Key new nuclear sites for sale

11 September 2008

The UK’s Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) has announced the sale of land adjacent to three of its Magnox reactor sites. The sites are at Wylfa, Oldbury and Bradwell, all of which are considered to be good locations for new nuclear reactors.

The announcement came just two days after the publication of the transmission connection agreement between E.ON UK and National Grid for up to 1600MWe of new capacity at a site named as Oldbury-on-Severn. E.ON confirmed that the site is adjacent to the NDA’s Oldbury nuclear plant and that E.ON is not currently the owner of the land. Meanwhile, EDF is understood to be locked in negotiations with British Energy over a possible takeover. British Energy, which owns and operates the country’s AGRs and only PWR, has already obtained transmission connection agreements at four sites, one of which is on development land it owns at Bradwell.

Bill Hamilton, head of communications at the NDA, told NEI that the NDA’s land had been historically acquired prior to its existence. Some of the land had been earmarked for nuclear reactor development before the country’s previous nuclear build programme was cancelled in the 1990s. Hamilton said there is “no difference at all” between the land now being made available by the NDA and the land owned by British Energy in terms of the processes an eventual buyer would need to go through before building a nuclear plant.

The NDA said the three sites constitute an initial tranche of land sales and that it would be making announcements on other sites “in due course.” A separate statement will be made on its land near the Sellafield site. “We’ve got a lot of land around Sellafield,” said Hamilton, but added that it was being considered in the context of the recently launched regeneration initiative dubbed the ‘West Cumbria Masterplan’. “When the masterplan matures and there are concrete proposals for new energy – which will be nuclear and non-nuclear – then we will probably move forward with some kind of competitive process on the land at Sellafield,” Hamilton said.

The NDA made the decision to commence the land sale process following a one-month market engagement exercise earlier this year to determine the level of interest in certain assets. Hamilton said the NDA received 38 responses detailing a range of proposals, including nuclear, non-nuclear, “and non-energy proposals as well.”

Hamilton denied that making sites available for new nuclear plants – which would lead to the production of more nuclear waste – conflicted with the NDA’s mission. “It’s part of our mission to maximise the return on our assets,” he said. In the NDA Strategy document published in March 2006, the preface by the then NDA chairman, Sir Anthony Cleaver, states that the NDA was set up “to provide the first ever UK-wide strategic focus on decommissioning and cleaning up nuclear sites. Our business, therefore, is environmental restoration.” The Strategy also referred to new nuclear build being “an issue clearly outside our remit.”

However, Hamilton pointed out: “We’ve got a remit to deal with legacy waste and that’s what we’re dealing with.” He added: “We have taken legal advice and it’s crystal clear that what we are doing is maximising assets and any funds that we get back from the sale of this land we will use to carry forward our own mission, which is decommissioning and cleanup.”


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