26 Feb 2002 – UK nuclear power producer British Energy and British Nuclear Fuels Limited (BNFL) today signed an agreement on work to assess the feasibility of the Westinghouse AP1000 advanced pressurised water reactor design as a potential nuclear power station option to replace British Energy’s existing UK nuclear power stations when they reach the end of their planned operating lives.
All but one of British Energy’s nuclear plants, which between them account for over 20 per cent of UK electricity production, are due to close by 2025. An energy review carried out by the Cabinet’s Performance and Innovation Unit earlier this month ruled out public subsidies to build new nuclear plants but said that the nuclear option should be kept open.
Robin Jeffrey, British Energy’s executive chairman, said today, “The government’s Energy Policy Review acknowledged the key role which could be played by nuclear power in ensuring a balanced, stable and secure energy supply. This conclusion, coupled with the clear recommendation last week from the House of Lords Select Committee on security of supply that the UK should maintain a nuclear share in generation of no less than 20 per cent, signals a positive future for the UK’s nuclear industry. Today’s Agreement will assess licensing and regulatory issues, and deliver robust cost estimates for the new stations we propose.”
Speaking at the signing of the formal agreement in London BNFL’s Chief Executive Norman Askew said, “BNFL, through our Westinghouse business, has developed one of the world’s most advanced reactor technology systems, the AP1000. This reactor design is ready for deployment now and we are delighted that British Energy wants to pursue this option with us further. This agreement is the first concrete commitment from two companies since the publication of the PIU report and represents a significant step forward in the quest to build a replacement nuclear power station in the UK.”
British Energy has identified two potential reactor designs which could be commercially available on the right timescale for the UK – the Westinghouse AP1000 and the Canadian CANDU, similar to reactors already operated very successfully by British Energy’s Bruce Power subsidiary in Ontario. The agreement between British Energy and BNFL is similar to one already signed with the designers of the CANDU reactor, Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd (AECL) and announced last November.
The Agreement will initially run for a year, and will involve BNFL/Westinghouse as prospective vendors and British Energy as prospective customers in, preparing a case to include AP1000 as an option for new plants in the UK, assessing the technical suitability of AP1000 reactors on existing reactor sites, preparing a business model addressing issues such as launch costs, economics and risk sharing and documenting key factors associated with AP1000 and recommend an implementation strategy.
Robin Jeffrey said, “25 per cent of Britain’s energy comes from nuclear generation, and it produces huge benefits by allowing us also to continue using gas and coal and still meet our environmental commitments. Britain can’t afford to lose that. That’s what British Energy’s ‘Replace Nuclear With Nuclear’ programme is all about – and this Agreement will allow us to develop firm proposals in time to allow us to assess whether AP1000s or CANDUs are suitable replacements for the UK’s reactors”. Jeffrey added, “With a new nuclear programme announced just ten days ago in the US, and Finland now preparing to build a new nuclear power station, Britain has a real opportunity to play a key role in taking forward nuclear generation on both sides of the Atlantic”.
The PIU energy review proposed that the current Climate Change Levy be replaced with a carbon tax from which nuclear power stations would be exempted.