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.

Analysis

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
    +65

    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
    +17

    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
    +64

    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
    +90

    Comment number 584.

    Until we have clean fusion reactors operating we are stuck with fission. All other methods of generating electricity will not provide us with the energy we require, regardless of the misinformation coming from the green activists. I'd prefer winter-warmth to green credentials any day.

  • rate this
    +78

    Comment number 573.

    This new development will provide 7% of the UK's electricity generation capacity. So they need to agree to build a few more and quickly.

 

Comments 5 of 15

 

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