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Hinkley Point C receives planning approval

EDF Energy’s proposed £14bn nuclear power plant at Hinkley Point C in Somerset has been granted development consent by energy secretary Ed Davey.

Mr Davey announced in parliament today that he had granted the 175-hectare scheme development consent, which is required before construction can begin.

He granted permission for the two European Pressurised Reactors, adding that the consent means EDF will now be able to construct associated developments and carry out necessary work to obtain land and land rights.

Mr Davey said the benefits of the station outweighed the impacts, including a bypass around Cannington and enhanced landscaping.

He added that the majority of consents had now been granted, and that “intense” discussions were ongoing on the funded decommissioning programme and strike price.

Reaction:

EDF Energy chief executive Vincent de Rivaz said: “Receiving permission to construct a new nuclear power station at Hinkley Point C is a huge achievement, which represents years of hard work.

“This decision sets up a huge opportunity for this project to provide enormous benefits to the UK in jobs, skills, cutting carbon emissions and future energy security. We are ready to deliver and an extensive supply chain is standing by to begin work.

“To make this opportunity a reality, we need to reach agreement swiftly on the Contract for Difference for Hinkley Point C. It must offer a fair and balanced deal for consumers and investors. Intensive discussions with the Government are taking place and agreement is still possible.

“The success of this pioneering project will kick start the new nuclear programme in the UK and is expected to lead to lower costs for successive UK nuclear plants.”

Friends of the Earth policy and campaign director Craig Bennett said: “The Alice-in-Wonderland economics of the nuclear industry killed off previous plans for a new reactor at Hinkley – decades later, little has changed.

“The only way this plant will be built is if the Government hands over a blank cheque from UK taxpayers to French developers, EDF.

“For decades nuclear industry has over-promised and under-delivered – we can’t afford to keep throwing money at it.”

Prospect deputy general secretary Garry Graham said: “This welcome decision brings us a step closer to the construction of nuclear new build in the UK. This is good news for UK energy policy in terms of ensuring capacity, security of supply and a long-term move to carbon reduction.

“In order for this to become a reality it is now critical that agreement is reached on the ‘Contracts for Difference strike price’ to enable a stable platform to be created which will support the long-term investment needed.

“Without it, we risk letting a once-in-a-generation opportunity to power the country over the coming decades and avoid any gap in supply. The chancellor has an ideal opportunity to provide clarity and allow the investment so urgently needed.”

Cllr Duncan McGinty, leader of Sedgemoor District Council said: “This is a landmark decision and an important step towards the delivery of the next generation of nuclear power stations. The local communities around Hinkley Point recognise the urgent national need for new energy infrastructure and their role as pioneers in the new low carbon economy.

“However, we now ask that the government turns its attention to the needs of these communities in Sedgemoor and West Somerset. It must ensure that they receive fair, reasonable, and proportionate benefits in recognition of the burden of hosting a power station which will deliver great benefits to the nation but whose significant impact is felt locally.”

Katja Hall, CBI chief policy director, said:

“This is a big step forward on a critical energy infrastructure scheme. Major projects like this not only help us to overcome our energy challenges, but provide a real boost to growth, creating thousands of jobs directly and through the supply chain.  

“A balanced energy mix is essential in order to ensure secure, low-carbon and affordable supply in the future, and new nuclear is a key part of this.”

The 3.2 GigaWatt reactor design have already been approved, while the site has been granted a licence and environmental permits has been given.

EDF have not made a final decision on whether or not to go ahead with the project, with talks over the strike price - at which generated energy can be sold - continuing.

The decision follows three years of EDF consultation with local communities, and a year long examination by the UK Planning Inspectorate.

Around 55,000 pages of detailed evidence were submitted, with over 100 public meetings held and 33,000 individual responses made to public comments.

The vast process represents the first time the 2008 Planning Act has been used for a major UK infrastructure project.

The proposed power plant would be four times the capacity of Hinkley Point B, and would be able to produce seven per cent of the UK’s electricity needs.

Hinkley Point C is also the first nuclear project to have a funded decommissioning programme, requiring the operator to meet the full costs of decommissioning and its share of waste disposal.

Around 4m cubic metres of earth will be excavated, along with the use of 3m tonnes of concrete – 75 times as much as in Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium.

Studies show that 57 per cent of the construction value can be supplied in the UK, with the project employing 25,000 people during construction.

More than 1,200 Somerset firms and 550 nationally have registered formal interest in the project.

More than 40 per cent of the UK’s power stations are expected to close by 2025, as North Sea oil and gas supplies decline and global demand is expected to rise.

Hinkley Point C would be the first new nuclear station to be built since Sizewell B in 1995.

Some further regulatory hurdles remain, including approval on the marine licence and site-specific aspects of generic designs.

Shadow energy secretary Caroline Flint said they supported the government’s efforts to attract investment in new nuclear.

She added that the government had to make sure maximum opportunities were afforded to the supply chain.

Ernst and Young head of power and utilities said: “Today’s announcement delivers on one of the most important elements of the reform of the UK’s energy policy that started back in 2006.

“Demonstrating that the UK has a robust, timely and reliable planning process is a hugely important milestone on the road to delivering the renewal of the UK’s otherwise declining energy infrastructure capacity and enhances the UK’s position as one of the leading markets internationally for investment.

“Whilst the final decision to proceed with the construction of Hinkley Point C remains to be taken, the opportunity to create many thousands of construction, supply chain and operational jobs, and the boost that the investment will give to the region’s economy and skills base are vital components of driving recovery for the UK more widely.”

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