Utility Week

UTILITY Week 17th July 2015

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UTILITY WEEK | 17TH - 23RD JULY 2015 | 7 Interview T he grinding progress towards breaking ground for Hinkley Point C has once again made national headlines this month with a fresh challenge to its rationale from Austria's Chancellor heading to the Euro- pean Court of Justice. This adds weight to a complaint filed only days before by an alliance of German and Austrian renewable energy companies. With all the controversy and endless mithering about the generosity of Hinkley's contract for difference (CfD), the cost of the project and whether or not its construc- tion contravenes EU state aid laws, you'd be forgiven for believing that Hinkley represents the be all and end all of nuclear new-build in the UK. But a meeting with Alan Raymant, chief operating officer at Horizon Nuclear Power, reminds us firmly that this is far from the case. Formed in 2008 and with an annual turnover of £135 million, Horizon owns the sites at Wylfa, Angle- sey and Oldbury, Gloucestershire, which make up half of the UK's current nuclear new-build prospects along- side EDF's prominent Hinkley Point C and Sizewell C programmes. Raymant was appointed to his role in 2009, step- ping on in a career spanning renewables leadership at Eon and directing operations and assets for Central Networks. Doggedly convinced of the necessity of nuclear power in the UK's future energy mix, Raymant is philosophical about the tortured, high-profile progress of Hinkley, and methodically focused on moving Horizon's own projects forward, come what may. Addressing the most recent furore over Hinkley, Raymant comments that Horizon was "disappointed but not surprised" by the challenge from Chancellor Werner Faymann, which suggested the project's subsidies were not "in the interest of all EU member states". The legal wrangling is "a matter for the UK government", he adds, although there's a feeling that such quibbles should have been resolved last year with the results of a lengthy investigation into Hinkley's state aid rules compatibility by the European Commission. "We'd like this issue resolved as soon as possible, but it doesn't dent our confidence that we'll be able to reach acceptable agreements with government for Wylfa Newydd," shrugs Raymant. Achieving those agreements will sit at the centre of Horizon's outward-facing strategy this year as it looks to clinch its own CfD for its Welsh project, which is being pushed ahead of the Oldbury initiative. Raymant explains that this prioritisation will focus and optimise internal resources but also ensure that "we've got a con- cept that works; that financially, is sufficiently attractive to investors" so that it can be rolled out more quickly a second time – and perhaps more. With a Conservative government in place, Raymant is optimistic about negotiating a satisfactory deal for Wylfa. The Conservative manifesto committed to support nuclear new-build and Raymant believes that energy sec- retary Amber Rudd not only provides continuity of expe- rience in the Department of Energy and Climate Change, but also "clearly understands the importance of having a balanced energy mix in order to address both the afford- ability and decarbonisation agendas and that nuclear is central to that". While negotiations with government rumble on, how- ever, there's plenty to keep Horizon's rapidly expanding workforce busy. There's a good three years' work yet to be done developing the Wylfa plant, for instance. This includes upgrading the site's infrastructure requirements and getting a plethora of permits which conjure a moun- tain of paperwork and span conventional planning consent, environmental permits and all the nuclear licensing that is required before anything can actually be built. Foremost among these is the generic design assess- ment (GDA) process for the proposed reactor technology, which will of course be provided by Hitachi GE Nuclear following Hitachi's £700 million acquisition of Horizon in 2012. The GDA process was introduced by the last Labour government to make the approval process for new nuclear technologies in the UK more effective. Once approval is given to a particular technology under this regime, developers are authorised to use that technology across all sites, rather than having to go through a labori- ous inquiry process for every location where it intends to use it. In principle, this should make future nuclear new- build projects run more smoothly and minimise public expense on drawn-out technical inquiries for technolo- gies that are already known to be sound. That said, the GDA process is itself a lengthy and intense affair – necessarily, of course, since it looks to guarantee the safety of nuclear energy generation. Hori- zon started the four- to five-year GDA process in 2013 and hopes to complete it by the end of 2017. Since Hitachi's boiling water reactor is commonly used in nuclear energy plants around the world, and is only a new tech- nology for the UK, Raymant is fully confident it will sail through scrutiny of its safety systems and performance. Having the assurance of such a widely used tech- nology is a major boon to Horizon, says Raymant, who recalls uncertainty over the technology choice back in the days of Horizon's Eon-RWE ownership – before the

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