The news that Toshiba (TOKYO: 6502) has successfully bought into NuGen, the nuclear newbuild company planning a reactor in northwest England, is further proof that the UK is the most promising nuclear destination in Europe.
NuGen was originally 50-50 owned by GDF Suez and Iberdrola – now Toshiba has bought Iberdrola’s stake and snapped up a further 10 per cent, giving in a 60 per cent majority shareholding.
The deal clears the way for Toshiba company Westinghouse to provide its AP1000 reactors for the Moorside plant in Cumbria. NuGen was the last of the three newbuild players to firm up a reactor design – EDF will use Areva’s EPR at Hinkley Point C (pictured) and Horizon (owned by Hitachi) will utilise Hitachi-GE’s ABWR at Wylfa and Oldbury.
While there is still the not-insignificant matter of an EU state aid hurdle to be cleared over the UK government’s strike price deal with EDF for Hinkley, the Toshiba deal again proves that the UK can attract heavy-hitting investors into its nuclear market.
With the Energy Bill now in law and the Hinkley deal done, Britain really can say that it is open for nuclear business.
That any of this has happened at all is due in some part to the UK government avoiding any knee-jerk decisions in the wake of Fukushima in 2011. Instead it commissioned independent chief nuclear Inspector Dr Mike Weightman to review what happened and consider its implications for the UK.
His review concluded that UK stations were safe, there were no fundamental weaknesses in the licensing regime, and he made a series of recommendations that the industry is implementing.
All of which has reassured those global nuclear players who have had an eye on the UK market in the last couple of years.
This week in the UK the energy headlines have been dominated by shale gas news – Total has entered the British market and the government has issued a business rates sweetener to councils that allow fracking on their land.
But behind the (sometimes hysterical and misinformed) to-frack-or-not-to-frack headlines, the Toshiba deal is significant and puts in place a further piece of the British energy jigsaw that could reveal a picture of a low carbon power generation boosting domestic technology and manufacturing.