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nuclear experts react to announcement on Hinkley Point

The board of the French energy firm EDF has approved the funding of a new nuclear plant at Hinkley Point in Somerset. These comments were issued following that decision but the UK government has subsequently decided to review the project with a decision expected in the autumn.


Dr Paul Norman, Reader in Nuclear Engineering & Reactor Physics at the University of Birmingham, said:

“Approval of Hinkley Point C heralds a new dawn for Nuclear Power in the UK. Clearly one thing of great significance is its ability to provide 3.2 Giga Watts of electrical power, powering approximately 7% of the UK and doing so for 60 years, but its implications and ramifications extend way beyond this. The go-ahead for Hinkley shows that the UK is “open for business” in the international arena following the Brexit decision, and has been warmly welcomed by the UK trade unions for the many extra jobs and business that it will generate within UK industry.

“It also helps to pave the way for the other nuclear projects that are following in its wake. These include: build of 4 reactors across two sites (Wylfa and Oldbury) by Horizon Nuclear Power who are owned by Hitachi, build of 3 reactors at the Moorside site by NuGen who are majority owned by Toshiba, 2 further reactors at the Sizewell site from EDF Energy, and new build by EDF’s partner CGN at the Bradwell site. Assuming these go ahead, we may therefore see approximately 13 new large reactors built in the UK, providing roughly 35-40% of UK electricity. The “strike price” for these further reactors will almost certainly be somewhat lower than for the Hinkley Point deal. Studies are also currently ongoing with DECC for possible future deployment of small modular reactors (SMRs) to add into the mix. As well as allowing the UK to significantly cut its carbon emissions, this should help to restore the UK back to being a leading worldwide nuclear industry player once again, whilst benefiting general UK industry in the process.

“Opportunities for individuals will range from apprentices to university graduates. When the UK nuclear industry was in decline around the late 1980’s and through the 90’s, the Physics & Technology of Nuclear Reactors MSc at the University of Birmingham was the only nuclear reactors degree course left running at UK universities. The Hinkley Point decision is therefore likely to lead to further revitalisation of that sector at colleges and universities, along with corresponding opportunities for young people with different qualifications and experience.”

(This comment was added at 10:30 on 29/07/2016)


Dr Shaun Fitzgerald, FREng, Department of Engineering, University of Cambridge, said:

“I am pleased that Hinkley is going ahead. As I said in 2005, the “do nothing option is not an option”. We need a range of energy sources and at the moment nuclear is an important piece of the jigsaw. It just isn’t the whole jigsaw, and in fact is just a stepping stone for us as we transition to a low carbon, reliable and affordable energy economy.”


Professor Ian Fells CBE FREng, said:

“The EDF decision to go ahead with Hinkley C shows their confidence that the UK Government will support nuclear power well into the future with no u-turns as in Germany”.


Dr Dame Sue Ion FREng, Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering, said:

“Finally the decision to go ahead with Hinkley Point has been taken. This is most welcome, and a good deal for the UK. Although some may think that the strike price is high, it isn’t when you compare it with the cost of offshore wind, solar or other forms of renewable energy. We need a balanced portfolio of low carbon energy sources in the UK in the future. Over its 60+ year lifetime Hinkley Point will deliver enough consistent reliable baseload electricity to power five million homes. It will be making a major contribution to the UK’s carbon reduction targets and our security of electricity supplies.

“The project will also be a boost to the whole nuclear sector. Not only will it be progressed to full construction and operations, but it will pave the way for deployment of the Hitachi and Westinghouse systems at Wylfa on Anglesey and Moorside in Cumbria by increasing confidence in the investment community. It will stimulate the whole of the nuclear industry supply chain, reinvigorating advanced manufacturing in the UK and taking advantage of the investment made in entities like the Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre in Rotherham.”


Prof. Paul Ekins, Professor of Resources and Environmental Policy at the UCL Institute for Sustainable Resources, and Deputy Director of the UK Energy Research Centre, said:

“Notwithstanding the EDF investment decision on Hinkley Point C, the government needs to think again. The UK energy system options and implications have changed dramatically since Hinkley was first mooted in 2008. Its costs have increased dramatically; those of renewables have halved, and advances in storage, interconnection and demand response will have solved the problem of intermittency by the time Hinkley comes on stream. Hinkley, at a total cost to consumers of nearly £30 billion over the lifetime of its guaranteed contract period, now represents appalling value for money. And if built it will force cheaper renewables off the system for much of its subsidised life. The new government and ministerial team at BEIS need to recognise these changed circumstances and act to save UK energy consumers from three and a half decades of exorbitant and quite unnecessary extra energy costs.”


Dr Paul Howarth, CEO of National Nuclear Laboratory (NNL), said:

“This is excellent news for Britain – and in particular for the UK nuclear industry. Hinkley Point C will be an important element in the UK’s drive to provide clean, safe, reliable and affordable electricity to homes and businesses for generations to come. As the country which first developed civil nuclear power back in the 1950s, the UK still has a great deal to offer the global industry – from technical skills, knowledge, innovation and facilities to our regulatory expertise and our experience in engaging with local communities. By adding a new build programme to that list, this announcement represents a huge step to restoring the UK to the global ‘top table’ of nuclear nations, where we belong.”


Prof. Stuart Haszeldine, Professor Of Sedimentary Geology, University of Edinburgh, said:

“One of many unusual features of Hinkley C, is that it takes a state owned corporation to deliver low price electricity into a liberalised UK market. Applying the same business contract structure with very low risk to the developer, to deliver electricity from CCS on gas, or from offshore wind, reveals prices in 2016 money of less than £90/MW hr – compared to £102/MW hr for Hinkley C. Thus the UK will pay the French state for 35 years, without the long-term benefit of re-creating UK employment and nuclear engineering skills or component supply chain. Is this energy procurement, or a Head-of-State political agreement lacking a UK industrial and energy strategy?”


Prof. Francis Livens, Director, Dalton Nuclear Institute, The University of Manchester, said:

“We welcome the long-awaited news on EDF Energy’s Final Investment Decision. This finally brings us another step closer to the realisation of the UK’s first new nuclear power station to be built since construction started on Sizewell B over a quarter of a century ago.

“Earlier in the year saw EDF Energy announce the plant life extension of four of their Advanced Gas-Cooled Reactors, but operating lives can’t keep being extended forever and the reality of the much-discussed energy gap is looming. Today’s positive development for new nuclear build will significantly contribute towards energy security and the UK’s low carbon transition, and signals a welcome growth in jobs and future opportunities for many. This momentum must be maintained, and I look forward to hearing not only more news from EDF in the months ahead, but also from Horizon Nuclear Power and NuGen as their own plans to build new nuclear continue to evolve.

“At the same time, significant innovation is also needed if we are to achieve our 2050 low carbon emission target while meeting an increasing energy demand. The role for nuclear in the decades ahead will form a vital part of our broader energy mix, and we were encouraged to see the commitment to investment in nuclear R&D in last year’s Comprehensive Spending Review and reinforcement of this commitment despite what happens with Brexit. We must also keep the foot on the pedal in developing innovative nuclear technologies to help meet the energy challenges of the future. ”


Prof. Andrew H. Sherry, Chief Scientist, National Nuclear Laboratory (NNL), said:

“A positive final investment decision from EDF Energy would be hugely significant for the country. Not only would this lead to an expansion in our country’s low carbon electricity base, but would send a positive signal to other international organisations and financiers seeking to invest in Britain.”


Tom Mundy, Managing Director of NuScale Power (UK & Europe), said:

“Today’s announcement that Hinkley Point C will be progressing we hope signals the start of a resurgence that may encourage other nuclear development projects in the UK, including small modular reactors.”


Andy Furlong, Director of Communications and Brand Development, IChemE, said:

“It’s widely recognised that nuclear power is not the only energy solution in town.  Nonetheless, a decision has finally been reached and it brings certainty to the direction of travel. The engineering community can now make proper decisions around design, procurement and construction timelines. We will need to evaluate education, training and skills issues across a complex supply chain that has the potential to create more than 25,000 jobs including many roles for chemical and process engineers.

“Cost escalation is a clearly a concern, but this can be mitigated via robust engineering design and effective project management.  Chemical engineers are well placed to support this and IChemE will be working with its Energy Centre and Nuclear Technology Special Interest Group to engage fully with suppliers, regulators and others to deliver a world-class project that we can be proud of.

“Another worry is prompted by the current unpredictability in British politics. Brexit, coupled with the upheaval in both government and opposition, must not be allowed to destabilise the project.  This is a long-term infrastructure project that will span several parliaments. Now that the decision is settled it’s vital that cross-party support for Hinckley C is maintained.”


Prof. Melissa Denecke, Scientific Director, Dalton Nuclear Institute, The University of Manchester, said:

“It is a very welcomed decision that, despite a rocky start with European challenges against the strike price and recent decision delays, Hinkley Point C will be going forward as the site of a new EPR nuclear power plant. Nuclear power and renewable energy sources are vital to providing the UK with affordable electricity, while also reducing greenhouse gas emissions to help limit the adverse impact of global warming.”


Prof. Stefaan Simons, Chair of Energy Centre Board, IChemE, said:

“Good move that is long overdue. Nuclear energy will make a valuable contribution to the decarbonisation of electricity generation in the UK; but it needs a big, bold decision to make it happen. EDF and the UK government have risen to the challenge. We must acknowledge that attracting the investment required for major energy infrastructure projects is not easy in the current climate. The balancing act between cost and benefit, and market and climate is a tricky one. Thankfully, in this instance a decision has finally been reached, but this isn’t the end of the story. Other low-carbon solutions are required to deliver a sustainable energy economy and the celebrations in Somerset must not give rise to complacency.”


Prof. Jim Watson, Director of UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC), said:

“Today’s expected announcement that Hinkley C is to go ahead ends many years of uncertainty. It is now ten years since Tony Blair said that new nuclear power is back on the energy policy agenda “with a vengeance”, and it will be another decade before Hinkley is generating power.

“Large-scale nuclear power plants such as Hinkley have significant advantages: they provide low carbon, baseload power. However, the costs of the Hinkley project are particularly high. Consumers are arguably paying too much for this project, partly due to the lack of competition when the price for Hinkley’s electricity was agreed by EDF and the government. As the National Audit Office pointed out recently, the amount of subsidy consumers will pay for the project could be many times higher than originally envisaged if low electricity prices continue.

“Hinkley’s 10 year lead-time means that it cannot address some of the more immediate challenges faced by the UK electricity industry. Margins between supply and demand remain uncomfortably tight. This challenge will have to be addressed by other measures such as gas generation and flexibility in demand long before Hinkley comes online.

“If nuclear power is to play a significant role in the UK’s low carbon energy future, the costs of future stations will have to be substantially lower. Not only will this mean a break with the historical experience of rising nuclear costs, but new nuclear stations will also have to compete in a rapidly changing electricity market in which some other low carbon technologies are experiencing rapid price falls.

“Against this dynamic backdrop, projects with long lead times and high up front costs such as Hinkley will inevitably find it hard to attract the finance they need unless the government steps in.”


Dr Jonathan Radcliffe, Senior Research Fellow in Energy Storage, University of Birmingham, said:

“After years of technical, regulatory and financial wrangling, there was simply too much at stake for British and French Governments to let this deal unravel. The reasons are complex, but it is symptomatic of the energy policy muddle we have experienced for ten and more years. Government has been dipping in and out of market interventions almost at random, and has done a deal here which future bill-payers, not tax-payers, will cover.  When assets such as Hinckley Point C will last for 40 years, we need a more strategic approach to re-designing energy markets that are appropriate for low carbon (and low marginal cost) generation, and incentivising reductions in demand. Business models which rely on selling more units to make more profit may not be viable in the long term.  The new Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy must look to the future: how will the energy system and markets drive, or respond to, a massive take-up of electric vehicles, and decarbonisation of heat (partly through electric heating) through the 2020s, with the introduction of new ‘smart’ technologies like energy storage.”


Prof. Martin Freer, Director of the Birmingham Energy Institute, University of Birmingham, said:

“This is an exceptionally important decision for the future of the UK power generation infrastructure. Without Hinkley Point C and its successors, for example Sizewell C, there was going to be a very substantial hole in the UK’s generating capacity. Though the upfront costs are high, this is a crucial capital investment that will secure lower cost electricity over the operation of the HPC plant, which will be the next 60 years, and through the associated civil build project provide much needed stimulus to the UK economy. For those of us who have been holding our breath over the last few months, this is a moment for a sigh of relief.”


Gordon Waddington, Chief Executive Officer of the Energy Research Accelerator, said:

“The Energy Research Accelerator (ERA) is delighted that EDF has made the decision to proceed with Hinkley, and welcomes the opportunity to engage with EDF to connect the powerhouse of Midlands energy expertise with innovative nuclear technologies to genuinely accelerate solutions to our global energy challenges. Paris 2021 makes clear the need for clean energy that can act as a base load for our power needs. We know clean base load power is more expensive than fossil fuel power based on today’s technology. It is only through commitment to bringing together research expertise and industry that the UK will genuinely resolve this challenge and meet our long-term Paris commitments.”


Dr Mark Wenman, Lecturer in Nuclear Engineering Materials and Member of the Centre for Nuclear Engineering, Imperial College London, said:

“Hinkley Point C is vitally important for the UK for several reasons:  The UK remains focused on phasing out coal power stations and at the same time many nuclear stations will also be closing.  This means the UK would face potential energy shortages, in the mid-2020s, even with solid growth in renewables such as wind and solar.  At the same time the UK needs to remain committed to reducing CO2 emissions and Hinkley C, if built on-time, would provide secure low carbon energy just when we need it.  Although other nuclear projects have been delayed in Europe, this provides the opportunity to show that big infrastructure projects can be delivered in the UK, which may bring further investment and jobs.  From the point of view of the Centre for Nuclear Engineering, at Imperial College, this will provide great opportunities for our top graduate students and potentially be a big boost to research income when relationships with the EU are strained.”


Dr Pete Cole, President of The Society for Radiological Protection, said:

“The Society for Radiological Protection welcomes the news that the Hinkley Point C nuclear reactors are to go ahead. Since the beginning of nuclear electricity generation, radiological protection scientists have played a pivotal role in the industry. Members of the Society for Radiological Protection have been, and continue to be, heavily involved in the design, operation and regulation of nuclear plants, dedicated to ensuring the safety of workers, the public and the environment.

Our learned society will continue to support and advance the knowledge of our members, who will now be bringing forward Hinkley Point C, through our chartered professional awards, scientific meetings, conferences and publications. We will also use our outreach programme to encourage a new generation of young people to consider careers in radiation protection and maybe take up jobs over the future decades in this important contribution to ensuring the UK’s supply of clean, carbon free, electricity.”


Prof. Juan Matthews, Visiting Professor, Dalton Nuclear Institute, The University of Manchester, said:

“The Final Investment Decision today on Hinkley Point C is a major step for the UK nuclear industry. The UK desperately needs new electrical capacity which is carbon free, safe and at a reasonable cost. Hinkley Point C is the first step in securing this. So far UK industry has been reluctant to invest in building capacity to join the nuclear supply chain. With a real project commitment, risks are reduced and we should see more companies involved and the potential for a larger share of the project adding value in the UK.

“The Hinkley Point C project has come in for some criticism on the basis that it is too expensive and that the reactor design has been subject to delays on projects in France (at Flamanville) and in Finland.

“On the first point, the strike price of £92.50/MWh is for the first nuclear station we have built in the UK since the 1990s. Future reactors of the same type will have lower strike prices. There are also plans for other reactor projects and it is expected that these also will have lower strike prices. The strike price for nuclear plant are generally substantially lower than those for renewable energy. Nuclear power is needed in conjunction with renewables to meet our obligations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions whilst energy demand keeps rising. This is becoming urgent as closures of coal-fired stations are progressing and anticipated new gas stations have not materialised. There is an increasing reluctance to invest in fossil fuel technologies that will be subject to rising carbon taxes and the need to incorporate carbon capture and storage – a technology that has not yet been demonstrated in the UK yet.

“Press reports over the last month have confused the issue by comparing a construction cost of £19 billion with a whole-life cost of £37 billion (including interest, operating costs, fuel and decommissioning). The whole-life costs of nuclear power are very favourable compared with the costs of fossil plants (taking into account carbon taxes and, in the future, carbon capture and storage), off-shore wind and solar power.

“The issue of EPR construction delays is a serious one, but we must remember that two EPRs are close to commissioning in Taishan in China. These have had some problems, but the experience has been much better than in France and Finland. From that point of view, the involvement of China in the Hinkley point C project is to be welcomed.”


Dr Shaun Fitzgerald FREng, Royal Academy of Engineering Visiting Professor in Sustainable Buildings, said:

“Nuclear is an important piece of the jigsaw. There is no silver bullet to take us to a reliable, low carbon, cheap energy economy. We need a range of approaches to provide us with the energy we need. Although nuclear is potentially expensive in the long run, with decommissioning and waste management factored in, it does help the UK become less reliant on other imported fuels and this is an important factor. Furthermore, nuclear power may be viewed as a stepping stone; ultimately we need to use more diverse natural energy sources (solar etc) but the scale of investment and change in infrastructure needed to support this is something we can’t do quickly.”


Declared interests

Dr Paul Norman:

  • – I have no paid employment or self employment with EDF or other industry
  • – I have no research grant funding from EDF or other industry
  • – I have no voluntary appointments with EDF or other industry
  • – I have no memberships that I hold associated with this
  • – I have no decision making position/powers with or related to EDF or other industry

The only interest I have, is that a number of industry companies (including EDF Energy) sponsor students to undertake the Masters course that I run. Companies pay money into a pot, and this goes to the students to help with student fees to hopefully prevent them becoming too much further in debt (my students already have a degree, typically in Engineering or Physics, and so most already have accrued debts from undergraduate degree studies). The course then helps the students, in a number of cases, into the industry.

Dr Dame Sue IonOne of the UK’s foremost nuclear engineers, Dr Dame Sue Ion DBE FREng is the independent chair of the UK’s Nuclear Innovation and Research Advisory Board (NIRAB). This Board is comprised of academics and industry representatives from across the nuclear sector, appointed for their technical expertise in matters covering the whole nuclear landscape, from reactors and generation to nuclear waste management and decommissioning. She is paid a normal standard Government daily rate for her time in chairing the committee but the views she and the Board give are independent. She has no financial interest in Hinkley Point and no relationship with EDF.

Dame Sue is otherwise self-employed and holds voluntary unpaid roles with the Royal Academy of Engineering, Imperial College London and the University of Manchester. She worked for 27 years for British Nuclear Fuels Limited (BNFL), and served two terms between 2004 and 2011 on the Prime Minister’s Council for Science and Technology, where her contributions were acknowledged as substantial in its energy-related work.

She was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering in 1996, and in 2014 received the President’s Medal for her outstanding service to the nuclear industry, the Academy and the world of engineering.

Prof. Paul Ekins: No conflicts of interest

Prof. Melissa Deneckeno conflict of interest

Dr Paul Howarth: CEO of the National Nuclear Laboratory and Chair of the Centre of Nuclear Excellence.

Prof. Stuart Haszeldine: Stuart Haszeldine has undertaken research on nuclear power and nuclear waste since the early 1990’s Current research is investigating the difficulty of radioactive waste disposal for the long term in the UK He holds no grants or financial support from nuclear agencies or developers or nuclear power companies He has declined invitations to membership of Government nuclear power and waste agencies and bodies He has no financial interest, positive or negative, in nuclear power He is not a co-investigator son any current grant or award for nuclear power or waste.

Andy Furlong: IChemE occasionally receives sponsorship payments from companies in the nuclear supply chain in connection with scientific conferences and events, but these are commercial in nature. A component of IChemE’s professional membership (<5%) is employed in the nuclear sector.

Prof. Stefaan Simons: IChemE occasionally receives sponsorship payments from companies in the nuclear supply chain in connection with scientific conferences and events, but these are commercial in nature. A component of IChemE’s professional membership (<5%) is employed in the nuclear sector.

Dr Jonathan Radcliffe: No conflicts of interest

Prof Martin Freer:   I do not hold research funding from EDF and have not in the past. The University does have an Memorandum of Understanding with CGN, the Chinese partner, but no funding.

I personally have advocated for nuclear power strongly and through a growth in nuclear power the University would stand to benefit through increased demand for nuclear engineering programmes that we offer.

Dr Mark Wenman: I act as the Liaison between EDF/EDF Energy for Imperial College but I am not obliged by this role to only say positive things about EDF.  I currently have 2 PhD research funded projects through EDF Energy, Nuclear Generation.  This is not the New Build branch of EDF.   I was formly on a Fellowship funded by EDF Energy, Nuclear Generation but this ended in 2013.

Dr Pete Cole: The Society for Radiological Protection – EDF Energy are in the process of applying for affiliate membership of the society.

Ian Fells: I am the Technical Director of a nuclear company as well as Emeritus Professor at Newcastle University.

Juan Matthews :  I have no relationship with EDF, AREVA or other parties. Up to May 2014, before joining the Dalton Nuclear Institute, I was the Nuclear Specialist on the UK Trade and Investment team that was negotiating the agreements with EDF and the Chinese side. I have continued to provide consultancy to the Government on issue relating to the nuclear supply chain and contributed to the setting up of Nuclear SW – a body formed by local enterprise partnerships around Hinkley Point to stimulate the supply chain. My role in that stopped in 2015.

Prof. Shaun Fitzgerald – None at all

None others received.

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