No price on power as nuclear strategy unveiled

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THE Government published its long-term nuclear industrial strategy yesterday but fell short of announcing a guaranteed power price which operators want spelled out before investing billions in new power stations.

French firm EDF and Japan’s Hitachi both have plans to build in Britain, which needs to replace ageing coal-fired and nuclear sites.

The paper sets out a long-term approach to the opportunities for economic growth and job creation from the nuclear industry, including research and development, reactor newbuild, waste management and decommissioning, as well as operations and maintenance.

It comes in response to a 2011 report from the House of Lords on the UK’s nuclear research and development capabilities and recommendations from the nuclear research and development advisory board.

“We have some of the finest workers, research facilities and academics in the world. But we need to sharpen those competitive advantages to become a top table nuclear nation,” said Vince Cable, secretary of state for business, innovation and skills.

Mr Cable announced new funding awards yesterday to “enhance the supply chain and increase opportunities to commercialise new technologies in the sector”.

The £18m joint funding between the Technology Strategy Board, the Department of Energy and Climate Change, the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council will support 35 projects across the UK in developing new technologies for the construction, operation and decommissioning of nuclear power plants.

The total funding allocated for the Yorkshire region was £2.76m, with Sheffield Forgemasters International among those leading projects to benefit from the backing.

Britain plans to build up to 16 gigawatts (GW) of new nuclear power stations within the next decade, which the report says could create 40,000 new jobs, but the Government has yet to outline a guaranteed price for the power produced.

“Ministers have made clear that any deal will need to be in the interest of the consumer. Any agreement reached will be laid before Parliament, and will include details of the strike price,” the Government said in a statement.

Operators such as EDF want a strike price – or minimum power price – of at least £100 per megawatt-hour (MWh), while the Government would prefer a price around £80 per MWh.

EDF won planning approval in March to build Britain’s first new nuclear station in almost 20 years but warned the project would only move forward if it could reach an agreement on the power price.

Britain’s nuclear industry is already largely owned and operated by foreign companies, and ministers have warned of a skills shortfall, namely a lack of homegrown engineers, to help build and run the next generation of nuclear stations.