On 19 July 2011 the Government “designated” or approved six National Policy Statements for Energy Infrastructure including one on Nuclear Generation. This listed eight sites in England and Wales as suitable for the deployment of new nuclear reactors. Since then, thirteen new nuclear reactors have been proposed at six of those sites. These are:
|Capacity||Annual output (90% load factor)||Investment Decision||Expected Opening Date|
|Hinkley Point C2 x EPRs||3.2GW||25TWh||Sept 2016||2025|
|Sizewell C2 x EPRs||3.2GW||25TWh||2027 – 2028|
|Wylfa Newydd2 x ABWRs||2.7GW||21TWh||2018||2024|
|Oldbury2 x ABWRs||2.7GW||21TWh||2027|
|Moorside3 x AP1000s||3.4GW||27TWh||End of 2018||2024 – 2026.|
|Bradwell2 x Hualong One||2.3GW||18TWh||After 2022||?|
Work has already started at Hinkley Point C. In March 2017 concrete pouring started on the first permanent structures: an 8km network of tunnels that will carry piping and cables around the site. The Guardian says the site looks like Mordor, from Lord of the Rings, a scarred landscape and hive of activity driven with a single purpose: ensuring these reactors do not repeat the delays and overspends at Flamanville and Olkiluoto. Vincent de Rivaz, head of EDF in the UK, says work is on schedule. Yet as one set of hurdles is cleared, another is looming. French nuclear regulators are investigating potential safety problems with steel components destined for Hinkley from a foundry suspected of falsifying quality-assurance documents. The probe involves Areva, the French nuclear reactor manufacturer and close partner of EDF, and has already caused temporary shutdowns of several existing reactors in France to check for faults. Only the hopelessly naive would believe EDF’s claims that Hinkley will start generating electricity by 2025, says Geoff Ho, writing in The Express. The likelihood of it being delivered on time and on budget is remote. Unions are already threatening to go on strike over bonus payments, and there are the unresolved safety concerns about the EPR design Given Britain’s less than glorious history of infrastructure projects being delivered late and massively over budget, he cannot see Hinkley Point C bucking the trend.
EDF Energy is planning to build two European Pressurised Water Reactors (EPRs). A public inquiry was held in 2012. The Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change at the time, Ed Davey, granted planning consent to EDF Energy on 19th March 2013. Negotiations over the guaranteed price EDF hopes to receive for electricity from the planned new reactors at Hinkley continued throughout 2013, and were finally agreed in October 2013. EDF Energy will be guaranteed £92.50 for each megawatt hour (MWh) (at 2012 prices) of electricity generated for 35 years, ensuring billions of pounds for the French, mostly state-owned company. The difference between the wholesale cost and this minimum price agreed will be funded by a levy on household energy bills. If EDF also goes ahead with plans to build two more reactors at a second site at Sizewell in Suffolk, the subsidy will be lowered to £89.50 (See nuClear News No.56 November 2013).
The European Commission launched a full investigation into whether Britain was providing up to £17bn of potentially illegal public guarantees to the proposed Hinkley Point C nuclear power station (See nuClear News No.58 January 2014). In October 2014 the Commission agreed to allow the UK to subsidise the two reactors (see nuClear News No.68 November 2014). In July 2015 the Austrian Government filed a legal challenge against the European Commission’s decision to allow the UK Goverment to subsidise Hinkley. An alliance of 10 German and Austrian renewable energy suppliers, including Greenpeace Energy, has also decided to take legal action against the state aid awarded to Hinkley (see nuClear News No.76 August 2015).
Centrica, the British Gas parent company, originally had an option to take a 20% stake in the two nuclear projects, but pulled out in February 2013 citing spiralling costs and delays. In October 2015 a strategic investment agreement was signed committing China General Nuclear Corporation (CGN) to take 33.5% of the project, and EDF initially being responsible for 66.5%, with a view to selling this down to near 50%. CGN’s holding will be through its new company, General Nuclear International. In December 2016 the Chinese coal mining company Wintime Energy agreed to take about 2% of the project, through CGN. The EDF-CGN joint venture is NNB Generation Company Limited, which holds the site licence issued in 2012.
The Final Investment Decision for Hinkley Point C was repeatedly postponed, but was finally agreed in September 2016. These reactors which were originally expected to be generating electricity in time for Christmas 2017 (see nuClear News No.77 September 2015).
EDF issued three profit warnings in 2016 following a string of unplanned nuclear plant shutdowns. EDF is contending with a government-directed restructuring of the French nuclear industry, and is being pushed by the French state, its controlling shareholder, to rescue reactor builder Areva by taking over the part of its struggling business that is behind EPR technology. The EPR reactor that EDF is building at Flamanville in France is already six years late and €7.2bn over budget. A large drop in French nuclear output over the winter due to safety inspections on 18 of its French reactors, at the request of the country’s nuclear regulator ASN, was partly to blame for a sharp drop in profits. Furthermore, the company is saddled with debt and needs to spend €55bn upgrading its existing reactors in France.
For more information see the Stop Hinkley Campaign website.
EDF Energy plans to build two further EPR reactors at Sizewell, in Suffolk. EDF and CGN agreed in October 2015 to develop the Sizewell C project to the point where a final investment decision can be made, with a view to building and operating two EPR reactors there. During this development phase, EDF will take an 80% share while CGN will take a 20% share.
EDF Energy launched its stage2 public consultation on the proposals at the end of 2016. The consultation closed on 3 February 2017. Community leaders who met to discuss the proposals agreed that the developers need to offer a better deal for Suffolk. Nearly 80 town and parish representatives along with members of the Joint Local Authority Group (JLAG) concluded that EDF Energy’s stage two consultation for Sizewell C failed to make enough progress from its proposals four years earlier. The key concerns raised at the summit focused on the proposed accommodation campus, whose location near Therberton is feared to lack the required infrastructure to transport up to 2,400 workers to and from the construction site. The summit also heard that EDF’s proposals to have 35 metre high “spoil heaps” would have a significant impact on those living and visiting the area and it was not yet clear what mitigation would be provided. Transport routes for construction material were also said to be unclear, with EDF urged to provide more detail about how much would be brought in by road, sea and rail.
For more information on responses to the Stage 2 consultation see nuClear News No.92 “Sizewell C – you’ve got to be kidding!”
Originally EDF’s intention was to have only 2 stages of consultation before applying to build the new reactors, but we now learn there will be a stage 3 consultation. The Stage 2 consultation appears to have been called simply because EDF felt it needed to do something because it had been so long since the first one. After the third stage consultation an application has to be made to the Planning Inspectorate (PI). The PI then sets a timetable for an examination process, which will include further opportunities for communities to get involved and have their say through written submissions and, probably, ‘open floor’ hearings. But the need for a nuclear power station cannot be questioned at this inquiry.
Hitachi Ltd has now bought the Horizon nuclear project for about £700m from its former German owners – Eon and RWE – who decided to put the joint venture up for sale in March 2012. Investing billions in new reactors would have forced a credit-rating downgrade on RWE, said Volker Beckers, CEO at RWE npower in May 2012 and Tony Cocker, CEO of E.ON UK said E.ON lacks the “financial firepower”.
Horizon says it wants to build two Advanced Boiling Water Reactors (ABWRs) at Wylfa. Major on-site work is not expected to begin until 2018, and first nuclear construction around 2019. The company has yet to gain approval from the regulator for its reactor design. (See ABWRs – one of the least reliable reactors in the world nuClear News No.77 September 2015.) The Office for Nuclear Regulation and the Environment Agency began assessing Hitachi-GE Nuclear Energy’s UK Advanced Boiling Water Reactor (UK ABWR) in January 2014. The plan at the moment is to complete this Generic Design Assessment (GDA) by the end of 2017.
The first pre-application consultation for Wylfa Newydd ran from 29th September 2014 to 8th December 2014. The Nuclear Free Local Authorities (NFLA) response to this consultation is available here. Between 31 August and 25 October 2016 held a second stage pre application consultation. The NFLA response is available here. Horizon Nuclear has now announced its intention to hold a third stage pre-application consultation on its updated plans for Wylfa Newydd between Wednesday 24 May and Thursday 22 June 2017.
In April 2017 Horizon Nuclear Power Wylfa Ltd applied to the ONR for a site licence for Wylfa Newydd. This is expected to take 19 months to process and establish “the applicant’s organisation capability, governance arrangements and competence to be a nuclear site-licence holder.” It must “demonstrate it is capable and competent to install, operate and decommission a nuclear facility. If licensed, Horizon will then be regulated by the ONR for the full lifecycle of the site from construction to decommissioning.” Horizon expects to submit an application for a development consent order to the Planning Inspectorate later in 2017. Horizon said it “aims to receive all the necessary permissions by the end of 2018.”
Horizon says it has yet to make decisions on the timescales, the number of generating units and the arrangement of the Oldbury site. It is possible that additional land may be required. Construction is not expected to begin at Oldbury until the late 2020s or early 2030s.
NuGen is a nuclear company which is currently planning to build a new nuclear power station of up to 3.6 GW at a site in Cumbria called Moorside – adjacent to the Sellafield nuclear facility. NuGen was originally owned by the French company GDF Suez, the Spanish company Iberdrola, and Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE). Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE) withdrew from the consortium in September 2011 and sold its stake to GDF Suez and Iberdrola. Then in January 2014 Toshiba-owned Westinghouse Electric Company agreed to buy all Iberdrola’s stake and another 10% from GDF-Suez (now called ENGIE) giving it a 60% controlling stake.
On 29th March 2017, Westinghouse Electric Company, the largest historic builder of nuclear power plants in the world, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in New York. ENGIE (33% owned by the French Government) then exercised its right under the NuGen consortium agreement to sell all of its shares to Toshiba in the “event of a default”. Toshiba’s decision to place Westinghouse – into bankruptcy protection qualifies as such an event. Toshiba said it would pay around $138.7m for Engie’s stake. Toshiba had already announced (see nuClear News No.93) that it would not be involved in the construction of new nuclear reactors at Moorside and that it would like to sell Westinghouse. But there is a very limited field of companies to approach in its hunt for a new partner for the Moorside scheme. South Korea’s KEPCO remains the most likely suitor, but Reuters reports that the giant utility won’t be rushed. It is one of few utilities remaining with global nuclear ambitions, but despite the fact that the AP1000 reactor has now received approval from the Office for Nuclear Regulation and the Environment Agency, may still want to use its own technology – the APR1400. This would delay the development by a further four to five years. (See nuClearNews No.94)
NuGen is planning to build three AP1000 reactors at Moorside. A Stage One Strategic Issues Consultation was held between 16th May 2015 and ended on 25th July 2015. The Nuclear Free Local Authorities response to this consultation is available here. A Stage Two Consultation ran from 14th May 2016 to 30th July 2016.
The Office for Nuclear Regulation and the Environment Agency began assessing Westinghouse’s AP1000 Reactor Design in September 2007. Following the issue of the Interim Design Acceptance Confirmations (iDAC) and interim Statements of Design Acceptability (iSoDA) in 2011, Westinghouse paused their GDA related activities. In August 2014, Westinghouse recommenced GDA in order address the 51 outstanding GDA issues which must be resolved before ONR and EA would consider granting a Design Acceptance Confirmation and Statement of Design Acceptability (DAC/SoDA). Resolution plans for all 51 issues were published in March 2015. The assessment of the reactor design is now complete. A Design Acceptance Confirmation was issued in March 2017. NuGen preparing to apply for a nuclear site licence to build and operate three AP1000 reactors at Moorside in Cumbria.
General Nuclear Systems (GNS) – a joint venture between the China General Nuclear Corporation (CGN) which has a 66.5% share and EDF which has a 33.5% share – was set up to undertake the Bradwell B project and bring it to a final investment decision. Bradwell B will comprise two Hualong One units, each with a capacity of 1,150 MWe.
EDF and CGN agreed to form this joint venture company to advance plans for a new plant at Bradwell and seek regulatory approval – through the generic design assessment (GDA) process – for a UK version of the Chinese-designed Hualong One reactor. GNS wrote to the government in October 2016 saying it was ready to start the GDA process.
The Office for Nuclear Regulation and the Environment Agency have now been asked by the government to begin the Generic Design Assessment (GDA) for the Hualong One reactor (also known as the HPR1000). (1) The power station is being developed by China General Nuclear Power Corporation (CGN) and EDF. The ONR’s review is expected to take about four years (or 5 years according to Reuters), after which the reactor design could be granted a licence to be built in Britain. The reference plant for the assessment is the third unit at CGN’s Fangchenggang nuclear power station which is currently being built in China and is scheduled to start up in 2021.
In a joint statement, EDF Energy and CGN said the request to regulators “marks a first step in the robust and thorough process” to seek permission to build a nuclear power plant at Bradwell. The proposed project is in an early pre-planning stage which will involve years of investigative works and public consultations before detailed proposals are produced allowing a planning application to be made, they said. Chinese reactors are not the solution says the GMB union. It has called for “considerable caution” over Chinese involvement in the Bradwell B reactor design. The UK will not benefit from “Chinese pop-up power stations” it said. National Secretary for Energy for GMB Justin Bowden said “GMB has for years urged government to exercise considerable caution over Chinese involvement in terms of the technology, financing, security and the jobs – both during construction and once built”. The Colchester Gazette said that GNS has vowed to listen carefully to the community before drawing up proposals for a new power station at Bradwell. Of course listening and acting on public opinion are two entirely different things.
Professor Andy Blowers, chairman of the Blackwater Against New Nuclear Group (BANNG), takes a rather more fundamental objection to the proposals than the union’s. He said “There shouldn’t be investment from anybody, even British investors. The idea of creating more rubbish when we don’t have any way to dispose of what we’ve already got just seems quite frankly immoral.” He says the site is quite unsuitable and unsustainable in the long run. It is at sea level on a coast highly vulnerable to storm surges, coastal processes and sea level rise
Hartlepool in County Durham has been mentioned as a possible site for a Small Modular Reactor (SMR). Newcastle company Penultimate Power, formed by long-standing nuclear power advocate Ian Fells, emeritus professor of energy at Newcastle University, was created in 2012 to develop SMRs. It is the only UK company positioned to do so and wants to develop a manufacturing plant in the region and trial the world’s first SMR on land next to the existing Hartlepool nuclear power plant. (See nuClear News No.76 August 2015)
There don’t appear to be any current proposals for new reactors at Heysham in Lancashire.