New generation of N-plants moves closer

A NEW generation of nuclear power could be up and running in Suffolk within ten years - but politicians last night stressed the importance of proper consultation on the plans.

Craig Robinson

A NEW generation of nuclear power could be up and running in Suffolk within ten years - but politicians last night stressed the importance of proper consultation on the plans.

Energy and climate secretary Ed Miliband outlined a huge expansion of nuclear power yesterday, officially earmarking Sizewell as a potential site for any future development along with Bradwell in Essex.

He also announced a change to planning rules that would fast-track construction of any new plant.

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The hope is the Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC) will make a decision within a year - avoiding lengthy delays like the six-year struggle to get Sizewell B approved.

EDF Energy has already indicated it would like to build a twin reactor at the existing site in Sizewell, creating a Sizewell C which could be ready by the end of 2017.

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Last night politicians and campaigners said it was vital local people were consulted on any plans.

Suffolk Coastal MP John Gummer said he was in favour of nuclear power but raised concerns about the IPC.

“I am appalled the government has not accepted pressure for a proper inquiry locally,” he said. “You need to have time for people to express their views.

“It would not hold anything up. Instead, some quango is going to be sitting and dealing with it without any democracy at all.

“I want a judge to sit properly so my constituents can say what they want to see and how they want it. It's not for anyone else to tell them otherwise.”

His views were echoed by Suffolk Coastal District Council's cabinet member for the green environment, Andrew Nunn, and Andy Smith, cabinet member for planning.

In a joint statement they said: “We strongly believe that local communities should have their say - with the right to reject plans for a Sizewell C if, after detailed consideration of the local issues, it is seen to be the correct decision.

“What we want are guarantees the views of local people, and this council as their representative, will have a real influence on the decision.

“We do not want to lose the right to control the impact any proposed development could have on the unique environment around Sizewell - this district's local knowledge and requirements must be taken into account.”

Sizewell is the only one of the ten chosen sites that falls wholly within a nationally protected Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), while an 11th at Dungeness in Kent was not included in the list because of concerns about coastal erosion and flood risk.

Charles Barnett, chairman of Shut Down Sizewell Campaign, warned the government had decided to go down a “disastrous path” by choosing to expand its nuclear sites as it would not solve the problem of climate change and could increase the risk of terrorist attacks.

Commenting on the planning reforms he added: “It's a regrettable, backward step. Local people have to be able to have their say.”

EDF Energy chief executive Vincent de Rivaz said any new build at the sites would follow a full planning application process including appropriate consultation.

“The UK needs massive investment in infrastructure to meet its carbon targets and maintain energy security,” he said. “Nuclear is a vital part of that mix to help provide secure, affordable and clean energy.

“For EDF Energy it means we can prepare to take the next steps in our plan for a multi-billion pound investment in the UK, which is already creating opportunities for the British supply chain.”

As well as confirming the new nuclear programme Mr Miliband also set out a policy for the transition to clean-coal generation and confirmed targets for generating 30% of electricity by renewable sources by 2020.

He said: “The threat of climate change means we need to make a transition from a system that relies heavily on high-carbon fossil fuels to a radically different system that includes nuclear, renewable and clean-coal power.”

He said the changes in planning regulations would save UK industry around �300m a year in “unnecessary expense” and result in a more efficient, transparent and accessible process.

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