(Reuters) - French state-owned energy company EDF’s (EDF.PA) plan to build the first new nuclear plant in Britain for 20 years is being reviewed by the British government under the leadership of new Prime Minister Teresa May.
If construction starts on the 3.2 gigawatt Hinkley Point C plant in 2019 as is currently envisaged, it would likely take at least a decade before it comes online and then it would provide around 7 percent of Britain’s electricity generation.
The timeline of the project is outlined below.
July 2006: A government energy review, launched under former Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair, said nuclear could make a significant contribution to Britain’s energy mix but the private sector would have to construct, fund and operate any new plants and cover the full cost of decommissioning and long-term waste management.
February 2007: Vincent de Rivaz, the chief executive of EDF Energy, EDF’s UK division, said Britons would be cooking their Christmas dinners powered with energy from a new nuclear plant in Britain in 2017.
September 2008: EDF bought British Energy, then operator of Britain’s existing fleet of nuclear plants, for 12.4 billion pounds ($16.5 billion). The deal included a joint venture with UK utility Centrica (CNA.L), which took a 20 percent stake in EDF Energy and the option to participate in its nuclear new-build program.
EDF said it wanted to build two European Pressurised Reactors (EPRs) at the Hinkley Point site in Somerset where nuclear plant Hinkley Point B was in operation and Hinkley Point A was being decommissioned.
October 2010: The British government said Hinkley Point was one of eight locations it thought suitable for future nuclear power plants.
October 2011: EDF submitted an application for development consent to the Infrastructure Planning Commission.
November 2012: The UK’s Office for Nuclear Regulation awarded a nuclear site license to EDF.
December 2012: Regulators approved the use of the EPR design in Britain.
February 2013: Centrica withdrew from EDF’s new nuclear build program, citing higher-than-expected construction costs and a longer timetable after a safety review of new nuclear reactors was ordered by the British government after Japan’s Fukushima disaster.
March 2013: The government grants planning consent but agreement was needed between EDF and the British government on the fixed “strike price” the company would be given. The strike price would guarantee EDF a certain price for each unit of power the new plant produced. The difference between the market price and the guaranteed price would be topped up with subsidies.
Total installation costs were expected to be 14 billion pounds.
October 2013: A provisional agreement was reached between EDF Energy and the government over the strike price, which would be 92.50 pounds per megawatt hour for 35 years.
The cost of the project had meanwhile reached 16 billion pounds. EDF said Hinkley would now not produce its first power until 2023, subject to a final investment decision in July 2014.
December 2013: The European Commission opened an investigation into whether the project breached state aid rules.
May 2014: Preparatory works such as temporary construction roads start to be done at the site.
October 2014: The European Commission approved the project, but said the plant will cost 24.5 billion pounds.
June 2015: The Austrian government filed a legal complaint with the European Commission regarding state aid for Hinkley Point C.
September 2015: EDF said the project would not be completed by 2023 and a final investment decision would be taken the following month. The British government announced an initial 2 billion pound loan guarantee for Hinkley.
October 2015: EDF signed a deal with China General Nuclear Power Corporation, which took a stake of a third in the project and provide 6 billion pounds. Start-up was scheduled for 2025.
February 2016: EDF said the start of actual construction would not start until 2019.
March 2016: EDF’s finance director resigned as the project would put too much stress on EDF’s already stretched balance sheet.
July 2016: EDF’s board of shareholders narrowly voted to proceed with the project. An EDF board member quit ahead of the vote saying the project was financially risky.
Britain’s new Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Greg Clark, said the government would not sign the contract over the next few days as expected, but delayed the decision until the autumn to consider the project.
Editing by David Evans