Western Daily Press, BY MICHAEL RIBBECK BUSINESS EDITOR, 10 May 2008

French power giant EDF has been quietly buying land around Hinkley Point with the aim of building Europe's biggest nuclear power plant in Somerset.

The move is being seen as key part of the race to win control of Britain's nuclear power industry and would put EDF ahead of the pack and in prime position to build two reactors in Somerset.The company is the favourite to take control of British Energy, which is responsible for running the UK's eight nuclear reactors, after lodging a £10 billion bid for the company and the move to buy the land at Hinkley is seen as a clear signal of intent.

Gordon Brown and his Ministers have made it clear they see nuclear power as the solution to tackling pollution and global warming.

And because of the Prime Minister's close relationship with French leader Nicolas Sarkozy many believe the UK will tread the same path as France , where 80 per cent of the country's power comes from the nuclear sector.

Sources close to the industry confirmed EDF had been buying land surrounding Hinkley which has been earmarked as prime land for a nuclear power plant.

Bidding closed for British Energy yesterday and EDF was rumoured to be the sole contender with an offer of between £9.2 and £10.2bn. Spain 's Iberdrola SA and German company RWE AG are thought to have dropped out.

Meanwhile, state-owned EDF has also been buying land in North Wales near Wylfa power station.

One commentator described the purchases as a move of strategic audacity which positioned itself to take a leading role in Britain 's nuclear future irrespective of what happened to British Energy.

EDF did not want to be drawn on the issue yesterday and British Energy was adopting a cautious approach.

A spokesman for British Energy said: "British Energy owns land that is immediately to the west of the existing A and B stations at Hinkley and that we believe is the prime land for new build for a twin reactor development.

"We have a well-established development effort that draws on the skills, assets, experience and relationships from our existing operations, the environmental and other survey work we have carried out at this site both recently and in support of the previous Hinkley C planning application, and the agreements we have with national grid.

"We have no comments on what neighbours may or may not have done with their land."

Not surprisingly the Stop Hinkley campaign group is unhappy about the latest development.

Spokesman Jim Duffy said: " Europe 's largest power company is stealthily lining itself up to build the two biggest nuclear reactors in the world at Hinkley.

"We are worried about the hugeness of this project with its associated factors of safety and terrorism.

"The radiation just in the spent fuel stores would add up to 40 times that released by Chernobyl ."


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Page Updated 10-May-2008