Consortium acquires £70m UK nuclear site

GDF Suez, Iberdrola and Scottish and Southern Energy have acquired a 190-hectare site north of the existing Sellafield nuclear facility on which they are proposing to build a new nuclear power station. If the proposal is approved, the consortium would become the third nuclear power operator in the UK.

An international consortium of energy firms has acquired land near the Sellafield nuclear complex in Cumbria, England, on which the group are looking to develop a new nuclear power station.

French energy company GDF Suez, Spanish energy firm Iberdrola and British firm Scottish and Southern Energy have acquired the 190-hectare plot for £70 million (€78 million; $116 million) from the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA), the public body responsible for cleaning up of the UK’s civil nuclear legacy. £19.5 million of the total will be made as an upfront payment, with the remaining £50.5 million to be paid over the next six years.

The site lies to the north of the existing nuclear processing facility at Sellafield. The consortium said in a statement that it intends to prepare plans for the development of a new nuclear power station at the site with a capacity of up to 3.6 gigawatts. Construction work on its proposed new station would start in 2015, it added.

Sellafield's
existing nuclear
processing facility

Paul Rorive, senior vice president of GDF Suez’s nuclear activities division said of the acquisition: “For GDF SUEZ, which has 45 years of involvement in the nuclear industry, the acquisition of the Sellafield site confirms the ambition to play a major role in the nuclear revival in the world in order to tackle the new energy and environmental challenges.”

Should the consortium’s proposals for a new nuclear power station at the site be accepted, it would become the third nuclear power plant operator in the UK alongside existing operators EDF Energy and RWE/E.ON.

GDF Suez and Iberdrola each hold 37.5 percent interests in the consortium. Scottish and Southern Energy holds the remaining 25 percent stake.

The sale of the Sellafield site forms part of the NDA’s asset disposal plans, through which it is funding the decommissioning of the UK’s existing nuclear power stations. It has so far generated £450 million from the sales.

The government welcomed the sale and said that new nuclear power could supply every home in the UK. “These latest plans, together with the ambition of existing plans from two other operators, mean that new nuclear could power the equivalent of all 26 million homes in the UK,” commented energy and climate change secretary Ed Miliband on the acquisition.

Business lobbying group the Confederation of British Industry said earlier this month that at least six new nuclear power stations need to be built in the UK before 2030 in order to meet climate change targets and protect energy security.