The following letter was handed to delegates and passersby at the WNA (World Nuclear Association) Symposium in London, on September 15th 2016:
World Nuclear Association Symposium 2016
We are here to again try to get you up to speed on the current energy market situation.
The verdict is in: solar and wind have won the technology race. As Rainer Baake, Germany’s minister in charge of the Energiewende, points out:
“We have learned how to produce electricity with wind and large-scale solar at the same cost level as new coal or gas generators. The question about the Energiewende is not a question about technology any more. We have them. It is not a question about costs, because these new technologies produce at the same costs as the last ones, as new coal or gas. And, I should point out, they are much cheaper than nuclear. The question now is whether we will be able to reinvent the power system so it can operate efficiently at reasonable cost and security with growing penetration of wind and solar.”
Led by Germany, Europe installed a record amount of renewables last year, and renewables now account for 29% of Europe’s electricity generation. While carbon emissions did not fall substantially last year, they are expected to resume their decline in 2016. Emissions fell by 7.5% in 2014. The trend is clear, irreversible and likely to accelerate.
In China too: wind and solar rose by 21% and 64% respectively in 2015 over 2014. The Chinese are installing one new large wind turbine an hour and an area the size of a football pitch of solar panels every hour as well. The head of their national grid agrees with the head of the UK national grid that the era of central baseload electricity generation is coming to an end, to be replaced by flexible systems in which ever-cheaper renewable generation is balanced by demand-side response, interconnection, storage and rapidly-responding gas-fired units.
All this raises the question whether your Hinkley Point C project would usher in a new era of white-hot technology, or perpetuate the age of the dinosaurs. The agreed strike price of £92.50 MWh, (rising to £120 MWh by the time it operates) is at least double the current wholesale price of electricity, and would lock consumers into this mega-expensive electricity for 35 years. Whereas last month, Dong Energy announced it was going ahead with two 350MW offshore wind farms off Holland at a cost of £61.60 MWh (72.70 Euros). 92 versus 61?
Then there are Hinkley’s other problems: two court cases against it, 7 out of 17 of EDF’s board against it, resignations of the Finance Director and another board member, the French trade unions against it (in an election year), the wrong steel used in it (meaning it might have to be ripped out and started again), the price of the French and Finnish EPRs more than tripling and their finish-dates ever receding, (Flamanville is now 6 years late), the continuing failure to find a long-term safe storage for the waste produced – even after 70 years of your industry, and of course the risk of destroying a third of the country as the result of an accident or terrorist incident. Small wonder even the Conservatives are having a little sit-down-and-think about this. Small wonder the French business newspaper Les Echos has come up with a new name for the EPR: Enormous Problems to Resolve.
The fact is the costs in your industry are constantly rising, while costs for solar, wind and other renewables are constantly falling. You have never built a reactor anywhere without huge chunks of government money. You have had a meltdown on average every ten years, despite promising every time that each one will be the last. You produce very few jobs per billion pounds, (900 permanent jobs at Hinkley for £24 billion) yet solar feed-in-tariffs have been axed to save at most £150 million a year, while destroying 18,700 out of the 32,000 jobs in the solar industry. Germany meanwhile has lost 30,000 jobs by pulling out of nuclear, but created 450,000 jobs in renewables. In short, your numbers don’t add up any more. And while the average life-cycle carbon emissions of your plants are better than coal, they are far worse than all the renewables. Nuclear produces 66g CO2/kWh, solar PV 50g, wind (various configurations) 34g, and solar thermal (800MW, trough) 13g, to give some examples. So the ‘we need nuclear to save the climate’ dog just does not hunt…
Anyway, you’ll get a few more gala dinners out of it all, but enjoy them well, for their days are numbered.
Pamphlet written by Kick Nuclear, London. More info available at: http://www.kicknuclear.com.
Information on the catastrophe at Fukushima available at: http://www.fukuleaks.org/web/