The government today gave the green light to eight new reactors, in a move that will see the UK push forward with the most ambitious fleet of new nuclear power stations in Europe.
As predicted by the Guardian yesterday, the coalition also confirmed that it is dropping support for controversial plans to build a huge tidal barrage across the Severn estuary.
The backing for a new generation of nuclear power stations marks a significant political compromise by the climate and energy secretary, Chris Huhne, after the Liberal Democrats had campaigned against new nuclear in the general election. The Conservatives, however, had backed new nuclear power stations.
Today’s announcement by the Department of Energy and Climate Change will see nuclear power plants operating at eight sites within the next decade: Bradwell, Essex; Hartlepool; Heysham, Lancashire; Hinkley Point, Somerset; Oldbury, South Gloucestershire; Sellafield, Cumbria; Sizewell, Suffolk and Wylfa, Anglesey. All are in the vicinity of existing nuclear power plants.
Huhne said: “I’m fed up with the stand-off between advocates of renewables and of nuclear which means we have neither. We urgently need investment in new and diverse energy sources to power the UK.”
Last November, former energy secretary Ed Miliband named 10 sites suitable for new nuclear reactors, but two greenfield sites in Cumbria – Kirksanton and Braystones – were last week dropped from the list.
But the coalition has stressed that new reactors will have to be built without public money. Earlier this year, energy minister Charles Hendry told a nuclear industry audience: “The coalition agreement clearly sees a role for new nuclear, provided that there is no public subsidy. We are clear. It is for private sector energy companies to construct, operate and decommission new nuclear plants. It will be for us to ensure the appropriate levels of safety, security and environmental regulation.”
The coalition’s revised draft national policy statements on energy published today show that half the new energy capacity built in the UK by 2025 is expected to come from renewable sources of energy – the majority of which is likely to be wind.