Fears over nuclear plan

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The boss of an energy giant bidding to build the next generation of UK nuclear reactors has said a multi-billion pound project does have a future.

Mike Tynan, vice-president of Westinghouse UK which has its head office at Buckshaw Village, near Chorley, has said he believes the bid to build its AP1000 reactor at a site in Angelsey, North Wales is “delayed not dead”.

Springfields Fuels Ltd factory in Salwick, near Preston.

Springfields Fuels Ltd factory in Salwick, near Preston.

It comes as German energy giants, RWE and E.ON, pulled their backing from Horizon Nuclear Power, the company it had set up to build a new reactor at the Wylfa site, on Thursday.

The AP1000 is in a head-to-head battle with the rival EPR reactor, built by French firm Areva, for the £7.5bn deal, and the news puts a question mark over which design will be picked.

A decision was due from Horizon within days over the deal which, if the AP1000 had been successful, would have seen the contract to power the new reactor handed to Springfield Fuels factory at Salwick, near Preston, securing 1,000 jobs for up to 60 years.

But Mr Tynan insisted he had been assured by Horizon that there was interest from other energy companies about taking on the project.

He said: “It is a setback, it is frustrating and hugely disappointing after all the work which has been put in.

“But Horizon is hoping that new investors will come in and they are continuing the project at Wylfa and looking for investors to take the project on as it stands.

“Whilst it is confident that investors will come forward, who those investors are and what their feelings towards the AP1000 is, I could not say.”

The boss added the delay was likely to be “between three to six months” while new investors were sought.

He said there would be “no immediate impact” on the Springfields site, which is owned by Westinghouse, which has work to keep its 1,000-strong workforce employed for another decade.

Mr Tynan said: “If a decision were made on Wylfa today and the AP1000 were selected, that site would not be operational until 2020 at the earliest, at which point Springfields would begin supply.

“We are some years away from serious work starting for Springfields being involved in the support programme, this obviously delays that process further but it is delayed, not dead.”

In a statement on Thursday, Horizon chief operating officer Alan Rayment said it would be “working with our shareholders” to find new investors for the company.

Mike Clancy, director-general of nuclear workers’ union, Prospect, said he feared the impact of the withdrawal by RWE and E.ON would “stretch far beyond the immediate workforce” of companies involved in the project.

Energy minister Charles Hendry said the news was “very disappointing” but said he believed it would provide an opportunity for other energy companies to take on the project.

French-owned EDF Energy has already confirmed it will start work on building the Areva EPR at its sites, initially at Hinkley Point in Somerset, while Nugen – a consortium of Spanish energy group Ibedrola and French firm GDF Suez – has also targeted a site at Sellafield, Cumbria for a reactor.

Mr Hendry said: “E.ON and RWE’s withdrawal is clearly very disappointing, but the partners have clearly explained that this decision was based on pressures elsewhere in their businesses and not any doubts about the role of nuclear in UK’s energy future.

“The UK’s new nuclear programme is far more than one consortium and there remains considerable interest.

“Plans from EDF and Nugen are on track and Horizon’s sites offer new players an excellent ready-made opportunity to enter the market.”