Hinkley UK-France nuclear plant deal marks many firsts


Hinkley Point B's Advanced Gas-cooled Reactor at the Hinkley Point nuclear power station on Feb. 28, 2011 near Bridgwater, England


Matt Cardy

The UK government and EDF, France's state-controlled utility giant, jointly announced on Monday a $26 million dollar deal to build the UK's first new nuclear plant in decades.

The two reactors, subsidized by the UK with support from a state-run Chinese firm, to be built at Hinkley Point C plant in Somerset, are scheduled to start producing an estimated seven percent of the nation's energy in 2023 and run for about 35 years.

"For the first time, a nuclear station in this country will not have been built with money from the British taxpayer," said Secretary of State for Energy Edward Davey.

China General Nuclear Power Group, a partner of EDF, and maybe China National Nuclear Corporation, will have an estimated 30 to 40 percent take in the deal, with Areva, a French nuclear design and construction company, to have a possible 10 percent stake, according to reports. In addition, Reuters reports there's a shortlist of other groups that could take a 15 percent stake in the project.

Prime Minister David Cameron said the nuclear project was "part of our plan to help Britain succeed," adding that "after months of negotiation, today we have a deal for the first nuclear power station in a generation to be built in Britain." 

The Prime Minister tweeted out an info-graphic: 

However, the plan is not without criticism. Labor leader Ed Miliband, who supports nuclear power, questioned the deal's terms, asking if it would really help the UK consumer. The UK government said the plants would decrease household energy bills. 

The per megawatt hour price paid for electricity produced is about double the market rate, according to the Telegraph, which could mean the UK expects an increase in energy prices.

Dr. Paul Dorfman, from the Energy Institute at University College London, told the BBC that the deal "is essentially a subsidy of between what we calculate to be [$1 billion] a year that the UK taxpayer and energy consumer will be putting into the deep pockets of Chinese and French corporations, which are essentially their governments."

But for all the talk, the deal is not yet final. EDF still has to make a final decision to invest, and the project will have to be cleared by the European Commission.