The contract to build Hinkley Point C, signed in September 2016 by UK Ministers, EDF energy and the Chinese company, CGN, is by far the most complex and one of the longest running UK contracts agreement ever entered into by a British government. It puts other PFI contracts in the public sector to build schools and hospitals into the shade and has given lawyers much food for thought on how it can be implemented particularly as the UK now plans to Brexit the EU and this may lead to additional problems for the contract itself if challenged.
Aims & objectives
The aim of this project, which was supported by the ESRC Impact Acceleration Account, was to explore the UK government’s plans to commission a new nuclear power station at Hinkley Point C. The Hinkley Point C contract, signed in September 2016, is one of the largest public infrastructure contracts ever signed in the UK, and has far-reaching legal, economic and security implications. A user workshop was held in Cambridge on 14 December 2016, and explored issues first raised at a similar workshop in April 2014. A range of experts took part including the former Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, Mr Chris Huhne.
Results & dissemination
The workshop heard that not only is the nuclear technology in question, with issues such as nuclear waste disposal still largely unresolved, but that the price of carbon neutral technologies in the renewables sector such as wind, wave, and solar is dropping dramatically. making their use more viable and competitive by comparison to nuclear power. China’s involvement in the Hinkley C contract has been controversial, particularly as civil nuclear and weapons nuclear development are linked. However without French or Chinese involvement the UK could not afford to fund the project. By working with the UK and the French, Chinese companies will be able to improve their own industrial expertise and put themselves in a position to bid for future contracts in the UK and other countries. A portfolio approach to UK energy policy using a mix of nuclear and renewables is likely to continue in the short term but the longer term implications of the Hinkley Point contract are unclear, as both public opinion, which is now largely supportive of nuclear power, could change in the longer term. Reducing energy consumption is another policy which could be used more rigorously.
Blogs and podcasts based on presentations were placed on the CBR website shortly after the workshop. By July 2017 there had been nearly 900 listens and downloads of these materials.