E.On and Npower shelve UK nuclear plans

The companies' joint venture has put plans to build two plants on hold after it failed to get funding. Meanwhile, queues are building up at petrol stations...

by Emma Haslett
Last Updated: 30 Oct 2012
The glow of the UK’s nuclear future is looking a little less luminous today, after Horizon Nuclear Power, the German joint-venture between RNE Npower and E.On, decided to pull out of plans to invest in a new power station in Anglesey. Apparently, the financial crisis has made raising finance for projects as big as this too difficult. As well as Anglesey, they’ve also called a halt to a project at Oldbury-on-Severn in South Gloucestershire. Although the company says it’s looking for other investors to take on the project.

The financial crisis might not have been the only thing to put off RWE: it’s recently had to shell out for the decommissioning of its plants in Germany – so that might have caused it to think twice. But CEO Volker Beckers seemed optimistic, all things considered. ‘We continue to believe that nuclear power has an important role to play in the UK’s future energy mix,’ he said. ‘We are therefore looking to ensure that work on development… can be taken up quickly by other potential investors.’ So it doesn’t look as though the UK’s nuclear programme will grind to a halt quite yet.

It’s nevertheless a bit of a setback for climate campaigners, many of whom see nuclear power as the way to make the UK’s energy production greener. Especially as oil has become a tastier prospect, as crude oil prices start to drop, after a meeting between some of the world’s biggest oil buyers laid plans that could lead to Saudi Arabia releasing billions of barrels of oil onto the market. Eric Besson, France’s energy minister, confirmed today the country is in talks with the US, the UK and Japan to bring oil prices down.

Not that that will make much of a difference to those queuing at the pumps, after energy minister Ed Davey told drivers that they might just like to pop down to their local petrol station and top up their tanks, in case tanker drivers go ahead with strike action. Cue utter chaos. Davey’s comment that ‘we don’t think people need to change their behaviour very significantly… [but] people just need to do the sensible thing’ clearly hasn’t been taken quite in the relaxed spirit it was intended.

There’s still hope that a strike may be averted, after mediation service Acas stepped into the fray. The dispute, over working conditions and pay, affects 2,000 tanker drivers who supply about 90% of the UK’s forecourts. No date for the strike has been set, and they’ll have to give a seven-day warning. So even if it does go ahead, Davey’s advice might have been a little premature…

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