EDF to start 10 bn Euro project a year before permission.
The Times, 22 November 2010
EDF is preparing to start major works on a €10 billion nuclear power station project early next year — well over 12 months before it is expected to receive formal approval to build a reactor on the site.
The French state-owned energy company, which operates 58 reactors in its home country, will submit a planning application within days to West Somerset District Council for “preparation works” at the site, at Hinkley Point in Somerset.
The proposed works include the removal of 2 million cubic meters of soil, rock and gravel — enough to fill Wembley Stadium twice — and using the spoil to fill a valley separating the coastal site from the neighbouring village of Shurton.
The proposals also include levelling and terracing hundreds of acres of farmland next to the existing Hinkley Point nuclear power station, drainage works, the removal of hedgerows and woodland and the construction of roads and fences.
A spokesman for EDF said that the company hoped to receive consent before the spring, allowing major excavation works to start at the site of Britain's first new nuclear power station since 1988 by March.
The spokesman said that starting the preliminary work now, before waiting for full approval from the Infrastructure Planning Commission, “could eventually facilitate the early construction and operation of a new power station at Hinkley Point.”
“The application is being made now so that if planning permission is granted for the power station itself, the necessary infrastructure will be in place to allow construction to start as early as possible, with the minimum disruption to local communities,” he said.
A separate application is due to be made to the Marine Management Organisation for a temporary jetty at the site to enable concrete, aggregates and heavy equipment to be brought in by sea.
The decision to press ahead early opens the company to accusations that it regards approval for the Hinkley project as a formality.
The French reactor technology that EDF proposed to use is not expected to receive a licence for use in Britain before June next year.
The planning commission is not expected to approve the site until 2012. Other permits for the essential storage of nuclear waste on the site are not expected until 2012, and the area is not expected to be granted a nuclear site licence by the British nuclear safety regulator until the same year.
EDF says that if permission for the project is not granted by the commission, the site will be returned to its original state.
Sue Goss, a parish councillor in Shurton who is campaigning against EDF's plans, said: “There are so many elderly people here. They are going to live in a nightmare. They are going to be the sacrificial lambs so that the rest of the country can keep the television on.”