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New tune for UK new nuclear build?

Energy Secretary Chris Huhne says reactors on track for 2018

Chris HuhneUK Energy Minister Chris Huhne, (right) who favors subsidies for wind power projects, and opposes loan guarantees, or anything like it for new nuclear reactors, sought this week to dampen the fiery criticism about his anti-nuclear policy view.

The BBC reports that Huhne said in a radio interview “the government is fully behind opening a new nuclear power station in eight years’ time.”

Huhne’s turnaround in his public statements about nuclear energy follows weeks of statements seemingly designed to sow fear, uncertainty, and doubt (FUD) among electric utilities planning to build 15-18 GWe of new nuclear powered generating capacity at 11 sites. His latest statements are seen by the UK news media as an admission that relying on alternative energy sources like wind, solar, and tidal energy systems won’t be sufficient to meet the nation’s energy needs.

Canceled loan may get new life

A signature decision by the coalition government which threatened to hurl the entire industry into the dustbin of history was the recent cancellation of the government loan to Sheffied Forgemasters. Conservative PM David Cameron wrongly accused the firm’s management of being unwilling to issue shares to raise capital. If it had gone through, the money would have paid for construction of a new manufacturing plant to build 400 ton reactor vessel components.

Currently, the only place in the world where they are made is Japan Steel Works (JSW). The loan was seen as a critical step to insure the UK new reactors would get their pressure vessels in time. JSW has a 3-4 year backlog of orders. The government has since told he company it will reconsider its decision next January.

Industry still not confident of government’s intentions

remove before flightThe UK nuclear renaissance flight plan is still stuck in the government’s grip. Shortly after taking office the new new coalition government abolished an infrastructure planning commission which had the role of speeding up site selection for the new nuclear power stations. A replacement body, to be called the Major Infrastructure Unit, isn’t in place yet.

Huhne’s turn around may be directly tied to a major media push by the business interests most directly affected by his policies. The UK nuclear industry isn’t taking off the caution light about the government’s intentions. The Confederation of British industry (CBI) told the BBC uncertainty over the way the government is doing business makes its members “wary” of committing to new projects.

CBI deputy director John Cridland said, “Energy companies are unable to get the ball rolling on new infrastructure projects when it is unclear how the future planning regime will work.”

A report by the trade association offered the astounding figure of [L]150 billion in new capital investment which was on hold over Huhne’s views.

1st new build starts work despite Huhne’s worst rhetoric

That didn’t stop Nuclear Power Delivery UK, a Westinghouse business unit, from signing a contract Aug 2 to deliver the firm’s 1,150 MW AP1000 reactors to Horizon Nuclear Power at the Wylfa site in North Wales.

Horizon Nuclear Power is a UK energy company developing as a joint venture between E.ON UK and RWE npower. The firm plans to deliver 6 GWe of new nuclear power station capacity in the UK by 2025. The program is expected to to involve more than [L]15 billion of new investment.

Horizon is the third nuclear group to announce plans for the UK. Electricite de France said it plans to have the first of four new nuclear power plants in the country operational in 2018. A consortium made up of Iberdrola, GDF Suez and Scottish and Southern Energy will also build new nuclear power stations.

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