Tuesday, 27 November 2007

Hinkley C on the cards after nuclear firm names West Somerset on new build list

A NEW nuclear power station is now almost certain to be built at Hinkley Point – and there could even be two or more new stations as Britain moves to adopt energy sources which will not add to global warming.
British Energy, which owns the Hinkley Point B station, announced on Tuesday, November 27, the West Somerset site was listed as one of eight locations across England and Scotland which could house the country’s next generation of nuclear plants.
It follows a review of every site owned by the company to determine if they could withstand the effects of global warming.
There had been concern that coastal sites such as Hinkley Point could be under threat from rising sea levels and increasingly heavy rainfall.
Research by engineering consultants Halcrow showed flood defence and coast protection measures could be deployed on all sites to make replacement build a feasible option.
Halcrow said the work needed to secure Hinkley Point would involve an extension to the existing constructed cliff protection measures in order to prevent erosion, and the new power station structures should be set back from the cliff line.
It did not predict any flood risks for the elevated site.
Halcrow’s report said: “Relying solely on current engineering methods and knowledge, the sites can be made robust against climate change impacts for the expected lifetimes of the replacement stations.”
Access to the National Grid was likely to be an important constraining factor in selecting sites.
But British Energy said it had already entered into agreements with National Grid for each of the key sites it owns in the South of England, including Hinkley, for grid access in the period from 2016 onwards.
Chief executive Bill Coley said: “Our existing sites all have potential for replacement nuclear, and, indeed we have suitable land at all locations.
“But it is about much more than land. We are building the foundations for replacement nuclear by continuing and strengthening our excellent relationships and dialogue with local communities.
“Our skilled and experienced staff also live locally and provide a healthy flow of skills and talent into the business.
“Our good relationships with our regulators and experience in UK regulation are also key factors, and we continue to work closely with the full range of nuclear industry regulators to meet some of the most stringent standards in the global nuclear industry.”
The Government is expected to decide on the future of nuclear power early in 2008 and if, as expected, the decision is ‘positive’, British Energy will carry out a strategic assessment of siting during the year.
Studies to assess the different locations would vary, but would include examinations of flora and fauna, fisheries and other marine ecology, landscape, geology, noise, and air quality.
Mr Coley said the firm would continue to invest prudently to maintain its sites as strong candidates for replacement builds and ensure any development could proceed as quickly and efficiently as possible if the Government made a positive decision.
Paul Spence, British Energy’s head of strategy and business development, said the company would be in extensive dialogue with local stakeholders and statutory consultees as it developed its proposals and identified the scope of future studies.
Mr Spence said Hinkley Point B had an active local community group which met regularly and was briefed on all topics of interest, including a possible replacement nuclear plant.
British Energy said it remained ‘flexible’ about how its sites would be developed and on the choice of reactor design.
Experts believe any new generation of nuclear power stations are likely to be designs bought in from foreign countries which have continued with nuclear builds, such as Japan.
It is also thought that the capital costs involved would mean new builds would only be viable if at least two plants were constructed at the same time.
For Hinkley Point, that would mean building twin C and D stations.
  • Hinkley B has been running at reduced power after being off-line earlier this year to repair cracks found in its boilers.
  • The neighbouring Hinkley Point A nuclear power station was shut down in May, 2000, and is currently being decommissioned by Magnox Electric Ltd. Halcrow has designed an Intermediate Level Waste Store on the site which will be used to hold intermediate level waste arising from the operation and decommissioning of the station.

  • Our photo shows Hinkley Point B. Photo by Robin Somes.

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