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Doubts over third Suffolk N-plant

PUBLISHED: 05:06 25 February 2003 | UPDATED: 16:20 24 February 2010

SERIOUS doubts have been cast over the possibility of a third nuclear power station in Suffolk following a Government review.

The Energy White Paper, published by the Government yesterday , revealed there were no plans to build more nuclear power stations – although it did not rule out the possibility in the long-term.

SERIOUS doubts have been cast over the possibility of a third nuclear power station in Suffolk following a Government review.

The Energy White Paper, published by the Government yesterday , revealed there were no plans to build more nuclear power stations – although it did not rule out the possibility in the long-term.

It appeared to end proposals for Sizewell C – a third plant planned for the nuclear site on the Suffolk coast – and plunged the entire industry into doubt.

Delighted anti-nuclear campaigners claimed the White Paper "sounded the death knell" for the nuclear industry.

But two Suffolk Conservative MPs called the energy blueprint "a serious fudge" and attacked the Government for "dithering" over the future of nuclear power.

The thrust of the Government's strategy is to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 60% over the next 50 years. It will work alongside a major expansion of renewable power sources and more effect to save energy.

Trade and Industry Secretary Patricia Hewitt unveiled the long-awaited paper, entitled Our Energy Future – Creating a Low Carbon Economy, at a London news conference yesterday.

The White Paper says the priority is to boost renewables and energy efficiency. It noted nuclear power is an important source of carbon-free electricity, but "its current economics make it an unattractive option".

There are no plans in the White Paper for new nuclear power stations but it admits that at some point new nuclear schemes might be needed to meet carbon targets.

British Energy, which owns Sizewell B and has put forward plans for Sizewell C, suffered a financial crisis last year and said any plans for new stations were on hold.

Spokesman Andrew Dowler said: "We are going through a period of financial restructuring which will take another 12 to 18 months, and that is the focus of the business at the moment."

A spokesman for the Department of Trade and Industry confirmed proposals made almost 18 months ago for new power stations, including Sizewell C, were "on the back burner".

"There is nothing on the table at the moment. There is no paper resolution for new nuclear build and the priority is now on renewable energy, not nuclear power," he said.

Charles Barnett, chairman of the Shut Down Sizewell campaign, said: "We are jubilant that, after so many years of campaigning, the Government has at last grasped the nettle and decided the way forward is non-polluting renewable sources of energy which will not be a target for terrorists, unlike nuclear power stations.

"The nuclear industry has been sounded the death knell. There are no promises to build new power stations in the White Paper."

Conservative MP John Gummer, whose Suffolk Coastal constituency includes the Sizewell site, said the White Paper had left supporters and opponents of nuclear power in limbo.

"It is a serious fudge and it's difficult to see what the Government really thinks. The overall tone and direction of the White Paper is good but it seems as if somebody has softened up all the hard edges," he said.

"We would be better off if the Government faced up to the nuclear issue and said whether they wanted to pursue it or find an alternative. The nuclear industry does not know if it has a future or not.

Trade and Industry Secretary Patricia Hewitt, said: "Our country needs a new energy policy. We need to make sure we have secure energy at affordable prices, but we need to use energy more efficiently and urgently address the impact we make on the environment.'

Tim Yeo, Shadow Secretary of State for Trade and Industry and Conservative MP for Suffolk South, added: "Ducking the hard decisions today risks the lights going out tomorrow.

"Dithering over the future of nuclear power makes it harder for Britain to meet its green commitments while maintaining security of supply. This is a White Paper of 'missed opportunities'."

Bob Pigram , regional officer for the Amicus union, said it would be "a bitter disappointment" if plans for Sizewell C were scrapped.

The first nuclear station at Sizewell started producing electricity in 1966. It is owned by British Nuclear Fuels and reaches the end of its operational life in 2006. Work started in 1987 on Sizewell B and it was connected to the National Grid in 1994.

British Energy dropped plans for Sizewell C in 1997 for commercial reasons, but a new bid for 10 new stations, including one at the Suffolk site, was unveiled on September 11, 2001. Sizewell B is due to close in 2036.


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