Western Daily Press, By JIM ROSSEINSKY BUSINESS REPORTER, March 2008

Sites of decommissioned reactors put up for grabs for new nuclear plants before consultation is over.

A new nuclear reactor in the West looked even more certain yesterday as developers were invited to submit plans at existing sites. The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) which owns one of the two nuclear generators at Hinkley Point asked for proposals at its 18 sites, which also include Oldbury and Berkeley in Gloucestershire.

The announcement is the first time specific sites have been lined up for developers, who have until April 3 to set out their plans.

It comes before the Government has published the results of a second public consultation into nuclear power.

But the Cabinet is widely believed to favour nuclear power and on January 10, Business Minister John Hutton asked energy companies to come forward with proposals for reactors.

Environmental campaigners had the findings of a first inquiry into energy supply thrown out on the grounds that the Government had already made up its mind, and have mounted a similar challenge to the latest consultation.

Yesterday Mr Hutton welcomed the NDA's move.

"Interest in building new nuclear power stations in the UK is strong. Planning applications for new plants are likely to focus on areas in the vicinity of existing sites and so it's welcome that the NDA is making its significant land and other assets available to the market," he said.

The UK is desperate to become less dependent on other countries for fuel as the cost of imports rises and fears continue over supplies being cut off.

It is thought that the new breed of power stations could be up and running within seven years. Hinkley is already considered a prime candidate having been named one of the Government's top four choices.

Top independent nuclear consultant John Large said: "Hinkley is a plum site. There is already a good grid connection because of the two existing reactors there.

"Space isn't a problem because developers can buy up the land around the existing sites.

"The local population is already used to having nuclear power stations nearby, and local councils are unlikely to oppose it."

Oldbury is also as a possible site, although a major grid upgrade would make building there more expensive.

Berkeley is not thought to be a contender because it does not have a sufficient water supply to cool a reactor.

West anti-nuclear campaigners voiced their dismay at the news.

Jim Duffy of campaign group Stop Hinkley said: "We are opposed to it. The NDA is trying to pay for maintenance and waste disposal at its old sites by developing a new set of reactors ... which will produce yet more waste to be cleared up."



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Page Updated 09-Mar-2008