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Here's Everything You Need To Know About Britain's New Nuclear Power Station

What the hell is going on? And should you actually care?

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Theresa May's government has approved the building of the first new nuclear power station in the UK in 20 years. A new plant at Hinkley Point will eventually provide around 7% of all electricity in the UK, having a significant impact on the market. The decision has been highly controversial.

This #hinkleypoint point decision is MADNESS. And I say that as someone who believes nuclear can play a useful role in carbon reduction.

From a consumer point of view Hinkley could tie us to expensive energy prices for 35 years

But should you be worrying?

Well. A bit. Your electricity bill will probably go up. The government reckon this will be by about £10 a year, but others have predicted it is more likely to go up £17.50 each year, and rise with inflation.

Why is it likely to go up?

The price will rise because the government has promised the French energy giant EDF – which will build the Hinkley plant – that it can get a minimum of £92.50 per megawatt hour (MWh).

The government had to guarantee a minimum price in order to make building the plant worthwhile for the company. If the wholesale price is lower than £92.50, the shortfall will be made up with higher bills – and at present it is just £44/MWh.


Why has the government promised EDF so much money?

The government needs a new plant to replace old and polluting infrastructure. Thanks to years (and years) of delays over the decision, the need for a new power plant before the lights go out has increased, giving EDF a much stronger hand.

Over time, rival companies that wanted to build the next generation of UK nuclear plants have dropped out, meaning less competition. EDF has exploited this and managed to push the price up (and it will keep going up every year in line with inflation).

EDF has got form in building reliable power plants, right?

Hopefully. The company is one of the biggest energy providers in Europe and already runs Hinkley Point B, which has been going since the 1970s.

However, similar nuclear power stations being built in Finland and France are massively behind schedule. The Finland project began in 2005 and should have been finished by 2009. It's still being built and will not be ready for another two years, causing costs to quadruple. The French site is five years behind schedule and the cost has trebled.

Why are the Chinese involved?

The country's government is keen to spend its vast surplus of extra cash investing in infrastructure projects around the world. Officials see this kind of investment as a safe, long-term option for their cash, and will spent £6 billion to take a 33% stake.

The Chinese agreed to take a stake in Hinkley and to develop another nuclear power station on the understanding that the UK government would approve a third Chinese-led and designed nuclear plant in Essex.

Do we really want China controlling our energy?

This has caused some contention and led to May launching a review shortly after she took over as prime minister. She said on Thursday that "new safeguards" were in place. The concern is really to do with the idea that China might decide to turn out the lights, rather than some of the more excitable theories floating around the internet about the country causing a nuclear meltdown.

What are the other safeguards?

Ministers were also worried that EDF could flog the rest of its stake in the plant before construction had even been completed. But the government has banned this and said EDF must seek permission first.

Will this be a problem?

It depends how the Chinese react – and they still haven't said they agree to the new terms imposed by the government. But a new national security test for all foreign investment in infrastructure – like energy – could hamper China’s goal of developing its own plant at Bradwell in Essex and making a more active investment in Sizewell B in Suffolk.

How angry are the Chinese about it?

Leaders in China have expressed anger already, in a veiled threat type of way. Officials have suggested a new "golden era" of investment between the countries – which becomes even more important post-Brexit – could be affected without a favourable deal.

Anything good to come from this?

Yes. The lights will stay on. Hinkley Point B has already had its decommission date extended from 2016 to 2023, which means time is ticking...

Simon Neville is business editor at BuzzFeed UK and is based in London.

Contact Simon Neville at

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