The UK-wide association of Nuclear Free Local Authorities – which includes Glasgow council – has called on the government to abandon its costly commitment to nuclear power following the major financial losses and senior management resignations at Toshiba and EDF.
The chairman of Toshiba – which is a prospective partner at the Moorside nuclear plant in Cumbria – resigned after the company lost a record $6 billion from nuclear overspends in the USA.
Meanwhile, French-owned EDF – which owns the Scottish nuclear power stations – issued three profit warnings last year following a string of unplanned nuclear plant shutdowns.
EDF has agreed to build the £18 billion new atom plant at Hinkley with the same EPR reactor that EDF is building at Flamanville, France – which is already six years late and €7.2 billion over budget..
A large drop in French nuclear output over the winter due to safety inspections on 18 of its French reactors, at the request of the country’s nuclear regulator ASN, was partly to blame for a sharp drop in profits. Furthermore, the company is saddled with debt and needs to spend €55 billion upgrading its existing stations.
For the association of Nuclear Free Local Authorities there is a strong sense of déjà-vu with Toshiba’s announcement and the ‘sorry state’ of UK new nuclear policy. Over the past decade, international energy utilities E-on, RWE Npower, Iberdrola and Centrica have all confidently announced their commitment to building new nuclear power stations, whether at Hinkley Point, Wylfa or Moorside, but then had to pull out as they realise they cannot afford the huge levels of investment that such projects require.
NFLA Steering Committee Chair Councillor Ernie Galsworthy, said: “The resignation of the Toshiba Chairman and its announcement that it is pulling out of any construction of the Moorside nuclear reactors is a devastating blow for the UK ‘nuclear renaissance’. It is looking more and more like a damp squib instead.
“For once, ministers should look at the area of energy policy that has delivered and will continue to deliver given sensible financial support – the creation of a wide renewable energy mix coupled with supporting councils to deliver decentralised microgeneration projects and fully realising energy storage and energy efficiency technology.
“Such policies are more cost effective, can be deployed much more swiftly than new nuclear, produce good quality well-paid jobs, deliver low carbon climate change objectives and, above all, would not generate thousands of tonnes of highly radioactive waste.”
However, Tom Greatrex, Chief Executive of the UK Nuclear Industry Association said: “We welcome Toshiba’s continued commitment to the Moorside project.
“With more than two thirds of our power generation capacity retiring between 2010 and 2030, we urgently need to ensure we have a secure, reliable, always available way of providing electricity to homes, businesses and public services for our future needs, and to do that in as low carbon a way as possible.”