Chris Vernon at the Europe Oil Drum has an excellent and comprehensive review of the Government announcement about the nuclear plant program announced by John Hutton this week. He asks ."considering the nuclear cliff, (see Chris's chart below - note the assumptions are optimistic ...but Sizewell will probably last a bit longer) has the decision come too late to maintain the nuclear contribution?"
Even on the most optimistic assumptions the answer is .... yes.
"EDF Energy anticipated this decision and in September of 2007 submitted the plans for their 1.6GW EPR (Evolutionary Power Reactor) power station to the UK regulators for design assessment ( Press Release). Detailed information on this design is available from the EDF/AREVA website: http://www.epr-reactor.co.uk/. This is the same design as is being built in Finland at Olkiluoto and in France at Flamanville.
The Finland build is the first one and has had some problems. Initially it was meant to cost 3.7bn euro and be complete in 2009, construction started in 2004. Since then there has been a 2 year slip and the cost increased by 1.5bn euros. So we're looking at 7 year build time and 5.2bn euro (£3.9bn - say 14 times the commitment by BOE to Northern Wreck) . See also Lord Patel post Friday, August 17, 2007 British Energy Nuclear Fleet production down 17%, profits by 14%
Chris ends on a pessimistic note ..
UK gas production will be almost over by the end of the next decade leaving the country reliant on imports from Norway, Russia and beyond. This raises serious question marks over the long term viability of the 36% electricity the country currently generates from gas. In addition to that approximately one third of the existing coal fleet is scheduled to close under the EU Large Combustion Plant Directive.
In times of hardship EU directives will be the first thing to ignore but even the coal supply is questionable as the UK imports most of its coal and is now competing in an increasingly competitive market.
In 2006 the UK generated 394 TWh of electricity - Chris asks ...."what will the country generate in 2020? " Not to mention a looming skills gap in the UK nuclear industry.http://business.timesonline.co.uk/tol/business/industry_sectors/utilities/article2806400.ece
Essential reading for every one who votes.
PS The UK will be importing some 30% of UK gas consumption this winter.Source DBERR (UK govt Dept of Business Enterprise, formerly DTI)
Coal production in Britain has fallen to its lowest level since the industrial revolution, according to data from the Office for National Statistics. Annual production is set to fall below 15 million tonnes, a level last seen 200 years ago. See Chris's chart above for a historical perspective and the increasing reliance on imports by the UK energy industry.
Also Newcastle Coal Trades Near a Record as Demand Rises
Dec. 31 2007 (Bloomberg) -- Coal prices at Australia's Newcastle port, a benchmark for Japan, South Korea and Taiwan, traded near a record on concern that demand is outpacing supply. ...
PPS : January 31st 2005 in the early run up to the 2005 General Election, Tony Blair (then Prime Minister) discussed with Manchester Evening News readers the introductin of nuew nuclear power stations - for the first time ever in public during his
presidency term of office.
Well they have been carefully examining it for 3 wasted years - a trifle faster than the opvernight (well .... over a weekend) decision to fund Northern Wreck ( another rational decision ?) .... this was not picked up by the national / international Press / TV (who were present) at the time. The metropolitan muttering classes don't really concern themselves with what happens in Manchester.
"We don't have any plans to open new power stations but what you are saying isinteresting and I think there is a debate to be had about nuclear power but it has to happen in a rational way. If we suggest a new generation of nuclear powerin this country I can guarantee there will be public concern about it so wewould have to look at what is going on in other countries very carefully."