Nuclear blast

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I WAS surprised to read Professor Jack Ponton and John Williams’ opinion (Letters, 11 June) of the proposed new nuclear power ­station at Hinkley Point.

Many energy economists find the costs of this project indefensible. Electricity prices were agreed for Hinkley Point in 2013 at £92.50 per megawatt hour while Ineos, the owners of the Grangemouth refinery, negotiated an industrial fuel supply price of £37.94 per megawatt from the French nuclear industry. This extraordinary price for Hinkley Point was, additionally, to be fixed over 35 years. This proposal, unsurprisingly, produced an exceptional return on investment to the French partnership. Independent assessors have calculated this would add an additional £200 each year to the electricity bill of every consumer in the UK.

Apart from the huge costs, there are serious safety and technical problems with Areva’s European Pressurised Reactor design planned for Hinkley Point. Of the six reactors constructed in Finland, China and France, none are operational. The latest reports from the French Institute for Radiological Protection and Nuclear Safety to France’s nuclear safety regulator (ASN) for the new French reactor near Cherbourg identify major failings in safety relief valves. There is also the risk of the reactor pressure vessel cracking because of the wrong steel mix being used in this ­reactor.

Areva reported record losses for 2014 in April – over £4 billion – more than double its share capitalisation. These losses accumulated from problems resulting from reactor construction in Finland and China, before even the latest problems in France were ­reported.

The proposed Areva European Pressurised reactor design has never worked, is unproven and uneconomic. It should be urgently rejected by the UK government in order to concentrate on viable alternatives and meet impending electricity needs.

Before renewables and possibly safer thorium-fuelled nuclear reactors play a major part in our low-carbon energy future, the UK could build a number of gas combined cycle power stations of proven standardised designs.

These can be built and producing electricity within three years at a fraction of the cost of the presently proposed Hinkley Point project.

The savings made from implementing a gas-fired power station programme would buy the UK the time needed to develop new energy generating technologies and greatly benefit our economy.

Elizabeth Marshall

(Past director, British Institute of Energy Economics)

Western Harbour Midway

Edinburgh