How to spend it

In these times of austerity, governments are going out of their way to keep the lights on. Or they can splash all their cash at once.

It’s essentially to prevent the latter that Greenpeace in March launched an online petition against the Hinkley Point project, which involves the building of two last-generation reactors in the UK’s Somerset. The plant would be “the most expensive object on Earth”, the NGO says.

More or Less, a BBC Radio 4 podcast, last month looked into this claim. Financing costs aside, French power group EDF budgets Hinkley Point at about £18 billion ($26 billion; €23 billion). That would be enough to buy you 20 Burj Khalifas (a Dubai skyscraper and the tallest structure in the world, at £1 billion).

You could also spend that kind of money on four Hadron Colliders – a 27km-long particle accelerator, at about £4 billion – or pay four times for the eastern replacement span of San Francisco’s Oakland Bay Bridge (up to £5 billion).
Even refurbishing the Grand Mosque in Mecca would leave you with some pocket money (the bill is expected to add up to £16 billion). The Giza pyramids? A mere £1 billion, the podcast says.

Hong Kong International Airport, at £20 billion in today’s money, does better than Hinkley C. Yet look higher up and you find the real winner: the International Space Station, at €100 billion. Although obviously, it’s no longer on Earth.