Hinkley Point C awaits EDF board vote; UK backs new build after Brexit

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UK Hinkley Point C project ready for EDF board decision

EDF has completed a consultation with union representatives over its U.K. 3.2 GW Hinkley Point C (HPC) power plant project, paving the way for a Final Investment Decision (FID) by the EDF board.

French state-controlled EDF conducted the final meeting with the Company Works Council on July 4, marking the end to seven months of information exchange with unions, EDF said in a statement.

The company also confirmed its commitment to the Hinkley Point C project following Britain's 'Brexit' vote to leave the European Union on June 23.

"EDF reconfirms its confidence in the HPC project which has now reached the stage for the Board’s final investment decision [FID]," EDF said.

The 18 billion pound ($23.3 billion) Hinkley Point C EPR project is one of France's largest planned investments in the UK and EDF has repeatedly delayed its FID.

In October 2013, the UK government agreed a 35-year guaranteed power price for Hinkley Point C at a price of 92.50 pounds per MWh.

However, major construction delays on earlier EPR projects at Olkiluoto in Finland and Flamanville in France mean these plants are yet to start operations. EDF's finances have also been impacted by challenging European power market conditions.

Senior engineers at EDF have reportedly called for the Hinkley Point C project to be delayed by at least two years and in March Thomas Piquemal resigned his role as Chief Financial Officer of EDF, reportedly due to concerns over Hinkley point C.

UK backs nuclear build after Brexit vote

The U.K. government remains "committed to new nuclear power in the UK" following Britain's 'Brexit' vote to leave the European Union, Amber Rudd, Secretary Of State for Energy and Climate Change, said in a speech June 29.

"Government has prepared the ground for a fleet of new nuclear stations...these will support more than 30,000 jobs across the nuclear supply chain over the coming years," the minister said.

EDF, Hitachi and a Toshiba-Engie consortium are each developing nuclear plant projects which would see a total of 18 GW built at six new sites.

The U.K. government will also continue its Small Modular Reactor (SMR) design competition, and it will maintain its spending plans for new energy technologies, including nuclear research and development, Rudd said.

U.K. Chancellor George Osborne announced in November 2015 a new range of measures to support the next generation of nuclear power plants. The government launched in March 2016 a competition to identify the most cost-efficient SMR design and has pledged new investments of at least GBP250 million ($323.9 million) in nuclear R&D over the next five years.

The UK government has signaled increasing support for SMR development and is studying the commercial feasibility of current designs. This follows a technology feasibility study published by National Nuclear Laboratory (NNL) in 2014 which said SMR development would allow the UK to regain technology leadership in the nuclear industry.

US molten salt SMR developer reveals 83% waste reduction

Tests on Transatomic Power Corporation’s molten salt reactor design have demonstrated an 83% reduction in nuclear waste compared to existing reactors, the Massachusetts-based developer said in a technical white paper published July 6.

Transatomic’s Small Modular Reactor (SMR) design uses a liquid uranium-salt mixture and last month the company was awarded a $200,000 government grant to perform high-fidelity modeling of its reactor design in partnership with the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL). The grant was awarded through the U.S. Department of Energy’s Gateway for Accelerated Innovation in Nuclear (GAIN) program.

Transatomic’s upcoming design work will focus on maximizing the energy it can extract from spent nuclear fuel, the company said in a statement.

“Right now, we’ve calculated an 83% reduction in the waste the reactor generates annually as compared to existing reactors, using only uranium that regulators consider ‘low-enriched’ [in uranium-235, the primary fissile isotope],” Mark Massie, Transatomic’s Chief Technology Officer, said.

“Even under the current fuel supply chain, which doesn’t enrich fuel past 5% U-235, we still reduce annual waste production by over 50%,” he said.

Transatomic’s reactor architecture is based on inventions developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Department of Nuclear Science and Engineering (NSE).

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