17 Oct (NucNet): EDF wants to begin construction of two EPR units at the Sizewell C nuclear power station on the east coast of England by the end of 2021, the company has said.
The French state-controlled utility will hold its third and final round of consultations with stakeholders on the project in January 2019 and submit planning applications in early 2020, paving the way for a 2021 construction start date, Simone Rossi, EDF Energy chief executive, told delegates at the Energy UK annual conference on Tuesday.
“We believe that Sizewell C fits into a vision of Britain in the future and it has a role to play to replace ageing stations that are now retiring,” said Mr Rossi, who runs the UK arm of EDF.
The company said that replicating what it has learnt with the design and permitting process for two EPR units under construction at Hinkley Point C in southwest England, could reduce the construction costs of Sizewell C by 20%.
However, Mr Rossi said this would need to be accompanied by a reduction in the cost of capital. The government is considering implementing a new funding model for nuclear power stations called the “regulated asset base” model, or RAB.
RAB is essentially a type of contract drawn up with the backing of government which calculates the costs and profits of a project before it is started, and allocates an investor’s profits from day one.
A government regulator sets a fixed number, the RAB, which attempts to account for all the future costs involved in the completion of a project. The regulator then also sets a fixed rate of return for the investors based on those costs.
EDF is building two EPR units at Hinkley Point C with the financial participation of China’s General Nuclear Power Corporation. The cost of the project is estimated at almost £20bn.
In April, Mr Rossi said Sizewell C may not be feasible, although discussions were continuing with the UK government about possible funding options. He said the company needs assurances from government this year that a “viable funding model exists” for the construction of the two units.
Sizewell C would be north of its sister plant Sizewell B on the Suffolk coast. EDF estimates the two Sizewell C units would take 10 to 12 years to build once it has planning permission.
Outlining EDF Energy’s vision for the future energy mix, Mr Rossi said nuclear should continue to provide around 20%-25% of Britain’s low-carbon electricity needs. In order to meet the country’s climate commitments, he said, the amount of renewables should double to 60% as gas is reduced and coal closes.
Mr Rossi told the conference that to achieve the biggest savings in construction costs, Sizewell C needed to be built soon after Hinkley Point C.
“There is an optimal distance between the two projects which is about five years. Hinkley Point construction started at the end of 2016 and so the best moment to start construction at Sizewell C is at the end of 2021.
“The further we wait, the lower the construction benefits will be because the supply chain may not be the same and skills could be forgotten.”