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, eleven new nuclear reactors have been proposed at five 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 2015||2023|
|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.|
The plans for Hinkley Point C in Somerset are the most advanced. On this site 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. Now two Chinese nuclear companies – the China General Nuclear Corporation (CGN) and the China National Nuclear Corportation (CNNC) are expected to fund up to two-thirds of the upfront costs.
The Final Investment Decision for Hinkley Point C has been repeatedly postponed. In August 2015 it was being predicting that David Cameron and China’s president, Xi Jinping, would sign a deal at a meeting in the UK in October which would signify that the Final Investment Decision had been made. But there could still be yet more delays to these reactors which were originally expected to be generating electricity in time for Christmas 2017 (see nuClear News No.77 September 2015).
Meanwhile EDF Energy said in June 2015 it will not start the next consultation on its plans to build two new EPRs at Sizewell in Suffolk until it knows how it will fund Hinkley Point C. The Company carried out the Stage 1 pre-application consultation between 21st November 2012 to 6th February 2013. But the next round of public consultations has been delayed and hasn’t taken place yet (as of September 2015). After the second 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.
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.
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.
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 Dsign Acceptability (DAC/SoDA). Resolution plans for all 51 issues were published in March 2015. It is hoped that the GDA process will be complete by January 2017.
The Government appears to be planning to hand over the Bradwell site in Essex, “lock, stock and barrel” to the Chinese National Nuclear Corporation. In a letter to the GMB Union Energy Secretary Amber Rudd said “The UK government welcomes overseas investment in the UK’s new nuclear programme. This includes investment and participation from Chinese companies in the Hinkley Point C project and progressive involvement more generally in the UK’s nuclear new build energy programme. In the future, this could include leading the development of a site in the UK and the potential deployment of a Chinese reactor technology in the UK, subject to meeting the stringent requirements of the UK’s independent nuclear regulatory regime.”
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.”
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.