A so-called “clean energy park” is now being proposed by a team set up under Cumbria Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), following the announcement on 8th November 2018 that Toshiba was withdrawing from nuclear power plant construction in the UK and taking steps to wind up NuGeneration Ltd. A small, light-water reactor has been proposed by the Rolls-Royce SMR Consortium, and EDF Nuclear New Build and partners has proposed building two EPR-type reactors. A finance model for this would need to be agreed with the Government. According to the brochure, the Moorside ‘Clean Energy’ Hub could result in the development of new nuclear plants, linkages with renewable energy generation, and hydrogen.
It was clear by September 2018 that plans for a new nuclear power station in Cumbria looked set to collapse. The development company NuGen had laid off the majority of its staff. Toshiba, the troubled Japanese conglomerate, had been looking for a buyer for NuGen but 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 had been planning to build a new nuclear power station of up to 3.6 GW at its 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 qualified 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 had received approval from the Office for Nuclear Regulation and the Environment Agency, it would probably have wanted to use its own technology – the APR1400. This would have delayed the development by a further four to five years. (See nuClearNews No.94)
NuGen was originally 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.
Copeland’s Tory MP Trudy Harrison has set up the Moorside Strategic Partnership to keep the possibility of building a new nuclear plant on the site adjacent to Sellafield on the political agenda. Mrs Harrison, and three other Cumbrian MPs and council leaders, pledged to lobby the Government over Moorside and to encourage another nuclear developer to take it on after Toshiba pulled out. See NuClear News No.114 for more on this.
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.
In July 2017 Edinburgh Energy and Environment Consultancy wrote a critique of the AP1000 reactor for Radiation Free Lakeland which is available here.
For more information about Small Modular Reactors and Fusion see nuClear News No.131 and NFLA Briefing on Small & Advanced Modular Nuclear Reactors, and NFLA briefing on Fusion.