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Contractors welcome latest move towards new nuclear power

The Civil Engineering Contractors Association has hailed the launch of a consultation on the siting of new nuclear power stations as providing a clearer indication of the timeline for construction.

The Strategic Siting Assessment, launched by business secretary John Hutton on Tuesday, contains the detailed criteria and process for assessing where new nuclear power stations could safely and securely be built across England and Wales.

Subject to Parliamentary approval of the Planning Bill, it is expected that construction of new nuclear power stations could begin in 2013-2014, in time for producing energy from 2017-2020.

CECA Director Rosemary Beales said:

"The statement gives some welcome clarity on the timetable for the development of new nuclear power stations.

"However, the process needs to move on and decisions need to be made to the point where contractors have a visible programme for investment, which will enable the industry to plan to meet the potential demand.

"Early decisions also have to be made to meet the minister’s estimate of new nuclear power coming on stream in 2017.

"The sector has the capacity to deliver but with the announcement that Cross Rail is to go ahead from 2010, the industry will need a much clearer forward programme for investment in new nuclear power that sets out exactly what the spending profile will be in order to best plan to meet demand."

The consultation outlines plans that include inviting third parties to nominate sites which the government will then assess against a range of criteria.

The consultation also sets out the various criteria that would be applied in making that assessment - including those that would
automatically rule out sites. The sites identified through this
process will still need to be considered through the planning
process.

Business Secretary John Hutton said:

"Nuclear power is an essential part of our future energy mix. And,
alongside a ten fold increase in renewables and investment in clean
coal technology, it will help wean us off our dependency on oil and
protect us against the politicisation of energy supplies.

"So, we must do everything we can to remove any remaining barriers
and open up the UK as the most attractive place in the world to
invest in nuclear power.

"The strategic siting assessment is the next step towards a Nuclear
National Policy Statement. This will help to speed up planning
applications while making clear that safety and engagement with local
communities are key."

The consultation outlines a number of 'exclusionary' and
'discretionary' criteria:

  • Exclusionary criteria relate to the fundamental suitability of a
    site and will be used to 'screen out' unacceptable locations. This
    includes seismic risk, capable faulting and proximity to heavily
    populated areas.

  • Discretionary criteria are those that could make a site
    unsuitable, subject to further consideration. These include less
    absolute issues and will be used to form a balanced view of the
    site's suitability, such as flooding, coastal conditions and areas
    that are environmentally protected.

In 2010, a National Policy Statement will be published which would include a list of the sites assessed as strategically suitable for building new power stations. Subject to Parliamentary approval of the Planning Bill, this would in turn guide the work of the Infrastructure
Planning Commission in dealing with specific planning applications on
those sites. It will be the Infrastructure Planning Commission that
would decide on applications from developers. If approval is given,
it is expected that construction of new nuclear power stations could
begin in 2013-2014, in time for producing energy from 2017-2020.

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