London ‘super sewer’ CFO to advise UK government on nuclear financing

Mark Corben was ‘pivotal’ to the regulated-asset-base model used for the Thames Tideway project, which the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy is looking to replicate.

The UK’s Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy has hired the chief financial officer of the Thames Tideway Tunnel to advise on financing new nuclear projects.

Mark Corben has joined BEIS as a senior financial advisor, where he will be responsible for helping the government adapt the regulated-asset-base model used for London’s landmark “super sewer” to nuclear power sites. The model helped attract Amber Infrastructure, Allianz, Dalmore Capital, DIF and Swiss Life to the £4.2 billion ($5.5 billion; €4.7 billion) construction project in 2015.

Tideway announced Corben’s impending departure last month, with chairman Sir Neville Simms describing his role in financing the project as “pivotal”. Corben had previously spent 18 years at UBS, before leaving his position as head of European power and utilities to join Tideway. He is being replaced by Matthew Duncan, joining from his position as finance director at Crossrail.

The government told parliament of its intention to use the RAB structure in June, hoping it will entice private finance to work alongside developers on nuclear power projects going forward. Investors had mixed reactions when we recently asked them whether they would be open to funding nuclear power, but EDF’s nuclear development director Julia Pyke argued that “we need a model like Thames Tideway” to attract such finance and said the French group is in talks with about a dozen pension and infrastructure funds regarding the prospect.

Corben is expected to be joined at BEIS by a head of financing for nuclear funding after the government began recruiting for the role last month. While the government has stressed its work on the RAB model is at an early stage, it has also described it as “a ministerial priority”.

The UK’s 15 nuclear reactors have a combined generating capacity of about 8.9GW, although all but one of these are due to be retired by 2030.