Sweeping changes set for French nuclear industry

The French government announced in December a series of major changes to restructure its nuclear power industry and open it up to competition. The news came as the European Commission approved the merger of the nuclear activities of France’s Framatome and Germany’s Siemens.

The blueprint for the reorganization involves establishing a new holding company – Topco – in which the French Atomic Energy Commissariat will own a 78 per cent stake. Topco will own Cogema and Framatome’s 66 per cent stake in Framatome Advanced Nuclear Power (ANP), the new joint venture between Siemens and Framatome.

The French nuclear market will also be opened up to full competition. The government, under the direction of the European Commission, is to ensure Electricit

The remaining 22 per cent of Topco’s capital will be divided between various minority shareholders of Framatome and Cogema, which includes EDF. EDF operates all of France’s 58 nuclear power plants, accounting for most of Europe’s 79 pressurized water reactors.

Ireland orders CCGT

Dublin-based Huntstown Power Company has placed an order with Siemens Power Generation Group for the turnkey construction of a combined cycle power plant. The 340 MW plant will be the first major fully private power project in Ireland.

Independent power producer Huntstown Power is a subsidiary of Northern Ireland utility Viridian Group. The plant will be built to the north of Dublin in the Republic of Ireland, and is scheduled to start commercial operation at the end of 2002.

The new plant will meet around ten per cent of Ireland’s power needs.

  • Edenderry Power Ltd., a subsidiary of Fortum, has officially inaugurated the 117 MWe peat-fired Edenderry power plant in the Republic of Ireland. The à‚£100m ($142m, a167m) plant in County Offaly was completed six months ahead of schedule.

RWE Power buys into Tapada

RWE Power of Germany has announced that it has acquired the shares of UK company PowerGen in the Tapada do Outeiro power plant in Portugal. The move is in line with PowerGen’s current divestment programme and raises RWE’s holding in the combined cycle plant to 75 per cent from 25 per cent.

The a182m ($155m) acquisition also includes PowerGen’s 75 per cent holding in Portugen, the company responsible for the operation and maintenance of Tapada. The 990 MW project near Porto was officially commissioned in 2000 and supplies almost one quarter of Portugal’s electricity demand.

Gert Maichel, CEO of RWE Power, said: “Electricity demand in Spain and Portugal is growing strongly. The acquisition of the shares contribute to strengthening our position in the Iberian market.

Cross-Channel trade opened up to competition

UK transmission system operator National Grid has said that the 2000 MW power interconnector between France and England is to be opened up to competition in 2001. The move represents a further effort by France to open up its power sector to competition in line with EU rules.

Until now, power imported to the UK from mainland Europe had to be bought from Electricit

Capacity for exporting power via the interconnector to the UK will be auctioned in 50 MW blocks. Auctions for power flows in the opposite direction will also be auctioned, but only in 1 MW blocks as power flows from the UK to France are historically much smaller.

Major fuel cell demonstration planned

Siemens-Westinghouse Power Corporation of the US has signed agreements with several major utilities to demonstrate its solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) technology in Europe. EnBW, Electricit

In Germany, EnBW will host a project to build and operate a 1 MW pressurized hybrid power system featuring a scale-up of Siemens-Westinghouse’s Tubular SOFC generator module integrated with a microturbine.

Siemens-Westinghouse will also build a 300 kW-class hybrid prototype at sites owned by RWE Power in Germany and Edison Spa in Italy. These systems will both be combined heat and power demonstrations with startup scheduled for 2003.

The 1 MW system hosted by EnBW will be connected to the utility’s grid.

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