Mar 19 2013
Energy Secretary Ed Davey has given the go-ahead for the first of a planned new generation of nuclear power plants in the UK.
Mr Davey told MPs that he was granting planning consent for French energy giant EDF to construct a new nuclear power station at Hinkley Point C, in Somerset.
The news is a boost to the nuclear industry following a series of setbacks in plans to construct a new fleet of reactors in the UK, which ministers say are needed to cut carbon and keep the lights on.
Mr Davey told the Commons that affordable new nuclear would play a "crucial role" in ensuring secure, diverse supplies of energy in the UK and decarbonising the electricity sector and the economy.
The plant's two nuclear reactors would be capable of producing 7% of the UK's electricity, enough to power five million homes, EDF has said, with the costs of the new power station expected to run to around £14 billion.
A final investment decision by EDF to go ahead with construction still depends on the deal being negotiated with the Government on the "strike" price paid for electricity generated by the plant.
Under electricity market reforms, low-carbon power such as nuclear reactors and offshore wind farms will have long-term contracts with a guaranteed price for their electricity, to give investors certainty to invest in projects with high capital costs. Mr Davey said discussions on the strike price were ongoing, but he expected them to be concluded shortly.
The decision to grant a development consent order is in addition to a separate process of health and safety assessment, with permits awarded by the Office for Nuclear Regulation and the Environment Agency.
Mr Davey said EDF had now secured the majority of consents it needed to build and operate the plant.
Gary Smith, national officer of the GMB union, described the planning consent as a "welcome and necessary step forward", but added: "However the delay in agreeing the price to be paid for electricity to be generated in the fleet of nuclear power stations we need is very damaging for investment, jobs and for a low-carbon economy in the UK."