BBC Two’s latest docuseries, Building Britain's Biggest Nuclear Power Station, which airs on 2 June at 9pm, will investigate the process of building the £22bn Hinkley Point C nuclear station in Somerset.
The first nuclear power station to be built in the UK for 20 years, Hinkley Point C promises to provide low-carbon electricity for around six million homes, create thousands of jobs and bring lasting benefits to the UK economy, according to its project lead, French energy company EDF.
However, the project, which is due to be completed in 2026 and will cover an area the size of 250 football pitches, has come under fire from critics who are concerned about the amount of money the government is investing in it.
So where is Hinkley Point C, why is it controversial, and how much money will it cost?
Where is Hinkley Point C?
The 3.2GW Hinkley Point C nuclear power plant is located on Somerset’s north coast, at Bridgewater Bay.
Its name, ‘Point C’, is in relation to the site's two other nuclear reactors which sit adjacent from the new site, referred to as points A and B.
The point C nuclear power plant is not yet fully operational, and is expected to be running at full capacity by 2023.
It received a development consent order from the UK Government in March 2013 and it was announced in 2014 that the plant was to cost around £16bn to build.
What is Hinkley Point C?
The power station will contain two reactors and will store all of its waste on-site, using two generators while offsetting nine million tonnes of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere per year. This equates to around 600 million tonnes of offset carbon dioxide over its 60-year lifespan.
The power generated will be enough to meet the needs of nearly six million homes.
Each year, it should produce approximately seven percent of the UK’s estimated electricity demands, based on approximations for the 2020s.
Why is it controversial?
The European Commission is currently conducting an investigation into the UK government’s subsidy for the plant.
The nuclear plant has been awarded state aid provided by the government in the form of a subsidy of £92.50 for every megawatt hour (MWh) produced for a period of 35 years.
The government entered into a complex financial agreement with EDF, the energy giant that is 83 percent owned by the French government, and China General Nuclear Power Group (CGN), a state-run Chinese energy company.
The plant is predicted to produce approximately 26 TWh of electricity per year, which equates to 26,000,0000 MWhs.
This means it will produce 910,000,000 MWhs over 35 years, and so the government would have to provide the plant with tens of billions of pounds.
The deal is thought to favour the private companies building the plant and is ludicrously favourable to EDF and CGN.
Professor Steve Thomas, who works on energy policy at the University of Greenwich, told the Guardian it was “a dreadful deal, laughable”,
How has it impacted the local community?
As well as working towards powering homes, the project has also brought employment and training to the local community.
So far, 700 apprentices have been trained and around 300 more will have completed their apprenticeship by the time the site is completed.
The apprentices are part of over 14,000 trained via schemes to work at the plant, at least a third of employees will be local.
The new power station is expected to bring approximately 25,000 jobs to Somerset. The plant has been an employer of the area for generations. Point A was built in 1957 and Point B was completed 45 years ago.
Around 64 per cent of the construction will also be contracted out to UK wide companies.
Where can I watch ‘Building Britain's Biggest Nuclear Power Station’?
Building Britain's Biggest Nuclear Power Station’ will run for four episodes, beginning on BBC Two at 9pm on 2 June.
The programme will provide behind-the-scenes footage, following the construction workers on the site, who are under pressure to keep the mammoth project on track.
It will show how staff are building the two nuclear reactors, excavating 3.5km cooling water tunnels out under the Bristol Channel and constructing the critical airtight inner steel lining, designed to contain any radioactive material in the unlikely event of a meltdown.
Each episode will then air on Wednesdays at 9pm for four successive weeks. You can also watch each episode after it airs, on BBC iPlayer.