Today’s the day for Horizon
There has been extensive speculation that today is the deadline for bids for the UK’s Horizon Nuclear Power, which holds two approved sites earmarked for nuclear new build.
Horizon’s German owners EOn and RWE decided earlier this year to seek a buyer for their joint venture company, which had been planning to build up to 6600 MWe of new nuclear capacity at Wylfa and Oldbury. The decision was prompted not by any lack of faith in the UK new build program but from changes in both EOn and RWE’s strategic directions against a background of financial constraints in their home markets. As well as the global financial crisis, both companies’ 2011 financial results were hit by Germany’s abrupt change in nuclear policy following the Fukushima accident which forced the immediate closure of some German plants and reduced the operating lives of the remainder.
EOn and RWE set up Horizon after they formed a consortium to buy land adjacent to the existing Wylfa and Oldbury nuclear power plants from the UK Nuclear Decommissioning Authority in 2009. The company planned to build up to four new units at Wylfa on the Welsh island of Anglesey, to come into operation by 2020, with up to three units at Oldbury following a few years later. No final decision had been made on reactor designs, with both the EPR and AP1000 under consideration.
Several groups have been widely reported to be interested in bidding for Horizon. French reactor vendor Areva, in partnership with the China Guangdong Nuclear Power Corporation (CGNPC), has expressed an intention to bid for Horizon, and would build EPRs, with a consortium of Toshiba with China’s State Nuclear Power Technology Corporation, possibly in conjunction with US utility Exelon, looking to Westinghouse AP1000s. Russian state nuclear company Rosatom has openly said that it would be interested in entering the UK market via Horizon, and GE-Hitachi has also been reported as a potential bidder. Only Areva’s EPR and Westinghouse’s AP1000 are under consideration in the UK’s current generic design assessment program. Other designs, such as Rosatom’s VVER-1000 of GE-Hitachi’s ESBWR or ABWR, could potentially be included in a later round of licensing.
Wylfa is the home to the UK’s last operating Magnox reactor, which is now due to close down in 2014. The plant has long been a major part of the island’s infrastructure. A large aluminium smelting complex to which the plant provided power ceased smelting operations in 2009 after being unable to source a commercially viable power contract. Local public and private stakeholders have launched a collective initiative, the Anglesey Energy Island Programme, to boost the local economy through energy research and development, production and servicing.
The UK government remains supportive of nuclear new build. Speaking ahead of a visit to Wylfa on 13 September, secretary of state for Wales David Jones said that the government remained “firmly committed” to ensuring that conditions were “right” for investment in new nuclear power in Wales and the UK as a whole. “Wylfa itself offers new players an excellent ready-made opportunity to enter that market,” he said.