NuGen’s UK Moorside land deal delivers new build synergies with Sellafield: CEO

The proven deployment and modular construction of the US-built AP1,000 reactor make it an excellent fit for the 3.4 GW Moorside plant and NuGen can use infrastructure from nearby Sellafield for the project, Tom Samson, the company’s CEO, said.

NuGen has said the first reactor for the Moorside plant could be in operation by 2024. (Image credit: 123ducu)

NuGeneration Limited (NuGen) cleared a key stage in its development of the Moorside plant in July when it completed a land acquisition from the state-owned Nuclear Decommissioning Authority based at the nearby Sellafield site in northern England.

The deal represented a strong start for Tom Samson, who was recently appointed CEO of NuGen after a role as Chief Operating Officer of Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (ENEC).

Samson recently spoke at a new build forum held by the UK’s Nuclear Industry Association. He has big ambitions for infrastructure consolidation between the adjacent Moorside and Sellafield sites, including the joint use of land and consolidation of infrastructure resources.

The Moorside plant could also benefit from the significant decommissioning resources on the Sellafield site, Samson said.

Sellafield is the site of the UK’s first nuclear plant, now shutdown, and the facility hosts the country’s largest decommissioning project.

The Moorside project includes the development of the new build site, the development of other sites in West Cumbria that will be needed for transport and logistics infrastructure, and residential accommodation for construction workers.

The Moorfield and Sellafield sites will together represent the largest construction and nuclear power project in the UK, the largest investment ever in the UK county of West Cumbria and one of the largest current infrastructure projects in Europe.

Samson considers 2017 to be a key year for NuGen. The company will seek to develop a consensus for the Moorside construction through an ongoing public consultation process, for which the first stage ended in the summer of 2015. The second stage will start in May 2016 and is expected to be completed in 2017.

If the consultation phase is successful, NuGen would then submit an application for the crucial Development Consent (nuclear site licence), which will be decided upon by the Department of Energy and Climate Change. A final Investment Decision on the project would be made during 2018.

Technology fit

Samson told reporters that the Westinghouse AP 1000 PWR reactor, three of which will be used at the Moorside site, is the right reactor design for the UK market.

“The US technology [the AP1000 reactor] has got a strong licensing pedigree, is designed for modular units and is easy to deliver,” Samson said.
“Seventeen of the units of this kind have been already used in China, so they are no more first of the kind to use,” he said.

The AP1000 plant builds upon the technology of major components used in operational Westinghouse-designed plants. China’s State Nuclear Power Technology Corporation has identified the Westinghouse AP1000 as a main basis of technology development, although the four AP1000 reactors under construction in China and four being built in US are all several years behind schedule.

Samson said that the design of NuGen’s Moorside plant “will not be identical with the Chinese plants using the same technology as its modular structure will fit a specific design for NuGen in particular.” He would not disclose further details on these design differences.

EDF is planning to rejuvenate its European new build program by building two 1.65 GW French-designed European Pressurised Reactors at the Hinkley Point C site in south-west England by around 2023-2024.

However, previous EPR projects in Finland and France—the first of their kind in Europe-- have experienced major construction delays and legal challenges have been filed against the financial arrangements for the plant made between EDF and the UK government.

The construction of NuGen’s Moorside plant is estimated to cost around £10 billion ($17 billion). The plant will supply 7% of the UK’s total electricity needs when it is completed.

NuGen is a 60/40 joint venture between Toshiba and French utility Engie (formerly GDF Suez). Westinghouse, the AP1000 manufacturer, is a 100% subsidiary of Toshiba.

Landing the deal

NuGen’s plans to seek various synergies with Sellafield were boosted on 14 July when the operator signed the land contract for Moorside with the NDA.

The signing follows the successful completion of site suitability studies at Moorside by NuGen, which validated the site for nuclear construction and ensured that the AP1000 reactor could be successfully installed there.

The Moorside site is located to the northwest of the Sellafield complex, which is itself positioned on the North Sea coast in the north of England. The land deal underpins the successful policy of selling NDA land to new nuclear developers and creating value for the taxpayer, but most of all, it gives a green light to NuGen to follow its three-stage nuclear new build plan.

NuGen says that these three stages comprise a pre-licensing phase during which the company builds its relationship with the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR), a review phase of extensive interaction with the regulator and a third phase of ongoing compliance with the legal obligations that ONR imposes once the site license for Moorside is granted.

Site characterisation studies will continue at Moorside in the autumn of 2015 and will feed in to detailed planning and site layout work. The company says that it intends to develop strong local industrial partnerships in West Cumbria and the surrounding areas and has a target of up to 60% of the project being supplied by UK companies.

“We will be working to develop a regional supply chain to work with us and we will want to work closely with schools, universities, training and skills bodies and local representatives to ensure we train a first-class workforce for our Moorside project,” according to plans published by the developer.

UK Energy Minister Andrea Leadsom welcomed the joint NuGen-NDA announcement of the land deal, saying in a statement that “backing the next generation of nuclear projects is a key part of our long-term plan to power the economy with clean, secure energy and keep bills as low as possible for hardworking families and businesses.”

As the COO of ENEC, Samson was responsible for the development of the company that is building a series of new nuclear reactors at Barakah which will supply 25% of the power for the United Arab Emirates by 2020. Samson’s background is in infrastructure finance and NuGen describes him as “a globally renowned mega infrastructure development specialist.”

NuGen has said the first reactor for the Moorside plant could be in operation by 2024. The remaining two reactors would be commissioned in the following years and the exact dates for these have not yet been announced.

The UK has ambitious plans to build up to 19 GW of new nuclear capacity by 2030, and as it stands EDF Energy’s Hinkley Point C is expected to be the first plant online in around 2023.

Rumyana Vakarelska