Thomas Thor Survey
There is currently a significant upsurge in nuclear new build activity globally, with over 60 reactors under construction in 15 different countries.
In relation to the nuclear new build activity in the UK which has received a lot of publicity in the media lately, Thomas Thor has conducted a survey amongst nuclear professionals in 13 European countries with the goal of gaining more insight into their opinions about the UK nuclear new build situation.
The need for new build projects in the UK
The UK is on the verge of a major program of nuclear new build to meet future electricity demands. Many of the existing reactors, connected to the grid in 1976, are nearing the end of their working lives and are expected to close during early 2020. The UK’s remaining coal-fired power plants are also predicted to close in the same time period to meet new EU air quality rules.
Consequently, in January 2008, the government announced that it was in the public interest that new nuclear should play a role in the UK’s future energy mix, to avoid a shortfall in generating capacity.
There are currently three existing projects under development in the UK. These new nuclear power stations will reduce the UK’s reliance on imported gas, as North Sea production continues to fall.
EDF Energy, which owns and operates 8 out of 10 existing nuclear power stations in the UK is planning to build 3 new reactors: Hinkley Point C in Somerset, Sizewell C in Suffolk and Bradwell B in Essex.
NuGen, a joint venture between Toshiba and ENGIE, is intending to build three Westinghouse AP1000s at the Moorside site near Sellafield, Cumbria.
Finally Horizon Nuclear Power, owned by Hitachi, is planning to build two or three 1.3GWe ABWRs at both Wylfa, Anglesey and Oldbury, Gloucestershire.
Although all of these projects are still in the development phase, nuclear professionals all over Europe seem to be well aware of their existence. Our opinion poll suggests that 87% are familiar with the UK new build situation and more than half of the nuclear professionals familiar with two or more of the projects.
Nuclear professionals believe in the completion of Hinkley Point C
As the projects have been facing challenges throughout the development stage mainly regarding financing, this has also been reflected in the press; especially Hinkley Point C is often brought up. This is also reflected in our poll as the majority of the respondents mentioned Hinkley Point C as the new build projects they were most familiar with. In April this year, a new delay was announced with the final investment decision to be made in September. Subsequently, there has been much speculation whether the project will go ahead or not. Despite the challenges EDF has experienced with Hinkley Point C, 80% of our respondents remain positive that the project will be realised. Government officials in France and the UK have also expressed confidence in the eventual completion of the project. The French President François Hollande recently stated (17 May 2016) that he is in favour of the work being carried out. Furthermore, Horizon’s target is to get a final investment decision in early 2019 and NuGen by 2018.
Positive prospects for nuclear job market
Our poll also shows that there is a general optimism regarding the number of jobs the projects will bring in, as 92% of the respondents believe the new build plans will benefit the global nuclear industry job market.
According to EDF, HPC is expected to create more than 25,000 employment opportunities. The project is already generating jobs on the design and operation phase. At NuGen’s Moorside project, it is estimated that between 14,000 and 21,000 jobs could be created over the lifetime of the project. Horizon Nuclear Power will create up to 850 permanent jobs on each of their sites, with a construction workforce of around 4,000 workers for the majority of the time, potentially reaching 8,500 workers during peak periods.
To conclude, regardless of the uncertainty conveyed by the media, there seems to be a substantial optimistic view among nuclear professionals. 96% of the respondents indicated that they are positive about the future outlook of the UK nuclear new build situation.
The common agreement seems to be that in spite of the challenges with financing the projects, they are essential to the UK and that they will eventually win public support.