The United Kingdom remains the strongest contender for new nuclear build in Europe, according both pro and anti-nuclear energy industry sources.
Although the UK government has asked the country’s chief nuclear inspector Mike Weightman with producing a report into the events at Fukushima, it seems unlikely that it will significantly affect the UK’s plans for new nuclear build.
The final report is due in September. However following publication of Weightman’s interim report in May, UK energy secretary Chris Huhne said that he saw no reason why the UK should not proceed with its current policy for nuclear power. He also announced plans to proceed with the ratification of the National Energy Policy Statements as soon as possible, subject to review of the interim report.
Leader of the Green Party Caroline Lucas said described the UK’s response to Fukushima as ‘business as usual’ on 14 June.
Elsewhere in Europe the energy landscape looks uncertain, and has been significantly affected by Germany’s decision to phase out nuclear power by 2022. In fact, according to pro-nuclear industry sources, Germany’s nuclear exit had much more of an impact in Europe than the events at Fukushima Daiichi.
The share price of French reactor vendor Areva dropped by 25% in response to the German nuclear exit. It only fell 14% following the Japanese crisis, sources pointed out.
Germany’s nuclear utilities were also severely affected, which will have a ripple effect throughout Europe, as RWE and E.On are multi-national companies. German reactor owners will lose approximately EUR500 million each year for each reactor that is shut prematurely. In addition, the lack of state political support for nuclear may mean they have difficulty investing in projects elsewhere in Europe.
Steve Thomas, professor of energy policy at the university of Greenwich, also agreed that the UK remains the strongest market for Areva’s EPR reactor. Thomas was speaking on 14 June 2011 in London at the Nuclear Consulting Group seminar ‘Fukushima: ‘lessons learned’ for UK new build', supported by Nuclear Free Local Authorities and No Need for Nuclear..
Although EPR reactors are already under construction in Finland, France and China, they have failed to be successful in other key target markets, Thomas said, citing the USA, Italy and China (who has opted to bulid more of Westinghouse's AP1000 design). Although India also has plans to build EPRs, the UK remains by far the strongest market for the design, Thomas said.
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