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EDF reactor design for Hinkley Point C wins approval

13 Dec 2012 15:40:36 | edem

French-based utility EDF needs just one more green light to make a final investment decision on its 3.2GW Hinkley Point C nuclear electricity project after UK regulators approved its proposed reactor design on Thursday.

EDF is now waiting for approval from the country's Planning Inspectorate, the final milestone needed before it may make a financial investment decision. The company has said previously it intends to announce whether the project will go ahead before the end of the year.

The reactor design, known as a European Pressurised Reactor (EPR), has not been built in the UK before but the design is being used at EDF's latest nuclear plant at Flamanville 3 in France, and also at Finland's Okiluoto 3. Both developments are not yet finished and have been beset by delays and cost overruns (see EDEM 4 December 2012).

EDF chief executive Vincent de Rivaz said in a statement that the approval showed the credibility of the EPR design, "as well as demonstrating that the UK has a credible policy and regulatory framework in place."

Energy minister John Hayes said the decision "caps an excellent year for nuclear new build in the UK.

The UK's Office for Nuclear Regulation subjected the EPR design to a stringent safety assessment involving 850,000 hours of engineering studies carried out over four years.

EDF has been negotiating with the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) over a subsidy deal for the new project, should it be approved. DECC allowed EDF, a biomass facility and six offshore wind farms to begin talks to set up Contracts for Difference (CfDs) for the new feed-in tariffs ahead of other low-carbon generation projects (see EDEM 23 October 2012).

Legislation for the new regime is still being debated in the UK parliament and had the strike price discussions not been fast-tracked, EDF would have been forced to delay its investment decision. The government does not expect to publish strike prices for low-carbon generators, a central element to the value of the CfDs, until mid-2013 (see EDEM 22 May 2012).

The government granted a site licence for Hinkley Point C at the end of last month, the first to be awarded in the UK for 25 years. EDF's project partner Centrica, which owns a 20% share, is widely expected to sell down its interest in the project once the investment decision has been made. KB

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