17:48 Monday 21st September 2015
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire
CHRIS MANN: Britain’s first new nuclear power station in nearly twenty years appears to be a step closer. The Chancellor has announced the UK will guarantee a £2 billion deal to try to secure Chinese investment in the new Hinkley Point power plant in Somerset. George Osborne made the announcement on a visit to Beijing.
GEORGE OSBORNE: I think it’s a partnership that’s good for both countries. We get secure reliable low-carbon electricity for decades to come, without drawing on vast sums of taxpayers’ money. And China gets a great investment opportunity.
CHRIS MANN: A French energy firm EDF is leading the project. The Government has a lready guaranteed a minimum price, some argue a very high price, for the electricity it will generate at Hinkley. But the company can’t afford the £24 billion price tag by itself, and it’s so far struggled to find financial partners. That’s why the Government has now stepped in to guarantee part of the cost. Stephen Tindale is a climate and energy consultant. He reckons that the proposed reactor is a poor design.
STEPHEN TINDALE: There are different types of nuclear reactors, and the UK Government has chosen a bad one. The European pressurised reactor which is what is proposed for Hinkley is old-fashioned, too expensive and better options are available.
CHRIS MANN: Nuclear power of course controversial. Critics argue it’s expensive and unsafe. Supporters claim it’s less pollution that coal or gas, and a reliable way to keep the lights on. The Government hopes by easing Chinese support for Hinkley it will help persuade China to take a leading role in building more reactors here in the UK. But should we worry about the possible involvement of companies run by the Chinese Communist Party in an extremely sensitive part of our national infrastructure? The BBC has been getting views from people living near the proposed site.
PUBLIC ONE: We’re just a little island. Seems to be taken over by the rest of the world. I mean. What is there left English any more? Or British?
PUBLIC TWO: I think it’s a good thing if it makes jobs and people get more employment out of it.
PUBLIC THREE: We always need power, and being green is very good. But it’s the way we’re going about it. It’s not right.
CHRIS MANN: And the new Hinkley plant will produce enough electricity for around 6 million homes. It was originally due to be up and running by 2023, but earlier this month EDF said that date had been delayed. It’s now unclear when it will be ready.