E.ON sizes up new nuclear at Oldbury

9 September 2008

E.ON UK has entered into a transmission connection agreement with National Grid for up to 1600MWe of new capacity at Oldbury.

The site named in the agreement is Oldbury-on-Severn, in an area where E.ON does not currently own any suitable development land. E.ON said the site in question is adjacent to the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority's (NDA's) Oldbury nuclear power station, which has two 225MWe Magnox units that are due to cease operation at the end of this year.

E.ON spokesperson Emily Highmore told NEI that the agreement allows the company to keep its options open but no decision had been made on whether to build a nuclear plant at Oldbury. “We haven’t decided what sites we’re going to nominate as preferred options at this point,” she said, but confirmed that the company was looking into building at least two new nuclear plants in the UK and that “a number of potential sites,” including Oldbury, were under consideration.

While the agreement does not specify whether or not the connection agreement at Oldbury is for a nuclear plant, the size and expected completion date of April 2020 is consistent with a new nuclear unit. “We’ve always said that it makes sense to build new nuclear plants where there has been or where there currently is nuclear power,” Highmore said.

E.ON owns several coal-fired and combined cycle gas plants in the UK and has a multi-billion pound investment programme covering a number of new projects, including ‘cleaner’ coal, gas, and renewables as well as new nuclear. Last month, announcing plans to build one of the largest biomass plants in the country, Paul Golby, CEO of E.ON UK, said: “Schemes such as this, together with cleaner coal, gas and new nuclear, will help us to keep the UK’s lights on, while also reducing carbon emissions and ensuring energy is as affordable as possible for our customers.”

Earlier this year, E.ON signed letters of intent with Areva and Siemens for deployment of the EPR design in the UK, but Highmore stressed that E.ON is also considering the Westinghouse AP1000 as well.

E.ON’s agreement with the National Grid comes as several media reports indicate that a takeover of British Energy by EDF is imminent. Should the deal go ahead, it would severely limit the number of potential sites for new nuclear build available to EDF’s competitors. The NDA owns a number of sites that it could make available to encourage competition in the sector, but doing so would conflict with the NDA’s mission of cleaning up the country’s nuclear legacy.

Another option is to build on non-nuclear sites. According the report, Siting New Nuclear Power Stations: Availability and Options for Government, by Ian Jackson, author of nukenomics-the-commercialisation-of-britain-s-nuclear-industry, although existing nuclear sites would be the most appropriate, sites on which large scale, conventional generators are currently installed such as RWE npower’s Didcot A are also potential candidates for new nuclear plants.


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