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: Hinkley Point, Wylfa, Moorside, Sizewell, Bradwell, Oldbury, Hartlepool and Heysham. Since then, new nuclear reactors have been proposed at six of those sites. No proposals have been brought forward for Hartlepool and Heysham.
National Policy Statements (NPS) are intended to establish the case for Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects, as defined in the Planning Act 2008. The current nuclear NPS (EN-6), listed sites which were considered to be potentially suitable for the deployment of new nuclear power stations by the end of 2025.
The Government is now considering the planning framework for new nuclear power for deployment after 2025. The first step towards this was to consult on the process and criteria for designating potentially suitable sites for the deployment of new nuclear power stations between 2026 to 2035 and with over 1GW of single reactor electricity generating capacity. The Government published its response to this consultation in July 2018. The Government says it will publish a draft NPS for public consultation in 2019, which will build on the outcome of the consultation.
Taken together with the overarching NPS for Energy (EN1), the Government says the current nuclear NPS sets out the need for nuclear power, whilst also providing planning guidance for developers and for the Planning Inspectorate and Secretary of State in their consideration of applications. Yet when the Government first endorsed Hinkley Point C, (HPC) it was projecting an increase in electricity consumption of 15% by now, whereas in practice we are consuming 15% less than a decade ago. In other words it made a 30% error. This is despite a 13% increase in GDP over the last decade. HPC is only due to deliver 7% of consumption. So, in fact, there is no “need” for new nuclear power stations before or after 2025.
In July 2017, EDF Energy revealed that Hinkley Point C – the most advanced of the proposed new nuclear stations – is likely to be delayed by 15 months to 2027, so it is now almost certain that no new nuclear power stations will be operational on any of the sites designated in the current NPS by 2025.
|Proposed Nuclear Station||Technology Proposed||Developer||Construction start expected||Commercial operation forecast|
|Hinkley Point C||2 x 1600MW EPRs||EDF 66.5%
|First concrete 2019||End of 2025 with risk of 15 month delay.|
|Wylfa Newydd||2 x 1350MW ABWRs||Horizon Nuclear Power – wholly owned subsidiary of Hitachi, Ltd.||Work suspended January 2019||Not Known|
|Moorside||3 x 1150MW AP1000s (but could be replaced by 2 x 1400MW APR1400)||NuGen (currently owned by Toshiba – but a deal to sell it to KEPCO has fallen through)||Plans scrapped. NuGen being wound up||Not Known|
|Sizewell C||2 x 1600MW EPRs||EDF 80%
|Oldbury B||2 x 1350MW ABWRs||Horizon Nuclear Power – wholly owned subsidiary of Hitachi, Ltd.||Work suspended Jan 2019.||Not Known|
|Bradwell B||2 x 1000MW UK HPR1000||CGN 66.5%
|No defined timeline; began GDA process in Jan 2017|
Instead of admitting that its new nuclear programme has been a failure, and that by the time any of the proposed reactors come on line nuclear power will be obsolete, the proposed new NPS simply carries forward the designated sites from the current NPS, and suggests that new sites may be designated in the 2020s. Unlike the current Nuclear NPS, the new draft clarifies that the sites are designated for reactors larger than 1GW. However, in recognition of the recent the clamour from the nuclear industry for a programme of small modular reactor construction it says the Government will consider planning issues related to smaller reactors separately.
For more information see the Nuclear Free Local Authorities’ submission in February 2018 to the Government consultation on the updated National Policy Statement for new nuclear above 1GW post 2025: siting criteria and process:
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.
EDF Energy announced on 11 December 2018 the completion of the first part of the concrete pouring for the base slab for unit 1 of Hinkley Point C (HPC). Four more pours of concrete will be required before the so-called “raft” that supports the reactor building will be complete. Work is expected to be concluded in 2019. According to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) definition, the official “construction start” is “the date when first major placing of concrete for the base mat of the reactor building is made”. (See nuClear News No.114)
A National Audit Office (NAO) report published in June 2017 warned the “deal for Hinkley Point C has locked consumers into a risky and expensive project with uncertain strategic and economic benefits.” It continued “when the Department finalised the deal in 2016 its value-for- money tests showed the economic case for Hinkley Point C was marginal and subject to significant uncertainty. [Since then] the government’s case for the project has weakened … Delays have pushed back the nuclear power plant’s construction, and the expected cost of top-up payments under the Hinkley Point C’s contract for difference has increased from £6 billion to £30 billion.”
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.
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). The Austrian Appeal was dismissed in July 2018.
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 were originally expected to be generating electricity in time for Christmas 2017 (see nuClear News No.77 September 2015).
For more information see the Stop Hinkley Campaign website.
Thomas, S, Time to Cancel Hinkley? September 2017
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 hopes to start construction in 2021 and to start generation in 2031.
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 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”.
An application for Development Consent was received by the Infrastructure Planning Inspectorate on 1st June 2018. On 28th June, the Inspectorate announced that it had accepted the application for examination, and on 6th July it invited interested parties to register. Registration closed on 13th August. The NFLA full submission is available here.
The government is considering using the controversial Regulated Asset Base (RAB) model of financing for Wylfa. This has been described as an “open cheque book” for developers, as consumers could be locked into paying the costs of a project going wrong – like construction taking longer than planned, or prices spiralling – indefinitely until it’s complete.
Anglesey County Council’s planning committee has approved an application for permission to clear 299ha of land to prepare for construction of the proposed nuclear power plant. This vast swathe of land the size of more than 500 football pitches could be cleared over the next 15 months. It is likely to take up to 18 months for Horizon nuclear to get the Development Consent Order (DCO) required to start building Wylfa B, so it wants to get on with clearing the site now.
Horizon wants to build two Advanced Boiling Water Reactors (ABWRs) at Wylfa. (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 issued a Design Acceptance Confirmation for the Hitachi-GE Nuclear Energy’s UK Advanced Boiling Water Reactor (UK ABWR) in December 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.
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 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.
By September 2018 plans for a new nuclear power station in Cumbria looked set to collapse. The development company NuGen has laid off the majority of its staff. Nugen, owned by Toshiba, the troubled Japanese conglomerate, has been looking for a buyer but, so far, failed to find one. A sale to Kepco, the South Korean utility, has stalled amid political change in South Korea and a British government rethink of the financial support on offer. The GMB Union has been calling for the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) to be scrapped as it currently exists and a Nuclear Development Agency created to make sure Moorside goes ahead with the Government taking a stake in the financing the project.
NuGen is the nuclear company 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 was thought to be 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 was 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.
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). 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.