Energy Insight: Hinkley Point C – progress in UK new nuclear?

For over 35 years power has been generated from nuclear reactors located at Hinkley point.  Hinkley Point A stopped generating in 2000, Hinkley Point B is due for decommissioning in 2023, and Hinkley Point C has only recently commenced construction.

The generation of power from nuclear power plants is always controversial due to vociferous opponents and supporters, the former emphasising the costs and dangers, and the latter advocating its need for security of energy supply and the reduction of dangerous greenhouse gas emissions.


Highlights

This information sheet aims to show how Hinkley Point C has got to where it is now.

  • What exists at Hinkley Point now?
  • What’s planned?
  • What is the agreement between the UK Government and EDF for what has been called the most expensive building in the world?
  • How have we got to where we are now?

Present situation

Where is it?

North coast of Somerset near Bridgwater
Close up view (Google)
Long distance view  (Google)

Addresses

EDF Energy, Bridgewater, TA5 1UD
Magnox Ltd. Hinkley Point A Power Station, Bridgwater TA5 1YA

What’s there now (Spring 2018)?

Hinkley Point A (Magnox)
Hinkley Point A is located on a 19.4 hectare site on the Somerset coast. Hinkley Point A is a twin reactor site currently being decommissioned. The station stopped generating in 2000 having completed 35 years of operation, generating a total of 103 TWh.

Hinkley Point B (EDF Energy)
Hinkley Point B is a nuclear power station near Bridgwater in Somerset. The station was the first Advanced Gas-cooled Reactor to generate electricity to the grid in the UK.

Reactor type: 2 Advanced Gas-cooled Reactors 
Total supply to the national grid: 955 MW
Coolant: Carbon dioxide gas (CO2) 
Start of construction: 1967 Start of generation: 1976 
Estimated decommissioning date: 2023
People: Approximately 535 full time EDF Energy employees plus over 220 full time contractors 

What’s planned?

Hinkley Point C (EDF Energy) 

EDF Energy is building the first new nuclear power station in the UK for a generation at Hinkley Point in Somerset, which should generate low-carbon electricity for around 5 million homes.  EDF estimates it will take ten years to build, 

The UK EPR™ reactor design was approved by the UK regulators (Generic Design Assessment (GDA) UK European Pressurised Reactor™ (UK EPR)), a nuclear site licence iwas in plan from October 2013 and EDF also reached a principal agreement with the UK Government on the key commercial terms for an investment contract for Hinkley Point C as well as confirmation that the project would benefit from the UK Government’s Infrastructure Guarantee Scheme under terms and conditions to be agreed upon. In October 2014, the European Commission approved the agreements between EDF Group and the UK Government.

There are 4 other nuclear reactors of this design under construction – in Finland, France and China – but none has yet been completed as of January 2018.

How will it link to the Grid?

It is National Grid's responsibility to provide the extra capacity for the Hinkley Point C Connection and other new projects in the area. Their plan is ro remove the existing 132,000 volt overhead electricity line and replace it with a  new 400,000 volt connection between Bridgewater and Seabank.  There should be 90 fewer pylons overall, of the new T-pylon design which are able to carry more electricity.

What about waste from Hinkley Point C?

According to the EPR Reactor website, the new EPR™ reactor design marks significant progress towards sustainability. The reactor has been designed to optimise the use of nuclear fuel and to minimise the production of long-lived high-level radioactive wastes. Thanks to its large core, surrounded by a neutron reflector, a maximum number of neutrons contribute to energy generation in the core. This means that the EPR™ reactor uses less uranium and produces less long-lived radioactive wastes compared with water reactors in operation today.

EDF Group and the UK Government worked together to address the remaining steps which had to be taken before the final decision could be made to go ahead, which included the waste transfer contract, a part of the Hinkley Point C Funded Decommissioning Programme, being ratified.

What happens to nuclear waste at the moment?

Low-level waste (about 90% by volume) is compacted down, sealed into containers and encased in cement and then stored at a low-level waste repository in Cumbria. 

Intermediate-level waste (about 7% by volume) requires special shielding and handling while it is encased in cement and then sealedin stainless steel containers which are then stored securely within the power stations, ready for a planned long term geological disposal facility.

High-level liquid waste from spent fuel (about 3% by volume but 95% by radioactivity) is heated until it turns into powder, then mixed with crushed glass and heated again until it melts to form solid, stable and secure, glass blocks. These are then sealed into steel canisters which are stored securely at Sellafield in readiness for a planned geological disposal facility.

BEIS is gathering views (Spring 2018) on whether the draft National Policy Statement (NPS) for Geological Disposal Infrastructure (GDF) provides an appropriate and effective framework for the Planning Inspectorate and the Secretary of State to examine and make decisions on development consent applications for geological disposal infrastructure in England, as they are trying to locate a suitable site for a new geological disposal facility for high activity radioactive waste.

The UK Government is also offering a financial incentive of £1m a year to local communities to host an underground waste disposal facility.  Guardian, 25 January 2018

See: https://www.edfenergy.com/virtual-tours/nuclear-safety 

What is the agreement between the UK Government and EDF Energy?

The UK intends to provide certainty of revenues and a credit guarantee to a private investor in a new nuclear plant to be built at Hinkley Point C. The measure is based on a private contract between the UK government and the investor, NNBG, which is a company owned by Electricité de France and China General Nuclear Power Group. The measures included in the agreement, and in particular the Contract for Difference ('CfD') which is used to provide certainty of revenues to NNBG, are based on an instrument which is included in the draft Energy Bill [later ratified as the Energy Act 2013].

In 2012 the UK Government agreed a guaranteed price with EDF for electricity generated from Hinkley C (the” Strike price”) of £92.50 per MWh, which would rise with inflation.  Opponents say this is too high – the price being set at a time of high energy prices which subsequently dropped considerably.  Supporters say it was necessary to get the scheme to go ahead, as the power will be needed by the UK in the future.

See Energy Act 2013,explanatory Notes, Chapter 2 Contracts for Difference for a simple explanation of the mechanism aimed to encourage investment in low carbon technologies.

UK Prime Minister, Theresa May, delayed acceptance of the project until September 2016 after further measures were agreed, see BEIS Press Release: Government confirms Hinkley Point C project following new agreement in principle with EDF  

Who are the investors?

According to a report published in June 2017 by the National Audit Office, NNB Generation Company (HPC) Limited (NNBG) will build and operate HPC.

NNBG is owned 66.5% by EDF and 33.5% by China General Nuclear Power Group (CGN).

NNBG expects it will cost some £18 billion (in 2016 prices) to build HPC, financed in full by its two investors. The first permanent concrete for the power station was poured in March 2017, and EDF expects that it will generate electricity from 2025 to 2085.

Decommissioning - what happens when it's all over?

The Hinkley Point C Funded Decommissioning Programme, a policy paper on the BEIS website, sets out EDF’s arrangements for managing and disposing of the plant’s waste and the decommissioning of the site.

Timeline for Hinkley Point

14 Oct 2008 -  EDF Energy engaged with local people

31 Oct 2009 - Hinkley Point C identified as potential site
16 Nov 2009 - Formal consultations began

11 Jul 2011 - Early contracts awarded to SW firms
18 Jul 2011 - Parliament ratified National Policy statement for nuclear designating HPC as a suitable site
28 Jul 2011 - West Somerset Council approved preparatory works
29 Jul 2011 - Nuclear site Licence and Environmental Permit applications submitted
14 Nov 2011 - The Office of Nuclear Regulations issued an Interim Design Acceptance Confirmation and the Environment Agency (EA) issued an Interim Statement of Design Acceptability for the EPR Pressurised Water Rector.

6 Aug 2012 - European Commission states that HPC proposal fulfils objective of Euratom Treaty
26 Nov 2012 - Hinkley Point C Nuclear Site Licence granted
13 Dec 2012 - EPR nuclear reactor Design fully approved by regulators for use in the UK

13 Mar 2013 - 3 main environmental permits granted by the EA
19 Mar 2013 - Secretary of State for Energy approved construction of new nuclear power station at Hinkley Point C in Somerset
18 Dec 2013 - The Energy Act 2013 received Royal Assent  

7 April 2014 - HPC State Aid Consultation completed.  (October 2013 the UK Government submitted the State Aid notification for HPC investment contract to the Euroean Commission following the announcement of the commercial agreement of key terms with EDF)
6 May 2014 - Preparatory works began on site
8 Oct 2014 - European Commission approved HPC agreements between EDF and UK Government

21 Sep 2015 - UK Chancellor announced £2 billion infrastructure UK guarantee
21 Oct 2015 - EDF and China General Nuclear Power Corporation signed strategic Investment Agreement 

24 April 2016 - Hinkley Point decision delayed until September 2016  BBC News  
12 May 2016 - 
Hinkley Point costs could rise to £21bn, EDF admits The Telegraph
24 May 2016 - 
EDF Chiefs and Minister discuss delays to Hinkley project  Energy and Climate Change Committee takes evidence from EDF Energy and Department of Energy and Climate Change on the recent delays to the Hinkley Point C project.
28 Jul 2016 - EDF approved the investment required
28 Jul 2016 - The UK Government announced they would "consider carefully"  before making a decision in early Autumn 2016
29 Sep 2016 - Hinkley Point C contract signed The Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Greg Clark, the Chairman and CEO of EDF, Jean-Bernard Levy and the Chairman of CGN, He Yu signed the final documentation to enable Hinkley Point C to go-ahead. 
15 Sep 2016 - 
Government confirms Hinkley Point C project following new agreement in principle with EDF 

20 Nov 2017 - House of Commons. Public Accounts.  3rdReport - Hinkley Point C (HC 393) published conclusions:

1.The Department has no plan in place for securing the wider benefits of the project.

2.No one was protecting the interests of energy consumers in doing the deal. 

3.The Department pressed on with locking consumers into an expensive deal, despite the case for Hinkley Point C and nuclear power weakening during its negotiations. 

4.The Department and HM Treasury did not sufficiently appraise alternative ways to finance the deal that might have offered better value for consumers. 

5.There is uncertainty over whether the project will be completed on time.

6. We are concerned about the Department’s ability to identify any possible delays as early as possible, given government’s poor track record on effective contract management.

Further Reading

Media coverage - background stories

21 December 2017 - Hinkley Point: the ‘dreadful deal’ behind the world’s most expensive power plant.  The long read, Guardian.

15 September 2016 - Hinkley Point: What is it and why is it important?  John Moylan, Industry correspondent, BBC News

3 August 2016 - UK new nuclear programme not dependent on Hinkley, say rivals The Telegraph

2 April 2016 - More or Less podcast -  Is Hinkley Point C the most expensive item on Earth as claimed?  (The item on Hinkley Point comes 9 minutes into the broadcast) BBC Radio 4

22 March 2016 - All you need to know about Hinkley Point BBC News

7 March 2016 - Hinkley Point C: what you need to know about the nuclear power project   The Guardian

11 March 2016 - Guest Blog: Hinkley Point C – over the hill and far away? UKERC. Joseph Szarka, an academic expert on the French energy sector, charts the history of France’s stumbling ‘nuclear renaissance’ and its implications for nuclear new build in the UK. 

Government Information

Nuclear power: Hinkley Point - Collection  Information and reports about Hinkley Point nuclear power station

Other associations with lots of information about Hinkley Point C

Institution of Mechanical Engineers

Nuclear Industry Association

The UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC)

World Nuclear Association

Energy Insight details


Please login to save this item