Government criteria suggests that only existing sites will be used for new stations

Energy firms have been given two months to nominate sites for the next wave of nuclear power stations.

The government called for location suggestions yesterday as it published the criteria for site selection, which suggests only sites at existing nuclear facilities will make it through.

New plants must not be built near highly populated areas or certain types of military activity, it says.

The deadline for nominations is 31 March, after which the public will have a chance to comment on the names.

Suggested sites will then go through another round of government assessment before the Nuclear National Policy Statement is published. From 2010, developers should be able to apply for planning permission for sites deemed acceptable.

Energy and climate minister Ed Miliband said: "We'll be judging each site that gets nominated against the criteria we have set out today and there will be plenty of opportunities for local authorities and the public to have their say on the options tabled."

The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority is currently auctioning off sites at Sellafield in West Cumbria, Wylfa on Anglesey, Oldbury in Gloucestershire and Bradwell in Essex.