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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.

Watch the TASC website for dates of meetings and events