At an estimated $35bn lifetime cost, the new Hinkley C nuclear power station will be more expensive than any other civil engineering project on planet Earth, reports the BBC. The astronomical costs are disputed, but even the government's own figures put it at $25bn.
For that sum you could build a small forest of Burj Khalifas – the world's tallest building, in Dubai, cost a piffling £1bn ($1.5bn). You could also knock up more than 70 miles of particle accelerator. The 17-mile-long Large Hadron Collider, built under the border between France and Switzerland to unlock the secrets of the universe, cost a mere £4bn ($5.8bn). The most expensive bridge ever constructed is the eastern replacement span of the Oakland Bay Bridge in San Francisco, designed to withstand the strongest earthquake seismologists would expect within the next 1,500 years. That cost about £4.5bn ($6.5bn).
Even the Great Pyramid would cost less than a billion to make, now, and require only a few hundred workers. But there is one man-made object pricier than a new nuclear power station in a western democracy: the international space station, alleged to have cost more than $100bn.
The deal seems strangely shady for something so obviously controversial: driven by political wrangling, with building costs offset to France and the project financed by China in return for a promise that the UK will pay twice the going rate for the electricity — so expensive that onshore wind farms are cheaper. Even environmentalists OK with nuclear think the idea of a single vast plant powering an entire region is an outdated nightmare in the making.
Meanwhile, much smaller plants in France and Finland will apparently be completed at a fraction of the cost — but at direct taxpayer expense. Whatever you might say about the project or nuclear power, it's a reminder of how comically bad the British are at planning anything that takes more than few years to complete.