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Britain’s First Nuclear Power Plant in 20 Years Is Delayed and Over Budget

The setback is a blow to the European nuclear power industry.

by Chris Baraniuk
Jul 3 2017, 1:25pm

Vladimir Mulder

Britain's brand new nuclear power station is one of the biggest construction projects ever undertaken in the UK and, even though work only began in March, is already over budget.

The total cost of Hinkley Point C in the county of Somerset will be £1.5 billion more than first estimated: £19.6 billion—according to a new review by contractor EDF Energy. Plus, the project may be delayed by up to 15 months.

In a statement emailed to Motherboard, EDF explained that the increased costs were mainly due to, "a better understanding of the design adapted to the requirements of the British regulators."

EDF did not immediately provide further clarification as to why such factors had now caused a change in estimates.

Under the terms of the EDF's arrangement with the British government, increased construction costs will be shouldered by the company, not UK taxpayers. But it's another blow to the European nuclear industry.

Hinkley Point C will feature two European pressurised reactors (EPR)—a new design, but one that is now synonymous with troubled projects in Europe. Simone Tagliapietra at the Bruegel economics think tank in Brussels pointed out that the same technology will be used at Finland's new nuclear plant in Olkiluoto, which is due to open nearly a decade later than planned.

Olkiluoto-3 is several billion euros over budget, as is France's new Flamanville plant, which will feature EPRs, too.

"The business model behind [Hinkley Point C] is extremely complex," said Tagliapietra, via phone. "Looking at these numbers one really wonders whether the UK made the right choice to go for such a costly megaproject."

The price of renewable energies, particularly wind turbines and solar panels, he said, had dramatically fallen in recent years, contributing to the difficult sales pitch for those vying to build new nuclear plants.

Still, the UK has some ambitious objectives as a signatory to the Paris climate agreement. Nuclear energy is a low-carbon resource and so some argue that Hinkley Point C will be a crucial factor in helping the country meet its energy targets.

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