Consultation on 10 UK Nuclear Sites

portcullis logoHansard 10 Nov 09
Today, to guide the decision making of the new Infrastructure Planning Commission, we are setting out for consultation six draft policy statements on energy, the most important being those on the trinity of fuels of our low-carbon future: renewables, nuclear power and clean fossil fuels. We need all of them in the long term, because the challenge of the low-carbon transition is so significant. We need renewables, which are a home-grown and plentiful source of supply and are already powering 2 million homes in the UK; we need nuclear power, which is a proven, reliable source of low-carbon energy and an important base load in the system; and we need fossil fuels—with carbon capture and storage—which make possible a flexible peak-load response.

Last year, offshore wind generation increased by two thirds and onshore wind generation by one quarter. However, we need to increase the rate of progress significantly in order to meet our objective of 30 per cent. of our electricity coming from renewables by 2020. The national policy statement on renewables covers onshore renewables over 50 MW and offshore wind over 100 MW. Other onshore decisions remain with local authorities. The policy statement seeks to strike the right balance between achieving national objectives and avoiding adverse impacts on the local environment and biodiversity.

While Government set out the framework in the policy statements, each application will be decided upon by the independent Infrastructure Planning Commission. The IPC will have to take account of regional and local plans drawn up by local authorities, and developers will have to ensure that they have consulted locally before any application is made, with local authorities submitting local impact reports.

The Infrastructure Planning Commission will make its decisions on the basis of a clear timetable of a year from the acceptance of an application to a decision. That is a crucial change from the system that operated in the past. This system is right for energy security. By meeting our commitments on renewables we can limit the need for gas imports, holding them at 2010 levels for the rest of the decade. It is also the right thing to do for 9 Nov 2009 : Column 31 the environment, because there is no bigger threat to our countryside than climate change. But, according to the estimates that we are publishing today, even given our ambitious targets for renewables there will be a need for additional new non-renewable power.

We need to use all available low-carbon sources, which is why we were right to end the moratorium on new nuclear power stations in this country last year. In response, energy companies have announced intentions to build 16 GW of new nuclear power. In the spring, we invited comments on the 11 sites that had been nominated for new nuclear, all of which are on or near existing nuclear sites. I can tell the House that 10 of the 11 sites have been judged potentially suitable and have been included in the draft policy statement.

The next step will be consultation in the 10 selected sites, as well as nationally. The consultation proposes that the 11th site, Dungeness, not be included in this national policy statement. That is because, following advice from Natural England and others, the Government do not believe that a new nuclear power station can be built there without causing an adverse effect on the integrity of the internationally unique ecosystem. Under the habitats directive, we are obliged to consider alternative nuclear sites.

An independent study has suggested that three—Kingsnorth, Druridge Bay and Owston Ferry—are “worthy of further consideration”. We have concluded, however, that all of them have serious impediments and none of them is credible for deployment by the end of 2025, the period of the policy statement; nor do we believe they are necessary for our plans for new nuclear. Therefore, we have excluded all of them from being potential sites in the draft policy statement.

On waste management, the Government are satisfied that, on the basis of the science and international experience, effective arrangements to manage and dispose of the waste from new nuclear power stations can be put in place. In addition, today we are opening consultation on the proposed regulatory justification for two different reactor designs. New nuclear is right for energy security and climate change, and it will be good for jobs too, creating up to 9,000 jobs to build and operate power stations at each site and helping leading companies to access the international market.