UK nuclear industry confident of future but facing issues

Finance and political will remain a problem for nuclear power, but there are opportunities in the supply chain

Undated handout artists impression issued by EDF of the how the new Hinkley Point C station will look
Undated handout artists impression issued by EDF of the how the new Hinkley Point C station will look

Despite 400 construction jobs losses at the UK’s first new nuclear build for 20 years its supporters remain confident this is the dawning of a new era for the industry in the UK. Peter McCusker reports.

There still remain a number of hurdles to overcome before the final go-ahead for construction of the UK’s first new nuclear plant since Sizewell B in Suffolk in 1995.

French state-owned business EDF Energy hoped to have signed off on the deal to build two new reactors at Hinkley Point in Somerset by late last year.

But progress on the £24bn project has stalled, with EDF still to make a final investment decision – and these delays led to the redundancy of 400 of the site’s 600 construction staff earlier this month.

Difficulties over assembling the financial package and on-going concerns over the robustness of the technology lie at the heart of the delays.

However EDF, the Government and the Nuclear Industry Association (NIA) remain confident the UK is at the dawning of a new nuclear era.

A spokesman for EDF told Journal Energy: “EDF Energy and the UK Government have made good progress on the work to finalise the agreements which will enable a final investment decision in the coming months for the proposed Hinkley Point C nuclear power station. There has also been continuing positive progress with future investment partners in the project.”

EDF Energy has already spent hundreds of millions of pounds on extensive preparatory work and with this nearing completion 400 of the 600 on-site construction staff are being laid off.

Newcastle-born Keith Parker, chief executive of the NIA, told last month’s NOF Energy annual conference in Gateshead that will be some major opportunities in the nuclear industry for the North East supply chain in the coming years (see panel).

Speaking to Journal Energy this week he said: “A final investment decision is expected by the autumn. We understand discussions between the Government, EDF and its Chinese finance partners are going well.

Read more: The Journal

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