Ten sites approved for Nuclear Power Plants

Ten of the eleven sites nominated by the industry as potentially suitable for new nuclear power stations have received government approval, ministers revealed this week.

Dungeness in Kent was the only location nominated that failed to make the final cut. It was not listed in the draft nuclear National Policy Statement (NPS) because ministers did not consider that the potential environmental impacts at this site could be mitigated. The administration also had concerns about coastal erosion and associated flood risk at the site on the Kent coast.

The sites named as potentially suitable for new nuclear deployment by the end of 2025 are Bradwell, Braystones, Hartlepool, Heysham, Hinkley Point, Kirksanton, Oldbury, Sellafield, Sizewell and Wylfa. All are either sites with a history of nuclear generation or are close to the Sellafield nuclear complex.

In order to satisfy the ­requirements of the European Union's Habitats Directive, the government also considered three alternative sites: Druridge Bay in Northumberland, Kingsnorth in Kent, and Owston Ferry in south Yorkshire.

In the event, the government concluded that all these three locations had disadvantages and none were credible for deployment by the end of 2025.

In principle, the government said new nuclear power should be free to contribute as much as possible towards the 25GW of new non-renewable capacity that the UK will need within two decades.

Ministers have also spelled out that two nuclear power station designs are in the frame: Westinghouse's AP1000 and Areva's EPR. Both are pressurised water reactors.
The government has signalled that new nuclear power stations will have to provide "safe and secure on-site interim storage" of radioactive waste until a new national repository capable of handling medium and high-level waste is available.

Ministers made it clear that in theory, such on-site "interim" storage might be required "for around 160 years from the start of the power station's operation, to enable an adequate cooling period for fuel discharged following the end of the power station's ­

Statements spell out need for new energy infratructure

The government has said that by 2020, the UK will need 43GW net of new generating capacity and 60GW by 2025, much of which has yet to be consented. The UK currently has 80GW of generation capacity. One of the reasons for the increase is the need to provide back-up supply as more intermittent generation (such as wind) comes on the system as the UK moves to a low-carbon economy. To meet European and domestic targets, 30 per cent of power generation will have come from renewables by 2020.

This will mean primarily large amounts of onshore and offshore wind, with smaller amounts of bio-energy. As well as wind, new nuclear and coal stations fitted with carbon capture and storage, the policy framework calls for a ­"smarter" electricity grid and new gas infrastructure (import, storage and transmission). The government has said that when the Infrastructure Planning Commission determines individual projects (see, right) it will not need to consider the relative advantages of one technology over another, "given the government's view that companies should be permitted to determine the individual projects to bring forward within the strategic framework set by the government taking account of clear benefits of a diverse energy mix".

Carbon capture policy inches forward

At the same time as publishing this week's key set of energy policy statements, the government has clarified its thinking on carbon capture and storage (CCS) and the future of coal generation, following a consultation exercise that began six months ago.

Ministers have confirmed that from this week, no new coal plant will be allowed unless it can demonstrate the full CCS chain (capture, transport and storage) from the outset on at least 300MW net of its total output.

At the same time, the government is pressing ahead with plans for a programme of four commercial-scale CCS demonstration projects, including both pre-combustion and post-combustion capture technologies, which will be funded by a new CCS incentive in the form of a supplier obligation. Details of this levy will be included in an energy bill expected to be in the next parliamentary legislative programme, due to be announced in the Queen's Speech next Wednesday. The measure will have to raise more money than originally anticipated because ministers have decided that the obligation will provide financial support for the retrofit of existing coal-fired stations once CCS has been proved commercially viable. The demonstration projects will be required to retrofit CCS to their full capacity by 2025. The levy will also help to bankroll this.

RWE Npower has just announced that it is poised to apply for consent to build a 30MW post-combustion CCS pilot project at its existing Aberthaw plant in south Wales.

Meanwhile, Eon UK and ScottishPower have been revealed as the remaining two bidders to proceed to the next stage of the government's existing CCS competition. The consortium of Peel Energy, Dong Energy and RWE Npower has dropped out.

Early next year, the government has promised to publish a CCS industrial strategy that will look at the potential role of "clusters" and the development of transport and storage infrastructure.

Draft energy statements published

The government this week published all the draft National Policy Statements (NPSs) that will provide the context for decisions on energy infrastructure determined by the Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC) under the new planning regime.

Six NPSs were involved, one overarching statement and one each for fossil fuels, nuclear power, renewable generation, transmission networks and oil and gas pipelines.

They will now be subject to wide-ranging consultation with the public, interested parties and Parliament before ministers agree final versions next year.

The government has said that if schemes have been considered by the IPC before the relevant NPS has been finalised, the IPC will have to make a recommendation only. Once the NPS has been agreed, it is the IPC, rather than the secretary of state, that will determine the proposal.

If the Conservatives win power, they will retain the NPSs but scrap the IPC. Staff will be transferred to the Planning Inspectorate to form a unit assessing key projects. Ministers will make final decisions.