Tag Archives: Electricite de France (EDF)

Nuclear Power Plants and Trojan Horses

Hinkley Point Nuclear Power Station. image from wikipedia

The British government in July 2016 cast doubt on the future of a controversial 18-billion pound ($24 billion) project led by Electricite de France SA to build Britain’s first nuclear power plant in more than 20 years… Concern about China General Nuclear Power Corp.’s minority stake in the project may have been among reasons for the delay….
The Chinese company’s main involvement will be in the supply chain, providing some components for Hinkley, said Malcolm Grimston, senior research fellow at Imperial College London’s center for environmental policy. Operation of the facility would be in the hands of EDF, which has been in U.K. for years, he said. “The Chinese see Hinkley C as first step towards their goal of building a nuclear station using Chinese technology in the U.K. and as a stepping stone to starting a plant export business to rival the Russians, the Japanese and the French,” said Grimston. “I’m not sure what their motivation would be” to halt an operational power plant “given their interest in being seen as a trustworthy partner.”
The strategic investment agreement reached by EDF and state-owned CGN in October 2016 was to build three new nuclear power stations in the U.K., including a 1 gigawatt plant at Bradwell that the Chinese company would build using its own technology and take a 66.5 percent stake. Chinese reactor designs haven’t yet been approved by the British nuclear regulator, a process which could take at least three years.

Bernard Jenkin, the Conservative member of parliament for Harwich and North Essex, near the proposed Bradwell plant, last year urged the government to assess the security implications of a Chinese designed, owned and operated technology. It could be a “Trojan horse” used to threaten the U.K at a time of critical disagreement or conflict, he said. …
The U.K. government agreed to pay 92.50 pounds for every megawatt-hour of electricity produced from Hinkley Point for 35 years, about twice the current market rate. That contract has been widely criticized after data published on a government website last month showed this subsidy could cost more than 30 billion pounds.

Excerpts from Is China’s Role in Hinkley Point Really a Security Threat?, Bloomberg, Aug. 5, 2016

The Inevitability of Nuclear Power

Hinkley Point B nuclear power station, UK

[A third nuclear reactor is to be built in Flamanville, France  by Electricité de France (EDF)]…Called Flamanville 3, is likely to become the focus of international attention because it is the model for an imminent expansion across the channel…EDF has agreed on October 21st agreed with China General Nuclear Power Corp (CGN), a state-owned entity, to build two reactors of the same design in south-west England called Hinkley Point C. EDF will own two-thirds of the project and CGN a third. The plant in Somerset is supposed to open by 2025, after construction that is forecast to cost £24.5 billion ($37.8 billion)…

The history of Flamanville 3, where work began in 2007, indicates how difficult that might be. It was planned as a five-year scheme, but this month EDF, which is mostly state-owned, formally asked officials to extend the deadline to 2020. Its original budget of €3.3 billion has more than tripled, to €10.5 billion ($11.9 billion). Getting its new European Pressurised Reactor (EPR) into service is proving harder than expected. One problem is the troubled condition of Areva, another mostly state-owned French firm, which supplies reactor components. It reported losses of nearly €5 billion in March, because of soaring costs and long delays at the only other EPR being built in Europe, Olkiluoto 3, in Finland. Work began in 2005 but it will not open before 2018 at the earliest.

The main technical problem at Flamanville 3 concerns suspicions of high levels of carbon in the steel of a crucial component, the vessel, already installed under the dome of the new reactor. Replacing it now, if inspectors conclude it is too brittle, would be costly. In June the company also said it was double-checking the working of safety valves.

Meanwhile EDF’s financial burden grows. It boasts of €73 billion in global revenues, but faces a threefold strain. Demand for electricity is stalling in France, its main market—and, as problematic, the country plans to cut nuclear’s share of electricity generation to half of the total, by 2025, from 75%. Next, though details are not finalised, EDF will absorb the nuclear unit of troubled Areva. Last, it has to upgrade, or at least maintain, France’s stock of ageing reactors. Mr Lévy told French radio on October 18th that capital expenditure for that alone would be around €50 billion.

No wonder ratings agencies judge that EDF’s financial prospects are secure only because of its state backing.

EDF’s prospects, indeed those of any nuclear company, depend on the backing of politicians who want to preserve nuclear expertise and jobs at home. 

EDF’s Nuclear Ambitions: French Lessons, Economist,Oct. 24, 2015, at 63