Plans For New UK Nuclear Plants Progress


The head of EDF Energy said that, although significant progress has been made, it is too early to say when construction of its new UK reactors is likely to start. Meanwhile, Horizon has completed the purchase of land next to the existing Wylfa plant.

Vincent de Rivaz, CEO of EDF Energy, said in a statement to the Nuclear Development Forum (NDF) that the company expects to submit its 30,000-page planning application to the Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC) by the end of the month. “Soon the IPC will begin its assessment of our application. It will be a massive task – to assess the first new nuclear project in order to deliver authorisation in one year.”

At a 17 March 2011 meeting of the NDF, just days after the Fukushima nuclear accident in Japan, de Rivaz said that “events there would require us to adjust our timetable.” He said that the accident had a direct impact on the government’s facilitative actions: “The National Policy Statement was validated later than originally expected. The Generic Design Assessment has been amended so that the lessons from Fukushima can be incorporated.” However, he noted that “there are other factors to take into account when we talk about an adjusted timetable.” He stressed that “an adjusted timetable has never meant a suspended timetable … the project continues. It is on track.” EDF Energy will “begin significant work to prepare the site in the spring,” de Rivaz said.

“My major target for now is the Final Investment Decision at the end of next year,” he said. To take that decision, de Rivaz noted, it is imperative that “transitional arrangements for the Contract for Difference are in place; arrangements for the funded decommissioning plan are set; and, we have a high level of confidence in the cost and timetable for construction.”

He said, “Beyond the Final Investment Decision (FID) there will be the question of when we can start main construction, and beyond that, of when we can expect to complete construction.” However, de Rivaz said, “I will not give a firm and final completion date at this stage. At the moment of the FID, I expect to be able to do so.” He added, “Our development consent application will include an indicative timetable. This provides the basis for our planning assessments. It will be published soon when the Development Consent Order (DCO) application is validated by the IPC … In due course, we will move from an indicative timetable to a firm and final construction timetable.” De Rivaz stressed, “We will start main construction when we are ready.”

EDF Energy, which owns and operates eight of the UK’s nuclear power plants, plans to build four EPR nuclear power units at two new twin-unit power plants, Sizewell C and Hinkley Point C. The first to be built will be Hinkley Point C, which EDF Energy originally said it wanted to begin operating by the end of 2017. The two EPRs at Hinkley Point C will have a total capacity of 3300 MWe – far in excess of the 1320 MWe of the two Hinkley Point B units still operating and the 500 MWe of the Hinkley Point A reactors that shut down in 2000. The first of the two Sizewell C units was expected to begin operating in 2019. Between them, the four new units would contribute 13% of UK electricity in the early 2020s, according to the government.

Horizon completes land purchase

The other main contender for UK nuclear new build, Horizon Nuclear Power – a 50-50 joint venture between RWE nPower and EOn UK – has completed the purchase of land totalling some 438 acres (178 hectares) adjacent to the existing Wylfa plant.

The land was secured by Horizon in an auction process in 2009 and the transaction was subject to a number of conditions which have now been resolved. With the completion of the purchase, the land transfers into Horizon’s ownership from the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority and EDF Energy. Horizon did not disclose the purchase price for the land.

Alan Raymant, chief operating officer of Horizon, said: “The UK government designated the National Policy Statement on nuclear energy earlier in the year and this has cleared the way to completing the agreement.” He added, “Taking title to the land is one of the key steps required for us to be able to develop a new power station on the Wylfa site.”

Horizon proposes to have its first reactor, at Wylfa, commissioned as early as 2020. A planning application at Wylfa is scheduled for 2012, and will be followed by a planning application for a second nuclear power plant at Oldbury once construction at Wylfa has started. Ultimately Horizon wants up to 6600 MWe in nuclear generation capacity across both sites. It is yet to decide which of the two available reactor designs – Areva’s EPR or Westinghouse’s AP1000 – it would like to build.

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