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Sellafield nuclear group denies claim member has quit consortium

The NuGen consortium planning to build a nuclear power plant at Sellafield has scotched press reports that one of its members is pulling out.

The Sunday Times claimed that Iberdrola had told partner GDF Suez that it is withdrawing, leaving the £5bn Moorside project in serious doubt.

The newspaper said it was “unlikely” GDF Suez would proceed on its own.

Any collapse of nuclear new-build proposals would be a devastating blow for west Cumbria because hopes for thousands of new jobs ride on the scheme going ahead.

It is estimated that 5,000 jobs would be created during the construction phase, plus 800 permanent jobs once the reactors come on stream and another 1,000 jobs every time a reactor is refuelled.

NuGen has issued a statement rebutting the Sunday Times report.

It said: “We have been told quite directly and forcibly that both our parent companies are 100 per cent committed to the Moorside project.”

The newspaper claimed that Spanish company Iberdrola was “grappling with energy taxes and deteriorating cashflows at home” leading it to tell GDF Suez that it could not proceed.

Iberdrola declined to comment on what it described as a “speculative” newspaper story.

But a spokesman said: “An investment decision [on whether to go ahead] is not due until 2015.

“All the relevant studies to enable that investment decision to be made are ongoing.”

Any suggestion NuGen might withdraw came as a surprise to Sellafield unions and Copeland council.

Council leader Elaine Woodburn said: “Our priority is to secure nuclear new build and anything that risks that would be a concern to us.

“But if there was any truth to rumours that this is the end of NuGen, I would expect to hear it from the consortium rather than read it in a national newspaper.”

There were originally three members of the NuGen.

Scottish and Southern Energy pulled out in September last year, saying it wanted to concentrate on renewable energy projects such as windfarms instead.

That left Iberdrola and French company GDF Suez as the remaining partners.

They said at the time that they were “highly confident” new build could still go ahead.

NuGen has paid £20m up front as an option to purchase Moorside, in what could prove to be a £70m deal.

It is now carrying out investigations to see if the land is suitable for reactor development.

The work involves boring into the sub-soil to test the geology and to find out what parts of the 170-acre site offer the best location for a power plant.

If the partners decide to proceed in 2015, the aim would be to commission the new plant in 2023.

NuGen says its proposal would be the biggest-ever private sector investment in west Cumbria.

Have your say

These power plants should have been started years ago....

Government after government are messing about while our energy prices are being totally manipulated.There has to be an energy policy and it should be set in stone so governments cant mess with it.

We are being short changed by our decision makers.No doubt these firms that are pulling out want better returns on investment, IMO we should build run and decommission the plants ourselves and use them to keep the energy prices reasonable.

Rather than let more money be dragged out of the country by foreign investors.

Posted by John on 2 October 2012 at 21:17

Note to Steven and others:the main voice linking new nuclear build with a waste store, as reported in N+S, is Sir David King, Chief Scientific Advisor to UK Gov 2000-2009. King also said "Don't second guess the science . . do the Search" Makes sense.

Posted by Democrat on 2 October 2012 at 20:40

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