China’s nuclear star may be on the ascendant again, but in the UK the government’s atomic-energy hopes were today dealt a crushing blow.
Two of Europe’s major energy providers, RWE and E.On, have announced they are ditching plans to build two reactors in north Wales and the West Midlands, which would have cost £10 billion (US415.9 billion) to construct. The joint venture they set up to develop the schemes – Horizon Nuclear Power – is up for sale.
The news was described as “very disappointing” by British energy minister Charles Hendry. Unlike Germany, the UK decided to stick with its plans for a new wave of nuclear plants after Fukushima and has named eight sites where it wants old power plants to be replaced. But the programme is dependent on private investment, and so the withdrawal of two major energy companies will be a bitter pill.
RWE and E.On blamed the decision on a harsh financial environment and the costs of decommissioning nuclear power plants in Germany, which decided to close down all its nuclear capacity by 2022 after Fukushima. E.On has also said it will concentrate on projects that show quicker results than nuclear, which takes 10 years to start generating electricity, according to the BBC.
The British environmental community is currently locked in a bitter war of words over the merits of nuclear power. Today’s news is a reminder that, whether we conclude new nuclear power is the best way for Britain to tackle climate change or a dangerous distraction from cleaner and safer technologies, it might never happen anyway.
This article is translated and published here as part of our Green Growth project, a collaboration between chinadialogue and The Energy Foundation.