Energy review could signal Sizewell C

THE door is expected to be opened today to a new generation of nuclear power stations, including a Sizewell C, as the Government publishes its energy review.

By David Green

THE door is expected to be opened today to a new generation of nuclear power stations, including a Sizewell C, as the Government publishes its energy review.

Sizewell, where land has already been allocated for a third nuclear plant, is likely to be the site of the first new power station if, as expected, the review concludes that the technology is needed - alongside a boost in renewable energies - to help meet future electricity demand in the UK.

The Department of Trade and Industry is thought to be envisaging the building of six nuclear power stations, each capable of generating 1,600 megawatts (MW) of electricity. Sizewell B generates nearly 1,200 MWs.


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However, it may be some time before a planning application is submitted for Sizewell C by one of the big energy firms.

The land is owned by British Energy which is expected to have a stake in the C station. While a public inquiry would be held, the Government is proposing to reduce its remit to local environmental issues to prevent a repeat of the Sizewell B inquiry which lasted 27 months .

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Suffolk Coastal District Council's head of planning, Philip Ridley, said yesterday that he was unaware of any recent approach about a Sizewell C, formal or informal.

Pete Wilkinson, a former Greenpeace national campaigner who now runs an independent environment consultancy in Halesworth, said he believed a new nuclear programme would be a retrograde step.

“Any change of policy needs to follow a genuine review, including public consultation but we haven't had one,” he said.

“The industry has simply persuaded Tony Blair that this is the way to go. It would be a retrograde step and one made in ignorance.”

Mr Wilkinson said that although the Government might claim that no taxpayers' money would be spent on nuclear power, people would have to pay higher electricity bills and pick up the bill for disposing of radioactive waste.

Meanwhile, MPs warned yesterday that the Government was in danger of rushing into the construction of a new generation of nuclear power stations.

The Commons Trade and Industry Committee accused ministers of failing to carry out a “full and proper assessment” of future energy needs.

The cross-party committee urged the Government to ensure it had “broad political and public support” for its policy before going ahead with potentially far-reaching decisions.

The Government energy review is expected to argue that, without nuclear power, Britain will become dependent on gas for 55% of its energy needs by 2020 - up from 38% currently - with up to 90% of that imported from potentially unstable regions such as the Middle East, Central Asia and Russia.

At the same time the review is expected to set out proposals to raise the proportion of electricity generated through renewables from 4% to 20%.

The Commons Trade and Industry Committee report argued that the impending “energy gap” may not be as great as the Government assumes, due to the option of extending the life of some existing nuclear stations.

If the Government does opt for a new generation of nuclear power stations, all the costs of building, operating and decommissioning should fall to the private sector investors who build them and not the taxpayer, said the committee.

Peter Luff, the committee's chairman, said: “It is vital that the Government's energy policy is based on a full consideration of the evidence and has broad political and public support - otherwise, we risk repeating the mistakes of the past.

“However, the Government's Energy Review risks being seen as little more than a rubber-stamping exercise for a decision the Prime Minister took some time ago.”

Friends of the Earth said yesterday that the UK could tackle climate change “without wasting money on dirty and dangerous nuclear power”.

The Green Party said its own survey had found that 87% of those polled were opposed to nuclear power and that 66% were prepared to take part in protests if new stations were approved.

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