New owners confirm nuclear plans

THE new French owners of British Energy have confirmed they still want to push ahead with controversial plans to build two nuclear reactors in Suffolk.

Craig Robinson

THE new French owners of British Energy have confirmed they still want to push ahead with controversial plans to build two nuclear reactors in Suffolk.

The news was last night welcomed by MPs and some members of the local community - but campaigners have warned against the dangers of another plant at Sizewell.

State owned French firm EDF, the world's biggest nuclear power provider, has agreed to buy British Energy in a deal worth £12.5bn.

The new owners have said they want to construct twin reactors at Sizewell - along with two more at Hinkley Point in Somerset - with the first on-stream by the end of 2017.

It means the county is still in line for what have been dubbed Sizewell C and D - proposals first put forward by British Energy earlier this year.

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EDF's pledge to back the plans was last night welcomed by Suffolk Coastal MP John Gummer, a long time supporter of nuclear power.

“I'm very pleased that we've got to this position,” he said. “I think it is the best answer for British Energy and hugely important for the country's future needs.

“I don't think nuclear is a silver bullet but - combined with a push towards renewable resources, energy efficiency and energy saving - it has an incredibly important part to play.”

Mr Gummer said it was now important to choose the best nuclear power station available for the site.

“My own view is that the French power stations are the best and I hope we can buy one off the shelf,” he said. “Quite often the British will try and build something bigger and better - this is not only more expensive but there is also the issue of safety because it hasn't been tried and tested.”

Ann Nunn, chairman of Leiston-cum-Sizewell Parish Council, said: “My own personal view is that it can only be a good thing. The majority of people in Leiston have lived happily beside Sizewell A and B - they have been good neighbours to us and I don't see any reason why that can't continue with a Sizewell C and D.

“Of course it will initially bring a lot of disruption - and I know there are some concerns - but it will bring much needed work into the area.”

In March British Energy revealed they wanted to spend nearly £6billion on new twin reactors at Sizewell - to be built alongside the decommissioned Sizewell A and Sizewell B.

The draft proposals also included a new access road - from the B1122 across countryside which includes part of a nature reserve designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest - and a beach landing stage to help minimise road deliveries.

Charles Barnett, chairman of the Shutdown Sizewell Campaign, said nuclear is not the answer to the energy question.

“As far as we are concerned this is a regrettable step which will bring to fruition the plans of this present government to, in effect, ignore renewable energy sources and deny them much-needed public money,” he said. “It gives us the legacy problem of nuclear waste which there is no solution for.

“The way forward is energy efficiency, coupled with energy conservation and the use of renewable sources.

“With nuclear you have the problem of dealing with the waste, the increased risk of terrorist activity as well as the risk of accidents.”

As part of the takeover EDF has also agreed to sell British Energy-owned land to other potential nuclear operators should its new reactors receive the all-clear - in line with government wishes to increase competition within the industry.

It means that there it is still possible for a new reactor to be built at sites in Dungeness, Heysham or Bradwell in Essex.

EDF's four new reactors in Suffolk and Somerset could generate electricity to meet more than 13% of the UK's forecast energy demand by the early 2020s, saving more than 14 million tonnes of CO2 emissions a year, said the Department for Business and Enterprise and Regulatory Reform.

Pierre Gadonneix, chairman and chief executive of EDF, said: “Combining the people, knowledge, skills, experience and assets of EDF and British Energy will set the standard for the delivery of safe, economic, low carbon generation both in Britain and around the world.

“This investment will help secure affordable energy for our customers for the long term. It is a responsible step towards addressing their concerns about wholesale energy prices and dwindling world fossil fuel supplies.”

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