Utility Week

UTILITY Week 21st April 2017

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UTILITY WEEK | 21ST - 27TH APRIL 2017 | 13 Generation Review UK nuclear Waiting for the renaissance For 20 years consecutive governments have said they want new nuclear plants – and then they've ducked the difficult questions. New generation T he UK's fleet of nuclear power stations is vital to powering the country. With the existing fleet of seven account- ing for one-fih of overall capacity, a single plant coming offline, ramps up pressure on the grid. In the coming years, as coal continues to be removed, the need to fill the void with a reliable baseload generation method will only increase, and nuclear is ideally placed to play the part. Renewables have come down in cost, and increased in efficiency and capacity, but simply cannot compete on reliability in time. However, the current nuclear fleet can- not deliver what is required. Already operat- ing for 27 years, Sizewell B is as modern as it gets, while the majority of the advanced gas-cooled reactors (AGRs) date back to the 1980s. Hinkley Point B and Hunterston B date back to 1976. Look ahead to 2030, and Sizewell B is the only existing plant sched- uled to still be in operation. That means replenishing the fleet, follow- ing up the first phase of plants from the 1950s and 1960s, and those of the second phase still operational, with the UK's third phase of nuclear power plants. However, despite the need and despite repeated attempts to kick- start a new nuclear renaissance, it appears to be getting harder rather than easier. At the same time as the contribution of renewables such as offshore wind has increased as the costs have fallen, the cost of nuclear has been rising. A decade ago, when the latest push for a third phase of nuclear power began, nuclear engineering company Areva said new plants could be built at a cost of £24/MWh. Last year, EDF had to be offered a strike price of £92.50 before it would make an investment decision in favour of Hinkley Point C. Much of that price rise has been beyond the control of the government, especially the meltdown of all three reactors at Japan's Fukushima plant in 2011 following an earth- quake, which caused many worldwide to question whether nuclear power had a future at all. On top of that, a worldwide slump in the price of oil abruptly made new nuclear even more expensive compared with gas. The new government appears to agree, and says that any plants aer Hinkley Point C will have to come in at a lower cost. How- ever, far from expressing a willingness to cut their prices, several companies involved in the supply chain have been signalling that they want to dial down their involvement or quit nuclear entirely. Further, the news that the UK's departure from the EU will also see it extricate itself from the treaties and agreements of Euratom has thrown a whole new array of uncertain- ties into the mix, from how and where the UK can deal with nuclear waste, to whether it will even be able to buy new fuel supplies. Uncertainty is never desired in a sector, and nuclear undeniably finds itself riddled with it right now, but in as much as it plays a big part today, it is likely to play a big part tomorrow. With the right policies in place, and the opportunity to progress with the potential of small modular reactors (SMRs), the third phase will likely see the light of day. Hinkley Point C. The 3.2GW plant has secured a strike price of £92.50/MWh and funding from CGN of China. It is budgeted to cost £18 billion (see box, p15). Sizewell C. This is the proposed 1.6GW sister station to Hinkley Point C and would be developed alongside the existing Sizewell B plant on the Suffolk coast. If developed, the strike price for this plant, and Hinkley Point C would drop to £89.50/MWh. Bradwell B. This would be the third new nuclear power station that EDF would be involved with. It would be developed in conjunction with China's CGN in Essex. Moorside. This project is being developed by NuGen and it would bring online 3.4GW capacity, although the project is suffering difficulties after Engie, exited the consortium, forcing Toshiba to buy its stake (see box, below). Wylfa Newydd. This will be first nuclear power station build by the Horizon Nuclear Power team, which is a subsidiary of Hitachi. It aims to generate at least 5.4GW of power. GRID WATCH: SNAPSHOT OF UK GENERATION ON 6 APRIL 2017 NuGen and Toshiba Despite Toshiba saying in February that it wanted to withdraw from nuclear projects outside Japan, last week it was forced to increase its 60 per stake in NuGen, the consortium building the Moorside nuclear plant, by buying out its French partner, Engie. The French firm invoked a contractual right to offload its share in the event of a default, aer Toshiba's subsidiary Westinghouse, which was due to supply three of its AP1000 reactors for the project, filed for bankruptcy protection in the US last week. Engie announced the sale of its 40 per cent stake to develop- ment partner Toshiba for around ¥15.3 billion (£110 million) last week.

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