Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Not much on the Horizon for UK's nuclear programme

Horizon's Wylfa site, Anglesey, with its mothballed old reactor.

Just two bidders have emerged for Horizon, the nuclear company seeking to build two new reactors in Britain, following the expiry of a deadline last Friday for expressions of interest in purchasing the option, which saw expected partners dropping out.

In both cases it is unsure where the hundreds of millions of pounds of investment will come from, that could eventually see a new nuclear power station built on either of the company's sites, in Oldbury, Gloucestershire and Wylfa, Anglesey.

Last week, three consortiums were expected to throw their hats into the ring: France's Areva, partnered with China's Guangdong Nuclear Power Group, both state-owned; one led by Japan's Hitachi; and Japan's Westinghouse Electric Co., partnered with China’s State Nuclear Power Technology Corp and Exelon, the US power generator.

Areva failed to submit a bid. Hitachi did, and Westinghouse did, but without its Chinese partner, who would have provided substantial experience of delivering nuclear power stations on time and within budget.

Areva's European Pressurised Reactor (EPR) design is further ahead than Westinghouse's in the UK's generic design assessment approval process. Westinghouse' put their process on hold last December.

Its AP1000 nuclear reactor design is, in turn, further on than Hitachi's Advanced Boiling Water Reactor, which has yet to be submitted to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), although it is licensed in the US, Japan and Taiwan.

Four ABWRs are already operating in Japan, with a fifth 94% completed.

No AP1000 reactor has yet been completed, although four are under construction in China, and two proposals have been given approval in the US.

Two builds of Areva's EPR design, in France and Finland, have experienced massive hold-ups and budgetary excesses.

EDF has yet to decide whether to proceed with construction of an EPR plant at Hinkley Point.

The process of approval of the EPR design issues by the Health and Safety Executive can be followed online here, where it can be seen that the majority of issues have yet to be resolved.

The only other contender for new nuclear power station building in the UK is NuGen, which is owned by GDF SUEZ and IBERDROLA. Their plans to implement 3.6GW of electricity generation at the Moorside site adjacent to Sellafield are also on hold.

Any potential backers for building new nuclear power stations, which would undoubtedly include Chinese money, are waiting for clarity on the level of government support that will be available following the passing of the Energy Bill, currently winding its way through Parliament.

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