Western Morning News, 10 May 2008

Europe's biggest power company has confirmed it is buying land around Somerset 's Hinkley Point nuclear site so it will be best-placed to build a new generation of power stations.

EDF admitted it had acquired land next to the controversial generator to put itself in a position to build planned European pressure reactors.

The company said yesterday it was making the purchases on the grounds that the Government has stated the most viable sites for the new plants would be next to existing power stations.

EDF was expected to table a £9 billion takeover offer which would put Hinkley Point and Wylfa in Wales into its possession if it succeeded. But the land may mean it would be well-placed to win the contract even if the bid failed.

A spokesman for the company said: "EDF has indicated publicly for more than three years that it would be interested in investing in a new generation of nuclear plants for the UK .

"On possible sites for new plants, the Government has indicated that the most viable sites are likely to be adjacent to existing nuclear power plants. EDF has been exploring possibilities at Hinkley Point and at Wylfa for more than a year. As a result, EDF has purchased land next to the existing sites at both locations."

The news comes as British Energy and the Health and Safety Executive denied reports in the Scottish press that Hinkley Point had been threatened with closure because it did not have a particular emergency shutdown mechanism.

The Scottish Daily Mail reported that both Hinkley and Hunterston B in Ayrshire lacked a system in which boron beads were poured into the reactor core in case of a crisis, soaking up neurons and averting a potential catastrophe, but probably meaning the end of the reactor.

British Energy spokesman Yvonne White accused the publication of "scaremongering" and insisted both reactors were running safely.

"The nuclear power industry is among the most highly regulated industries in the world," she said. "Our licence to operate is granted only on the condition that our regulators are fully satisfied that the safety case we have provided to them is fit for purpose."

A spokesman for the Health and Safety Executive said: "As a regulator, we categorically would not allow any site to keep operating if it was unsafe."



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Page Updated 10-May-2008