Chernobyl fears mean UK’s new nuclear plant able to take direct hit from plane
The controversial Hinkley Point C nuclear power station in Somerset, scheduled to begin generating electricity in 2026, is being built with groundbreaking technology that will allow it to "withstand the impact from an aircraft”.
The elaborate safety measures are designed to prevent any possible repeat of the catastrophic Chernobyl explosion — but they come at a high cost.
A new BBC documentary on Hinkley Point C’s construction explains: “Unlike Hinkley Point C, Chernobyl’s reactors were not housed inside containment structures.
“So when Chernobyl’s reactor No.4 exploded, it released a deadly cloud, containing 400 times more radioactive material than the Hiroshima bomb, into the air.
“The accident killed approximately 30 workers and caused radioactive fallout to spread across Europe.
“The catastrophe turned an area larger than Lancashire into a no-go zone that’s still off-limits 35 years later."
Chernobyl's "dark legacy" means new plants like Hinkley Point C are built to incredibly exacting safety standards.
The containment structures are protected by a concrete wall over five feet thick.
“It must be tough enough to withstand the impact from an aircraft,” the architects explain.
“In between the inner and outer walls, an air gap will be pressurised to stop any radioactive material from escaping in the event of an accident."
The price for Hinkley's electricity has been fixed at what industry insiders call a"strike price" of £92 per megawatt-hour, index linked to inflation.
An analyst at investment bank Liberium Capital said the strike price was “economically insane”.
“As far as we can see,” the finance expert wrote in 2013, “this makes Hinkley Point the most expensive power station in the world”
The price of energy from the plant, which has a projected device life of around 60 years, compares unfavourably with new wind and solar generation techniques, which are estimated to come in at around 50% cheaper.
Roy Pomfrey from the Stop Hinkley pressure group, told the BBC: ”This increase is just evidence that EDF has made a complete pig's ear of their calculations from the start.
"If we'd put the money into renewables from the outset, we would already have a return on our investment.
"Renewables are already, at most, half the price of Hinkley, and while Hinkley will only get dearer, the cost of renewable energy will only come down."
'Building Britain's Biggest Nuclear Power Station' is currently on the BBC iPlayer.
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