Mixed news on Netherlands new build

23 January 2012

Dutch utility Delta has announced that it has postponed making a decision on whether to build a second reactor at the existing Borssele site by two to three years. Meanwhile the government has approved the construction of a replacement for the Petten research reactor.

Borssele (EPZ)
Borssele (Image: EPZ)

Delta said that it has informed its shareholders that plans for a new reactor had been put on hold due to "a combination of the financial crisis, the high investment required for a nuclear power plant, the current investment climate and overcapaity in the electricity market combined with low energy prices." It added that its decision was also influenced by uncertainty about Europe's emissions trading system and the allocation of carbon dioxide emission rights. "These uncertainties are currently too great for a project of this magnitude," Delta concluded.

However, the company said that the project will resume once the situation improves. In the meantime, Delta said that it plans to continue investing in new generating capacity and "remains convinced" that nuclear energy is an "essential factor" in securing an electricity supply that is not dependent on imported fossil fuels and offers low long-term costs while significantly reducing carbon dioxide emissions.

Delta first announced its plans for a new plant in September 2008, but did not formally launch the process to seek government approval to build a new nuclear power plant until June 2009. The company had been expected to submit its permit application by the end of 2011, but this was postponed. Under its original plan, Delta proposed starting construction of a 1000-1600 MWe reactor in 2013, with operation set for 2018.

The existing Borssele plant was previously jointly owned by Delta and Essent through the EPZ operating company. However, German utility RWE agreed to buy Essent in 2009 and Essent's share of EPZ was then placed into a new company - Energy Resources Holding (ERH) - owned by the provincial and municipal authorities comprising Essent's original shareholders. Alongside Delta's proposed new plant at Borssele, ERH also announced similar plans for expanding the plant. In September 2010, it applied to build a new nuclear plant there with a capacity of up to 2500 MWe, with construction to start around 2015 and operation in 2019. Following the May 2011 buyout of ERH, RWE was reported as offering to underwrite 20% of Delta's new build project.

Delta noted that, with the delay in a decision on the new Borssele unit, a new plant would not be operational there until 2020 at the earliest. However, Delta said, "There are several options that will involve a shorter implementation time than nuclear power."

Petten replacement approved

Meanwhile, the Dutch government has given its approval for the construction of a replacement for the ageing High Flux Reactor (HFR) at Petten. The Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs, Agriculture and Innovation announced the cabinet's decision on 20 January. The ministry said that the government and the province of Noord-Holland would each provide €40 million ($52 million) for the design, procurement and licensing procedure of the Pallas reactor.

Paul de Jong, Pallas project director, commented, "The Pallas project team has worked hard during the last three years on the preparation for implementing the pallas project. This decision means that we can continue with the next project phase. We are certainly ready for that." The Pallas reactor could be operational in 2022, the ministry noted.

"The European call for tenders and the licensing and permits process will be started soon," the Nuclear Research and Consultancy Group (NRG), which operates HFR, said.

Since it became operational in September 1960, the 45 MW HFR at Petten has been largely shifted from reactor materials testing to fundamental research and the production of medical radioisotopes. The reactor has for a long time supplied about 60% of Europe's and 30% of the world's supply of medical radioactive sources.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News