Hinkley Point C: The path to nuclear

The Hinkley C plant will be built near Bridgwater. Credit: Tim Ireland/PA Wire

HISTORY

Building work for the first nuclear reactor at Hinkley Point, aptly named 'Hinkley A' started in 1957.

Hinkley A was followed by Hinkley B - but plans for a third reactor were dropped in the 1990s, as it was deemed 'uneconomic' after the electricity power industry was privatised and government money was no longer available.

COST

That has now changed. The chapter to build that third power plant, Hinkley C, was reopened after the government decided to offer private investors a guaranteed price of 9.25 pence per megawatt hour.

An attractive offer, given that the wholesale price of electricity in the UK last year was £48 megawatts/hour.

That price will rise with inflation during the construction period and for 35 years following that the plant produces electricity. And the wholesale price of electricity in the UK was £48/megawatt hour.

Some analysts suggest the price is too high, but the deal has attracted foreign investment from China.

The European Commission has been considering whether this promise of payment is a government subsidy and whether it breaches EU rules.

CONSTRUCTION

The project itself is vast.

4.2 million tons of earth is being moved to create platforms - the equivalent of 1300 Olympic sized swimming pools.

The site will have it's own concrete factory producing 1 million cubic metres of concrete, enough to fill Twickenham rugby stadium to roof level.

5,600 people will work at the site during the busiest period of construction, overall 25,000 separate jobs will be created.

To house them an accommodation campus is being built on site, and another is being constructed in Bridgwater.

Roads and infrastructure, including a jetty, are being built for the project.

POLITICS

The road to Hinkley hasn't been clear.

There's been a vociferous campaign against Hinkley C by protesters worried about the risk from nuclear energy. They cite the Tsunami disaster in Fukishima in Japan, the explosion at Chernobyl in the Ukraine where, 28 years after the event there is a 1000 square mile exclusion zone and the long term problems of safe disposal of radioactive nuclear waste.

The threat of a terrorist strike is also a concern. EDF say the plant will be able to withstand a hit from a jumbo jet and say a tidal surge or 'incredible event' like a Tsunami is fully catered for at Hinkley C.

They say the new pressurised water reactors at Hinkley are much safer than previous designs.