Boris told £700m nuclear power dream relies on ‘failed French tech’

Boris Johnson sends message to next Prime Minister

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Meanwhile, Greenpeace has branded the scheme a “lumbering white elephant” – and said the cash would be put to better use on providing insulation for millions of homes across the nation. Mr Johnson, who will be replaced as by either Liz Truss or Rishi Sunak on Monday, unveiled his plans during a visit to Sizewell Nuclear Power Station today, urging his successor to “go nuclear, and go large”.

Nuclear, in practice, is always over-budget and overdue

Andy Mayer

However, Andy Mayer, Chief Operating Officer and Energy Analyst at the Institute of Economic Affairs, was unconvinced.

In an op-ed written for, he branded Mr Johnson’s legacy one of “destruction”, adding: “Minister replaced two decades of cheap, secure energy, with fantasy climate plans.”

He said: “His central pitch was “go nuclear, go large, and go with Sizewell C!”

“Nuclear in principle is brilliant. It provides baseload – the ‘always-on’ power needed to match our basic needs. Nuclear, in practice, is always over-budget and overdue.”

Both Sizewell A and B are owned by EDF Energy, a British integrated company which is wholly owned by EDF (Electricite de France), headquartered in Paris.

Referring to another nuclear plant, located in Somerset, Mr Mayer added: “The Government’s impact assessment suggested Hinkley Point would cost £68bn-£120bn and Sizewell C would take 14 to 17 years to deliver.

“Both are based on the failed technology of EDF, a French company managing a corroding fleet of old stations, over half of which are offline, and new stations so flawed that nobody outside Britain wants to buy them.

“They’re bankrupt, being nationalised, and suing the French government. That is the model Boris wants us to copy.”

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Mr Mayer acknowledged: “He has a point about small modular reactors, promising eight, at one a year in the 2030s.

“But 40-50 would be required to meet our needs today and two to three times more if the Government is successful in electrifying heat and transport.

“On top of which we need unpredictable quantities of wind, hydrogen, gas with Carbon Capture Storage, batteries and the grid technology to link it all together.

“No one really knows where this will land, or how our energy needs will change in response to higher prices and new industries.”

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Speaking from an entirely different perspective politically, Dr Doug Parr, Chief Scientist for Greenpeace UK, was nevertheless similarly critical.

He said: “This money could insulate huge numbers of draughty homes, and cut next year’s bills, instead of being thrown onto the slow-burning financial bonfire that is EDF, to increase our bills for decades.

“Construction of this reactor type has gone massively over budget and over schedule whenever they try to build it in Europe, and isn’t operating as advertised anywhere.”

The funding model adopted to pay for it had been tried in the USA, and Dr Parr said North Carolina households were “still paying for a nuclear reactor that was never built as the company went bust”.

He added: “The contrast between these lumbering white elephants and the dynamic, cost cutting, innovative technologies in the renewables sector could barely be more striking.

“While this down payment on failure shows the government hasn’t noticed, the market has, and investors have fled the nuclear sector.”

To get Sizewell C built, the government would have to step in and “add the enormous costs of building reactors to the enormous costs consumers are already paying for their electricity”, he pointed out.

Dr Parr concluded: “While Boris Island and the Boris Bridge remain in the land of fantasy where they belong, Johnson will have his legacy, the Boris Bill, and it will be very real for a very long time.”

Speaking earlier, Mr Johnson said: “We need to pull our national finger out and get on with Sizewell C.

“That’s why we’re putting £700 million into the deal, just part of the £1.7 billion of Government funding available for developing a large-scale nuclear project to final investment stage – FID (final investment decision) – in this Parliament.

“In the course of the next few weeks, I am absolutely confident that it will get over the line.

“I say to you, with the prophetic candour and clarity of one who is about to hand over the torch of office, I say go nuclear and go large and go with Sizewell C.”

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