The collapse of the NuGen consortium reflects endemic weaknesses in new nuclear projects across Western Europe, says Nigel Hawkins. The last few days have seen very contrasting news for UK new nuclear-build. On the positive front, the first cement pour has taken place at the long-delayed and highly controversial £24 billion 3,200 MW Hinkley Point C plant. It is due to be commissioned in the mid-2020s. On the negative front, the Moorside new nuclear-build project in Cumbria, which plans to build three AP-1000 Westinghouse plants near the Sellafield nuclear re-processing site, is in deep trouble – the damage may be terminal. Following a sharp fall in its share price, the Japanese-based Toshiba, with a 60 per cent stake in Moorside, has decided to withdraw from overseas nuclear projects. Its finances have been drastically undermined by huge losses from US plants being built by its Westinghouse nuclear subsidiary, which it bought from British Nuclear Fuels in 2006. Elsewhere in Western Europe, nuclear new-build problems seem endemic. The third-generation plant at Olkiluoto in Finland – due to be a shop-window for new nuclear-build – is both many € billions over budget and many years behind schedule. EdF’s experience with its first third-generation plant at Flamanville is almost as disastrous as costs soar and delays persist. In fact, c85 per cent of EdF’s shares are publicly-owned, a very different scenario from other players in the UK electricity supply industry. Yet, if some of the existing nuclear new-build projects are parked – a likely fate for Moorside – or collapse completely, it may only be the Government that is prepared to step in and rescue them.
Utility Week 7th April 2017 read more »