NuGen nuclear partners take stock

23 September 2011

Iberdrola and Gdf-Suez have reaffirmed their commitment to the NuGen consortium - planning to build a new nuclear power plant alongside Sellafield - after the utility Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE) announced it would withdraw. 


Sellafield site for sale
The 250 hectare plot of land available to NuGen. An option to purchase this was obtained in 2009 for £19.5 million ($30.1 million) and it has been officially sanctioned by the UK government as suitable for new build in a national policy statement.
The 25% of the project company held by SSE is to be taken up equally by Iberdrola and GdF-Suez, leaving NuGen as a 50-50 partnership between the two. Announcing the withdrawal, SSE director of generation and supply Alistair Phillips-Davies said the firm would rather deploy its resources "on business activities and technologies where it has the greatest knowledge and experience."


SSE said taking part in NuGen had helped it to "establish whether some participation in new nuclear power stations would be the right thing for SSE, given we have no experience of ownership or operations in the nuclear sector." While the company believes "the UK will need both nuclear and renewable energy in the future," it wants its core investment to be in renewables.


NuGen was officially founded about one year ago, after the three companies had cooperated to purchase an option on land alongside the Sellafield fuel cycle centre in West Cumbria. The plan is to build a nuclear power plant with capacity of up to 3.6 GWe, but the final technology and investment decision would not come until 2015 and operation around 2023.


At present NuGen is beginning a dialogue with local people and waiting for permission to carry out preliminary site studies, which should come this year. SSE said that the next stages in the project would involve significant commitment of management and finance and now was the time to opt out and concentrate on its preferred options. The company concluded "We may become involved again at a future date, either as an investor or as a purchaser of electricity," but for now its investment plans are focused on renewables energy and gas-fired generation.


A joint statement from GdF-Suez and Iberdrola affirmed their commitment to NuGen. They remain "highly confident" about their prospects and see "no reason why this decision by SSE should impact upon our plans or timetable."

GdF-Suez and Iberdrola are both major suppliers of power in European markets, drawing 20% and 17% of their supplies from nuclear plants in Belgium and Spain respectively. Another joint venture for UK new build is Horizon Nuclear Power, set up by Germany's EOn and RWE, while the other player is EDF Energy after it British Energy's existing power plants and sites in 2008 with an intention to build new reactors. 

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News