Three potential British sites up for grabs

10 September 2008

Land adjacent to the Bradwell, Oldbury and Wylfa nuclear power plants is to be sold by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) in the latest development in UK new build.


Wylfa (BNG) 
Wylfa (Image: BNG)
Commercial interest in a program to replace the UK's existing nuclear power plants is extremely high, with the main focus currently on the future of British Energy. The company, which owns what are seen as the prime existing nuclear sites, has long been in talks with Electricité de France over potential future arrangements, which would be likely to include Centrica. To the frustration of the goverment as a minor shareholder, there is yet to be a result and other potential buyers appear to be losing interest.


However, BE is not in possession of all the likely sites for new build, with the Generation I Magnox sites in NDA ownership. The NDA is responsible to government for the eventual clean up of all UK legacy plants and waste, as well as for the operation of the remaining Magnox power plants and the Thorp reprocessing plant. It also has a duty to maximise return on its assets, with funds going back into its overall program.


The NDA announced today that land adjacent to Bradwell, Oldbury and Wylfa would be sold as the 'initial tranche' in a series of divestments also including certain uranium stocks and the Springfields nuclear fuel assembly plant. The decision was made following two rounds of 'market engagement' in which the authority asked commerce for expressions of interest in land, uranic materials and Springfields - and received 38 responses.


"In recognition of the current market environment and the potential to gain optimal value, some land adjacent to three sites will be offered for sale via a competitive process," said the NDA in a statement. Bill Hamilton explained that another round of market engagement would take place before details of the process are announced. Ultimately, Hamilton said, it is for the UK government to decide who can buy the assets so it would be advantageous to any bidder to talk to government and consider the UK national interest in any proposals.


Sean Balmer, who is in charge of commercial projects for the NDA, said a timetable for further engagement was being determined but "we intend to start as soon as is practicable." Hamilton said this would be "in the next few months."


The NDA would give no details on the size of the uranium stocks (tails from enrichment and recovered uranium from reprocessing activities) that would be made available. He confirmed that UK plutonium was being dealt with under an entirely separate strategy. The Springfields plant, which puts together nuclear fuel assemblies for Magnox, Advanced Gas-cooled Reactors and pressurized water reactors would be sold as a going concern. The NDA is to make public announcements with more details on those matters in due course.


Wylfa on the island of Angelsey in north Wales is home to the two largest Magnox reactors ever built at 655 MWe each. It supplies much of its power directly to an aluminium smelter on the island, and local interest in a plant to replace Wylfa after it shuts in 2010 is high. EdF has already bought portions of land alongside Wylfa as well as Hinkley Point in Somerset. Oldbury sits on the River Severn in Gloucestershire about 33 kilometers north of Bristol. Bradwell is in Essex in the south-east of England where demand for power is very high from the London area. British Energy already owns land near the shut-down plant.