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Gov seeks UK nuclear competition for EDF

Glowing future foretold

French energy giant EDF will have some competition in the new British nuclear sector, according to reports. It appears that certain UK sites belonging to British Energy and the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority will see new plants built by EDF's rivals.

The Times reports that BE's operations at Bradwell in Essex and Dungeness in Kent will be added to some NDA sites and sold in an auction later this year, in order to establish some competition within the future UK nuclear sector. The rest of BE is expected to be acquired by EDF this week, now that institutional shareholder Invesco has been brought onside by improved terms.

UK ministers are thought to be backing the attempt to get more investors into the new wave of British nuclear, hoping that this will mean multiple construction efforts commencing simultaneously and more plants online sooner. With electricity consumption rising steadily and the UK committed to tough carbon-reduction targets, the government regards swift development of nuclear as essential.

Ministers are also thought - like the unions - to view new nuclear as a potential jobs and economic bonanza. Almost all the cost of nuclear-generated electricity goes into building, running and decommissioning the plant, and thereafter handling the wastes. All these activities would be carried out largely in the UK, by well-paid Brits.

With fossil fuels, much of the money would go to overseas suppliers; with renewables, the comparative simplicity of the machinery would tend to see manufacturing offshored and construction, maintenance etc. offering fewer nice white-collar or high-tech jobs.

Westinghouse, which hopes to build new reactors for the UK, has recently issued a report claiming that its construction plan would bring a £30bn boost to the UK. It received a warm welcome from biz minister John Hutton.

“This report illustrates why I am so determined to press all the buttons to get nuclear facilities built in this country at the earliest opportunity," Hutton told the Times, ahead of announcements at the Labour conference in Manchester. ®

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