Sellafield for new nuclear build?

23 January 2009

Sites will be nominated next week as being among the best for new nuclear power plants in the UK. Sellafield will be among them named, linking it for the first time to new-build possibilities.


The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) owns a range of nuclear sites across Great Britain, some dating back to the pioneering days of nuclear research. Among these are the first-generation Magnox power plant sites and the enormous Sellafield complex, itself including the Calder Hall and Windscale Advanced Gas-cooled Reactor prototype plots, which both supplied power in the past.


Sellafield in 2000
The Sellafield sites in 2000, when the Calder Hall power plant was
still in operation. Its cooling towers have now been demolished


The NDA has said it will put forward some of these sites to the UK government's Strategic Siting Assessment (SSA) process - a key part of the planning sequence for new nuclear. Parcels of land at Wylfa, Oldbury, Bradwell and Sellafield are to be nominated when the government calls for submissions next week.


New nuclear power plants in the UK would be built and owned by private companies and many - British Energy (BE), Electricité de France (EdF), EOn, RWE, Iberdrola and Scottish & Southern - have already announced intentions.


Apart from BE and EdF's plans to build at Sizewell and Hinkley Point, the exact location of other possible new reactors has not been fixed. Some of the companies listed above have already bought land adjacent to NDA sites, while the NDA is also soon to begin an auction of land suitable for new reactors alongside the Wylfa, Oldbury and Bradwell and Magnox sites. The deadline for expressions of interest in that process ended on 16 January.


British Energy is also to sell land at Bradwell and Dungeness, while EdF will sell land at Wylfa if it is happy with progress towards build at Sizewell and Hinkley Point.


Although the local community would welcome a power plant, the addition of Sellafield to the mix of potential new-build sites was unexpected. The NDA said it would "announce the process and timing for the Sellafield land sale... in light of experience gained from the current auction of land for Wylfa, Oldbury and Bradwell."


Announcing the decision to include Sellafield, prime minister Gordon Brown said, "Nuclear is crucial to our low carbon future; it is crucial to our energy security and at the same time it represents a massive opportunity for the UK economy and jobs. Industry are investing billions into the UK economy, jobs are being created and supply chain opportunities are developing."


"The NDA's announcement today on potential new build sites is good news and I am pleased to be here in Sellafield, to welcome this. During construction, each new station would bring as many as 9,000 jobs, create up to 1,000 skilled long-term jobs when operational, and be worth about £2 billion ($2.7 billion) to the surrounding region and wider economy. With such deep-rooted ties to the nuclear industry Sellafield is in a strong position to benefit."


The NDA expects the submissions to the SSA process to raise the value of the land such that its sale at auction will bring greater benefit to the taxpayer, which has ultimately funded the British state's nuclear power program and its clean-up.


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