Npower and E.ON scrap nuclear plans

Government plans for a nuclear UK are in tatters after energy giants RWE Npower and E.ON pulled the plug on a major nuclear power project.

Making the announcement today (March 29), the pair said that following a strategic review, which concluded that raising costs for the project would be challenging in the current financial climate, they have decided not to proceed with plans to develop its joint venture Horizons Nuclear Power.

Under the venture, the pair had planned to invest in two new power plants in Oldbury, near Bristol and Anglesey, Wales and both E.ON and Npower confirmed that they intend to look for a new owner for Horizon and that they plan to focus on other strategic projects in the UK.

Npower CEO Volker Beckers said that it continues to “believe that nuclear power has an important role to play in the UK’s future energy mix”, adding that it is looking to ensure that its work on development, including grid connection, can be taken up quickly by other potential investors.

He also said he remains “convinced that Horizon’s development projects represent excellent sites for new nuclear power stations in the UK”.

Commenting on the decision energy minister Charles Hendry said while the withdrawal is “clearly very disappointing” that the Government remains committed to its nuclear programme and has “no doubts” about the role of nuclear in UK’s energy future.

He said: “The UK’s new nuclear programme is far more than one consortia and there remains considerable interest. Plans from EDF/Centrica and Nugen are on track and Horizon’s sites offer new players an excellent ready-made opportunity to enter the market.”

However, environmental group WWF-UK called for the Government to back renewables, arguing it has the greatest potential for growth, as well as environmental benefits. In comparison it said it was evident that economics of nuclear remains uncertain.

WWF-UK head of climate change Keith Allott, said: “Despite the Government’s efforts to bend over backwards to support the nuclear industry, it is now blindingly clear that the economics just don’t stack up. Three major utilities have now pulled out of nuclear plans in the UK, and the only two reactors under construction in Europe are massively over budget and behind schedule.

“The Government needs to wake up and smell the coffee – if it backed the renewables industry to the hilt instead of flogging the nuclear horse then the UK could become a world leader in a sector that is already seeing massive growth.

Carys Matthews

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