Friday, 11 January 2008

TWO new nuclear stations for Hinkley Point

NOT one, but two, new nuclear power stations are likely to be built in West Somerset following the Government’s decision this week to give the go-ahead for a new generation of power plants.
Hinkley Points C and D could be constructed and generating electricity in just 10 years’ time.
Meanwhile, the existing Hinkley B station could see its operating lifespan extended by a further two years to 2018, which would bridge the gap to the opening of the new stations.
Hinkley B owner British Energy still also owns sufficient land next to the now-closed Hinkley A station for the new power plants to be built.
Nearly two years ago, a Government-commissioned report made the Hinkley site a favourite for any new build.
Since then, British Energy has been undertaking detailed assessments of the location, including environmental, geological, and marine studies, and it now knows what work is needed to ensure the site is completely suitable.
In addition, the company has recently brokered a deal with the National Grid for new power plants to be connected from 2016 onwards.
It all adds up to the West Somerset site being progressed at ‘full speed ahead’ as the Government seeks to equip Britain with secure and cheap energy supplies.
Hinkley B station director Nigel Cann (pictured) told The Post: “We have done what we can to prepare ourselves for a positive outcome from the Government consultation process.”
Mr Cann said there was potential for a double unit to be built at Hinkley and it would make sense economically for any such decision to be taken from the outset of planning the new build.
Such a design would virtually double the amount of electricity generated at the site, which was important for the Westcountry as a whole because the region was one of the most vulnerable grid areas in the country.
Mr Cann said: “The Westcountry is very fragile from a grid point of view as regards supply of electricity.
“We are in a position where our (Hinkley B’s) connection to the grid is very valuable because if we were to close, then there is a risk of people losing their supplies in a cold winter.”
Hinkley B currently has capacity to produce enough electricity to power one million homes - just about every domestic property in the Westcountry - but has been running at only 70 per cent following two shutdowns for repairs last year.
Mr Cann said Hinkley B was also important to the local economy of West Somerset and the wider area because of the 700 skilled jobs available on the site and £30-£40 million of revenue which went into local communities.
The new station would create a similar number of jobs and provide the same kind of economic boost.
It is not yet known which companies would be commissioned to build the new nuclear stations, but French firm EDF Energy, which now owns the former South Western Electricity Board, has the experience and expertise and has already said it plans to build four in Britain.
British Energy said it was currently consulting on possible partnerships it might want to set up for new build schemes.
A small group of about 16 anti-nuclear protesters staged a peaceful roadside demonstration outside the Hinkley site on Thursday after the Government announcement and pledged to oppose any new build there.
Mr Cann said: “We have said nuclear is only part of the equation and we should still pursue energy efficiency and other solutions to close the energy gap.”
The largest union in the nuclear industry, Prospect, welcomed the Government’s decision to allow the construction of a new generation of nuclear power stations.
Assistant general secretary Mike Clancy said: “Nuclear energy is green energy, essential in the race to tackle climate change.
“New nuclear build is an essential part of a balanced energy policy that must embrace a wide range of low carbon options.
“It is crucial for the UK to meet the urgent priorities of climate change and security of energy supply.
“New build will yield major economic benefits by creating many thousands of new jobs - not only for those involved in operation, but also within the manufacturing and construction supply chain.”

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