The visit of Chinese Premier Xi Jingping has paved the way for the most expensive Nuclear power station yet to be built in the UK. The initial estimation for Hinkley C, near Bridgwater, of 16 Billion has now been raised to 24.5 Billion with the Government prepared to underwrite 2 Billion, if the project is delayed. With EDF wishing to keep a 50% stake at Hinkley C, there is still an opportunity for other investors, as the Chinese investment equals 33%.
However, the Chinese investment has raised new questions about the role and future of the nuclear option in Britain’s energy industry, not least within the Labour Party which supports Nuclear Power, as part of the Energy mix needed for the base load of electricity for Britain but, at the same time, has referred the Hinkley C project to the Public Accounts Committee, to ascertain if the project is good value for money.
Cllr Mick Lerry, Leader of the Labour Group on Sedgemoor District Council, said: “The Bridgwater community has hosted Nuclear Energy for sometime and many people who live in Bridgwater have worked at Hinkley Point. Although the project will bring challenges to the local infrastructure, there will also be many opportunities for local people. For example there will be employment opportunities during both the construction and operational stage of Hinkley C and many young people in the local schools and College will be able to take advantage of the new employment available. It is now important for other renewable energy projects, such as the Bridgwater Bay lagoon to be built as well, so that Bridgwater becomes a centre of excellence for Energy”.
Boosting the local Economy
“The demand for electricity will in crease in the future, as Britain moves to lower carbon emissions, to reduce the impact on global warming”, said Mick. “It will now be important to make sure that Local businesses are able to play an active part in the supply chain, regarding the building Hinkley C and this will also boost the local economy and will provide further employment for local people. The Labour Group on SDC will make sure that there is constant monitoring of the construction of Hinkley C phase, to make sure that negative impacts, such as congestion and shortage of housing do not impinge of the lives of local people and interrupt the local economy. At the same time we will continue our campaign for Community Benefit during the construction stage of Hinkley C.”
Bridgwater will bear the brunt of the impact
From the perspective of Bridgwater Town Council, Mayor Leigh Redman commented “Whilst it is great that this announcement has given a little clarity around the build, I look forward to the final investment decision that will allow things to really get started. The town councils’ position has always been to seek the best for the people of Bridgwater and so we still feel that a bypass has to be considered because our already stretched road network will be pushed to its limit, people may not be encouraged to use our town centre affecting local traders, the likely increase in rents for private landlord accommodation would cause those most in need to suffer.As a Town Council we will continue to fight for the traders and communities in our town, EDFe is a good thing for the financial future but we must not lose sight of the fact that Bridgwater will be most impacted by the biggest national infrastructure development our Country has ever seen, surely we need to be compensated for the impact it will have on our lives or better still remove the biggest impact by giving us our bypass?’
‘It will be interesting as the build gets underway to see how things develop, we now know the work planned for the Cellophane site will be starting soon, an 850 bed accommodation site and transport hub, on Bath road the hedges will be down and the fences put up, Frederick Road closed, major transport transit points built either side of our town & still more roadwork’s to come. I am sure that EDFe will be doing everything in its power to ensure Bridgwater is compensated adequately for this impact, and I know your town council will be fighting your corner. I love being Mayor of Bridgwater, the opportunity to promote the great town we live in, is truly an honour.”
Nuclear critics stress the case for renewables
Whilst the possible economic benefits are debated and the likely mitigation considered, there remain voices critical of the whole policy, within and without the Labour Party. Bridgwater Town Councillor Pat Morley (Labour, Westover) said “ The French PWR is already 5 years behind schedule. I can only hope that Hinkley C progresses at the same rate. By 2029 I don’t suppose I’ll be around to worry about possible accidents or low level radiation leaks or what they (France & China) want to do with spent fuel rods, enriched uranium. They could dump them here or, take them away for re processing for nuclear weapons, either way this toxic waste will be around for hundreds of thousands of years before it is even half as dangerous (and that is still dangerous). If Hinkley never gets completed it will have been a terrible waste of tax payers’ and electricity customers’ money and of the lives of those whose careers and working lives are bound up with it.Meanwhile, the demand for electricity is falling and the case for energy from renewable sources grows ever stronger. “
Labour councillor Maureen Smith (Minehead) says “Given the horrendous cost and incredibly long lasting radioactive legacy of nuclear power, spending the money on renewable energy instead , especially the predictable and huge tidal power of the Severn Estuary, should be a “no brainer”. This would produce more sustainable jobs than Hinkley, which is likely to be largely run by robots if it is completed in the distant future.Hinkley C will be the most expensive building in the world and the biggest building project in Europe. What is it doing in a small rural community with narrow roads and limited communications? The effect on housing for local people will be catastrophic and development made for this temporary building activity will produce an economic bubble which will collapse once it is completed. What will be left is a hulk on the shoreline beside ponds of stored hot nuclear waste . Sea levels are predicted to rise over the 150 years that it will take for the spent fuel to reach the point when it can be moved. This means that Hinkley will be, in effect, the geological “disposal “ site that the government has promised would not be sited in Somerset. It cannot be guaranteed that future generations will have the money to maintain the security of the waste and the electricity it generates will be long gone. ”
National policy questioned
Bridgwater Town Council Leader Brian Smedley says “Does this project actually provide British people with accessible cheap clean electricity? If it does, and if we need nuclear power then why should the money made go to France and China? Why have we got to the situation why French and Chinese shareholders benefit at the expense of British Labour and British community safety? It’s odd timing when they’ve just closed steelworks in England because of cheap steel in China – but this is how capitalism works. If an element of nuclear really is needed to fill a perceived energy gap then Britain – the 6th richest country in the world – should be capable of building its own power stations and then everything created from it should stay here-taxes, jobs, energy benefits, but instead we’re cap in hand to France and China for mitigation. Something as important as a nuclear power station should be nationalized. “