Socialist Worker

Theresa May delays Hinkley Point nuclear deal as Tory splits fail to heal

by Dave Sewell
Issue No. 2515

Part of the Hinkley Point site

Part of the Hinkley Point site (Pic: Geograph)


A last-minute U-turn on a major infrastructure deal last week dashed any hopes that prime minister Theresa May’s coronation would halt the turmoil in the Tory Party.

The Tory government delayed giving the go-ahead to a new nuclear plant at Hinkley Point in Somerset.

The plant is to be built by French state-owned energy firm EDF, financed by Chinese state-owned energy firms and generously subsidised by the British state.

The government pledges to pay EDF a “strike price” of £92.50 a megawatt hour for electricity—twice the going rate—for 35 years.

EDF’s board of directors finally endorsed the plan last Thursday. That was meant to be the final hurdle.

Days earlier, chancellor Philip Hammond had reiterated that the project was to go ahead.

Proposals

But the prime minister’s office pulled a high-profile media event and said it would put the proposals under review until the autumn.

EDF boss Jean-Bernard Levy only found out through the internet.

Lord O’Neill, the Treasury minister for infrastructure investment and relations with China, wasn’t told either and could now quit.

Labour slammed the “chaos” and the GMB union called it “bewildering and bonkers”.

It’s a mistake for unions to line up behind the nuclear industry and this plant.

It is inherently dangerous and generates waste that remains deadly for millennia.

Socialist Worker is against the project going ahead.

Claims that it is good for the climate do not take into account the emissions associated with construction, waste and decommissioning.

Some tried to turn the fiasco against Labour’s leadership.

Expected

Rachel Garrick, a leading member of Labour left group Momentum in Kent, quit over Corbyn’s “cheap” and “facile” criticism of the expected deal. Corbyn had accused May of “giving a blank cheque to EDF for a power station that doesn’t work”.

Labour’s position is to have its cake and eat it. It calls for the project to go ahead as long as the eye-watering cost of up to £30 billion is brought down.

Subsidies

This is an outrageous giveaway. But nuclear power requires large up-front investment and can only make a profit through huge subsidies.

EDF risks bankruptcy as the cost of decommissioning France’s nuclear fleet looms closer. Gerard Magnin last week became the second EDF executive to resign over the Hinckley Point project.

Lib Dem former coalition ministers now say May was wary all along. Her senior aide Nick Timothy speculates that it could give Chinese firms power “to shut down Britain’s energy production at will”.

The delay could be a risky attempt to gain leverage with France over Brexit negotiations, or with China over the costs of future plants.

This also follows a delay to the long-awaited decision on London airport expansion in June. The Tories have revealed that they’re still too divided to deliver the government the bosses demand.


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