EDF Reactor Contracts ‘Tangible’ Sign U.K. Nuclear on Target

Electricite de France SA has signed 200 million pounds ($311 million) of supply chain contracts for its nuclear program in Britain, as the company seeks to complete its first U.K. nuclear plant in 2018.

The accords are a “tangible demonstration” that the Paris-based utility’s U.K. plans are on target, EDF U.K. Chief Executive Officer Vincent de Rivaz said today at a conference in London. The contracts will support more than 500 jobs, he said.

The European debt crisis and the Fukushima disaster have weighed on plans to build reactors in the U.K. About a quarter of Britain’s energy capacity will expire in the next decade as coal-fired stations shut to meet European pollution requirements and reactors reach the end of their working lives. The country is due to retire all but one of its 18 reactors by 2023.

“We need to see a chain of reactors getting built,” Energy Minister Charles Hendry said at the conference. Nuclear power is “central to our growth agenda” and has “genuine cross-party support.”

In the months after the March tsunami in Japan triggered meltdowns at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear plant, the British and French governments reiterated support for atomic energy, while Germany rolled back plans for reactor life extensions and committed to shut all atomic plants by 2022. A Populus poll of 2,050 people conducted for the British Science Association in August found that 54 percent of people support the construction of nuclear stations if it would help tackle climate change.

Six Utilities

EDF, in partnership with Centrica Plc, is one of six utilities planning to build atomic stations in Britain. The company’s Hinkley Point reactor will be the first built in the country in more than 15 years. As many as 25,000 people will be employed over the course of construction, Project Director Chris Bakken said today. The 3,260-megawatt plant will produce enough energy to power about 5 million homes, he said.

An interim design approval certificate for the Areva SA EPR design for Hinkley will be issued tomorrow by the U.K. Office of Nuclear Regulation, de Rivaz said.

The U.K. announced plans in March to set a minimum price on carbon dioxide emissions starting in 2013. The price floor is intended to ensure that large-scale power project investors are paid for the energy they produce, Hendry said today.

Utilities may need to spend as much as 6 billion pounds per reactor, according to Hendry. EDF’s first-of-a-kind EPR reactor at Flamanville, France, will cost about 5 billion euros ($6.6 billion), 1.7 billion euros more than originally planned.

Other companies considering building nuclear power stations in the U.K. include RWE AG, EON AG, Iberdrola SA and GDF Suez SA.

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