* Rosatom partners with Fortum, Rolls Royce on nuclear
* MOU will introduce Russia to UK nuclear regulation
* MOU does not give access to nuclear sites - UK govt
By Alissa de Carbonnel and Karolin Schaps
MOSCOW/LONDON, Sept 5 Britain opened the doors
to Russia on Thursday to build new nuclear power plants in the
UK by signing an agreement with Russian state nuclear firm
Rosatom on nuclear cooperation.
Britain has ambitious plans to replace its ageing nuclear
power plants by 2025 in a bid to reduce its carbon emissions
footprint, but its nuclear new build programme has been dogged
by regulatory delays and squabbles about how much public money
should be handed to companies for new plants.
Rosatom said it agreed on Thursday to partner with Finnish
utility Fortum and Britain's Rolls Royce to
seek UK approval to sell its VVER nuclear reactor in Britain
with a view to build it at a British site.
"The parties consider the UK energy market to be an
attractive opportunity, as most of the operating UK NPP (nuclear
power plant) fleet is planned to be decommissioned in the medium
term," Rosatom said in a statement.
A senior Rosatom executive told Reuters earlier this year
that the Russian nuclear giant was unlikely to apply before 2015
for a licence from British regulators, an expensive process that
takes about four years to complete.
"This is the beginning of a very long road, because just the
licensing of the project can take up from three to five years
and then there is the time it takes to obtain a license for a
site," Rosatom spokesman Vladislav Bochkov said. "It is a road
map on cooperation with the British energy ministry."
Fortum, which operates the Soviet-built Loviisa reactor in
Finland, said the parties would look into how Rosatom's VVER
nuclear reactor could be adapted and licensed for the British
market, but said it had not made any investment decisions yet.
SIGNS MOU WITH BRITAIN
Britain's nuclear regulator confirmed on Thursday it had not
been approached by Rosatom to start a reactor licensing process.
Despite lingering doubts in Europe over Russian technology
since the nuclear disaster at Chernobyl in 1986, Rosatom is
increasingly bidding for major tenders on the continent.
The memorandum of understanding (MOU) signed by Britain's
Energy Minister Michael Fallon and Rosatom Director General
Sergey Kirienko in Moscow on Thursday means Russia will be
introduced to the regulator details of Britain's nuclear
industry, a UK energy ministry spokeswoman said.
"The MOU does not provide access to a site in the UK, nor
does it reduce the regulatory or other steps Rosatom like any
other company would have to go through if it decided to invest
in the UK," she added.
Britain has attracted interest from France's EDF,
Japan's Hitachi and a consortium of Spain's Iberdrola
and France's GDF Suez to build new nuclear
plants, but progress has been slow following Japan's Fukushima
disaster in 2011.
While Germany and other countries are turning away from
nuclear energy in the wake of the Fukushima disaster, Britain
remains determined to build atomic capacity, which now provides
about 20 percent of its electricity at nine plants.
The British government is locked into intense negotiations
with France's EDF, which plans to build Britain's first new
nuclear plants at Hinkley Point, about agreeing on a so-called
strike price which will guarantee a minimum price for
electricity sold from the new power plant.
A deal was expected to be reached by the end of last year,
but negotiations are still ongoing.
Rosatom told Reuters last month it is closely watching to
see whether EDF reaches a deal with the British government.