Letter distributed outside the Victoria Park Plaza, London, 6 December 2018:
Nuclear Industry Association Conference, London 2018
We have come yet again to warn you of your error in pursuing nuclear power, and to turn back before some Toshiba-type catastrophe descends on you. As you no doubt know, Toshiba had to sell off the only money-making venture it had, its memory chip business, for $18 billion US, just to stay afloat after its disastrous dabble in civilian nuclear power. Its subsidiary, Westinghouse, former grandee of the US nuclear business, has lost £7.7 billion (at least) through delays and problems at the 2 nuclear plants it was building in the USA, nearly sinking its parent, Toshiba, who declared losses of £7.3 billion in 2017 alone. This year, “Toshiba recognizes that the economically rational decision is to withdraw from the UK nuclear power plant construction project, [Moorside]” said the company. Please learn from them, before you too sink.
The thing is, a civilian nuclear power plant is not a money-maker without huge fistfuls of taxpayers’ money. Even the ones built 30 years ago and long since paid off are finding that they cannot compete with ever-cheaper wind and solar. 8 have closed in the last 5 years in the US, and more shutdowns are in the works, like Pilgrim in May, 2019. The 2 x 1.6GW reactors being built at Hinkley, near Bristol, could be replaced at half the cost by renewables, according to the UK Solar Association. These renewables could be built in 18 months, not 20 years. And they wouldn’t produce waste which will need to be guarded for 250,000 years. “The Intergenerational Foundation think tank calculated that Britain would pay up to £40bn less for renewable alternatives that would generate the equivalent power to Hinkley over the plant’s planned lifetime.” Guardian, 5 April 2016.
And how about this article from The Independent, 9 May 2016: “Physicist claims Hinkley Point deal means UK taxpayer could get £53bn bill to supply cheap nuclear energy to France.” According to Keith Barnham, emeritus professor of physics, Imperial College London, the total subsidy paid to the planned Hinkley Point nuclear power station by the hardworking British bill payers could reach a staggering £53 billion over its lifetime – and the main beneficiaries will be French. He argues that such is the likely growth of renewables that the UK will not actually need Hinkley’s electricity, so it will be sold abroad. And, he says, the most likely customers are in France, home of energy giant EDF, which is expected to build the plant.
All in all, the public are getting tired of financing these power plants. Even though we were assured they couldn’t possibly ever go wrong, so far they have averaged a meltdown every 10 years. And the argument that they are needed for ‘baseline’ electricity supply is no longer true. Steve Holliday, CEO of National Grid, the company that operates the gas and power transmission networks in the UK and in the northeastern US, believes the idea of large coal-fired or nuclear power stations to be used for baseload power is outdated: “From a consumer’s point of view, the solar on the rooftop is going to be the baseload.” Energy Post EU, 11 September 2015,
So, all in all, nuclear industry, could do better, by helping set up the renewables and storage we need.