London’s main electricity supplier EDF Energy has given its strongest commitment yet to finance, build and operate new nuclear power stations in the UK and ditch its dirty coal installations as part of a major commitment to climate change.
EDF, the UK arm of the giant ElectricitÃ© de France which runs a host of nuclear power stations across the Channel, admitted it will have to go nuclear in the UK if it is to meet ambitious targets set today of cutting its carbon dioxide emissions in the UK by 60% over the next dozen years.
The power group is currently capable of producing about 5000 megawatts – just under a tenth of the nation’s electricity – mainly from two giant, 40-year-old coalfired power stations in the East Midlands.
Those plants, Cottam and West Burton, are, however, due to close by 2016, and EDF appears to have rejected any prospect of retrofitting new technologies to prolong their life.
Instead, it will embrace a new nuclear age in Britain as and when the Government gets round, as it is expected to do, to finally to giving the green light to a new suite of reactors as part of its Energy Review.
The company said that, if it is to cut its CO2 emissions by 12m tonnes annually by 2020, it will have by then to have exited from its coal-fired plants.
To replace these, it is aiming to produce 6000MW of electricity from at least one nuclear power station and two new energy-efficient, state-of-the-art gas-fired stations. About 1000 MW of production will come from new wind farms and other renewable projects – also a major new investment for EDF.
‘In terms of nuclear, we would expect to be involved in all stages of the process: financing, building and operating,’ said an EDF spokesman.
EDF chief executive Vincent de Rivaz is believed to have held talks already with the UK’s existing nuclear operator British Energy over working together in the future.
The Energy Review is likely to give the green light to new nuclear stations, but only at existing atomic sites. EDF’s apparent rejection of coal comes as some power station operators – most notably Britain’s largest generator, Drax – say they believe coal has a major role in the electricity generating mix of the future.
They are looking at expensive plans to use so-called ‘clean coal’ technology to reduce pollution and to ‘capture’ carbon dioxide emissions and store them underground.
With itsWest Burton plant scheduled for decommissioning in the next decade, EDF has already applied for planning permission for a new gas plant on the site. It is also seeking to build another new gas-fired plant adjoining its existing eight-year-old gas-powered station at nearby Sutton bridge.
‘Our actions will be a major contribution to achieving the UK’s carbon reduction targets,’ said de Rivaz.
Going for the burn
Gas-fired power stations are expected to be the dominant form of electricity generation in the future as Britain builds pipelines from the Continent and port terminals to handle liquefied natural gas shipments. As atomic reactions replace coal as a source of energy, nuclear is expected to account for 20% of Britain’s power needs on a continuing basis. Hopes that renewables will be able to make up 20% of the energy mix are now reckoned to be dubious.
5 June 2007
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