Oil Report

INTERVIEW-British Energy may launch new nuclear unit by 2018

PRAGUE, May 23 (Reuters) - British Energy BGY.L may launch a new nuclear power station unit by 2018 if the utility is able to secure the necessary permits in the next five years, Chief Executive Bill Coley said.

The top British power maker is at the heart of the government’s plans to expand nuclear power, as it seeks to reduce its reliance on imported energy and lower carbon emissions.

“My feeling is if we would be able to hold all the consultation and permitting in five years then over the next five years we could build one unit, so by 2017 or the first half of 2018 it could be operational,” Coley told Reuters.

“This is my aspiration, this is not the company decision. I would like to see that happen,” he said in an interview on the sidelines of the European Nuclear Energy Forum in Prague. The company runs eight of Britain’s 10 nuclear power stations, but all except one are scheduled to close by 2023. It has eight candidate sites for new build and some of them can support more than one unit a site.

Coley said British Energy as picked the four best sites for the first wave of new nuclear projects which represented about 10 gigawatts of possible new capacity, but added no decisions have been made on how many units or when they would be built.

“We have some very good sites for new nuclear, which is a way for us to grow our company. We have also had discussion with various companies which would like to build nuclear in the UK about possible partnerships,” he said.

Coley declined to name possible partners or give details on the talks, adding that transmission capacity has been reserved from 2016 onwards for these four sites.

Lacking the expertise to build new plants itself, British Energy is hoping to forge partnerships with companies that would carry out the construction on its land.

But on Friday, French utility Suez LYOE.PA said it had ended talks over a possible offer for British Energy, dealing a blow to government hopes of ensuring strong competition in building new nuclear capacity.

Suez, which is merging with Gaz de France GAZ.PA, was one of three parties which sources familiar with the matter told Reuters last week had expressed interest in British Energy.

Electricite de France EDF.PA was one of the bidders, while Germany's RWE AG RWEG.DE and Spain's Iberdrola IBE.MC have also expressed an interest in making a joint bid.

Coley also said other four sites suitable for new nuclear units would come into the firm’s focus in a longer term as some are in areas where no additional capacity is needed for now.

The British government said in March it was making up to 18 more sites available for the next generation of nuclear plants.