UK nuclear future buoyed by possible bid for Horizon

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18 July 2012, Nuclear, Solar, Wind

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French group Areva and the China Guangdong Nuclear Power Corporation (CGNPC) are set to put in a GBP15bn ($24bn) joint bid for the Horizon project, which is a joint venture between E.ON and RWE. In March 2012, the two German utilities pulled out of the project, leaving its future in the balance.

Horizon owns the two nuclear sites, which will represent 6GW of nuclear capacity. The existing Wylfa plant, which has been in operation for 40 years, will reach the end of its working life in 2014. The window for bids will close on July 25, 2012 and a decision on the bid is expected by the end of the year.

US firm Westinghouse is also reported to have put in a joint venture bid to take over Horizon with China's State Nuclear Power Technology Corporation (SNPTC). SNPTC owns Westinghouse's joint venture partner State Nuclear Baoti Zirconium (SNZ).

The technical difference between the two consortia is the reactor design. The Areva consortium has the European Pressurized Reactor (EPR), whereas the Westinghouse consortium has the AP1000 reactor. Both types of reactor have gained approval in China, and are soon to be approved in the UK.

The Areva-CGNPC bid comes as a follow-up to a series of mining agreements between the two companies that include the supply of natural uranium from 2012 to 2015.

Areva is also leading a consortium, along with EDF and Centrica, to build four nuclear EPR power plants in the UK, of which the first is Hinkley Point C in Somerset. A final investment decision is expected on Hinkley Point C in late 2012. Other sites in addition to the Wylfa and Oldbury sites that have been identified by the UK government as being suitable for the potential development of new nuclear stations include Bradwell, Essex; Hartlepool, County Durham; Heysham, Lancashire; Sizewell, Suffolk; and Sellafield, Cumbria.

The government's current Energy Bill aims to encourage investment in low-carbon generation (of which nuclear is one) by providing investors with a guaranteed minimum return on generation through a contract for difference (CfD) system. New nuclear investment should be confirmed once more detail is released about the CfD system later in 2012.

Source: Datamonitor

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