The Westinghouse AP1000 reactor project in Britain

In June 2014, Nugen finalized a new ownership structure with Toshiba-Westinghouse, 60 percent and Engie (GDF Suez), 40 percent. At the start of 2017 the development included the construction of three Westinghouse AP1000 reactors which would make it the largest single new nuclear project in Europe. The U.K. Office of Nuclear Regulation approved the AP1000 reactor design on 30 March 2017. A final investment decision had been expected to be taken by the end of 2018.

“After a major financial collapse, Westinghouse filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the USA in March 2017. This led to Engie selling its remaining 40 percent to Toshiba-Westinghouse for US$138 million, who were contractually obliged to buy them at the pre-determined price.

The U.K. Government has been actively trying to encourage other investors to become involved at Moorside, with Korea’s KEPCO, a nationally owned utility and reactor vendor, being promoted as the preferred bidder with the potential for a deal to be signed in the first half of 2018. It is unlikely that KEPCO will use Westinghouse’s AP1000 reactors so a new reactor design licensing process for their own technology, which could take 4 years, would be required.”

“Today nuclear power generates approximately 20% of the UK’s electricity supply. At the peak in 1997, 27% of the UK’s electricity was generated from nuclear power. All but one of the nuclear stations currently operating are due to go offline by 2030 driving the need for the UK to invest in new generating capacity.

While six new nuclear plants are being progressed, difficulties remain in securing the private investors needed to fund the construction within a strike price low enough to be attractive to the government. The 3.2GW Hinkley Point C plant is the only project currently under construction and is now over one year into the build phase.

The case for nuclear power is largely made on its ability to provide a base load, low carbon, electricity supply, unaffected by the intermittency issue associated with wind and solar. There is an increasing challenge for nuclear technologies to be competitive, with the 2017 CFD auctions seeing off-shore wind reduce costs by 50%.

The government does however appear to be softening its stance by indicating the possibility of state financial support to get the nuclear new build programme back on track in 2018. Small Modular Reactors are being considered for government support however 2017 only provided a scaled back version of the hoped for funding.”

The sector must recruit 8,600 people each year to ensure a skilled workforce is maintained. This will require an emphasis on attracting, training and retaining people in the industry.

“The developers of the Hinkley Point C project need to manage the financial, technology and construction risks associated with projects of this scale and complexity. Satisfactory progression of the Olkiluoto plant in Finland, Flamanville in France, and the Taishan projects in China will be important to gain confidence in the EPR technology.

“2018 is likely to be a pivotal year in securing the private investors needed to fund the construction of the 5 other new nuclear plants within a strike price low enough to be attractive to the government.

“The case for nuclear power is becoming more challenging as competing technologies, such as off-shore wind, become more competitive.

“The development of Small Modular Reactors is receiving less funding than expected which may slow their deployment.”

Source: “The UK nuclear power sector – 2018 will be a pivotal year” , A2O People,