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article imageUK approves first new nuclear power station in 18 years

By Robert Myles     Mar 20, 2013 in Environment
The UK’s Energy and Climate Change Minister yesterday gave the go-ahead for construction of the UK’s first nuclear power station for almost 20 years as planning consent was granted for a new multi-billion pound nuclear plant at Hinkley Point, Somerset
The announcement came against a background where other EU states, notably Germany, have all but abandoned nuclear power after the Fukushima disaster in Japan.
Under the scheme approved by the Department for Energy and Climate Change, two new nuclear reactors would be built, creating between 20,000 and 25,000 jobs during the construction phase with 900 permanent jobs once the nuclear power plant became fully operational.The new facility would be located at Hinkley Point in Somerset, south west England, close to the site of an existing nuclear power plant.
The plant would be operated by NNB Generation, a subsidiary of French power giant EDF, created specifically with the operation of a total of four new UK nuclear power plants in prospect, the two at Hinkley Point and a further two pencilled in for Sizewell in Suffolk.
According to the announcement from the Department for Energy and Climate Change, the new nuclear plant will give a boost to the UK moving to a low carbon energy mix and it will generate sufficient low carbon electricity to power the equivalent of 5 million households.
Although the Hinkley Point nuclear project has now received planning consent, discussions are still ongoing between the UK government and NNB Generation concerning financial terms, in particular, the Strike Price for electricity produced by the proposed new plant to be fed into the UK’s National Grid. The UK government has said any deal on price would need to be in the interests of the consumer.
Welcoming the Hinkley Point scheme, Edward Davey, UK Energy and Climate Change Secretary, said, “The planning decision to give consent to Hinkley Point follows a rigorous examination from the Planning Inspectorate, and detailed analysis within my Department. I am confident that the planning decision I have made is robust, evidence-based, compatible with the Energy National Policy Statements and is in the best interests of the country. This planned new nuclear power station in Somerset will generate vast amounts of clean energy and enhance our energy security. It will benefit the local economy, through direct employment, the supply chain and the use of local services.”
But the Energy Secretary’s optimism was not shared by local campaign group, “Stop Hinkley” either on price, planning or environmental grounds. Stop Hinkley spokesman, Theo Simon criticising the decision, said, “I don't think anyone in West Somerset believed that the public consultation last year was anything more than an elaborate, undemocratic sham, and that in itself is a political scandal. Today's decision is a rubber-stamping exercise, but it doesn't change the facts on the ground. EDF don't know what they will do with the radioactive waste Hinkley C would produce, they don't have the investment they need now that Centrica have pulled out and they have threatened to walk away unless the government underwrite their costs and fix the nuclear electricity price artificially high for consumers."
Mr Simon also highlighted the lack of a waste management plan for the nuclear waste the new Hinkley power stations will produce and questioned whether the plant could usefully contribute to the supply of electricity at affordable prices, saying,
"No other business in this country would get planning permission without a waste management plan and this industry produces the most hazardous waste known to humankind. David Cameron promised there would be no new nuclear without a solution to the waste issue, but today Ed Davey has granted EDF permission regardless. Cameron also promised there would be no public subsidy, but now his government is negotiating precisely that and apparently willing to lock us all into paying double the original price quoted for nuclear, for the next 35 years!"
Despite yesterday’s announcement, the UK still faces the prospect of an ‘energy gap’ as older power stations, both nuclear and coal-fired are due for decommissioning over the next few years. The Hinkley project, if it ultimately proceeds, will not begin to start filling the energy gap until the mid-2020s claimed the Stop Hinkley campaign, further reinforcing the need for the UK to switch more resources to energy conservation measures coupled with greater focus on renewable energy projects such as wind, hydro and tidal power.
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