Fukushima Wylfa B Cost Impact Minimal

by J Roberts
(North Wales)

According to Horizon Nuclear Power, UK nuclear build costs are unlikely to rise much due to probable new measures to be introduced following the Fukushima disaster.

Alan Raymant, the Chief Executive Officer of Horizon, a joint venture between German energy utilities RWE and E.ON AG, believes the cost impact of the incident in Japan will be minimal.

There are plans for 6GW of new electricity generating capacity at Wylfa on Anglesey and Oldbury in Gloucestershire, which represents a part of the broader new nuclear build programme for Britain as old stations such as Wylfa A are closed down.

Currently, the industry is waiting for the final report from Dr Mike Weightman who is carrying out a review for the UK Government into the implications of the incident in Japan for the proposed new nuclear programme.

Dr Weightman has already released an interim statement in which he set out the panel’s findings. These can be summarised as follows:

  • In the aftermath of the Fukushima event, the nuclear industry in Britain has demonstrated its responsibility in matters of safety by the way it has reacted in what is inevitably a time of anxiety.

  • As the direct cause of the event in Japan was a magnitude 9 earthquake followed by a 14m high tsunami, such a consecutive sequence of natural disaster events is considered to be highly improbable and beyond what could reasonably be expected to occur in the British Isles. It is for this reason that the report sees no need to shut down the existing nuclear plants in Britain.

  • On completion of the investigation, any enhancements thought to be beneficial to safe operation of nuclear plant would be considered at the site specific level, within the current regulatory framework.

  • The interim report suggests there do not appear to be any shortfalls in consideration given to key safety assessment principles in the UK, in light of the Fukushima incident.

  • The existing UK nuclear licensing regime still appears to be robust, after events in Japan.

  • There would not appear to be any need to change the existing siting strategy for new
    nuclear plants in the UK.

  • A new Office for Nuclear Regulation should be a real confidence booster and show the UK remains at the forefront of the highest standards of robust nuclear regulation.

  • On the matter of potential flood risks to sites such as Wylfa Head, the interim report suggests it unlikely that projected risks would stop new nuclear build at the locations already earmarked for the new generation reactors.

We should also consider the recent strategic decision by Chancellor Merkel’s government in Germany to dramatically change the course of that country’s long term energy policy by closing all its existing nuclear power plants by 2022.

Mrs Merkel had asked a special panel, along similar lines to the Weightman Report, to review nuclear power in Germany post-Fukushima.

For an economy as large as Germany, where nuclear contributes almost 25% of the electricity supply, strategically in terms of energy security this is a profound and defining moment.

In contrast to the interim Weightman Review conclusions, the German commission reckons they can get by with a 10% cut in electricity use over the next ten years by focusing on efficiency in plant, equipment and buildings, and with a bigger share from wind power.

With these major developments going on in the world of low carbon energy, it would not be surprising if people on Anglesey are anxious about where this leaves the future of Wylfa B, and with it the prospect of a significant economic boost for decades to come.

Horizon says the decision on which reactor it will choose – either the Areva/ EDF European Pressurised Reactor (EPR) or the Westinghouse Toshiba AP1000 – is likely to be made at the end of 2011 or early 2012.

A key stage of the overall process in building new nuclear power stations in the UK is the Generic Design Assessment (GDA), and because of Fukushima the regulators need to wait for the final recommendations from Weightman before the GDA can be made later this year.

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