The rise and fall of nuclear new build in the United Kingdom

11th February 2019 | Commercial Energy

September 2016 was supposed to herald the dawn of a new era for the nuclear power industry in the United Kingdom. The UK Government had confirmed its support for the Hinckley Point C nuclear power project and EDF, the project’s lead developer, had taken its final investment decision. What’s more, Hitachi’s Horizon project at Wylfa, Anglesey and Toshiba’s NuGen project at Moorside Cumbria, were both under active development, with the potential for further large nuclear projects at Oldbury and Sizewell C.

Today, things stand in stark contrast. In November 2018, following the Chapter 11 bankruptcy of Toshiba’s nuclear arm, Westinghouse, and months of failed attempts to find new investors for the project, Toshiba took the decision to wind-up NuGen and cease the development of the Moorside project. Now, Hitachi has reached the same conclusion with respect to Wylfa – leaving its second prospective projects at Oldbury looking doomed. Sizewell C, being jointly developed by EDF and China General Nuclear, remains the only large project under active development.

This is not the first time that the Horizon and NuGen projects have encountered troubles. The Horizon project was originally a joint venture between German utilities Eon and RWE. However, with concerns over the strains that the project would put on their respective balance sheets, and against the backdrop of Germany’s decision to end domestic nuclear power generation in the wake of Fukushima, Eon and RWE exited the project and sold out to Hitachi. NuGen began life as a three-way joint venture among ENGIE, Iberdrola and SSE. SSE was the first sponsor to exit, selling its stake to the remaining two sponsors in 2011. Then Iberdrola exited in 2014, selling its stake to Toshiba, which acquired the remaining shares from ENGIE in 2017, leaving Toshiba, through its Westinghouse subsidiary, as the sole shareholder.

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