New Projects, Nuclear, Reactors

EDF calls on UK to declare nuclear need

6 January 2009 – The British government must declare a national need for new nuclear power stations by the end of this year if EDF is to launch its first new generation reactor by 2017, according to senior executives of the French energy group.

EDF on Monday finalised its £12.5bn ($17.5bn) takeover of British Energy, operator of 10 UK nuclear power plants. The group plans to build four of the French-designed 1600 MW EPR reactors on British Energy sites.

However, Pierre Gadonneix, EDF chief executive, said Britain still needed to develop a “fluent” regulatory environment for the new generation technology if it was to have the new nuclear capacity needed to address environmental and capacity concerns.

“Clearly the British government and many stakeholders are aware of the huge need for nuclear development as soon as possible,” he said in an interview with the Financial Times. “If we want to meet the 2017 challenge for the first EPR, we must find ways to make the process as fluent as possible . . . That will take time and that will cost.”

The UK government backed the EDF takeover of British Energy in the hopes that the experienced operator would deliver quickly a new wave of nuclear power stations.

However, the first EPR being built outside France – by fellow French group Areva in Finland – has run into serious delays, in part due to regulatory differences.

Mr Gadonneix was speaking as EDF said its offer for British Energy had become unconditional.

He said EDF was open to other companies taking stakes in its new nuclear power stations in the UK, along the lines of Enel of Italy’s 12.5 per cent stake in the new reactor being built at Flamanville in northern France.

EDF is likely to want other companies involved to help meet the huge cost of its investment plans. It is in talks with Centrica, the owner of British Gas, to take a 25 per cent stake in British Energy for an equivalent price to its bid, making the stake worth £3.1bn. It is also discussing the possibility of a stake in future nuclear reactors.

Acquiring more generation capacity is an important strategic objective for Centrica to reduce its vulnerability to commodity price fluctuations.

However, if it wants to take a stake in any new developments, it will have to put up further funds to meet its share of the investment cost.

“Centrica can be a partner, but it is not the only one for new nuclear,” Mr Gadonneix said. He suggested that the Centrica deal might be completed within two or three months.