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Nuclear power, coming to a neighbourhood near you?

by Alan Harten
April 16, 2009

The government today released a list of prospective sites for the development of new nuclear power stations.

Spread across England and Wales, the eleven sites under consideration are Hartlepool, Heysham, Dungerness, Hinkley Point, Kirksanton, Braystones, Wylfa Peninsula on Anglesey, Sellafield, Bradwell and Oldbury.

Interestingly, all but two of these sites currently have nuclear power plants, or have had them at some time in the past.

The site assessment obviously placed value on a local populace that is already conditioned to the concept of having a nuclear plant in their area.

An existing “nuclear comfortable” workforce could also be assumed to be a factor.

The two exceptions, both in the Cumbria region, are Kirksanton and Braystones.

While the UK government is releasing the list for public examination and feedback, the recommended sites have been proposed by companies with a track record in nuclear power generation.

Their recommendations are supported with impact studies that cover environmental and wildlife issues, assessable threats from weather and other natural factors and evaluation of factors such as nearby airports.

The government agency responsible for assessing the proposals is The Department of Energy and Climate Change.

Nuclear energy is seen as a vital element in the country’s strategy to reduce emissions to the stated 2020 targets.

In choosing the potential sites, the Department measured options by three main criteria.

    First was that the proposal and the company behind it were credible.
    Second was that the proposed facility could be completed and generating power by 2025.
    Thirdly, that the people who live in and around the locations had been informed and given the opportunity to comment.

Now that the proposed list has been published, the government wants feedback from the public.

The consultation period is now open until May 14th 2009.

Following this, a National Policy Statement on nuclear power will be released and public feedback on this document will be invited also.

The Department hopes that by 2018 some of the new reactors will be operational and replacing both current carbon burning capacity, and some aging current nuclear facilities.

For example the existing Wylfa station in Anglesey will be shut down within a year and local authorities are keen to see a replacement plant commenced.

Some other current sites have strong public interest in allowing the sites to close and not be replaced.

The government’s Committee on Climate Change has an interest in the nuclear programme also.

It has a stated objective of moving a significant amount of transport across to low carbon electricity.

In particular it seeks to have four out of every ten new cars purchased in 2020 powered by low or zero emission electricity.

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