First site licence for UK new build

26 November 2012

The UK's Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) has granted a site licence for EDF Energy's planned Hinkley Point C power station. It is the first new site licence to be awarded for a UK nuclear power station in 25 years, although further consent will be needed before construction can begin.

Hinkley Point C_200 (EDF)
How Hinkley Point C could look (Image: EDF Energy)

ONR's decision to award the licence to EDF Energy new build subsidiary NNB Generation Company (NNB GenCo) is the culmination of over three years of assessment by the regulator. Although the licence does not confer permission to begin construction of nuclear-safety related plant at the site in Somerset in south-western England, it is nevertheless a significant step towards new build in the UK.

The site licence enhances regulatory control of activities associated with designing and building nuclear facilities at the site, and requires NNB GenCo to comply with various conditions. UK chief nuclear inspector Mike Weightman noted, "these conditions provide ONR with the necessary regulatory powers to ensure the protection of people and society from the hazards associated with such nuclear power generation."

Further consent from ONR, permits from UK environmental regulator the Environment Agency and formal planning consent will be needed before construction of the two EPRs planned for Hinkley Point C can begin in earnest. The EPR design is currently undergoing a generic design assessment by the two UK regulators, a process that the ONR says could be completed by the end of 2012 if all outstanding issues are resolved.

EDF Energy expects to make its final investment decision on Hinkley Point C by the end of the year, but the company's new build managing director Humphrey Cadoux-Hudson said the award of the site licence was a crucial step towards the construction of the reactors, serving as a "vote of confidence" in the company. "We remain focused on putting the components in place that will enable a final investment decision to be made at the earliest possible date," he said. Recently announced UK energy market reforms should influence that decision.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News