Nuclear mattersDecision on U.K. site for next generation nuclear reactor nears

Published 29 January 2009

The U.K. government has given the nuclear industry two months to choose a site for the next generation nuclear reactor; from 2010, developers will be able to apply for development permits for the sites chosen

The U.K. government has given its nuclear industry a two-month deadline to nominate sites for the next generation of nuclear new-build. The call for nominations was made alongside a list of criteria that the proposals will be judged against as part of the response to last year’s Strategic Siting Assessment (SSA). These include conditions that any new-build be sited away from large populations or certain types of military activity. Sites assessed to be strategically suitable will be listed on the draft Nuclear National Policy Statement (NPS), which will be open for consultation.

Europe’s main utility companies have been forming partnerships in anticipation of government proposals to replace ageing state-built reactors. Groups have until the end of March to submit their applications. From 2010, developers may apply to the Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC) for planning permission for those sites that are found to be strategically suitable in the Nuclear NPS. Before a developer applies for permission it will have to consult affected local authorities and local communities.

Ed Miliband, energy and climate change secretary, said: “We have taken some big steps towards next-generation nuclear in the year since the publication of our White Paper. The industry continues to gear up to invest and we are on course to see new nuclear feeding into the grid by 2018. EDF has firm plans for new reactors on British Energy land, and other companies have started to form joint ventures.”

The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) is expected to nominate land near Sellafield, Wylfa, Oldbury, and Bradwell for consideration under the government’s SSA in order to enhance the value of its land to provide funding during the decommissioning process. Richard Waite, NDA’s acting chief executive, said: “Our aim is to secure value from our assets for the benefit of the taxpayer. To achieve this, we expect to nominate land into the SSA process. Particularly for West Cumbria and Anglesey, such a move has the added benefit of contributing towards the socio-economic aims of those communities.”

As one of the energy groups which has acquired sites, EDF has welcomed the government announcement and the progress it is making on the nuclear-build program. The company has said that it would nominate sites in Hinkley, Sizewell, Heysham, Hartlepool, and Dungeness to the SSA process.

Vincent de Rivaz, EDF chief executive, said: “Site selection is a vital element of the framework for new build, but just one of a number of pieces that must be put in place if we are to address the urgent energy challenges the country faces. It is important there is continued progress in the development of all aspects of the framework, also including reactor design assessment, planning and waste and decommissioning policy. Subject to a robust investment framework being put in place in the right timescales, EDF Energy intends to build four new EPR nuclear reactors in the UK, with the first to be operational by the end of 2017.”

EDF has entered into agreements with the government and the European Commission to sell land at three sites at either Wylfa and Bradwell, and either Heysham or Dungeness. The company has also secured transmission connection agreements with National Grid for Hinkley Point, Dungeness, Bradwell, Wylfa and Sizewell, to provide grid access in the period from 2016 onward.