The future of Britain’s nuclear power is at risk, with one of the three groups looking to build the next generation of reactors on the brink of splitting up. RWE, which owns npower, is in talks with partner E.ON about the future of its involvement in their joint project to open a reactor by 2020. According to people familiar with the situation, RWE is looking for a way to pull out of the Horizon Nuclear Power scheme.
Bleak: The future of Britain’s nuclear power is at risk, with one of the three groups looking to build the next generation of reactors on the brink of splitting up
Costs, currently estimated to be £1million a week, are one of the reasons why the firm is looking at an exit strategy, sources said.
But a larger factor is the value of costs RWE has incurred in Germany with the compulsory closures of the country’s nuclear power plants, they added.
The two German firms already jointly-own three reactors in Germany, and have stakes in 23 reactors at power stations in Germany and Sweden.
Both face problems at home, where the political tide has turned against nuclear power following the Japanese disaster at Fukushima in March.
As a result, the German government ordered the closure of its nuclear plants.
The cost of decommissioning them is not yet known. Half of the country’s 17 plants were immediately and permanently shut down, with the result that cash-flows from the depreciated plants cannot be reinvested – losing the companies billions of euros.
Horizon’s board features major players from both RWE and E.ON, and is headed by chief operating officer Alan Raymant, former head of E.ON UK’s renewables business.
It owns two sites in Wales and plans to build a working reactor by 2020 in Wylfa, with the potential for a second generator at Oldbury.
A spokesman for Horizon refused to comment on whether it would still go ahead if one side left the
Last month another of the UK’s nuclear projects, NuGeneration, saw one of its consortium members drop out for financial reasons. SSE, which specialises in renewable development, left partners GDF Suez and Iberdrola to buy back its 25 per cent stake.
SSE had never operated nuclear plants before, whereas GDF and Iberdrola have nuclear experience in Belgium and Spain. They expects to have an operational site at Sellafield by 2023.
The third group vying to build a nuclear reactor – EDF, combined with British Energy – has begun developing its site at Hinkley Point, Somerset, with the potential to build at four mor e locations.
Britain currently gets a fifth of its energy from its ten nuclear power stations, of which five are due to close in the next decade.
A report on the implications of the Fukushima disaster on British reactors is due to be presented in Parliament next week by Energy Secretary Chris Huhne.
A spokesman for E.ON said: ‘Our plans for Horizon remain the same and we are committed to the project.’ An npower spokesman refused to comment.