New nuclear power station for Somerset a step closer

Western Daily Press (& Bridgwater Times), November 10, 2009

Supporters last night welcomed moves to build a new nuclear power station in Somerset, saying it will bring billions to the region.

But anti-nuclear campaigners vowed to fight the plans for a new generation of reactors at Hinkley Point in Somerset and Oldbury in South Gloucestershire .

The UK 's first new nuclear power station could be at Hinkley, which may be operational within nine years, while Oldbury would be supplying energy by 2025 at the latest.

If they are built, they will provide about 18,000 jobs, many of them highly skilled, and will be the region's biggest construction projects since the original project at Hinkley.

Energy Secretary Ed Miliband told MPs yesterday he believes 10 of the 11 potential sites are suitable for new nuclear power.

He has dropped Dungeness in Kent after advice from Natural England that the "internationally unique ecosystem" would be harmed, with concerns over flood risk and coastal erosion.

The other sites are Bradwell, Essex; Sizewell, Suffolk ; Hartlepool, County Durham ; Wylfa, Anglesey, Heysham, Lancashire, and Sellafield, Braystones and Kirksanton, all Cumbria .

All are on or near existing nuclear sites, and Mr Miliband said potential alternatives had been discounted.

He said: "New nuclear is right for energy security and climate change and will be good for jobs too, creating up to 9,000 jobs to build and operate power stations at each site and helping leading companies access the international market."

By 2025 nuclear electricity generation could provide two-fifths of new energy provision, while Mr Miliband set out "ambitious" plans for 30 per cent of electricity to come from renewable sources by 2020.

The Government has also unveiled proposals to speed up planning decisions on major applications such as nuclear power stations. It wants to cut the process to 12 months, and save industry up to £300 million a year in "unnecessary expense" - but protesters claim it will stop locals having a say.

Bridgwater Tory MP Ian Liddell-Grainger told the Western Daily Press the announcement was good news.

He said: "It means that Hinkley is right at the top of the list, and they are now clear to put in the application.

"The last big civil building project in the West Country was Hinkley and the next one will be Hinkley - that is how important it is.

"It is a massive investment; it dwarfs things like the Eden Project in Cornwall and it will employ highly skilled and highly motivated people."

But Jim Duffy, spokesman for Stop Hinkley, said there were a host of reasons to challenge the policy "from our simply not needing nuclear power, to the undemocratic and superficial planning system that is being foisted on us".

He called for a public inquiry to scrutinise the issue of nuclear new build and its health effects.

He said: "A truly independent examination of the local effects of radiation should be enough to scupper the nuclear project."

EDF Energy boss Vincent De Rivaz said: "We are going to start the construction of the first of our four new-build nuclear power plants at Hinkley Point in Somerset .

"We have already started the consultation of the public on the site."

Kate Hudson of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament said: "Nuclear power is dirty, dangerous and expensive - it is not the answer to climate change or concerns over energy security."

And Ben Ayliffe of Greenpeace said the figures do not add up, and nuclear power is not an attractive investment for private companies.

But the RWE npower/E.ON nuclear joint venture - Horizon Nuclear Power - welcomed the statement.

It has already bought land at Oldbury and Wylfa, announcing plans to invest over £15 billion in nuclear capacity.

Chief operating officer Alan Rayment said: "It's absolutely vital that the importance of new nuclear power stations is recognised in bringing investment and jobs to the UK and, most importantly, the role it has to play in the battle against climate change.

"The Government statement is an important step in the creation of a more streamlined planning regime and we're delighted that our plans for Wylfa and Oldbury have been recognised as excellent sites for development."

Ministers say there will be no public subsidy for building nuclear power stations, so the final decisions are for business, and the new Infrastructure Planning Commission.

In a report released to support the announcement, the Government admits the impact a new plant at Oldbury will have on local beauty spots.

The Thornbury Conservation Area and garden of Thornbury Castle are within two miles of the proposed 150-acre site and there are 228 Grade-II listed buildings within three miles.

Any new plant is "likely to have to lead to a perceptible deterioration in some views, which would not be able to be fully mitigated given the scale of the possible new buildings".

Cooling towers could be up to 200m high and the impact of those could stretch across land officially classed as Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty in the Wye Valley and the Cotswolds.

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Page Updated 13-Nov-2009