EDF boss says £20bn nuclear plans on track

EDF’s chief executive in the UK Vincent de Rivaz has said that he feels sufficiently reassured by the new government’s energy stance for EDF’s £20bn nuclear ambitions to remain on […]

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By Kelvin Ross

EDF’s chief executive in the UK Vincent de Rivaz has said that he feels sufficiently reassured by the new government’s energy stance for EDF’s £20bn nuclear ambitions to remain on track.

Speaking at an energy conference last week, Mr de Rivaz said: “What has emerged very quickly from the coalition government is clarity over its commitment to deliver a low carbon future, together with a commitment that new nuclear will play a part in the new administration’s plans.”

He said that Energy Secretary Chris Huhne had “provided important reassurances that he will take a pragmatic approach to new nuclear power as long as it can be built without subsidy”.

EDF operates 15 reactors in the UK, with plans under way to build four new reactors at Hinkley in Somerset and Sizewell in Suffolk in conjunction Centrica, which has a 20% stake in EDF’s nuclear investment. Globally, EDF runs 82 nuclear reactors.

Mr de Rivaz said EDF was “ideally placed to lead the UK’s nuclear revival”. He said EDF proposed investment of around £20bn in 6 GW of low carbon, new nuclear capacity will in turn generate 50 TWh of electricity each year by 2025.

“That’s enough to meet 40% of the UK’s domestic demand,” he explained. “And, importantly, it will do so at a predictable cost that can help protect consumers from the volatility we have been seeing in commodity markets in recent years.”

He outlined how EDF’s new reactors would follow a new European Pressurised Water Reactor design developed jointly with Areva. “That means we are drawing on the new nuclear technologies we are already deploying in France and China. In doing so, we benefit from significant economies of scale, which inform our processes, equipment and contracts in the UK. Our design will not only generate more power than the majority of existing reactor designs, it will also run more efficiently, using less uranium and generating proportionately less waste.”

Mr de Rivaz revealed that EDF is set to recruit 10,000 people over the next five years to support its investment plans and renew its workforce. “Our focus now is on ensuring that our workforce is adequately skilled and productive. That’s why we are setting in train plans to significantly expand our existing training resources in the UK.”

He stressed that he had made it clear to Prime Minister David Cameron and Mr Huhne that “we will spearhead the nuclear renaissance in the UK without the need for public subsidy. That is important to the government. It is important for us.

“We operate in a market where the costs for waste and decommissioning are met by nuclear operators through an independently assessed, ringfenced fund, a requirement further underpinned in this year’s Energy Act. Together with other operators we will continue to make regular payments into those funds, to protect ordinary creditors against any associated prospective costs.

“The new government should be left in no doubt then, that we do not, nor will we, seek any kind of taxpayer subsidy.”