UK parliament seeks reassurance on nuclear newbuild

18 March 2016

A UK parliamentary committee has called EDF Energy, and other energy companies planning to build reactors in the UK, to give evidence on the future of the nuclear industry at a special inquiry in London on 23 March. Angus MacNeil, chairman of the energy and climate change committee, said the government is counting on new nuclear to supply a significant proportion of the UK's low-carbon baseload power. "The focus right now is on Hinkley Point C, but there are other important projects in the pipeline. Serious questions are being raised about the cost and viability of the Hinkley project and the value for money for taxpayers," he said. The committee said it will hear from commentators who have raised concerns about financing nuclear projects.

Participants, or 'witnesses', at the meeting will include EDF Energy CEO Vincent de Rivaz, and Humphrey Cadoux-Hudson, EDF Energy managing director for nuclear new build, as well as Zhu Minhong, general manager of international nuclear business development, and general director of UK nuclear projects, at China General Nuclear (CGN). Other witnesses will include: Tom Samson, CEO of NuGeneration; Alan Raymant, chief operating officer of Horizon Nuclear Power; Peter Atherton, managing director and head of European utility sector research at Jefferies; Simon Taylor of the Judge Business School at the University of Cambridge; and Douglas Parr, chief scientist and policy director at Greenpeace UK.

Hinkley Point C plant is scheduled to begin operating in 2025. Under a deal agreed last October, CGN will take a 33.5% stake in EDF Energy's £18 billion ($28 billion) project to construct the plant. In addition, the two companies will develop projects to build new plants at Sizewell in Suffolk and Bradwell in Essex, the latter using Chinese reactor technology.

In January, EDF Energy's French state-owned parent company, EDF, further delayed making a final investment decision for the construction of the Hinkley plant. A decision had been expected by the end of 2015. Earlier in March, EDF CEO Jean-Bernard Levy, said he wants to reach a final decision soon on investing in the plant, despite the resignation of the company's finance chief, Thomas Piquemal.

Horizon Nuclear Power, the wholly owned UK subsidiary of Japan's Hitachi, plans to deploy the UK Advanced Boiling Water Reactor at two sites - Wylfa Newydd, which is on the Isle of Anglesey, and Oldbury-on-Severn, in South Gloucestershire. In January, Hitachi announced the incorporation of a new UK company - Hitachi Nuclear Energy Europe - as part of its strategy to enhance its UK presence for the engineering, procurement and construction of Horizon's new NPP development at Wylfa Newydd. Hitachi Nuclear Energy Europe will lead Hitachi's work in a proposed joint venture with potential partners Bechtel Management Company and JGC Corporation.

NuGeneration - a 60%/40% joint venture between Toshiba and GDF Suez - in 2014 confirmed plans to build three Westinghouse AP1000 pressurised water reactors at Moorside in West Cumbria by the end of 2026 with a total capacity of 3,400MWe. The first unit is expected to begin operating by the end of 2024. A final investment decision is expected to be taken by the end of 2018. In January, the Office for Nuclear Regulation said there has been some "slippage" in a number of topic areas for the generic design acceptance (GDA) of the AP1000 reactor design. ONR said Westinghouse is working to "re-baseline the overall programme" hoping this will enable regulators to issue a Design Acceptance Confirmation and Statement of Design Acceptance Confirmation in January 2017, on schedule.

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