Somerset prepares for new nuclear

18 November 2009

The south western English county of Somerset is engaging with new nuclear build through a consultation and a new training centre, all related to the forthcoming Hinkley Point C.


Hinkley Point A and B (Richard Baker)
A new neighbour is planned for
Hinkley Point A and B
(Image: Richard Baker)

EDF Energy launched its local consultation on plans to build two Areva EPR units alongside four existing reactors at Hinkley Point.


Hinkley Point A was a Magnox nuclear power plant built in the mid 1960s and is now shut down; Hinkley Point B was based on Advanced Gas-cooled Reactors which are to shut down in 2016. Hinkley Point C could begin construction in 2012 and supply 6% of the UK's power supply before 2020. UK energy minister Lord Hunt said: "As we head towards a global agreement to tackle climate change, the UK needs to transform its energy sector, replacing old infrastructure with high-tech, low carbon energy sources."


EDF Energy's 'initial proposals and options' cover the immediate effects of the new power plant on the local area as well as the those of an influx of workers to local towns and villages. Up to 4800 people could be required at the peak of construction and this is bound to have both positive and negative effects within local communities. Certain rights of way would be affected and there would be extra heavy traffic and noise, although sea deliveries to a temporary jetty will avoid some disruption.

EDF's proposals to mitigate these effects are summarised in the consultation document and local people can comment until 11 January 2010. The company will then prepare an application to build and submit it to the new Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC), which will also consider the recent National Policy Statement on the need for nuclear power. EDF plans to begin preparing the site before the end of 2010, subject to separate local permission.


The IPC is meant to reach a decision within one year, and subject to a favourable outcome from the Health and Safety Executive's assessment of the EPR design in June 2011, construction could start in early 2012. The plan is for the first reactor to operate before the end of 2017 with the second following about 18 months later. They are meant to operate for at least 60 years, with about 25 years for decommissioning. EDF Energy is also seeking local views on the landscaping of the site once the reactors are completely removed.


Skills centre


Nearby Bridgewater College is preparing for an increase in nuclear work in the area. It already offers courses in nuclear decommissioning, but has recently been awarded £4 million ($6.7 million) to launch the South West Energy Skills Centre.

Part of the money will come from the South West Regional Development Agency, with the aim of providing "high quality specialist training facilities in science, engineering and specialist construction to meet industry standards for a skilled competent and safe nuclear workforce."


Another major contribution is from the Learning and Skills Council, with more still from the college itself. Magnox South Ltd has donated £200,000 ($335,000) of simulator equipment, while EDF Energy and the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority also support the project.