‘Bigging Up’ Nuclear

The director of one of the companies I used to work for had a technique of getting contracts which is probably not that uncommon. He would get contracts with promises to deliver with ridiculous short time scales for delivery and also undercut the competitors on price. He then renegotiated the contract after a while once the client had already made considerable commitment to the project. The client could, of course, called his bluff and cancel the contract. However, this would not look good for the people who originally negotiated the contract – specifications were often deliberately vague so that our company had reasons why the project would not be delivered on time or to budget. Also if the needed the project completed it meant starting the cycle again with another company who would do the same thing. The investors and banks who had invested lots of money in the company were reluctant to risk losing a substantial about of money so they kept the company going – it is better to owe £1million and £100 to a creditor1. Things did eventually catch up with the company I worked for and it went bust. However, the director set up another company and is probably still plying his trade.

It seems to me that the nuclear industry is doing this on an international scale – lots of promises with very few deliverables. This may explain some of the things that are happening in the industry.

Recently Horizon Nuclear Power has made an agreement with the Office of Nuclear Regulation to start purchasing equipment for a reactor at Wylfa2 in Wales before the design or site has been approved the company themselves state that construction will not start until 2019. This will promise jobs in the UK and abroad which is just another notch in the commitment of the UK and other countries commitment to nuclear power.

Another example is the way that EDF were having meetings about the ‘Sizewell C Supply Chain’3 even though no final decision will be made for many years to come. It is interesting to note that very little is happening on this front at the moment probably because it had very little to do with creating a ‘Sizewell C Supply Chain’. Getting ‘business ready’ for the ‘exciting’ prospect on new nuclear build is just a PR stunt which was useful at the time the nuclear industry was trying to get national and local government support for new build which, unfortunately, has worked.

Spending money getting businesses to commit to nuclear is much more effective than spending that money on advertising. Businesses will then be lobbying government for a pro-nuclear stance. Academies will be set up to train the workers necessary, money will be ploughed into research, planning law is changed, grants and support will be given to companies to enter the ‘supply chain’ . This is not just in the UK but also in China, Japan and France where the nuclear industry needs to get continuing support for nuclear power.

‘Pandora’s Promise’ will probably fail to deliver what we are told. However, it will deliver well paid careers of those who work in the industry and many of those who support it.

1 It is also interesting to note that the company did have a ‘core’ business which did actually produce a profit. However, this was largely ignored by investors and the managing director who were only interested in the big, ‘exciting’ projects.

2 Horizon prepares for Wylfa equipment purchases, World Nuclear News, 26 November 2014 (http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/NN-Horizon-prepares-for-Wylfa-equipment-purchases-2611144.html)

3 Suffolk Chamber’s Sizewell C Supply Chain Portal, EDF, (https://sizewellc.glooberry.com/default.aspx)


3 Responses to “‘Bigging Up’ Nuclear”

  • robertok06 says:


    “lots of promises with very few deliverables”

    For once you are right, Pete:


    … just give a look at which technology goes up and down erratically, unpredictably, and which one is as predictable as… a reactor’s output.
    When “deliverables” is production of electricity nuclear is there, always… wind or PV can be counted upon when “cashing feed-in incentives” is the deliverable, for that there’s no question about it. As a consequence, the cost of the kWh for households is bound to go up, but that’s just a detail, right?

    Once again, data fail to support your hypothesis.


    P.S.: another example? Look who’s heading the electricity production over there, in sunny and windy Spain: http://www.ree.es/en/balance-diario/peninsula/2015/07/10

    • Pete says:

      Wind and solar are not unpredictable – we can predict the weather a couple of hours in advance very well. IF there is not enough then other power plants can be started. Wind and solar are very reliable – partly because they are made up of many smaller units. Nuclear and large coal/gas plants break down and therefore much more ‘spinning reserve’ is needed.

      • nuclear 29,905GWh
      • wind 28,480GWh
      • Solar PV 4,342GWh
      • Solar Thermal 2,969GWh
      • Total wind and solar is therefore 35,791GWh

      So ‘sunny and windy Spain’ get most of their electricity from sun and wind. More importantly the last nuclear reactor in Spain came online in 1988. Three are scheduled to close in 2020, another three in 2021 and the final one in 2024 – they are phasing out nuclear nearly as fast as Germany. There are none under construction and none planned.
      Wind and solar are still growing, although admittedly at a slower rate than previously. However, they will definitely increase their lead over nuclear. Nuclear in Spain is dying as it is in most other countries.

  • emma says:

    A very good clear explanation – thanks Pete!

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