Energy secretary Chris Huhne limits new-build stations to just eight before 2025

The government has said plans for three nuclear power stations on greenfield sites will be abandoned until at least 2025.

The announcement, part of a package of measures revealed by energy secretary Chris Huhne today, means that sites for eight new reactors have effectively been given the go ahead by the coalition government. In addition Huhne said the government may agree to buy spent nuclear fuel at a certain price from nuclear operators, despite having promised not to subsidise a new generation of nuclear power stations.

Huhne’s announcement gives the go-ahead for reactors at Bradwell, Essex; Hartlepool, Borough of Hartlepool; Heysham, Lancashire; Hinkley Point, Somerset; Oldbury, South Gloucestershire; Sellafield, Cumbria; Sizewell, Suffolk; Wylfa, Isle of Anglesey. Plans for power stations at Dungeness in Kent and Braystones and Kirksanton in Cumbria will not go forward.

While the announcement retreats from the former government’s position on nuclear new-build, most observers think it is unlikely that all eleven previous power stations would have been built before 2025 anyway.

Huhne also today approved in principle the two competing reactor designs, the EPR and the AP1000. The raft of announcements comes with the publication of the revised consultation on a National Policy Statement for energy.

Huhne said: “We urgently need investment in new and diverse energy sources to power the UK. We’ll need renewables, new nuclear, fossil fuels with CCS, and the cables to hook them all up to the Grid as a large slice of our current generating capacity shuts down. The market needs certainty to make this investment happen, and we are determined to clear every obstacle in the way of this programme.

“So today we are setting out our energy need which will help guide the planning process, so that if sound proposals come forward in sensible places, they will not face unnecessary hold-ups.”

The Department for Energy and Climate Change said Dungeoness had been abandoned due to concerns over its impact on important habitat sites, while Braystones and Kirksanton were ruled out due to uncertainty over their viability before 2025, as well as the potential impact that they could have on the Lake District National Park.

Huhne added that the government’s commitment to not subsidise nuclear power did not mean that it wouldn’t provide general market subsidies to low carbon power, or take on certain risks from private nuclear operators, both in relation to dealing with spent fuel, and the costs of compensation after an accident.

Currently operators’ liability for nuclear accidents is capped at £140m, and the government is currently reviewing whether or not to keep that cap in place.

As expected Huhne also said he will not fund the proposed £30bn barrage across the Severn estuary.

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