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Boost for UK new nuclear as Chinese groups eye investment

Chinese energy groups could lend a boost to UK nuclear plans after reports there are firms looking to form consortia to buy the failed Horizon consortium.

The Financial Times reports that the ‘at least two… consortia’ are weighing up bids for the Horizon-owed sites which would see new nuclear reactors developed at Wylfa first in Wales, and with the option for a second plant at Oldbury-on-Severn in Gloucestershire.

The move comes after E.on and RWE npower put their joint venture up for sale and pulled out of proposed investment in new nuclear.

Scottish and Southern Energy confirmed it was pulling out of a third consortium, NuGen in September last year from partners GDF Suez and Iberdrola. EDF Energy has yet to confirm its final investment decision but has started preliminary works at the first new nuclear plant at Hinkley Point C.

The government has repeatedly backed new nuclear, most recently by chief commercial secretary Lord Sassoon at an EDF Energy event in London, and claims new nuclear is a vital part of the future energy mix alongside renewables.

Mr Sassoon told EDF’s Talk Power 2012 event last month: “I must of course reiterate the headlines of our commitment on nuclear power, we have been clear that nuclear power has a vital role to play in our energy mix and we fully welcome EDF Energy’s continued appetite for investment in the UK through it’s new nuclear build programme and of course that started with it’s application for the station at Hinkley Point. 

“In an industry with such long lead times, such significant early investment, very long payback periods, it is vital that the industry retains confidence in the governments energy policies and we are committed to working to ensure that we create the right conditions to secure the UK’s nuclear future.”

Chinese investment in new nuclear could be the flagship investment that the government has sought in UK infrastructure recently, through high-level talks including chancellor George Osborne’s visit to China earlier this year.

The FT lists potential consortiums including “Japan’s Westinghouse, owned by Toshiba, with a western utility, a Chinese group – either China Guangdong Nuclear Power or China’s State Nuclear Power Technology Corporation – and potentially a sovereign wealth fund”.

The move would be a boost to Laing O’Rourke, as Westinghouse confirmed it had selected Shaw Group and Laing O’Rourke to be its partners for UK nuclear work in 2009.

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