ESTORIL, Portugal (Reuters) - The head of one of Britain’s top utilities said on Monday that EDF’s (EDF.PA) planned nuclear power station at Hinkley Point is likely to be the only one to go ahead in the UK.
Alistair Phillips-Davies, chief executive officer of SSE (SSE.L) - an energy supplier and a former investor in new nuclear plants - said that nuclear power has a role to play in reducing carbon emissions, but that existing technologies may not be the right ones.
“The bottom line in nuclear is that it looks like only Hinkley Point will get built and Flamanville needs to go well for that to happen,” Phillips-Davies told Reuters at the Eurelectric utilities conference in Estoril.
EDF is building the same type of European Pressurised Reactor (EPR) in Flamanville, France as it plans for Hinkley Point, but the project is years behind schedule and billions of euros over budget.
French nuclear regulator ASN is set to give a provisional ruling next month on whether the plant can start up as planned in 2018, despite potential weak spots in its reactor vessel.
“Technology needs to help to bring costs down, like in offshore wind. We need the same in nuclear,” Phillips-Davies said, adding that reactor builders may need to look at smaller, more modular nuclear power stations.
In an opinion piece published last year, Phillips-Davies said Britain does not need EDF’s Hinkley Point C nuclear plant to ensure the lights will stay on because alternative projects like new gas plants will be able to fill the gap.
Asked whether the Toshiba-led NuGen (6502.T) and Hitachi-led Horizon (6501.T) consortia, which also plan to build nuclear power stations in Britain, would go ahead despite the bankruptcy of Toshiba-owned reactor builder Westinghouse, Phillips-Davies said “just looking from the outside, it looks tricky”.
“Toshiba looks like it has a lot of problems and whether Hitachi will view that as meaning that they do not want to have a go either, I think that is quite likely. I would not expect them to get done any time soon,” he said.
In April, Horizon formally applied for a site license for its project to build two nuclear reactors in Wylfa, Wales.
Horizon has said it expects to make a final investment decision by the end of 2019.
SSE had a 25 percent stake in NuGen until 2011. After Westinghouse moved into Chapter 11 protection earlier this year, Toshiba’s remaining partner Engie also pulled out of the project.
Editing by Alexander Smith