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Japan's nuclear industry buys into UK market

After Germany and China decide against UK nuclear investment, Japanese firm Hitachi steps in with "100-year commitment"

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Japanese firm Hitachi has agreed a £700 million deal for the rights to build up to six reactors in the UK. (Copyright: Michael Kappel

First Germany was going to build Britain’s nuclear future. Then China was going to save it. Now Japan has apparently stepped in to pick up the pieces.

Japanese firm Hitachi has agreed to buy the rights to build up to six nuclear reactors in Britain for £700 million, it announced today. The vendors are German power companies E.ON and RWE, who put their nuclear joint venture Horizon up for sale in March after Germany’s decision to phase out nuclear power sent their decommissioning costs soaring.

When bids for Horizon were going in last month, all eyes were on Chinese companies – seen by many to be the only players with enough cash for the job. But in the end no Chinese bids were entered. The British government still hopes French energy firm EDF will build new nuclear plants in the UK, but its chief executive Vincent de Rivaz said last week he had still not made up his mind whether or not to press ahead.
 
Now Hitachi has stepped up, calling its investment a “100-year commitment” to Britain. Given the current state of the nuclear industry in Japan, where all nuclear plants bar one have been suspended, it is no surprise the energy giant is seeking opportunities abroad. But the irony of a Japanese firm filling the gap left by Germany’s post-Fukushima decision to phase out nuclear power is not lost.
 
Hitachi, in alliance with US energy giant General Electric, is also behind the nuclear-waste burning fast-prism reactor currently being considered by the British government and seen as a potential solution to the country’s plutonium waste stockpile.
 
Japan now looks heavily invested in Britain’s nuclear industry. Will this investor stick around?

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