While the German government announces its flagship climate and transformation fund of Euros 212bn to accelerate its green transition programme of building renovation and decarbonising its energy sector between 2024 and 2027, the UK is reduced to scrabbling around the City vainly seeking investors in the increasingly farcical soap opera that is Sizewell C. The ‘grand project’ – French nuclear incursion into a beleaguered and wilting UK energy sector – has mesmerised government officials and MPs of both major parties for the best part of a decade yet it is no closer today to realisation than it was in 2012. With announcements on further delays to Hinkley Point C and an embarrassing silence in response to invitations to invest in Sizewell C, the hopes that nuclear power will lead the UK on its ‘world beating’ programme towards net zero carbon by 2050 looks more unlikely than ever: even an optimistic start date of 2035 for Sizewell C would only afford the plant a marginal – and hugely expensive – contribution to reducing carbon emissions and only for a few years, barely time to off-set the carbon debt created by its construction. Compared to the visionary German programme, the UK’s response to the existential climate crisis is weak, lacking in leadership and entirely inconsequential in the face of accelerating climate change impacts which are already leaving some parts of the world uninhabitable.
The Sizewell C development has offered observers an opportunity to monitor in great detail how a modern project costing at least Euros 30bn can and often does fall foul of environmental, financial, operational and political collapse. Government has been beguiled by nuclear power to the exclusion of all else, removing subsidies for green sources of electricity generation while finding hundreds of millions of pounds to incentivise nuclear power. The regulators, constrained by the antiquated and redundant regulators’ code of practice, have turned blind eyes to the obvious – eroding coastlines, storm surges, floods and the future inaccessibility of lethal nuclear waste for transporting to a (currently mythical) geological disposal facility, the huge loss of life sea-water-cooled plants have on the marine environment and fish stocks and the idiocy and irresponsibility of discharging huge amounts of radioactivity to the environment when their health costs are unknown – in their attempts show their eagerness to do the government’s bidding on shoe-string budgets.
Pete Wilkinson, TASC’s Deputy Chairperson and co-founder of Greenpeace UK and Friends of the Earth, said today, ‘HMG is besotted by a Boris Johnson-inspired nuclear fantasy, the regulators are ignoring their obligations, EDF is out of control, respecting nothing but their own agenda, bullying local people, ignoring the absence of a Sizewell C contracted water supply, threatening the imposition of a desalination plant to cover their own inadequacies, and local authorities have been desperate to show their central government overlords that they are shoring up a broken and discredited policy. The Labour Party are no better as it cowers before trades union demands for Labour to secure a small number of well-paid jobs at over £30millon a pop and support an unworkable, dangerous and hugely costly distraction to the climate change crisis which threatens to engulf us.’