Britain identifies 10 new nuclear sites


THE BRITISH government identified 10 suitable sites for the next generation of nuclear power plants yesterday, including two new locations, as part of a plan to overhaul Britain’s ageing energy infrastructure.

The energy and climate secretary, Ed Miliband, said nuclear power was essential to combat climate change and to ensure energy security for Britain in the decades ahead, describing it as a “proven, reliable source of low carbon energy”.

But he drew immediate criticism from environmentalists who warned of the “deadly legacy” of radioactive waste and argued that investment should be focused on renewables instead.

The 10 sites had been nominated by energy firms hoping to build reactors. Most are on or adjacent to existing plants, but two identified as suitable are on new sites, Braystones and Kirksanton, both in Cumbria and on the “nuclear coast”.

One of the oldest and most efficient windfarms in Britain will be dismantled at Kirksanton to make way for the nuclear plant, to the dismay of some locals.

Mr Miliband said the first new plants could be up and running by 2018. The names of the sites were contained in one of six draft national policy statements designed to fast-track the planning process for strategically important infrastructure projects.

The statements cover nuclear energy, renewables, fossil fuels, oil and gas pipelines and storage and the electricity grid, as well as an overarching statement on infrastructure. The statements will establish national policy and act as guidelines for the recently established Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC), a central planning authority, to be run at arm’s length from the government, which aims to give developers decisions on schemes within a year of submission.

The policy statements, which will go out to consultation until February, also underlined the government’s commitment to “clean coal” technology. It is pressing ahead with four trials of carbon capture and storage technology, which aims to bury emissions underground, and reiterated that no coal plants would be built without it. The government also reaffirmed its target of 30 per cent of electricity generation from renewables by 2020.

“We think renewables, nuclear and clean fossil fuels are the trinity of low carbon fuels of the future, all of them have their role to play,” Mr Miliband said.

Any projects with proposed capacity of more than 50MW will be decided by the IPC. Mr Miliband said the streamlined planning authority would avoid tortuous decisions. The current system, he said, was characterised by “duplication and delay”.

But critics raised fears that local concerns would be brushed aside by the IPC. Mr Miliband argued there would still be opportunities to object to new developments. “But while, of course, we need a process that can turn down specific applications, saying ‘no’ everywhere would not be in the national interest,” he said.

Ben Aycliffe at Greenpeace said: “You can’t justify building more nuclear power stations when there is no solution to radioactive waste and when international regulators are saying there are huge uncertainties surrounding the safety of designs.” The shadow energy secretary, Greg Clark, acknowledged the need for urgent action, but said the government was riding roughshod over the democratic process. “It is a national emergency and it’s been left far too late,” he told Radio 4. – ( Guardianservice)