UK energy policy began an overhaul today with six new draft policy statements for the period to 2025. Nuclear is proposed as a key plank of future supplies and ten sites were named as suitable for new build.
Having historically provided up to 30% of electricity, the UK's ageing reactor fleet will be replaced from 2017 by private investors as part of a "trinity" of low-carbon technologies required for Britain's future: renewables, nuclear and carbon capture. Draft policy documents on these, subject to consultation, were announced alongside ones on the future of power transmission. There is already a target for renewables to provide 30% of power, and today saw a proposed ruling that no new coal-fired power plants may be built without carbon capture while existing plants will have to have capture technology fitted.
A new planning regime was proposed to aid the installation of nuclear reactors as well as large wind farms and their transmission lines. The key change here is that local hearings will debate only local issues and not question the national infrastructure needs. Those issues are to be handled by an independent
Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC) takign guidance from these National Policy Statements duly consulted and approved by parliament. Announcing the drafts in parliament, energy and climate change secretary Ed Miliband said: "Saying no everywhere would not be in the national interests."
Today's proposals should be passed into law before the next general election, when the current Labour government is expected to lose to the Conservatives.
Although there is consensus on the need for nuclear power between the two, the Conservatives plan to remove power from the IPC and give a minister the final decision. However, this would not take place quickly enough to affect current build plans.
Some 18 GWe of generation capacity is to be retired in coming years. Miliband said his policies should see 20 GWe constructed to replace it - 16 GWe of which would come from nuclear.
The statement on nuclear power contained a list of sites for nuclear development: Bradwell, Braystones, Hartlepool, Heysham, Hinkley Point, Kirksanton, Oldbury, Sellafield, Sizewell and Wylfa.
Only one existing site suggested through the strategic siting assessment process was rejected: Dungeness. This was because of an objection by Natural England that new reactors on the specific land proposed would have had a negative effect on a unique environment. Miliband said the site may be included in future, and that the current draft policy is a consultation and not a final decision. Electricité de France (EdF) had agreed with government to sell land at either Dungeness or Heysham but the decision on which was to be left to the buyer.
Three potential new sites, Druridge Bay in Northumberland, Kingsnorth in Kent and Owston Ferry in South Yorkshire were said to be worthy of further investigation, but "not credible" for nuclear development before the end of 2025.
EdF has plans for 6400 MWe of new nuclear at Sizewell C and Hinkley Point C and a consortium of GdF-Suez, Iberdrola and Scottish & Southern want a further 3600 MWe at a site adjacent to Sellafield. The RWE/EOn joint venture, Horizon Nuclear Power, should develop another 6000 MWe across Oldbury B, Wylfa C or two greenfield sites in the same region as Sellafield, Kirksanton and Braystones.
Planning applications for the first EdF units should come in mid-2011 when the regulatory process on reactor designs will finish.