Thursday, 12 November 2009

Britain wants more reactors

Sydney Morning Herald
Tuesday 10/11/2009 Page: 11

LONDON: Britain is set to hand an expanded role to the nuclear industry and suggest more sites for new reactors as it unveils controversial guidelines for fast tracking big energy projects through the planning process. Ed Miliband, the Energy Secretary, was due to reveal his blueprint for the future energy industry overnight in a series of "national policy statements" analysing 11 sites proposed by companies and several more potential locations.

A senior official at the Department of Energy and Climate Change said that the extra sites would leave the door open for a greater use of nuclear energy than currently envisaged. "I'm comfortable that with the current options and the possible new ones we will have sufficient sites for our nuclear needs in 2025," he said. The Government is introducing the guidelines on fossil fuels, nuclear and renewable energy to speed up the planning system, handing the power to approve major projects to an independent body, the Infrastructure Planning Commission.

Utility companies have warned that Britain is facing a shortfall in power generation over the next decade unless more projects are given swift approval. In an interview with The Daily Telegraph on Saturday, Mr Miliband said "saying no" to nuclear was no longer an option given Britain's need to bolster its energy security, adding that he wanted the first new plants built by 2017. But Government officials admitted over the weekend the grand 3000-page policy statements could soon "become out-of-date" due to climate change.

This would mean large chunks of the documents, which have already been on the drawing board for three years, would have to be rewritten - entailing delays to the fast-track system. If the evidence that climate change is progressing rapidly becomes really compelling, we will have to revise the national policy statements," the Department of Energy and Climate Change official said. Utility companies keen to build nuclear plants in Britain have long been desperate for stability in the planning regime since it takes up to seven years to construct a station. The 11 sites under consideration are mostly places with a strong nuclear history, including Dungeness in Kent, Sizewell in Suffolk and Sellafield in Cumbria.