Horizon back in focus

30 October 2012

Hitachi will take forward the Horizon Nuclear Power project, having secured the company with a bid of £696million ($1.1 billion). Between four and six boiling water reactors are now slated for construction in Britain.

The Japanese firm now takes ownership of the project company set up by EOn and RWE to develop new reactors at two UK sites: Wylfa and Oldbury. It will "immediately" set about securing generic design acceptance for its Advanced Boiling Water Reactor from the UK nuclear safety regulators.

"New nuclear isn't only about keeping the lights on and emissions down. It's an industrial strategy with big potential wins."

Ed Davey
Secretary of State
for Energy and Climate Change

With that approval, as well as planning permission, Hitachi would then be able to go ahead with building the units. Two or three reactors are planned for each site, with the first one in operation before 2025.

The announcement of Hitachi as Horizon's buyer marks the end of a period of uncertainty for Horizon's 90 staff as well as for the UK government's policy to encourage private investment in new nuclear power. EOn and RWE decided to sell Horizon last year, citing pressures on their businesses. The biggest of these pressures, of course, was the overnight shutdown of eight large reactors in Germany as a reaction to the Fukushima accident.

But despite that setback the UK remains determined to make nuclear power part of its energy, industrial and climate strategies. Prime minister David Cameron said that Hitachi's investment "will contribute vital new infrastructure to power our economy," while secretary of state for energy and climate change Ed Davey said, "New nuclear isn't only about keeping the lights on and emissions down. It's an industrial strategy with big potential wins."

Speaking for Hitachi, Hiroaki Nakanishi said: "Today starts our 100-year commitment to the UK and its vision to achieve a long-term, secure, low-carbon and affordable energy supply"

Nuclear Industry Council

Underlining its comments about the importance of nuclear energy to Britain, the government today announced the creation of a Nuclear Industry Council, intended to help UK nuclear exporters compete internationally. This is in line with a desire to "build a strong industrial strategy." The role of chairing the council shared by government ministers and Nuclear Industry Association chairman Lord Hutton. One of the first things for the council will be to publish a Nuclear Supply Chain Action Plan, which is already under development.

Another player in UK new build is EDF, which is preparing to build Areva EPRs at Hinkley Point and Sizewell. It welcomed the new council as well as Hitachi's purchase of Horizon, which it said was "a clear demonstration of the UK creating the right investment cliamte for new nuclear."

The third consortium is NuGeneration, comprised of Iberdrola and GDF-Suez. It has rights to a large portion of land alongside Sellafield in Cumbria and is proposing a multi-reactor nuclear power plant there named Moorside.

Producing around 1300 MWe each, Hitachi's total fleet of British ABWRs could reach 7800 MWe. This compares to Horizon's previous plan to build up to 6600 MWe, with all of that fleet in operation by 2025. Hitachi has not yet made public who it intends to operate the units - whether it will develop its own capability or find a partner.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News