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Centrica suspends UK nuclear sale, books GBP525 million power asset impairment

Highlights

Operational loss for nuclear business

Achieved price up 4% to GBP51.30/MWh

Dungeness, Hinkley still offline

London — Centrica has suspended the sale of its nuclear business while booking a GBP525 million impairment on its power assets, the UK utility reported in annual results Feb. 25.

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The company's nuclear output for the year was down 10% year on year to 9.134 TWh, while nuclear's achieved price was up 4% to GBP51.30/MWh ($72.66/MWh).

The segment made an operating loss of GBP17 million, down from a GBP17 million operating profit in 2019.

A GBP525 million impairment charge on power assets included GBP481 million relating to nuclear, "largely as a result of a reduction in price forecasts and availability issues at the Hunterston B, Dungeness B and Hinkley Point B power stations," Centrica said.

It also included a GBP23 million charge relating to gas-fired and battery power assets, again as a result of lower price forecasts, and a GBP21 million charge relating to a forced outage at the 445 MW Whitegate gas-fired power station in Ireland.

Centrica owns a 20% interest in the UK's 8.25 GW of operational nuclear power generation fleet. In 2018 it announced it was looking for a buyer for the stake.

"We continue to consider options for a sale however the divestment process is currently paused given operational issues on a number of the power stations," it said.

Graphite cracking is seen as a life-limiting factor in the UK's nuclear fleet of advanced gas-cooled reactors, while pipe corrosion has raised safety concerns at the 1.12 GW Dungeness B plant in Kent, which has been offline since September, 2018. The two units at Dungeness are due to return to service in May.

Both units at the 965 MW Hinkley Point B in Somerset are currently shut for graphite cracking inspection. They are due back on March 21 and March 25.

UK nuclear generation averaged 4.6 GW in the week to Feb. 23, S&P Global Platts Analytics data showed.