The first nuclear power station in the U.K. in the last 20 years, the Hinkley Point C nuclear power station, is to be built in Somerset, in southwest England.
After the March 2011 Fukushima, this is one of the first major nuclear power plants to be built in western Europe.
According to a release from the U.K. government’s Department of Energy and Climate Change, Hinkley Point C “will begin the process of replacing the existing fleet of nuclear most of which are due to close in the 2020s”.
The U.K. government and the French EDF Group have reached agreement on the key terms of the contract for the construction of the power station, which is expected to generate clean power that from 2023 will power nearly six million homes “or an area twice the size as London”.
EDF and the investors it has rounded up, which includes the China National Nuclear Corporation and China General Nuclear Power Corporation (that will invest in the project as minority shareholders), will together put in a total investment of £ 16 billion into the construction of the plant. Construction will be undertaken by the French state-controlled company Areva.
At a time when Germany is in the process of decommissioning its nuclear plants to a 2022 target, and France too is cutting back on the share of nuclear power in its overall energy package, the U.K.’s decision to actually enhance its nuclear energy capability comes as a contrast.
It is perhaps for this reason that the U.K. government is highlighting the economic benefits that such a project will bring. Companies of U.K .origin will benefit from getting up to 57 per cent of the work on the project; there is a promise of creating 25,000 jobs with 5,600 people employed on site at peak of construction; and another 900 permanent jobs over 60 years of expected operation.
According to Antony Froggat, an energy expert working at the international think tank Chatham House, Hinkley Point C will double the costs of energy for the consumer, and make nuclear power far more expensive than conventional sources. With the contribution of nuclear energy to global electricity production falling from 17 per cent in the 1990s to 10 per cent today, as the result of a decline in nuclear supply and rise in demand, Mr. Froggart argues, it is unclear if the Hinkely project will buck this trend.