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RWE npower has put arrangements in place for grid connections for a potential new nuclear power plant at Wylfa, and says it has options to buy farmland close to the existing Magnox plant on the Anglesey site.

RWE npower’s grid connection will give it a right to feed 3.6GW to the UK electricity grid. According to National Grid, the so-called Wylfa C connection will be provided in three 1200MW phases, with completion dates set for 31 October 2020, 31 October 2021 and 31 October 2022, respectively.

Grid connection agreements are a necessary part of the process to develop any power station, and RWE npower CEO Andrew Duff described the company as “serious and committed to progressing new nuclear options.” The company also confirmed that it has acquired options to buy farmland close to the existing Magnox plant at Wylfa, as part of its “development of nuclear new build opportunities.”

It did not give any indication of its possible choice of reactor design, although the size of the grid connection would be sufficient to support up to three 1100MWe Westinghouse AP1000s or two 1650MWe Areva EPRs, the two designs (out of four originally submitted) currently being reviewed by nuclear regulators under the UK’s Generic Design Assessment (GDA) programme. RWE has supported both designs as well as GE-Hitachi’s 1550MWe ESBWR, currently suspended from the UK GDA process at GE-Hitachi’s request, although likely to rejoin at a later date.

Wylfa is already home to two 490MWe Magnox reactors, operated by Magnox North Limited on behalf of the Nuclear Decommissioning Agency (NDA). Both units are due to close in 2010, although a life extension to 2012 is possible. Land adjacent to the Wylfa site is included in the sale of sites announced by the NDA in September 2008, and is being marketed simultaneously with land owned by EDF at Wylfa. The NDA and EDF owned land is being sold in two lots and there is an option to acquire grid connection rights in respect of Wylfa for the purchaser of lot 1, which comprises both NDA and EDF owned land. According to National Grid figures, EDF has a grid connection agreement in place for 1670MW with a completion date of 2017.

The future of Wylfa is of major importance to the island of Anglesey. The existing Magnox plant supplies more than 40% of Wales’s electricity needs and employs 650 people, but the future of another major employer on the Welsh island is closely linked to the fate of the power plant. Anglesey Aluminium, with 550 employees, currently takes off 250MWe from Wylfa for its aluminium smelter and will need to secure its future energy supply beyond 2009 if it is to continue operating.

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Date: Monday, 19 January 2009
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