Why Hinkley matters to Brexit

Energy & Transport
Friday, September 23, 2016
Dr. Jon Stanley

 

Deals matter. Anyone can sign one, but not everyone can negotiate one.

Hinkley is an example. At 18 billion, it is nothing short of a disaster for the UK. Far from boosting UK industry, it will distract businesses from adopting sustainable strategies. 

Why?

Because it isn't sustainable and isn't credible. We may be seeing the last nuclear plant of this kind built in the UK; the previous one at Sizewell B was finished in 1994, after being decided upon initially in 1980.

These reactors are complex and given their design have required ever more safety features to make them acceptable. These have meant reactors costs have gone up instead of down and have resulted in extraordinary delays.

This is not revealed truth but well-known fact in the industry. We regulate far too much, we do no research of note on new reactors and always go for big bang monolithic plants that mean all or nothing when it comes to finally producing power. 

So why has it been allowed to continue under May?

Because nothing has changed. A Cambridge economist runs the Department for Industrial Strategy and Energy and two Bullingdon boy arts graduates serve beneath him. There is no industrial or scientific experience or training within the department. This is not surprising, but given the magnitude of deals like Hinkley, it is very worrying. 

Fatal conceit is dangerous and all too common. These ministers will no doubt have had no inkling as to what the right questions to ask were.  

Why can Korea build for 5 billion what we must spend 18 billion on?

What is our nuclear industrial strategy?

What fuel will we use 20 years from now?

There is nothing. The proverbial booze up in brewery may well be possible with a bunch of Oxbridge arts and economy graduates, but an industrial strategy that's devoid of sense because it is devoid of self-awareness brings up a worrying idea....

Maybe Brexit will be done like this too. By a Ministry of Memes and Themes that finds details boring because they’re too bothersome and cumbersome. This is the PPE generation: if it can't be knocked out in two days in an essay and debated with emotion in place of facts it just won't do. This inability to connect with engineers and planners wrecked nationalised industry.

There is still time and a very powerful case to postpone Hinkley Point.

We need to ask basic probing questions of the industry as to why we are so behind, overregulated and averse to exploring new designs which offer much more than imported Frankenstein reactors from Europe.  

Given the overruns of European pressurised reactors in Finland and France, we would get a reactor completed faster if we went back to the drawing board.

Dr. Jon Stanley is a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons, a Junior Doctor and Health Contributor at the Bow Group