Open Letter Opposing Hinkley Point C Going Ahead Is Wrong As UK Will Be Using Gas And Nuclear For A Very Long Time Says GMB
We know that civil nuclear power in the UK has a good safety record as we organise it says GMB.
GMB, the union for energy workers, responded to an open letter to GMB in the Ecologist in response to GMB call for the construction of Hinkley Point C new nuclear power station to go ahead as there is no requirement to await the outcome of the Austrian legal challenge. See notes to editors for copy of the open letter dated 15th July from David Elliott, Ian Fairlie, Jonathon Porritt et al and GMB press release dated 7th July.
Gary Smith, GMB National Secretary for energy in his response, said “Ian, Thanks for the letter. I will resist the temptation of a lengthy reply. I am afraid you are wrong on a whole number of levels.
If the Austrians are successful and they won't be, they will continue to be surrounded by ageing Soviet style reactors. I get their concern but their solution, trying to stop new modern reactors being built which could replace the old Soviet kit is just plain daft. Civil nuclear power in the UK has a good safety record. We know as we organise it.
The truth is there are very few jobs for working class people in renewables and those that do exist are invariably not unionised. We did organise a chunk of the sector before solar was cut and we are the only union with national negotiating rights in the insulation sector. The jobs facts are an inconvenient truth.
I am writing tomorrow to the government on the UK supply chain and offshore wind. Maybe you would be better putting energy into attacking the Tories rather than sending me letters like this that frankly are erroneous.
We will be using gas and nuclear for a very long time in the UK.”
Contact: Gary Smith 07710 618909 or Phil Whitehurst 07966 338810 or Kathleen Walker Shaw 07841 181549 or GMB press office 079212 89880 or 07974 251 823
Notes to editors
1 Copy of open letter to GMB published in the Ecologist from David Elliott, Ian Fairlie, Jonathon Porritt et al in response to GMB press release below.
GMB - as Hinkley C collapses, it's time to get over nuclear!
15th July 2015
The GMB trade union has called on the UK government to press ahead with the Hinkley Point C power station despite legal challenges and serious technical failures. In this Open Letter, David Elliott, Ian Fairlie, Jonathon Porritt and colleagues tell the union that its members' interests lie in our renewable future, not the nuclear past.
We feel sorry for those who lose their jobs but your members would be better served by GMB joining union-academic initiatives which seek to steer unions towards the undoubted jobs bonanza among renewables.
Dear Gary Smith (GMB National Secretary for Energy),
The undersigned are scientists, academics and energy policy analysts who read with concern your Press Release objecting to the Austrian Government's appeal against the UK Government's proposed subsidies to the planned Hinkley Point C (HPC) nuclear station. Your statement contains several misconceptions, unsupported assertions and inaccuracies.
Let's start with your view that HPC is "much needed". It isn't: UK electricity demand is steadily declining. In fact it has declined 14% since 2000, while GDP has increased 18% in the same period.
It's true that some coal-fired stations will be closing over the next few years, some of which may need replacing by quick-to-build gas-fired stations and an array of renewable sources. But there's no way new nuclear could make any contribution in the next decade.
Maybe you should seek another legal opinion?
Second, you allege the Austrian appeal is "almost certainly doomed to fail". The opposite is the case: the Austrian Government has retained a team of about a dozen European lawyers - experts in EC Competition Law.
They have been assessing this case since November last year and consider the appeal to be very robust and likely to succeed: the EC's decision flies in the face of several European Directives, Policy statements, and previous EC decisions. And it is not just Austria: Luxembourg will be joining shortly, and several European renewable energy utilities also launched their appeal today.
You state Austria's appeal is "more about playing to a domestic audience rather than a serious challenge to stop new nuclear in the UK." On the contrary, Austrian Government's press statement of July 6 is clearly serious in opposing nuclear - not just in the UK but in the rest of Europe.
As the Austrian Chancellor stated: "Nuclear power plants are dangerous, expensive, and compared with the technologies of the future like wind and solar energy, are neither economically nor ecologically competitive."
Technical failures, reluctant investors
But it's not just the Austrian appeal. Hinkley suffers from a phalanx of financial and technical problems as well. The financial, legal and technical situations at the two EPRs under construction in Finland and France are simply disastrous.
In addition, AREVA is effectively bankrupt and EDF is €34 billion in debt: their share prices have plummeted to near zero and their bonds have junk status. See the many technical and regulatory problems facing Hinkley C.
But the acid test is the actions of Areva and EDF. EDF has halted site preparation at Hinkley C, dismissed the workers and closed its offices there. And Areva recently decided to test to destruction a steel pressure vessel dome already constructed and destined for Hinkley.
This means a new dome would have to be recast adding another two to three years and even more uncertainty to the project. In reality, it's an implicit acknowledgement by Areva that Hinkley C is unlikely to be built. It looks as if this is less a case of the UK deciding to abandon HPC - and more a case of it being unable to be built at all.
You state: "Of course the anti-nuclear lobby in the UK will welcome the challenge hoping it will help their policy of trying to 'suffocate' investment." But there isn't an anti-nuclear 'lobby' in the UK, unlike the massive pro-nuclear lobby. Your notion that several local groups stopped nuclear investment is far-fetched.
What is true is that UK banks, international funding agencies, other UK energy companies, and foreign governments (apart perhaps from China) have all steered well clear of the HPC project, but that's because in their view new nuclear is grossly uneconomic. As regards the possible involvement of China, many independent observers, including yourselves, have objected to the inherent dangers here.
Don't nail your members' future to a sinking ship
Nuclear is in decline not just in the UK but in the rest of the world. It's shedding employment by the cartload, eg the recent loss of a quarter of Magnox Electric jobs. We feel sorry for those who lose their jobs but your members would be better served by GMB joining union-academic initiatives which seek to steer unions towards the undoubted jobs bonanza among the renewables.
Your union should also look at Germany whose non-nuclear energy policies have resulted in 440,000 direct jobs in its burgeoning renewable energy (RE) industries. And there are about 7.7 million RE jobs worldwide. It's about time the unions looked to the future than the past on energy policy, and the Labour Party too.
We are former union officials, or have worked closely with unions, or are broadly sympathetic to the aims of unions and their members.
Dr David Elliott, Emeritus Professor, Open University
Dr Ian Fairlie, Independent Consultant
Jonathon Porritt, Founder Director, Forum for the Future: Chair, Sustainable Development Commission (2000-2009): Chancellor, Keele University
Ian Ralls, Joint Co-ordinator, Friends of the Earth Nuclear Network
Peter Roche, Edinburgh Energy & Environment Consultancy
Alan Simpson, Energy Policy Advisor: former Labour MP (1992-2010)
Peter Wilkinson, Director, Wilkinson Environmental Consulting.
2 copy of GMB press release dated 7th July 2015
AUSTRIAN LEGAL CHALLENGE TO HINKLEY POINT C IS DOOMED TO FAIL AND WILL NOT STOP THIS MUCH NEEDED POWER STATION BEING BUILT SAYS GMB
UK Government can co-join the case and throw their weight behind the case for state aid and we call on them to do so says GMB
GMB, the union for nuclear workers, commented on the appeal lodged by Austria on 6th July at the European Court of Justice against the European Commission over its approval of the UK government’s plan for EDF to go ahead with Hinkley Point C.
Gary Smith, National Secretary for Energy, said "The Austrian legal challenge is almost certainly doomed to fail and will not stop this much needed power station being built.
This challenge is more about playing to a domestic audience rather than a serious challenge to stop new nuclear in the UK. GMB appreciate that Austria’s has historically been opposed to nuclear power. Following Chernobyl we understand that there were fears about other then Eastern Bloc reactors close to their border, such as Temelin and Dukovany in the Czech Republic, Bohunice in Slovakia and Paks in Hungary.
Of course the anti-nuclear lobby in the UK will welcome the challenge hoping it will help their policy of trying to "suffocate" investment.
The UK government should pledge to join with the European Commission to see off the legal challenge. We understand they could co-join the case and throw their weight behind the case for state aid and we call on them to do so.
Billions of pounds of investment in jobs and the future of low carbon electricity is at stake. We need to get on with the construction of this station as there is no requirement to await the outcome of the case.”