Nuclear Politics

UK / Government Could Take Stake In Sizewell Nuclear Project, Says Report

By David Dalton
17 September 2020

BBC cites concerns over Chinese involvement in reactor plans
Government Could Take Stake In Sizewell Nuclear Project, Says Report
There are plans to build two Generation III EPR units at Sizewell. Courtesy EDF Energy.
The decision by Japanese company Hitachi to pull out of plans to build a new nuclear power station in Wales “may accelerate government approval of a new station at Sizewell C” in Suffolk, BBC News reported, citing “government and industry sources”.

The BBC said the government taking a stake in the project to build two Generation III EPR units at Sizewell is one option being considered as it looks to “replace China’s CGN [China General Nuclear] as an investor”. 

France’s EDF and CGN are 80% and 20% shareholders in the Sizewell C project. The cost of the project has been estimated at £18bn, although this has not been confirmed by either EDF or CGN.

After Sizewell C, CGN was set to build it’s a single HPR1000, or Hualong One, reactor design at Bradwell in Essex, but BBC News cited sources saying this idea “‘looks dead’, given revived security concerns and deteriorating diplomatic relations” between London and Beijing.

The HPR1000 is a China-designed 1,100-MW Generation III pressurised water reactor which incorporates elements of China’s ACP1000 and ACPR1000+ reactor designs.

Hitachi announced on Wednesday that it is scrapping plans to build two UK Advanced Boiling Water Reactors at the Wylfa Newydd nuclear site in north Wales, blaming the lack of a viable financing structure in an “increasingly severe” post-Covid investment environment.

The company suspended the project in January 2019 saying further time was needed to decide on a financing structure for the project and the conditions for building and operating the station.

At the time it said it had failed to reach a financing agreement and the project posed too great a commercial challenge.

Hitachi said it had now made the decision to abandon the project completely, but said it will coordinate with the UK government and relevant organisations regarding its cooperation as the owner of ABWR licence and the handling of the planned construction sites and other matters.

A group of 100 organisations, including unions and businesses, backing plans to build a nuclear power station at Sizewell in Suffolk, also voiced concern about the Wylfa decision.

Cameron Gilmour, spokesman for the Sizewell C Consortium said: “This news will have serious ramifications for companies both in Wales and across the UK. The Wylfa nuclear project would have been another important milestone for the UK’s nuclear supply chain and would have created thousands of jobs.

“Unless Sizewell C, a replica of the under-construction Hinkley Point C, is given the go-ahead, there is now a serious risk to the future of the UK’s civil nuclear construction capability and the tens of thousands of jobs that go with it.”

Ian Liddell-Grainger MP, chair of the all-party parliamentary group on nuclear energy, said Hitachi’s decision was “a devastating blow”. However, he said “this is by no means the end for the Wylfa”. He urged the government to work with Horizon to find another suitable partner to develop the site as quickly as possible, and “we look forward with anticipation for a firm commitment to new nuclear in the impending energy White Paper to cut emissions and create jobs”.

The Financial Times quoted a government spokesperson saying: “Nuclear power will play a key role in the UK’s future energy mix as we transition to a low-carbon economy, including through our investments in small and advanced modular reactors.”

An editorial in the Times said that despite Hitachi’s withdrawal, new nuclear “remains vital” to the UK. It argued that there is “no plausible way” of meeting the country’s climate goals “except by abandoning coal and expanding nuclear energy”.

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