Whatever chaos unfolds between today (Thursday) and tomorrow, Boris Johnson is apparently still planning to confirm his Government’s commitment to a new nuclear power station at Sizewell tomorrow. As we all know, Johnson’s default political tactic is to lie, regardless of which particular issue or crisis he’s having to address. For those who’ve made something of a labour of love tracking Johnsonian mendacity, watch out for this latest nuclear nonsense tomorrow – it’s absolutely guaranteed to be brimful of outright lies, half-truths, omissions and rhetorical boosterism of the kind that has made him (probably!) the least trustworthy politician in the world apart from Vladimir Putin.

On this occasion, that’s simply because this whole ‘nuclear renaissance’ story is one great big scam from start to finish. If I could count the ways, anticipating the lying drivel that will be emerging from the BEIS press release …

[1] ‘With Putin on the march, gas prices still surging, and energy security the key priority, new nuclear is a critical response to those pressures.’

Total tosh.

Even if EDF gets planning permission for Sizewell C, and then succeeds in persuading enough gullible investors to pile in, its own CEO has acknowledged that the earliest a new power station at Sizewell will be generating electricity is 2036. Bear in mind that EDF never builds anything on time or on budget, so let’s say first generation somewhere between 2040 and 2045. As a response to the war in Ukraine and today’s crisis in energy costs, this is about as dishonest and dumb a decision as any Government could possibly make.

Not least because EDF is in terrible financial straits. For reasons it’s hard to fathom, our mainstream media (including the BBC, which has sold out to today’s nuclear hype big-time) have paid little attention to this rather startling fact: half of France’s nuclear reactors are now closed down. Back in January, France’s Autorité de Sûreté Nucléaire (ASN) discovered ‘unexpected corrosion problems’ in critical piping systems in one of EDF’s reactors. As a result, 12 further reactors have had to close for investigation. 18 other reactors are closed for regular maintenance or regulatory safety checks. That’s 31 reactors closed – out of a total of 56.

This will cost EDF an absolute minimum of €20bn in lost revenue – for a company already €45bn in debt. Good thing EDF is almost wholly owned by the French Government.

[2] ‘A new nuclear power station represents the best possible value for money for consumers – and this Government really cares about affordability.’

Total tosh.

Nuclear power is the most expensive way of generating electricity anywhere in the world. EDF’s new power station at Hinkley Point is now weighing in at £26bn, with its coming online now delayed until 2027. Further delays and further cost hikes are all but guaranteed.

EDF cannot possibly rely on another horror story of this kind on its balance sheet – and the UK Government cannot possibly cope with the same kind of insane financing mechanism as it did with Hinkley Point. So what we’re getting instead is the Government’s new financing scam – the RAB – Regulated Asset Base.

(This deliberately geeky acronym is designed to keep consumers in the dark. How about a rather catchier alternative: PUPALS – Pay Upfront (to give EDF the capital it needs to build the bloody thing) and then Pay Again Later (for what till still be massively expensive electricity), Suckers!)

Any government that’s sincere about dealing with the cost of living crisis would be thinking about the cheapest sources of generation (see 3 below), not the most expensive, about retrofitting our appallingly leaky housing (see 4 below), rather than totally ignoring this, and ramping up its investments in demand management and the whole green economy (see 5 below).

But this Government is not sincere. It is duplicitous, and deeply callous.

[3] ‘This is the only way we can meet our Net Zero carbon commitment by 2050.’

Total tosh.

As it happens, the Government has actually committed to ensuring Net Zero electricity by 2035 – not by 2050. So a new nuclear reactor at Sizewell, coming online by 2040 at the earliest, is totally irrelevant. And it almost certainly won’t make much of a difference by 2050 either.

If the Government was serious about Net Zero electricity by 2035, it would be following the latest recommendations from RenewableUK.

But this would mean not just doubling down on offshore wind (which, to be fair, it’s doing really well on), but getting onshore wind back in the frame big-time (not least as it’s by far and away the cheapest source of electricity, between a quarter and a third of the cost of nuclear).

But we’ve already established that this is a Prime Minister who really doesn’t give a shit about affordability and fuel poverty, and probably doesn’t care much about climate change either – now that he’s become a born-again enthusiast for hydrocarbons of every kind given the current state of the world. Hence the next massive untruth – by omission, this time.

[4] ‘We’ve already committed around £6bn to help improve the efficiency of people’s homes, and this is an area where we intend to do far more over the next couple of years.’

Total tosh. And this is where the lying becomes most offensive.

– In 2012, around 2 million homes were being retrofitted every year. In 2021, that had shrunk to 72,000 – first, as a consequence of David Cameron’s decision to get rid of ‘all the green crap’, compounded subsequently by both Theresa May and Boris Johnson writing off energy efficiency and retrofits as irrelevant to the Government’s purpose.

– The recent Green Homes Grant scheme was a total fiasco, delivering just 60,000 homes retrofitted before it was axed in March 2021, against the target of 600,000.

– The sole remaining policy initiative, its ECO scheme, is now ‘paused’, after delivering 3 successful phases. Nearly 2.5 million properties have been retrofitted under ECO so far, reducing gas consumption by 20%. So exactly why is it paused?

I could go on. This neglect is so shocking, particularly for those living in homes below Band C on the EPC scale, knowing that come the winter they will yet again be watching the bills rise, quarter by quarter, still cold, still struggling to make ends meet.

The recent Report from the Committee on Climate Change updating on the Government’s performance against its Net Zero target referred several times to ‘its shocking gap in policy for better insulated homes.’

This is also incomprehensible politically. Unlike much of what Johnson’s Government is doing on the hoof, a £19bn commitment to improve the UK’s appalling housing stock was actually part of the 2019 Tory Manifesto. And if there was one thing that might save their rancid bacon in Red Wall seats, it would surely be to follow through on that commitment.

[5] Jobs.

‘Our commitment to Sizewell C will create thousands of new jobs.’

At last – a truth! A palpable truth!

If it ever goes ahead (which, to be honest, seems very unlikely), Sizewell C will create thousands of jobs, just as Hinkley Point C has created thousands of jobs in Somerset. All in one place, of course, putting huge stress on local communities and infrastructure, guaranteeing the inevitable boom and bust conditions that always accompany such megaprojects.

In comparison to that highly speculative boom and bust gamble, the Government could be drawing on literally dozens of authoritative reports (the latest from Cambridge Econometrics, commissioned by the Corporate Leaders’ Group) detailing exactly how many hundreds of thousands of jobs could be created, distributed across the entire country, through investment in a full-on Green New Deal.

In short, this massive Sizewell scam is no more than a tissue of carefully crafted lies and deceptions. The truth behind the Government’s decision is so much simpler, but so much less palatable.

We’re constantly told that the UK’s national security depends on our independent nuclear deterrent. Hence our commitment to upgrade that system (based on Trident submarines) to the tune of tens of billions of pounds over the next two decades.

To ensure we have the skills we need to maintain this capability, and the supply chains that will underpin such a massive investment, the UK also needs a thriving nuclear energy industry.

In other words, this whole, increasingly ridiculous obsession with nuclear power is a rather less obvious way of helping to pay for our notionally independent nuclear deterrent capability. So it really doesn’t matter how much this will cost UK taxpayers over the next few decades – whether that be directly through taxation for defence spending or indirectly via massive subsidies to EDF, Rolls-Royce and the rest of the nuclear energy industry. It has to be done, whatever. So suck it up, suckers.

At least the French people have a President who has spelled that out categorically:

‘To oppose civilian nuclear and military nuclear in terms of production and research does not make sense for a country like ours. Without civilian nuclear, no military nuclear; without military nuclear, no civilian nuclear.’

Might UK citizens expect the same kind of truth-telling of their Prime Minister? On the basis of past performance, that seems highly unlikely.