Too cheap to meter? – I don’t think so!

Dominic Maclaine
The output of nuclear power is ‘too cheap to meter’. This is a quote often attributed to the Central Electricity Board’s Walter Marshall but it was actually the US’s Lewis Strauss of the United States Atomic Energy Commission in a 1954 speech to the National Association of Science Writers. He said: “Our children will enjoy in their homes electrical energy too cheap to meter…’
The Hinkley C nuclear plant made headlines this month when, on a visit to China, Chancellor of the exchequer George Osborne said the new nuclear plant will go ahead .
The plant, due to open in 2023, will be very expensive. Peter Atherton, energy analyst at investment bank Jefferies, said that, for the same price as Hinkley Point C, which will provide 3,200MW of capacity, almost 50,000MW of gas-fired power capacity could be built.
Why do we need it?
Two reasons have been floated in the press about the Hinkley decision . Firstly the need to maintain a nuclear industrial complex to support the UK’s nuclear deterrent and secondly the deal with China will open up opportunities for the expansion of financial institutions.
So what has changed? Firstly there are no annoying Lib Dems around. The government now has no coalition checks in place. It has implied that it is not continuing the ‘no public subsidy policy’ [for nuclear power] of the previous administration. That admission is tucked away at the end of the announcement of the French-Chinese deal to build a new nuclear power station at Hinkley point.
Despite all the time and effort that has been expended to get this far we still await the final investment decision. Assuming this does finally have a positive outcome it still has to be built and Austria’s challenge against the EU approval of the State Aid package has to be defeated. Then we can do it all over again for Horizon and Nu Generation.

Nuclear power is expensive and needs massive financial help to survive. The freedom and transparency of the market place lays bare the true economics of nuclear power. It can’t survive on its own without such support. The current Government’s solution is to remove the market.

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