Despite the majority of the British public being opposed to a new nuclear power station at Hinkley Point C, according to various surveys, Theresa May has approved the £18bn project.
The arguments against it are well understood – cost, safety and national security. On the first point, George Osborne, the former chancellor, was on the radio supporting the project last week, claiming that the costs would be borne by French group EDF and its Chinese partner CGN.
That is disingenuous at best, misleading at worst. EDF and CGN expect to make a profit from their investment and the National Audit Office has said the project could cost taxpayers almost £30bn in subsidies to these companies.Other factors May had to consider when making a final call about whether to go ahead with Hinkley included the diplomatic repercussions of scrapping a project that was significant to France and China. The shadow of Brexit also hung over the decision: this is not a time to be damaging relationships with two key trading partnerships.
EDF and CGN’s reputations were on the line. EDF has lost its finance director and is at war with its trade unions because of the project. China – a country not renowned for taking disappointment well – has said the opportunity to invest in UK nuclear will allow it to advertise its technological expertise to the world.
As a result, May faced a decision akin to not inviting your boss to your wedding. It is your day, you are more than entitled to make that decision and you probably shouldn’t have invited them in the first place: but snubbing them is not going to be positive for your career prospects.
May and her government must seriously think about whether they want more nuclear power stations popping up around the country. While the decision on whether to proceed with Hinkley became wrapped up with diplomatic issues, Bradwell and Sizewell must only be approved if the government genuinely believes they are the best solution to Britain’s energy issues. Most experts would say they are not.