Dutch utility Delta says it has started the licensing process to build a new nuclear power station at the Borssele site, despite government declarations that no construction decisions will be made under its present mandate.
Peter Boerma, CEO of Delta, said in an interview that he wanted to see "two to four" new reactors at Borssele, home to the country's single operating pressurized water reactor which is 50%-owned by the utility. "We already invest heavily in solar energy, but the full transition to renewable energy will see other forms of energy used in the meantime. Coal or nuclear energy? Then we opt for the latter," he told Dutch daily the Financieele Dagblad.
According to the company's press release, it is beginning the licensing procedure by preparing a "start memorandum" which will be the first step towards an environmental impact assessment. The start memorandum is scheduled to be ready by the end of the year, and is to cover subjects including water and air emissions and the exact location of the planned plant. No design has yet been chosen but the company says the plant will be of 1000-1600 MWe capacity, and notes that as the Borssele site can accommodate some 5000 MWe it would be possible to build several units there.
Allowing three and half years to obtain the necessary permits and licensing, then four and a half years for construction, Delta says a new plant could be operational by the end of 2016.
However, some members of the Dutch coalition government were quick to scotch Delta's plans. Environment minister Jacqueline Cramer told Dutch media: "The coalition government agreement is crystal clear. We will not make any decisions over the construction of new nuclear power stations." Her words were echoed by a spokesperson for economy minister Maria van der Hoeven, who added: "There's no ban on thinking."
The Netherlands abandoned an earlier nuclear phase-out policy in 2005 but its coalition government has no firm policy on nuclear power other than to say that no new nuclear plants will be built under its current term of office, which runs until 2011. High-profile members of the Christian Democrats (CDA), which forms the governing coalition alongside the Labour party (PvdA) and the Christian Union (CU), have recently spoken out in favour of nuclear power for the country. Earlier this month, former environment secretary Pieter van Geel pointed out that nuclear new build would be permissible under Dutch law and exhorted the business community to take the initiative in applying to build new nuclear capacity.