The UK government has confirmed its commitment to move forward with the construction and operation of Hinkley Point C, the first new nuclear plant to be licensed in the United Kingdom since 1987. As a condition, the British government has stated that it will take a special or “golden” share to prevent the sale of significant ownership interests in Hinkley Point C and future nuclear plants without the government’s consent. However, such a condition should not impose a significant impediment to development of new nuclear power in the UK. In that regard, the condition is no more onerous (and probably less burdensome) than existing requirements in the United States to obtain Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) approval for direct or indirect changes in ownership.
The construction and operation of Hinkley Point C should provide opportunities for US companies. For example, the reactor supplier has already contracted with US companies to supply the conventional power supply island, including the turbine generator, for Hinkley Point C. Additionally, the construction of Hinkley Point C should bolster the prospects for licensing and construction of additional reactors at the Moorside and Wylfa sites, both of which are considering boiling water reactor (BWR) and pressurized water reactor (PWR) designs that have been certified in the US. Additionally, the UK government has launched a competition to sponsor small modular reactors (SMRs) in the UK. Several US companies have announced their desire to participate in that competition.
In accordance with its national policy, the UK is committed to developing new nuclear power plants as a means of combatting global climate change. The recent developments involving Hinkley Point C demonstrate that the UK’s policy is more than empty promises—the UK is moving forward with nuclear power. This should prove a boon not only for the UK, but also for US vendors and contractors.