New nuclear power plant at Hinkley Point C is approved


Ed Davey said the new nuclear power station was a milestone on the road to decarbonisation

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The first of a planned new generation of nuclear power plants in the UK has been given approval.

Energy Secretary Ed Davey told MPs in the Commons that he was granting planning consent for French energy giant EDF to construct Hinkley Point C in Somerset.

The proposed £14bn power plant would be capable of powering five million homes.

Mr Davey said the project was "of crucial national importance" but environmental groups reacted angrily.

25,000 jobs

The building of Hinkley Point C is expected to pave the way for a fleet of new plants across the UK.

It is estimated the project will create between 20,000 and 25,000 jobs during construction and 900 permanent jobs once in operation.


Nuclear plants are not breeding fast - it has taken a whole generation to get this close to a new pair.

But today's decision is only the start of a government struggle to fuel much of the country on atomic power.

Because Hinkley is the only nuclear plant queuing for planning permission at the moment.

What's more, the stations there will have to be subsidised massively by the public under a deal being "intensely" discussed by the Treasury. Its owners are asking for government guarantees that may possibly be challenged under EU competition law and the firm is still looking for a business partner.

And even if the plants at Hinkley actually do get off the ground, there is still a huge question mark over the rest of the new-build programme.

To replace historic capacity would need at least three more developments on this scale. But it's barely conceivable that the new-build programme could progress with no sign of a long-term nuclear waste disposal in prospect.

The stakes are high. The government's chief energy scientist David Mackay recently warned that to supply clean energy to industry would take a four-fold increase in nuclear power - or (based on new figures) an increase in wind power of between 12-20 fold.

That's unless we all start saving energy with a level of frugality and invention which has eluded us so far.

BBC industry correspondent John Moylan said the power plant would cost more than the London 2012 Olympics.

Mr Davey told the Commons: "The planning decision to give consent to Hinkley Point follows a rigorous examination from the Planning Inspectorate, and detailed analysis within my department.

"This planned project adds to a number of new energy projects consented since May 2010, including wind farms and biomass and gas-fired power stations.

"It will benefit the local economy, through direct employment, the supply chain and the use of local services."

The news is a boost to the nuclear industry following a series of setbacks in plans to construct a new fleet of reactors in the UK, which ministers say are needed to cut carbon and keep the lights on.

Nuclear waste

Start Quote

It will lock a generation of consumers into higher energy bills, via a strike price that's expected to be double the current price of electricity”

End Quote John Sauven Greenpeace chief executive

EDF says the project would generate taxes equivalent to a few percentage points of what the entire financial sector yields for the exchequer.

The energy giant is negotiating with ministers over what it can charge for the electricity Hinkley generates for decades to come.

Mr Davey said discussions on the strike price were ongoing, but he expected them to be concluded shortly.

EDF chief executive Vincent de Rivaz said "intensive discussions" were taking place.

He said: "To make this opportunity a reality, we need to reach agreement swiftly... It must offer a fair and balanced deal for consumers and investors."

Shadow energy secretary Caroline Flint welcomed the decision to grant planning consent.

"Today's announcement is an important milestone in the development of new nuclear build in the UK," she said.

"I am pleased to welcome it and reiterate our support for nuclear power alongside an expansion of renewable energy and investment in carbon capture and storage as part of a clean, secure and affordable energy supply for the future."

'Fair and balanced'

However, environmental groups have reacted angrily.

They raised concerns over the potentially high price for electricity the government will agree to in order to get the nuclear plant built, and over the issue of nuclear waste.

Greenpeace executive director John Sauven said: "It will lock a generation of consumers into higher energy bills, via a strike price that's expected to be double the current price of electricity, and it will distort energy policy by displacing newer, cleaner, cheaper technologies.

"With companies now saying the price of offshore wind will drop so much it will be on par with nuclear by 2020, there is no rationale for allowing Hinkley C to proceed."

Friends of the Earth's Policy and Campaigns Director Craig Bennett said: "The only way this plant will be built is if the government hands over a blank cheque from UK taxpayers to French developers, EDF.

"The most cost-effective way to cut carbon and keep the lights on is a combination of energy efficiency and investing in renewables."

Hinkley Point C Hinkley Point C is set to take between 8 and 10 years to become fully operational. It will be made up of two nuclear reactors and will be built next to Hinkley Point A and B.
Sea wall at Hinkley Point C The land will need to be flattened and then the sea wall will be built. After this, excavation work can start to lay the foundations of the nuclear plant including two underground 3km tunnels for the cooling water.
Turbine hall The building of the two reactors will be staggered with the first reactor expected to be operational in about eight years' time (2021).
Turbine hall The other aspects of the build include the turbine halls, standby power generators and a pumping station for the cooling water, interim waste storage facilities as well as a visitors' centre.
Workers' campus (artist impression) Workers' accommodation will be built across three sites, with two in Bridgwater and a third on site. Other infrastructure includes building two park and ride sites and developing Combwich Wharf.
View of Hinkley Point C with Hinkley Point A and B in the background The power station is expected to provide up to 25,000 jobs during the lifetime of the project and once built it will provide between 700-800 full-time jobs.

Hinkley C would be one of the UK's biggest infrastructure projects for years with 5,600 workers on site at the peak of construction.

Unite's national officer for energy Kevin Coyne, said the decision to grant consent was a "massive boost for jobs".

But Dr Tim Fox, head of energy and environment at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, warned of a potential shortage of skilled engineers needed to build the plant.

"More needs to be done to increase the number of people choosing engineering as a career to overcome a skills shortage," he said.

"Over the next 10 years, the UK needs to be recruiting about 87,000 engineers a year, but worryingly we are currently producing just 46,000 engineers a year."

Hinkley Point C will be the third nuclear plant at the site.

Hinkley A, which is now being decommissioned, began generating in 1965 and was closed down in 1999. Hinkley B, which started generating in 1976, is due to be turned off in 2023.

The last nuclear plant built in the UK was Sizewell B in Suffolk. Building work for the plant, near Leiston, began in 1988 and it started operating seven years later.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 698.

    Anyone who thinks chemically powered electricity generation is safer than Nuclear needs to look at this:
    Nuclear reactors have a far higher safety standard than coal or oil fired generators, on top of that the reactors that have gone sour, have done so after exceeding their rating, There are entire coal mines across the world which have been on fire for decades.

  • rate this

    Comment number 697.

    Excellent decision but one downside why does the UK have to depend on a foreign company to design and build a project which is vital to the countries security surely we have the capability and the finance in Britain.Someone compared the cost of the London games in the article, well what about 3 years no foreign aid then we could be energy secure and own the plants ourselves or am I being naive.

  • rate this

    Comment number 696.

    Why is everyone talking about Japan and Russia? We have 16 operational power stations in the UK and one reprocessing plant. There have been only 2 power station incidents: 1957, 0 fatalities, farmland contamination, 1967, 0 fatalities, no contamination and 1 reprocessing plant: 2005, 0 fatalities, no contamination. Modern stations use much better technology are safer. And yes I did live near one.

  • rate this

    Comment number 695.

    Fantastic news. About time we got off our rear ends and made the correct choice. Lets build it quick and safely without hesitation

  • rate this

    Comment number 694.

    @679 Indeed. Of course, the Germans import a large amount of power from France (Nuclear) or rely on gas from Russia (REALLY stable) Where's that 'Someone else's problem field' when you need it?

  • rate this

    Comment number 693.

    #679. How much high level nuclear waste does Britain have to deal with?

    A few cubic metres worth.

    We seal it in molten glass & stainless steel and leave it in surface storage for 50 years by which time virtually all the radiation has decayed. Then it can be buried underground very safely.

    Claims of 'deadly for hundreds of thousands of years' are totally incorrect.

  • rate this

    Comment number 692.

    674 - Lord Horror ????? what we have down so well before- you obviously have forgotten Windscale and Sizewell B!

  • rate this

    Comment number 691.

    Gotta love the photo from the BBC , particularly as sea levels are predicted to rise by a meter in the coming decades, looking forward to that - Fukushima here we come !

    All the waste carted off to Sellafield, whose waste disposal bunkers will all be breeched when the fracking really kicks off just off the coast. The Lake District becomes a UK wilderness.

    Well done Westminster...

  • rate this

    Comment number 690.

    We need this plant, full stop. BUT there is a price to pay! Nuclear power is reliable but never cheap. There is also a small health risk which has been calculated as worth taking. The population of the Channel Islands have a significantly higher incidence of cancer than those in SW England. The finger is pointed at the French La Hague nuclear site which discharges waste to the sea as does Hinckley

  • rate this

    Comment number 689.

    The only problem is that we should have started building 10 years ago. The cost of imported fuels is always premised on the knowledge that we are between a rock and a hard place. Nuclear waste is already here ,so more is no extra problem as the volumes involved are tiny. Nimbyism is the only reason for the difficulty in storage of waste. Forget the non scientific voices shouting nonsense.

  • rate this

    Comment number 688.

    Another foreign owned asset so profits will go abroad.
    How much of the plant will be manufactured in this country - the bricks maybe?
    How many construction workers will be from this country?
    Will the management and workers operating the plant be from this country?
    What arrangements are being made regarding the expense of decommisioning the plant at the end of its life?

  • rate this

    Comment number 687.

    What commentators here forget is the disposal of spent reactor rods which have a half life of 500,000 years at least. Not to mention there are no earthquake-proof nuclear power plants. As the UK recently had an earthquake of 3.5 magnitude there would be damage. Green investment has been almost non existent by this govt and would give us more power and be easier to dispose of.

  • rate this

    Comment number 686.

    Build 20 more reactors strategically placed round the UK and get rid of the need for imported power once and for all.

    Work on fusion systems to replace them when they are at the end of their life. We are supposed to be a nation of engineering masters yet we drivel to foreign power because we lack infrastructure.

    What made the UK great once needs repeating once again.

  • rate this

    Comment number 685.

    Coal mines across the world (especially in poorer nations) have thousands of accidents, vastly beyond anything linked to failures in nuclear plants. Airline pilots are exposed to more radiation from the sun than powerstation worker are. Please stop panicking about safety, so far, despite waste, nuclear energy is the cleanest way to produce really significant amounts of energy. Bit late though.

  • rate this

    Comment number 684.

    We've had Nuclear power for decades now,We've also experienced multiple accidents over that time which has given us the opportunity to learn from mistakes.
    Im sure we're ready to begin manufacturing one of the single most important assets this country needs which is energy generation.
    Instead of looking back into the past bringing up past mistakes how about we look forward to a energy rich future.

  • rate this

    Comment number 683.

    Thank goodness for that, we've been procrastinating over similar decisions for far too long. Now get on and build another fourteen or fifteen and get our energy supplies secured for the forseeable future.

    The windmills near here are all stood idle on this bitterly cold day because there's no wind. I don't think this will be an issue with Hinkley Point.

  • rate this

    Comment number 682.

    I like their optimism, build a 'fleet'? There's hardly enough skills to build one at a time, and they take nearly ten years! With major power plants closing before the end of the decade we'll need a lot more of the faster build reliable sort. I expect wind will be the bench mark price per unit and that's the only thing agree with Greenpeace on. caroline Flint? Why wasn't she saying this in 1997?

  • rate this

    Comment number 681.

    Just what exactly does the Green lot want ? Are they aware that even wind turbines have to be manufactured or do they believe that you just have to plant windmill seeds ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 680.

    "Crazy building a new nuclear power station when we still cannot dispose of the waste"

    We can dispose of the waste, just nobody wants to do it. There's even a best-practice emerging that covers all the bases known as "deep borehole disposal" (google it) which I'd prefer we were doing.

  • rate this

    Comment number 679.


    Wow SO many pro-nuclear trolls on here today, gotta take my hat off to the nuclear power PR dept. ;-) Funny how the Germans can survive without nuclear tho innit? :-P

    Whats more surprising is that the Friends of the Earth 70's generation havn't taught their kids the perils of nuclear waste, still after 40 years there is still no permanent solution to that huge problem. !!!


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