UK nuclear builders say unfazed by Fukushima delays

Thu Nov 17, 2011 10:10am EST

* Horizon's nuclear new build plans unchanged

* EDF Energy to give new Hinkley Point start date in late 2012

* NuGen to start site investigation work at Sellafield early 2012

LONDON, Nov 17 (Reuters) - Investors in new nuclear plants in Britain are determined to push ahead with projects despite regulatory delays and potential increases in costs due to Japan's Fukushima crisis, developers said on Thursday.

"Fukushima caused everyone to take a step back and reflect on what it means, (but) our ambitions remain. We haven't changed any of our plans," said Alan Raymant, chief operating officer of Horizon, a joint venture between German rivals E.ON and RWE which aims to build up to 6 gigawatts (GW) of nuclear plant capacity in Britain.

The Japanese nuclear disaster in March caused a delay in Britain's approval process for new types of nuclear reactors as the regulator took time to assess the impact of the incident on the UK nuclear industry.

EDF Energy, which plans to build the first of Britain's new nuclear plants at Hinkley Point in Somerset, said earlier this year its 2018 start date for the new plant had to be revised.

A new timetable announcement is not expected until the end of 2012, when the French company will make its final investment decision, said Hinkley Point project director Chris Bakken.

Despite these delays, the utility will press ahead with the Somerset project and plans to begin a public consultation on its next nuclear new build project at Sizewell next year, Bakken said.

NuGeneration (NuGen), Britain's third nuclear new build consortium which groups Spain's Iberdrola and France's GDF Suez, also said it had made progress on its project in Sellafield, despite the fact the group had lost its third partner, British SSE.

"Last week we received site investigation permission from Copeland Borough Council, and work is expected to start in early 2012," said Alfio Vidal, chief nuclear director at NuGen.

Britain's nuclear plans stand in stark contrast to those of some other European countries, such as Germany, where the government has decided since the Fukushima crisis to phase out of nuclear power by 2022.

"Germany's move away from nuclear is difficult to understand," said Mark Higson, chief executive of the nuclear unit at the UK Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC).

"We will go forward with new nuclear in the UK, but we have to rationally answer people's concerns."

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