News / Europe

    Britain to Build Europe's First Nuclear Plant since Fukushima

    FILE - The entrance to Hartlepool Nuclear Power Station is seen just outside Seaton Carew, northeast England.
    FILE - The entrance to Hartlepool Nuclear Power Station is seen just outside Seaton Carew, northeast England.
    Reuters
    Britain is set to sign a deal with France's EDF for the first nuclear plant to start construction in Europe since Japan's Fukushima disaster raised safety concerns worldwide, at a cost estimated at around $23 billion.
     
    Under the deal, expected to be announced on Monday, the French utility will lead a consortium, including a Chinese group, to construct two European Pressurised Water Reactors (EPRs) designed by France's Areva.
     
    Industry estimates, based on other nuclear projects, put the  cost at around 14 billion pounds or more than 16 billion euros.
     
    EDF's long-time partner China General Nuclear Power Group (CGN), possibly in combination with China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC), is expected to have a 30 to 40 percent stake in the consortium, with Areva taking another 10 percent, according to newspapers including France's Les Echos and Britain's Sunday Telegraph.
     
    EDF and the British prime minister's office declined to comment on the media reports.
     
    The two reactors, each with a capacity of 1.6 gigawatts, would together make up nearly five percent of British generating capacity and increase energy security in the country, which needs to replace 20 percent of its ageing and polluting power plants over the coming decade.
     
    The project is a boost for the global nuclear industry, which has seen projects cancelled since the 2011 Fukushima disaster.
     
    Germany decided to phase out nuclear power, Italy scrapped a planned nuclear programme and France has pledged to cut atomic power to 50 percent of its electricity mix from 75 percent today.
     
    Britain's government and main opposition parties support nuclear power and anti-nuclear sentiment among the population is muted by comparison with other parts of Europe.
     
    George Borovas, nuclear specialist at law firm Pillsbury, said Britain is a unique environment for nuclear, given political support, a relatively strong economy and an existing nuclear fleet.
     
    "If nuclear can't work in the UK, where else?" he said.
     
    Two other groups have put forward plans to build new nuclear plants in Britain and will be scrutinising the EDF deal closely: Japan's Hitachi via its Horizon project and the NuGen project of France's GDF and Spain's Iberdrola.
     
    Huge risks
     
    Under the deal, the EDF-led consortium will build the two reactors at its own risk, but the government will guarantee a minimum price for power generated from the proposed Hinkley Point C plant in Somerset, southwest England, adjacent to an existing nuclear power plant run by EDF.
     
    EDF operates 15 nuclear reactors in the UK following its 12.5 billion pound takeover of British Energy in 2008-2009.
     
    The so-called strike price, over which EDF and Britain have wrangled for more than a year, is expected to be set at about 92 pounds per megawatt-hour, more than twice current market levels, and could be valid for 35 years, according to some media.
     
    If British electricity market prices fall below the agreed threshold, EDF would be reimbursed for the difference, while it would have to pay back money in excess of the price.
     
    The suggested deal comes amid an increasingly bitter row over electricity prices in Britain, with two of the main six utilities announcing more than 8 percent rises for this winter. Several British media were critical of the Hinkley Point project, saying it would increase power prices.
     
    Analysts said it was too early to estimate the impact of the Hinkley Point deal on EDF's outlook and share price as details had yet to emerge, and the deal still needs to get European Commission clearance.
     
    Direct market support for new nuclear plants is unprecedented in Europe since liberalisation started two decades ago, and Britain will be the first country to seek consent from the European Commission's competition department for this.
     
    Earlier this month the Commission ruled out including a reference to nuclear power in revised state aid rules, an indication the UK request could be difficult.
     
    Critics say that by freezing the power price for a nuclear plant for decades ahead, the government is taking huge risks.
     
    "Why would anyone begin to imagine that you know what the price of wholesale electricity will be in be 2058?" said Tom Burke, environmentalist and former government energy adviser.
     
    For EDF too the project is a major risk. At the EPR reactor EDF is building in Flamanville, France, costs ballooned from a budgeted 3.3 billion euros in 2005 to 8.5 billion euros late last year. An EPR built by Areva in Olkiluoto, Finland, has suffered similar overruns and is also years behind schedule.
     
    "If the Hinkley Point project ends up costing 20 billion euros, the consortium will have to cough up the 4 billion euro difference," a Paris-based equities analyst said.
     
    But two EPRs being built by EDF's Chinese partner CGN are on schedule and on budget, and EDF hopes that the Chinese, besides financing, will bring project management skills gathered from constructing more than a dozen nuclear plants in recent years.
     
    British finance minister George Osborne signed an agreement in China on Thursday allowing Chinese companies to enter Britain's nuclear power sector.
     
    China, which is developing its own reactor, sees the Hinkley Point deal as a first foot in the door in Europe and hopes to use the British reference to sell nuclear plants worldwide.
     
    Eventually, this could bring it into competition with EDF and Areva, on whose technologies the Chinese designs are based.

    You May Like

    S. African Farmer Goes From 'Voice in the Wilderness' to Sought-After Expert

    Margarest Roberts has authored more than 40 books on subjects like organic farming, urban agriculture, herbs and ‘superfoods'

    Millennial Men Prefer Bucks Over Beauty

    U.S. men aged 18 to 34 say the finances of a potential significant other are more important than her looks

    Multimedia Lebanese Clown Troupe Marks Valentine's Day Amid Stink

    Activists resort to unusual approaches to raise public awareness of country’s ongoing trash crisis

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clownsi
    X
    February 09, 2016 8:04 PM
    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clowns

    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Rocky Year Ahead for Nigeria Amid Oil Price Crash

    The global fall in the price of oil has rattled the economies of many petroleum exporters, and Africa’s oil king Nigeria is no exception. As Chris Stein reports from Lagos, analysts are predicting a rough year ahead for the continent’s top producer of crude.
    Video

    Video Foreign Policy Weighs Heavy for Some US Voters

    VOA talks to protesters in Manchester, New Hampshire who sound off on foreign policy issues such as the Guantanamo Bay Prison, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Middle East Affairs and national security.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video New Hampshire Voters Are Independent, Mindful of History

    Once every four years, the northeastern state of New Hampshire becomes the center of the U.S. political universe with its first-in-the-nation presidential primary. What's unusual about New Hampshire is how seriously the voters take their role and the responsibility of being among the first to weigh in on the candidates.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Bhutanese Refugees in New Hampshire Closely Watching Primary Election

    They fled their country and lived in refugee camps in neighboring Nepal for decades before being resettled in the northeastern U.S. state of New Hampshire -- now the focus of the U.S. presidential contest. VOA correspondent Aru Pande spoke with members of the Bhutanese community, including new American citizens, about the campaign and the strong anti-immigrant rhetoric of some of the candidates.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.