Nuclear power is failing worldwide, it’s time for Hammond to back away

Across the world investors are turning their backs on the floundering nuclear industry – with good reason

Chancellor Philip Hammond has championed the UK's new nuclear power at Hinkley Point, despite concerns over cost. Photo: Leon Neal/Getty Images

It must be hard being a civil servant. Think about the gyrations they must perform trying to justify the UK nuclear power programme.

They cannot allow the mask of credibility to slip, otherwise government reasoning would be questioned, ministerial reputations would be damaged, and uncomfortable discussions about competence would need to be had. Like acrobats performing without a safety net, civil servants have to hold tight and maintain a look of calm poise, even with disaster looming.

The end of new nuclear power is possible, and even unconditional admirers of the programme, and especially those employed by them, should steel themselves for the worst.

The fact is there just is no good nuclear technology. Private investors are staying well away from nuclear projects, and even countries that manufacture nuclear reactors are turning away from them.

You don’t just need to believe me. Even before the recent news about the sharp drop in prices for offshore wind, Guinness Asset management said “Nuclear does not make sense in the UK”, a markets expert from the Financial Times said “Nobody outside the [nuclear] industry now thinks the future of electricity generation is nuclear fission” and the Telegraph business editor said “Has not the time finally arrived for a fully fledged rethink of the merits of Britain’s nuclear energy strategy?”

There isn’t one new nuclear power consortium that looks problem free. The prospect of nuclear power being an export opportunity for the UK has long since dimmed and countries are following the sparkle of renewables, which are a more fashionable and cost effective pursuit. An analysis of countries’ plans for tackling climate change showed 108 were looking to expand renewables, whilst just nine wanted to expand nuclear power.

Yet despite all this the UK government is seriously considering putting public money into new reactors. This would likely be justified on the basis of lack of private investment being a ‘market failure’. But it’s not. It’s because it’s a rubbish investment.