.

Then comes Tory Party conference: aside from the comedy of Energy Secretary Rudd attacking subsidies as wrong for renewables (because they are doing so well, if not too well) and forgetting that Hinkley’s strike price of £92.50 per megawatt hour is a massive subsidy, Chancellor Osborne then announces the new Infrastructure Commission for high speed railway, airports and interestingly - and “new generation nuclear power” (Guardian 5.10.15).

The new commission, which they say needs a statutory basis (taking Parliamentary time) will apparently decide “priorities” for government policy and support funds. Headed by former New Labour academy schools and high speed rail proponent Lord Adonis (one of the inventors of the political concept of ‘deliverology’), can it mean that there are still big problems for Hinkley ?

Not strategic, but it looks like Rudd’s DECC Department is heading for the big political dustbin: maybe lots of Press releases and silly speeches and ideas (decorating nuclear power stations to make them attractive), but power on energy problems has shifted to the Treasury who have then pushed it sideways to Adonis. Not an impressive narrative.
Other indicators of confusion in the ranks came from UK EDF chief Vincent de Rivaz who was given space in the nuclear sceptical D.Telegraph to explain that ‘our lights’ i.e. ‘his’ lights, would go out without the French nukes, that the cost was only £16bn, not £25bn and all was going well with the new China money.

Then the real EDF chief in Paris, Jean-Bernard Levy (D Telegraph 24.9.15) says investors don’t trust the EPR model which EDF UK and the Government have agreed for Hinkley and Sizewell, and that EDF will not build any more in France. They have only one at Flamanville, which is over time and over cost etc. and await a new (fourth) generation of smaller flexible reactors, which is where their futures money is going. Meanwhile, as a stop-gap, an “upgraded EPR” for France would be available in 11 years time.

The difference of business outlook and model between EDF France and EDF UK makes a certain sense. EDF UK returns about £750 million profits every year to Paris, paying only around £50m tax to the UK Treasury. It’s one of the UK’s ‘Big Six’ energy companies under pressure for rip-off tariffs. Going ahead with Hinkley and Sizewell risks eating up this profit as overall Europe develops a more competitive and integrated energy market amidst falling global energy prices, putting big pressure on parent EDF in France. TASC Bulletin 2 reported briefly on National Grid CEO Steve Holliday’s recent analysis, which is key infrastructure background. We now have more detail.

STOP PRESS: Times newspaper (3.10.15) reported that Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s international credit rating agencies have warned EDF risks down-grading (making loans more costly) if it carries on with Hinkley. And that the 2 Chinese companies only want at the very most a 30% share between them, and maybe even that is of the lower overall capital cost figure. The promised final agreement on funding from the China Premier’s visit this month now looks like yet another ‘framework’ agreement.

Revolutionary times for base load electricity ? National Grid chief Steve Holliday (Energy Post 11.9.15) says the idea of big power stations for base load is ‘outdated’. There will a big shift to baseload being provided at consumer/community level, with the national grids specialising in flexible back-up for peak load and wind/sun/wave deficiences. Consumers no longer want big one size fits all, and the technology is changing fast to allow this to happen. The world is moving towards ‘more distributed production and microgrids’. ‘If you have nuclear power in the mix, you will have to think about the size of these plants. Today these plants are ‘enormous’. Well, this sounds like the horse’s mouth, and not good news for long-life, massive, inflexible nuclear technology.

Official Suffolk still doesn’t get the message: Here in Suffolk EDF spokesman Tom McGarry at a Parishes Liaison Group meeting a fortnight ago was more than usually wishy-washy about when a second consultation might start for Sizewell C&D. Our impression is that local politicians and local EDF managers are not really up to speed about either the big economic picture, or the new electricity production models or the new infrastructure planning scenario. They assume Sizewell C (&D) is inevitable. TASC believes this is far from the actual case.

Meanwhile, locally: (1) Suffolk County and Coastal District councillors are confidently going to spend £500,000 investigating the four parishes bypasses and, after a visit to the still not finished EDF Flamanville site, nevertheless think they might be able to find money for EDF’s construction roads by borrowing on EDF’s future business rate to help build the roads and bypasses, as happens in France, a very different country. Different, crucially, because EDF is 90% state owned for a start. Also, EDF Sizewell doesn’t seem to pay business rates for the site to SCDC, only for a Leiston office. Power generation is Class 1 for business rates, which means, we think, special offsets, but where is anything paid in any case?

Meanwhile (2) Tory conference announces new local powers over business rates but only if councils go over to executive mayors. EADT newspaper is starting to carry letters concerned about council mergers and executive mayors. It all sounds like a stitch up until you know that Lord Adonis’ Infrastructure Commission, part of the Treasury, will have a fixed pot of money to decide all the pressing infrastructure priorities, making unpopular decisions which will not stick directly to Mr Osborne’s coat-tails. Can Suffolk politicians and planners really think a national priority will be to spend/borrow maybe up to £150 million to ease EDF along and then impose it on local businesses, with some on household charges too, no doubt?

Meanwhile (3) what the parish reps and audience said was very tough about the extent of traffic problems, road routes and confidentiality. It was pointed out forcefully from the floor that a perfectly reasonable traditional planning case against Sizewell C&D could still by be mounted by SCDC & SCC since the law required only 7 out of 8 ‘suitable’ nuclear sites. There was nothing inevitable about the project, and no need for close partnership or support from the elected councils.

Foreign Policy Think-Tank warns about nuclear ‘cyber’ threats: Chatham House, one of the world’s most serious foreign policy centres in London has warned that nuclear technology is now so computer based that it is asking for cyber trouble. Who would do that? Well, they say No 1 world cyber hacking nation is China for commercial reasons. Oh dear ! Sizewell will be – is planned to be 40% (or 30%?) China owned, and Bradwell 100%...wake up Suffolk and Essex ! Maybe they won’t hack themselves, but it looks too close for comfort.

Planner watch – a TASC task: since no-one, to our knowledge, has yet tried a head-on legal challenge to the draconian national infrastructure planning law which started with the 2008 Planning Act and especially the decision-making balance – if any - between traditional local planning powers and the new national powers, TASC is watching Suffolk planning decisions closely. This is focussed on environment, amenity and suitability (appropriateness) issues, especially where wildlife and protected sites are concerned. We would appreciate information about experiences, because we fear that national planning and environment regulations are violating Europe’s wildlife protection principles through bad UK aoolications of EU Directives. The bodies one would expect to be active about these problematic areas are, sadly, rather quiet, to say the least.

Suffolk Wildlife Trust AGM: Three new trustees for three vacancies, no apparent mention of Sizewell – except some work on the beach -or Aldhurst Farm, but the 8 page glossy Annual Report confirms EDF is top ‘Platinum’ overall sponsor.

Amber Rudd still too busy to reply to TASC ? Our Committee is discussing next steps on the statutory duty to review energy policy- given all the other events reported above, maybe she doesn’t know what to say.

Talk & film show by Pete Wilkinson:
“A Life of Environmental Campaigning”
All welcome- a public meeting

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