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E.ON and RWE pull out of Horizon Nuclear Power joint venture

29 March 2012

E.ON and RWE npower have jointly announced their intention to pull out of their 50-50 joint-venture, Horizon Nuclear Power. E.ON says it will now look to find a new owner for Horizon and, in the UK, it will focus on other strategic projects that will deliver earlier benefit for customers and the company.

Tony Cocker, chief executive of E.ON UK said: "E.ON has decided to focus its investment in the UK on other strategic projects that will allow us to deliver earlier benefit for customers and our company, rather than the very long term and large investment new nuclear power calls for. Our commitment to the UK remains as strong as ever and as our track record shows, with over £1bn of investment in the last year alone, we will continue to select the right projects in which to invest."

Commenting, energy minister Charles Hendry said: “EON and RWE’s withdrawal is clearly very disappointing, but the partners have clearly explained that this decision was based on pressures elsewhere in their businesses and not any doubts about the role of nuclear in UK’s energy future. The UK’s new nuclear programme is far more than one consortia and there remains considerable interest. Plans from EDF/Centrica and Nugen are on track and Horizon’s sites offer new players an excellent ready-made opportunity to enter the market.”

Alistair Smith, chairman of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers’ Power Division, is also worried about the move. “This will certainly delay a key part of the UK’s nuclear build programme," he said. "Over the next decade we will be even more reliant on imported, carbon-intensive gas, making the UK a hostage to volatile gas prices for years to come.

“Today’s announcement by RWE and E.On is a direct result of the German Government’s decision to phase out nuclear power. It is a sad indictment of successive governments’ failure to nurture a strong UK power generation industry that today a decision made in Berlin can have such a serious impact on British energy policy.

"We must now hope that some forward thinking companies come into the market to buy up the opportunity that Horizon Nuclear Power represents.”

Meanwhile, a joint project between the Universities of Manchester and Sheffield for a New Nuclear Build and Manufacturing (NNUMAN) programme has been awarded £4m funding by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council to research innovative manufacturing for the future of the UK’s nuclear power supply*.

Improved manufacturing processes developed in NNUMAN will be taken forward to prototype in the Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre in Rotherham and the National Nuclear Laboratory to enable UK manufacturing companies to learn the benefits of the new methods and use them in the future.

The NNUMAN funding is part of the government's recent announcement to invest up to £15 million in research, development and knowledge transfer to stimulate innovation and support growth in the UK's civil nuclear power sector. This investment will be made through the Technology Strategy Board, the Department of Energy and Climate Change, the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.

*A recent House of Lords’ Science and Technology Committee report – Nuclear Research and Development Capabilities – identified insufficient research and development capacity as a potential threat to the UK’s ability to produce power from nuclear energy.

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