German utility EOn has signed a letter of intent with Areva and Siemens to cooperate on the construction of new UK nuclear power plants in the first partnership among players circling the new build market.
EOn announced that it has selected Areva's 1600 MWe European Pressurized Water Reactor (EPR) as its exclusive technology for any future nuclear power plant projects in the UK. Under the cooperation agreement, any new UK plants will use Siemens steam turbines and conventional island.
Also under the agreement, EOn will help to further develop Areva's boiling water reactor (BWR) design work. The two firms said they would collaborate on a 1250 MWe BWR with the confusing preliminary name 'SWR 1000'. EOn will also collaborate with Siemens to work on the conventional island of this reactor.
The SWR 1000 project is being conducted under a contract from the German electric utilities in cooperation with other European countries. The main feature of this new design is the use of passive systems for the control of accidents and transients.
In addition, EOn and Areva are entering into a long-term partnership in service and maintenance for EOn's existing and new nuclear power plants. The two companies will also collaborate on research and development.
Areva CEO Anne Lauvergeon said: "Areva is honoured by EOn's choice of design. This decision illustrates the confidence that one of the world's top utilities has in the future of nuclear power."
EOn, which owns UK power supplier Powergen, had earlier expressed an interest in using Westinghouse's AP1000 reactor design, which received support from the German utility in the first stage of the UK reactor licensing process. David Powell, a Westinghouse regional vice president for the UK, told Bloomberg, "EOn's decision is a bit of a surprise at this stage given that the path forward for those interested in investing in the UK is far from clear." He added, "We remain absolutely 100% committed to the UK market, and continue to work with a number of major utilities."
In the next wave of reactor construction, reactor vendors like Areva are aiming to standardise nuclear plant designs as much as possible in order to reduce regulation hurdles that must be faced in each country. However, Areva has chosen to mix steam turbine and conventional island suppliers. The EPR under construction at Olkiluoto includes a Siemens turbine as any future UK models would, while Flamanville 3 in France and the EPRs for development in the USA under the Unistar scheme will use Alstom equivalents.
This is first partnership announcement from the players circling the UK market. GE-Hitachi and Westinghouse reactors are being touted to utilities from across Europe including Iberdrola, RWE, Suez and Vattenfall. Meanwhile speculation on takeover strategies for British Energy, the nuclear operator which owns the prime sites for new nuclear build, has been growing rapidly.