Electricity producer EPZ wants to build two new nuclear power plants next to the existing nuclear power plant in Borssele, Zeeland. The company explained its plans in a hearing for MPs. There, too, opponents of nuclear power were invited. According to them, EPZ‘s proposal is far too expensive and it is better to use renewable energy, such as solar panels and windmills.
The House of Representatives invited supporters and opponents to come and talk about the future of nuclear energy in the Netherlands. According to various parties, including government parties VVD and CDA, nuclear power can play an important role in the future ‘energy mix‘. No CO2 is released and unlike wind and solar energy is adjustable and always available. That is necessary on days when it is cloudy and there is no wind.
To achieve the climate targets, CO2 emissions must be halved. By 2050, the entire Dutch energy supply must be climate-neutral, that’s the goal. That is why politics wants to get rid of gas or coal power stations as far as possible.
Government should assist
Until now, there has been little effort for market participants to build a new nuclear power plant, but according to EPZ, it is possible to have two new plants ready by 2035. Within eight years, a power plant can be built that has three times as much power as the current plant. This is an existing design that is proven safe. Cost: 8 to 10 billion euros. The condition is that the government intervenes and covers the so-called ‘market risk’.
And that is exactly where opponents, such as Greenpeace and the Young Climate Movement, are rejecting the plans. It‘s too expensive, and the taxpayer may have to bleed for it. The cost of generating renewable energy is rapidly falling. Therefore, nuclear power can never withstand wind and sun, is their reasoning.
But the supporters contradict that. Grants will also be required for the construction of mills and solar parks. Moreover, with more renewable energy, you have to face ever higher costs because the electricity grid has to be weighted down. This is necessary because sun and wind cause big peaks. You have also lost more and more money for storing electricity at times when demand is low.
And the fact that nuclear power plants are so expensive to build is, according to the supporters, mainly due to interest rates. Builders pay sky-high interest on the money they borrow, because they are risky projects. As a result, there is no fair comparison with renewable energy, for which interest rates are much lower. According to them, if the government does something to limit interest rates, the construction of a new nuclear power plant will become a lot more profitable.
According to EPZ, Borssele is an ideal place for new nuclear power plants. “It’s where the experience lies and the knowledge,” said Director Carlo Wolters to the MPs. There is plenty of space and cooling water and also the storage of nuclear waste, at COVRA, is nearby.
The current power station, which has been running since 1973, should close by 2033. EPZ wants to keep the plant open for another ten or twenty years, but then compulsory closure must be removed from the law. Minister Wiebes for Economic Affairs has already announced that he has been investigating this.
EPZ also sees opportunities to build a ‘green’ hydrogen factory on the Westerschelde in the future. There, the ‘excess’ electricity from the nuclear power stations and wind farms off the coast (from which the cables come ashore in Borssele) can be converted into hydrogen free of CO2.