As British Prime Minister Boris Johnson crisscrossed the country Wednesday promising to build a new nuclear power station every year, the French nuclear giant EDF was preparing a statement saying the only nuclear station currently being built in the UK was going to be delayed yet again as costs continued to rise.
Johnson visited half a dozen of what he called prospective sites for new nuclear power stations, promising numerous local communities that they would soon attract millions of pounds in investment as a result. It was part of a whirlwind tour designed to bolster support ahead of local authority elections this week which threaten his future as Conservative leader.
EDF’s statement did not put figures on the length of the delay or the increase in the cost of the Hinkley Point C nuclear station in Somerset, but merely said the current estimated cost of £22 to 23 billion would be exceeded and the mid-2026 date for completion had been put back further. When finished, the station will contain two reactors of 1,600 megawatts—enough, EDF says, to power six million British homes.
A full announcement of the increased costs and delay will be made in about a month. They are expected to add another £2 billion and a further year to the project.
Bearing in mind that the original start-up date was 2017 and the total construction cost was quoted as £18 billion in 2016, this is a considerable drift. Reasons for the delay include the COVID-19 pandemic, Britain’s decision to leave Europe, inflation, supply chain problems, and the war in Ukraine.
The project, which is owned two-thirds by EDF and one-third by China, is expected to cost electricity consumers well over £100 per megawatt hour, compared with less than half that for onshore wind and solar. EDF was promised by the British government an inflation-proof figure of £92.5 per MWh when the deal to build the station was done, but this is expected to rise to £120 per MWh by 2026.
The problems with this troubled station are replicated in northern France, where EDF is building a single reactor of the same design at Flamanville. The project was given the go-ahead in 2007 but still is not complete. There have been multiple delays caused by construction failures, including faulty welds. Completion is now due in 2023 at a cost of €12.7 billion—three times the original budget.
Meanwhile, Johnson continued on the campaign trail, saying:” Nuclear power is absolutely crucial to weaning us off fossil fuels, including Russian oil and gas. Instead of building one (nuclear power station) every decade we are going to building one every year.”
He did not say how this was going to be achieved or who was going to build them.