The deal is still to be signed, but already some extraordinary claims are being made about Hinkley Point in Somerset, which will be the first nuclear plant to be built in the UK since 1995.

Here's chancellor George Osborne's take: "If it wasn't Chinese investment or French investment, it would have to be the British taxpayer. I would rather British taxpayers were spending their money on our schools and hospitals and those things, and let's get the rest of the world investing in our energy."

Put like that, you might assume UK taxpayers have hit the jackpot, that EDF of France and China General Nuclear Power Corporation (CGNPC) will bear all the financial risks and that energy bills in the UK are bound to fall sometime around 2020 as cheap nuclear energy comes on stream.

Forget it. The UK will be agreeing to buy electricity from Hinkley Point for 35-40 years at £93 per megawatt hour or thereabouts, according to the whisper from Westminster.

That is roughly twice the current market rate for electricity, and far in excess of the £40 per megawatt hour that was airily waved around by the Department of Energy only half a decade ago.

Nuclear power, it seems, can only be bought at a cost roughly equivalent to on-shore wind, complete with its subsidies to landowners. Maybe that is the price that has to be paid for secure low-carbon supplies, but at current energy prices, the first impact of Hinkley Point will be to add to consumers' bills, just as wind does today.

"In the long term," the chancellor continued, new nuclear should lead to "lower and more stable energy bills."

The key phrase there is "long term". The claim rests on the assumption that the costs of other sources of energy will continue to rise and make £93 appear a bargain sometime in the future. That assumption may or may not prove correct – but coming from a government that supposedly thinks fracking will revolutionise the energy market, it's a strange argument to hear.

But is £93 the real cost anyway? The devil will be in the detail of this contract – specifically, in the indexation formula for the strike price. If Hinkley Point's entire output is tied to the rate of inflation for 40 years, we could be staring at a truly astronomical cost by the end of the contract.

"The government surely can't be that dumb," comments one City analyst. One assumes not. But what proportion of Hinkley Point's operating costs and uranium purchases will inflate automatically? The answer is critical to any assessment of value for money.

So, too, is the size of the loan guarantees given to EDF and the Chinese. If they amount to 70% of the debt raised to fund the £14bn construction costs of two reactors, the UK taxpayer is firmly on the hook. And, given that EDF's recent construction experience in France is massive cost over-runs, is the UK backstopping that risk as well?

The Department of Energy and Climate Change refuses to comment until the talks are completed, but Steve Thomas, professor of energy policy at the University of Greenwich, has a blunt assessment of where negotiating power lies: EDF has the government "over a barrel" and the contract may be an "absolute disaster" for taxpayers.

Strictly speaking, judgment must be reserved until the contract is signed and published. But Osborne's Chinese spin should make us nervous.

How is it meant to be good news that, among all the possible sources of capital to partner EDF at Hinkley Point, we have ended up with a company controlled by the Chinese Communist party?

Remember the history here. Centrica, the UK's supposed energy champion, dropped out of the EDF-led consortium, preferring to take a £200m hit than continue down a nuclear path where the costs and risks only ever seem to increase.

In the face of homegrown scepticism, guarantees from the UK taxpayer have now persuaded Beijing to climb aboard. This does not sound like a triumph in the making. It sounds instead like the latest instalment in the 30-year saga of the UK's shambolic and short-termist energy policy.

Cable's defence of Royal Mail price doesn't wash

It's onwards and upwards for Royal Mail's shares. A price of 500p was passed on Friday, completing a 50% advance from the flotation price of 330p a week ago. Still, at least business secretary Vince Cable is now trying to explain why the government sold at a price that looks a gross under-valuation. One of his arguments is that the Communication Workers Union soured sentiment among City investors by calling a strike ballot.

Sorry, but this doesn't wash for a couple of reasons. First, as Cable's letter to the business select committee states, Royal Mail's management concluded "in the second half of August" that a ballot was likely.

So, if the government really deemed the threat of a strike to be a game-changer, it could have delayed a float that was finally announced only on 12 September. After all, the public commitment at the time was only to complete the privatisation by spring 2014.

Second, City investors were bound to jump on any excuse to lobby for low pricing. Behind the scenes though, few investors regard strike action, which has now been called, as a life or death struggle for Royal Mail. The calculation remains that the CWU's hand is weak since the offer of a pay rise of 8.6% over three years will look good in the eyes of, say, NHS nurses.

The business select committee, when it cross-examines Cable and government adviser Lazard, should stick to the heart of the matter: demand for shares from institutions was strong at 330p, so how hard did the government push for a higher price to protect the public purse?

An assessment "of where demand would taper off" was made, Cable says, adding: "A number of the key long-only accounts expressed concern over the possibility that the top of the range might be revised above 330p."

Well, yes, the institutions would say that, wouldn't they? The job of Lazard and bookrunners Goldman and UBS was to establish whether this "concern" was bluster. The MPs should keep pressing.

Is tax too taxing for Barclays' finance director?

If you are the group finance director of a major bank, filing your tax return ought to be a doddle – a minor chore to be completed in a couple of hours on a wet Sunday evening.

So why does Tushar Morzaria, Barclays' new finance director, need an annual allowance of £25,000 to cover the cost of help in filing his return?

The entitlement was a curious detail in Morzaria's contract revealed on these pages this week.

OK, the new recruit is coming from the US, which may complicate his employment status. But for £25k, you could hire a senior partner in a leading accountancy firm for a few days. Can it be that complicated?

The explanation, apparently, is that the arrangement is par for the course among international companies whose executives have to work in more than one country. The employer doesn't want the embarrassment of a big cheese failing to pay the right amount of tax.

The good news for Barclays shareholders is that the allowance lasts for only three years. After that, the bank's top numbers man will have to conquer HMRC's website all by himself.

No, Ahrendts is not 'transitioning'

Sound advice from Terry Smith in his latest dispatch to investors in his Fundsmith fund: be wary of management gobbledygook, because it usually represents "a combination of woolly thinking and a desire to disguise or divert attention from a problem".

He cites the example of US retailer Walmart, which used the term "leverage" 80 times in a recent results presentation.

One could offer other examples. Try the headline on this week's announcement from Burberry: "Angela Ahrendts transitions from Burberry." No, Ahrendts is not transitioning – she has quit to join Apple.

"This CEO transition is a natural progression," continued chairman Sir John Peace. He sounds overly anxious to claim that the promotion of chief designer Christopher Bailey, who will retain his old job as well as succeeding Ahrendts, represents business as usual. No wonder Burberry investors are alarmed.


Nils Pratley

The GuardianTramp

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