EDF Energy, working in partnership with CGN, is currently the only developer building new nuclear plant in the UK.

Under the UK system, developers act as the licensees for nuclear new build, with responsibility for arranging the financing, planning and regulatory approval for new plant.

The UK government has taken a market-led approach to nuclear new build: all new plant will be wholly financed and constructed by the private sector, with no direct subsidy. This means that each developer’s decision to invest will depend on economic conditions and financial factors such as capital costs. This has proved challenging for developers, and the government has consulted on the Regulated Asset Base (RAB) approach which is designed to provide a more attractive investment profile for major infrastructure projects – the forthcoming Energy White Paper is expected to include proposals on alternative funding mechanisms.

EDF/CGN, and the currently inactive development groups Horizon and NuGen, are introduced below.

EDF Energy & CGN

EDF Energy is proposing to build four EPR reactors in partnership with CGN (China General Nuclear Power Corporation), with the first two units now being built at Hinkley Point C, Somerset. EDF will also support CGN’s proposed development of the Hualong HPR1000 reactor at Bradwell, Essex.

EDF entered the UK nuclear generation market in 2009 with its acquisition of British Energy, which operated eight formerly state-owned nuclear power stations. UK utility group Centrica retains a 20 per cent stake in the existing stations, but withdrew from a proposed new build collaboration in 2013.

EDF operates through a UK subsidiary called Nuclear New Build Generation Ltd (NNB GenCo). The venture is proposing to build two EPR generators at Hinkley Point, Somerset, followed by two at Sizewell, Suffolk. The four reactors will have a total capacity of 6.4GWe.

EDF made a positive final investment decision on Hinkley Point C in July 2016. The UK government subsequently confirmed its support and signed contracts in September 2016.

Construction is now well underway on both reactors at Hinkley Point C, with the concrete base for the first reactor completed in June 2019, and the second in May 2020. First electricity generation is expected in the mid-2020s, with the second reactor expected to complete around two years after the first.

The deal follows the commercial terms agreed by EDF Energy and the UK government in October 2013. Electricity from Hinkley Point C will receive a guaranteed price under the contract for difference (CFD) regime which also applies to windfarms and other low-carbon sources. The price is £92.50/MWh, linked to the consumer price index. If EDF confirms that it will also build new capacity at Sizewell, that price is reduced to £89.50/MWh to reflect economies of scale.

The procurement process for Hinkley and Sizewell is overseen by NNB GenCo, and operated by EDF Procurement in Paris. Early requests have been for large packages of work or the supply of specialised plant. Smaller suppliers are unlikely to prequalify on their own, and will need to form consortiums or supply agreements with higher-tier suppliers.

EDF has named seven top-tier suppliers to Hinkley Point C:

  • Bouygues TP/Laing O’Rourke – civil works.
  • Balfour Beatty (replaced Costain in 2017) – marine work.
  • Alstom Energy (now part of GE) – turbines.
  • Framatome (formerly Areva) – instrumentation & control, nuclear steam supply system, fuel.
  • Balfour Beatty Bailey – electrical work.
  • Cavendish Boccard Nuclear – mechanical pipework and installation.
  • Actan – HVAC.

Other key suppliers include:

  • Rolls-Royce – heat exchangers, emergency diesel system.
  • Rolls-Royce/Nuvia – reactor coolant processing systems.
  • Weir – large pumps for cooling water.
  • SPX Flow – main pumps for feedwater and cooling water systems.
  • ABB UK – power transmission.
  • Ovivo – intake water filtration systems.
  • Laing O’Rourke – workers’ campus accommodation.
  • Premier Interlink WACO UK Ltd – temporary buildings.

For details of all named suppliers for Hinkley Point C, go to EDF Energy’s Hinkley Point C supplier and contract information database.

EDF is working with CGN to deliver Hinkley Point C, with CGN taking a 33.5 per cent investment share. The two companies have formed a joint venture company, General Nuclear System Ltd, to manage the project, with CGN investing through its UK subsidiary General Nuclear International Ltd. The two groups also propose to collaborate on deploying EPRs at Sizewell C (80 per cent EDF; 20 per cent CGN), and the Hualong HPR1000 reactor at Bradwell in Essex (33.5 per cent EDF; 66.5 per cent CGN).

Sizewell C will be built around five years behind Hinkley Point C – EDF submitted its formal planning application in May 2020. CGN has said that it intends to complete Bradwell B around 2030.

Horizon Nuclear Power

Hitachi Ltd of Japan, the owner of Horizon Nuclear Power, announced in September 2020 that it was ending development of new nuclear plant in the UK. The projects were initially suspended in January 2019.

Horizon was founded as a 50/50 joint venture between E.ON UK and RWE npower, and acquired land and agreed connections for Wylfa, Anglesey, and Oldbury, Gloucestershire, with plans to build around 3GWe of new capacity at each site.

Hitachi acquired Horizon in November 2012, with plans to build two of its own 1300MWe advanced boiling water reactor (ABWR) plants at each site. The ABWR completed the generic design assessment (GDA) process in December 2017.

Wylfa and Oldbury remain government-designated development sites for nuclear new build.

NuGen

NuGeneration Ltd (NuGen) was established as a joint venture between GDF Suez and Iberdrola. It acquired the Moorside site at Sellafield, Cumbria, with the intent of building up to 3.8GWe new capacity.

In 2014, Toshiba acquired all of Iberdrola’s 50 per cent stake plus 10 per cent from GDF Suez (now Engie), which will remain as operator. In 2017, Engie transferred its remaining 40 per cent stake, leaving Toshiba as sole owner of NuGen.

Toshiba subsequently launched a strategic review of its ownership of NuGen and, in November 2018, announced that it was liquidating NuGen after failing to secure a buyer.

Moorside remains a government-designated development site for nuclear new build.