Eight sites approved for new nuclear power stations

MPs approved planning guidelines for new energy projects including nuclear power stations yesterday.

The House of Commons voted to approve national policy statements for fossil fuel, renewable energy, gas supply, electricity networks and nuclear power generation infrastructure .

The nuclear policy statement confirmed sites at Bradwell, Hartlepool, Heysham, Hinkley Point, Oldbury, Sizewell, Sellafield and Wylfa were suitable for nuclear power plants.

The statements set out the policy that must be considered by the infrastrucure planning commission and its successor before giving consent for new energy schemes.

Energy minister Charles Hendry said: “The policy statements are critical to the new fast-track planning system that will encourage developers to embark on energy projects without facing unnecessary hold-ups.”

During a debate about the statements, Mr Hendry said the first carbon capture and storage plant, which stores carbon dioxide emitted by fossil fuel power plants, should be operational by 2015.

He also said that there were a “significant amount” of gas projects with planning consent  but that the planning system allows schemes that emit large quantities of carbon dioxide to be rejected if there are too many of them.

He said: “If it were felt that consent was being given to too much higher-carbon generation capacity and therefore that environmental issues—low-carbon issues—were seen to be more important, that would be a material factor to be taken into account. That can already be done through the system.”

The government wants to open a nuclear waste disposal facility by 2029, he added.

He acknowledged that the UK would be in competition with China for skilled workers to build nuclear power stations and to export energy technology, but he said he was “very encouraged” by the investment going into nuclear skills in some  parts of the country.

Mr Hendry added that the final report of the UK’s chief nuclear inspector Dr Mike Weightman into the implications of the Fukashima nuclear crisis on the UK’s nuclear plans is due out in the autumn. He said the interim version gave no reason for curtailing the operation of nuclear power plants in the UK.  But Liberal Democrat MP for Cheltenham Martin Horwood said it did not address the costs of evacuation and dislocation arising from the disaster.

Energy firm EDF, which wants to build the Sizewell and Hinkley Point facilities, welcomed the policy statement.

EDF Group chairman and chief executive Henri Proglio said: “The UK Parliament’s vote in favour of nuclear is an essential step for EDF Group and its new nuclear projects.

“Alongside its partner Centrica, EDF is therefore in a position to move forward its project to build new nuclear power stations, which will contribute to making the Group a reference point for electricity in tomorrow’s world and a leader in de-carbonised energy.”

267 MPs voted in favour of the national policy statements and 14 opposed them.