The UK government has refused to underwrite Westinghouse in its key bid to build four nuclear reactors in China, according to reports in the Independent newspaper.
Without a government guarantee to cover any cost overruns associated with the $8 billion contract, the sale of Westinghouse by BNFL could yield a significantly lower price than initially thought.
The decision is a serious setback for Westinghouse, which had been hoping the government would provide financial assurances, and could give the advantage to other bidders such as Areva and Russia’s AtomStroyExport.
The move by the UK government is thought to stem from growing concerns associated with taxpayers assuming nuclear liabilities that hail from overseas and follow comments from energy minister Malcolm Wicks speaking at the Fuel for Thought nuclear congress in July.
Wicks said the government thought “long and hard” about the sale of BNFL’s subsidiary Westinghouse. One consideration was that it could be thought that the British taxpayer would be exposed to risk from any Westinghouse contract bids. In addition, owning a major reactor vendor would be seen as limiting the government’s openness and transparency if it were to enter that market as a buyer.
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