Delta sets ball rolling for new Dutch plant

26 June 2009

Dutch utility Delta has formally launched a process that it says will culminate in an application to build a new nuclear power plant to be in operation by 2018. 

With the submission of a start-up memorandum to the Ministry of Housing, Spatial Planning and the Environment, the company has set out on the path to obtaining a permit to build a new unit at Borssele, home to the Netherlands' only operating nuclear power plant operated by EPZ, of which Delta owns 50%.  

Borssele site (EPZ) 
Borssele: room to grow (Image: EPZ)

Delta first announced its plans for a new plant in September 2008. The Borssele site in the province of Zeeland has been chosen because, according to Delta, it offers the best possible option under the Dutch government's long term power supply scheme for various reasons including the location of the existing plant, local support for nuclear power, the availability of sufficient cooling water, and the ability of Dutch radioactive waste management agency COVRA to manage waste from the plant. The project would see Zeeland become the country's "nuclear power centre", Delta says.

"We definitely need nuclear power," said Delta CEO Peter Boerma. "This will be our contribution to a reliable and affordable supply of electricity," he added. Dutch electricity demand is forecast to grow by 1.5-2% per year, equating to an increase of some 30-40% by 2030.

The next step in the application process will be the establishment of guidelines for an environmental impact assessment, which will then be drafted and reviewed by an independent commission before government permission can be granted. Delta says it aims to submit its permit application by the end of 2011, meaning it will be reviewed by the next government rather than the existing one. Although the Dutch government has abandoned earlier plans to phase out nuclear power, it has at present no firm policy on nuclear other than to say that no new nuclear plants will be built under its current term of office, which ends in 2011.

No details of likely reactor designs for the new project have been disclosed, although Delta says it expects construction costs to be in the order of €4-5 billion ($6-7 billion). The company says that if all goes well, a construction permit application could be submitted in 2012 with a construction start date of 2013 and plant operation in 2018.

The effects of the January 2009 buyout of Essent, co-owner with Delta of Borssele operator EPZ, by German utility RWE on the ownership of the existing plant remain unclear. Although the European Commission has now approved the acquisition, Delta recently announced it is "taking legal steps" to ensure that EPZ remains in public ownership.