U.K. Welcome to China’s Nuclear Industry May Open Way for Russia

  • Rosatom seeking involvement in new U.K. nuclear projects
  • Participation depends on Britain’s financial support

British Prime Minister Theresa May.

Photographer: Justin Tallis/AFP via Getty Images

Russia’s Rosatom Corp. is looking to get involved in the U.K. nuclear industry, spurred by Prime Minister Theresa May’s decision to approve a deal with China to build Britain’s first atomic plant in 20 years.

The state-owned nuclear company’s participation in future projects depends on how willing the U.K. is to financially support other new reactors, Kirill Komarov, first deputy chief executive officer of Rosatom’s global business, said in an interview. Britain already has plans to build 18 gigawatts of new nuclear capacity at six sites, including Electricite de France SA’s Hinkley Point C, over the coming decades.

Earmarked sites for new nuclear reactors in the U.K.

“The U.K. market looks very attractive,” Komarov said. Rosatom could be interested in providing its technology for a project “if the U.K. government is willing to provide good conditions.”

May gave EDF the green light on Sept. 15 to build its 18 billion-pound ($23 billion) Hinkley nuclear station. The decision was delayed amid concerns about the scale of subsidies for the plant and whether Chinese involvement was a security risk. Hinkley Point C was finally allowed to proceed under the condition that EDF won’t be able to sell down its controlling stake prior to completion of construction without government approval.

Historic Approval

Hinkley, which will meet 7 percent of the U.K.’s power demand, will be the first nuclear station in the U.K. since Sizewell B started generating in 1995. The “historic” approval marked the “relaunch of new nuclear in Europe,” Vincent de Rivaz, CEO of EDF’s U.K. unit, said on Sept. 16.

The government agreed two years ago on a so-called contract-for-difference where Hinkley will get a subsidy of 92.50 pounds for every megawatt-hour it produces for 35 years, more than double the forward-curve price of power for 2020. Securing a subsidy helps cover the financial risk of a project, Komarov said.

Hinkley’s approval “is really important for the nuclear industry throughout the whole world,” he said. “The British government commitment to developing new nuclear and the famous CfD -- this kind of support is important.”

The company is interested in partnerships to develop new projects, Komarov said. “We prefer partnerships and we’re happy to share the profits because you also share the risk.”

There are 18 Rosatom-designed reactors operating in Europe, equivalent to 11.2 gigawatts of power, which use the same technology as EDF’s European Pressurized Reactor. While Rosatom’s units are working, the French company has fallen six years behind schedule building its Flamanville station where costs have more than tripled to 10.5 billion euros.

“The talks before were all about Hinkley,” Komarov said. “Now we’ll see if any opportunities come up.”