Ed Davey, the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, has made the much awaited announcement on 19 March 2013 granting development consent pursuant to section 114 of the Planning Act 2008 to NNB Generation Company Limited. A subsidiary of EDF Energy, NNB Generation Company Limited has been given consent to build the new 3.2 GW nuclear power station at Hinkley Point near Bridgwater, Somerset. The order also permits the construction of associated development, such as an electrical substation, freight handling and road improvements, and gives rights to obtain land rights by compulsory acquisition if necessary.
The 175 hectare Hinkley is one of eight new nuclear sites identified in July 2011 under the national policy statements for energy and infrastructure and has already been granted a site licence by the Office for Nuclear Regulation on 26 November 2012. Now it has become the first nuclear project to be granted planning permission in the UK in 18 years.
The new £14 billion power plant, known as Hinkley C, will be made up of two UK European pressurised water (EPR) nuclear reactors and will be adjacent to Hinkley A, which is in the process of being decommissioned having been shut down in 1999, and Hinkley B which is due to be shut down in 2023.
Ed Davey told the House of Commons that “the benefits of the proposed Hinkley Point C station outweighed the impacts, including those on the local communities, particularly when taking into account proposed mitigation measures.” He also informed the House of Commons that the project has obtained the majority of consents it needs to build and operate the nuclear station. This includes the Environment Agency permits covering the discharge and disposal of radioactive waste and cooling water, and running of standby generators which were secured earlier this month.
Among the next steps to secure the project’s future is for EDF and the Government to agree the price which will be paid for the electricity. This requires agreement on the “strike price” under the so-called contract for difference which will determine the project’s long-term revenues and is expected to be one of the remaining factors that will lead to the project being able to take financial investment decision.
NNB Generation Company Limited submitted its application under section 37 of the Planning Act 2008 to the Planning Inspectorate in October 2011 which was then subject to a year long examination by the Planning Inspectorate as well as subject of numerous consultations organised by EDF with local stakeholders. Following the recommendation of the Examining Authority on 19 December 2012, the decision of the Secretary of State concludes the planning permission process (subject to rights of appeal under section 118 of the Planning Act 2008). Assuming the investment decision is made, the first reactor is expected to be operational by 2020 with the second one operational by 2024.