This forum is about wrong numbers in science, politics and the media. It respects good science and good English.
You worked in the Nuclear Power industry,Dave? What do you make of these numbers?
And John,of course and other forum contributors?
I think we should in the short term go for gas, using our own shale gas whilst rebuilding our nuclear power industry.
Certainly finding big numbers for months will not pose any problems in the years to come.
I presume you're talking about the recent news story about Hinkley Point C (it's actually Hinkley without a 'c') where the decision to go ahead has now been delayed by the new PM Theresa May.
The big numbers I suppose are that the construction cost of the plant is £18 billion, which I believe is the world's most expensive power plant, though that is partly due to it being a much bigger than average power plant at 3.2GW. The big number which particularly affects UK electricity bill payers is the (index-linked) guaranteed price of £92.50/MWh that will be paid for its electricity for 35 years (which I think amounts to being paid at least £80 billion for the first 35 years worth of electricity). £92.50/MWh is pretty high compared with the anticipated price of fossil fuel generated electricity in the next few decades, but it is much better in comparison with what might be expected for renewable energy, unless of course you believe the perpetual claim by the Green lobby that the price of renewable energy is always just about to fall.
One thing about the high electricity price arrangement, once described as "the bonkers deal" by Bishop Hill, is that it is mainly to do with the Lib Dems in my opinion. When the coalition government was formed in 2010, the Lib Dems were actually looking at the idea of forming a coalition with either the Conservatives or Labour. Labour might be regarded as their more natural coalition partner of the two, but one of the major sticking points, as I remember it, for a coalition deal with Labour was that Labour would not rule out the idea of providing any direct government support for new nuclear plant construction. The Conservatives under Cameron were prepared to rule out the idea of providing any direct support. Getting the UK financial community to finance nuclear power is extremely difficult because there are a lot of Greenies in that community (it's a major part of the overall "Green blob"), and they prefer to finance renewable energy, regardless of whether it works. So we've eventually ended up in some weird arrangement where the Chinese government is financing about a third of the cost of the Hinkley C project.
What Theresa May might be doing is looking at the idea of the UK government stepping in to take over from the Chinese financing, partly because there are some security concerns about having the Chinese involved. If The UK government was involved in direct financing of the project, then the government might potentially have much more control over the electricity prices that are being charged to consumers, and you could end up with a more realistic price than the bonkers deal of £92.50/MWh. As the UK is now leaving the EU, concerns about whether UK government funding would be compliant with the confusing "EU state aid rules" is now much less of an issue.
I don't think the Hinkley C project will be cancelled as it might cause quite a diplomatic incident with respect to France. I don't think the French would have been all that keen in any case on the financing arrangements for Hinkley C insisted upon by the Lib Dems as it has always had some potential for EDF (which is the French equivalent of the UK's now defunct CEGB) to be bankrupted. If Scotland becomes independent in the next few years, the Scots will probably try to shut down the Faslane naval base which houses the UK's nuclear deterrent pretty quickly, and we might have to ask France if we can temporarily use their naval base whilst another one is being constructed in England. Therefore keeping on the right side of France might be advisable.
According to the Daily Mail simply building two more Sizewell "B" plants would be lots cheaper than Hinckley Point and give a similar power output. If lots cheaper really is lots the whole Hinkley Point project is stark staring bonkers. Sizewell B is a proven design which, overall seems to work pretty well. Any weaknesses have been worked out over the years and appropriate fixes could be incorporated during the build so new ones should be more reliable and work better. Obviously some components will need upgrading where modern kit is better than the old. Shouldn't cost that much extra. Assuming rational management (! OK OK I know) there should already be a pretty good improvements list and assessment of cost / performance ratio of changes kicking around anyway duet to mid-life improvements program work.
Heck if you re going to build two why not do three and inch a bit further up the quantity discount scale!
Diving in for a monster version of unproven technology is classic hubris project management pretty much doomed to fail. Especially if politically driven.
I would agree that going back to the idea of building Sizewell B-type plants would be better from a cost point of view than pursuing the proposed Hinkley C EPR design. When the Sizewell B project was given the go-ahead in 1987 (following the 1987 General Election), the intention was to build at least two further plants of that design starting in the early 1990s. But when John Major took over as PM from Margaret Thatcher in 1990, he then postponed the construction of the follow-on stations. This caused quite a bit of hassle on the Sizewell B project because equipment suppliers had submitted tenders under the assumption that three stations were going to be built, and they would have charged more if they'd known only one might be built. So the Sizewell B equipment suppliers tried to claw some money back through coming up with lots of 'contract variations'. Eventually Major cancelled the follow-on stations in 1996 and that was pretty much the end of the old UK nuclear power plant building industry.
But I doubt you would be able to build Sizewell B-type plants nowadays because of the more influential position of the UK nuclear regulator, the ONR (Office for Nuclear Regulation), formerly known as the NII (Nuclear Installations Inspectorate). In the 'rebooted' version of the UK nuclear power plant building industry, started up by the Blair government in 2005, foreign nuclear firms seem to submit state-of-the-art designs which are then assessed by the ONR. UK nuclear firms are probably out of the picture because they would be expected to finance the nuclear plant themselves, and it would be very difficult to borrow the money for that in the UK with the Green influence within the UK financial community (I think UK nuclear firms are currently talking about the idea of building small-sized reactors, which is probably all they can get the finance for).
This extract from the Wikipedia article about the ONR seems to explain how things work nowadays:
"Generic Design Assessment process
Following the 2006 Energy review the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate developed the Generic Design Assessment process (GDA), now operated by ONR, to assess new nuclear reactor designs ahead of site-specific proposals. The GDA started assessing four designs:
However the ACR-1000 and ESBWR were subsequently withdrawn from the assessment for commercial reasons, leaving the EPR and AP1000 as contenders for British new nuclear builds. Assessment of the AP1000 was suspended at Westinghouse's request, awaiting a firm UK customer before addressing issues raised by the assessment.
In 2012 Hitachi purchased Horizon Nuclear Power, announcing intent to build two to three 1,350 MWe Advanced Boiling Water Reactors (ABWR) on both of Horizon's sites. The ABWR will first require a UK GDA. The assessment was agreed in April 2013, and is likely to take about four years.
On 21 September 2015 Energy Secretary Amber Rudd announced that a Chinese designed nuclear power station was expected to be built at Bradwell nuclear power station. The reactor chosen will first require a UK GDA."
It looks to me that the ONR are now calling all the shots as to what nuclear plants get built in the UK. For example in 2006, four designs were submitted to them, and three of the designs later pulled out of the process presumably because they had to modify the design in some manner to satisfy ONR. The problem with letting the nuclear regulator decide on what gets built is they will obviously gravitate towards the 'safest' reactor design, which is also quite likely to be the most expensive and the most complicated to build. The EPR design is apparently regarded as a very safe reactor design, and has even received some praise from the "Union of Concerned Scientists" activist group.
In the old days, UK politicians had the main say in what reactor designs got built. So Labour were the champions of the UK-designed AGR from the 1960s, but the Conservatives were more sceptical about the AGR. We ended up building a PWR, Sizewell B, because the Conservatives put it into their 1979 General Election manifesto that a PWR was going to be built. I think in the 1974 Conservative General Election manifesto, the Conservatives said they would build a Canadian 'Candu' reactor, so if Ted Heath had managed to win that election we might have had a Candu reactor somewhere in the UK.
I've just noticed a couple of mistakes in my last post regarding the content of Conservative party general election manifestos in the 1970s, after checking the manifestos on the www.conservativemanifesto.com website.
The 1979 manifesto didn't mention a reactor type at all, so the Conservatives must have made the decision to build a PWR within a few months of winning the 1979 general election.
The October 1974 manifesto didn't actually specify that a Candu reactor was going to be built, it looks like it was going to be the British equivalent of a Candu, an SGHWR (steam generating heavy water reactor), described as the "British designed 'heavy water' system":
We will carry through the recently announced pilot programme of nuclear power stations based on the British designed 'heavy water' system. We believe that a larger nuclear programme must be initiated at an early date. In all nuclear matters, safety and reliability must be our paramount considerations."
To give a bit more information on why I think that £92.50/MWh figure is strongly related to the Lib Dems, I vaguely remembered that EDF were quoting a much lower figure for Hinkley Point than that a few years earlier when Labour was in power.
I searched around on the internet for the lower figure that used to be quoted, and it was actually £45/MWh in December 2008, given on this link:
But by October 2013, less than five years later, but with the Lib Dems in charge, the figure had risen to £92.50/MWh. That figure is also index-linked and applies to 2012, so it would be I reckon £98.52/MWh in 2016.
Ed Davey was given a knighthood for making these sort of arrangements for the provision of low carbon electricity for the UK. And if Chris Huhne, Davey's predecessor, hadn't fallen from grace, then he (Huhne) would presumably have got the knighthood for this.
Another big number which may come up in the near future in connection with Hinkley Point is that if the project ends up being cancelled, EDF has indicated that it wants £2.5 billion in compensation. The £2.5 billion figure presumably covers design changes they've had to make to satisfy the UK's nuclear regulator ONR, and preparatory work and site-specific work that has been carried out before the construction starts.