Will Wylfa Meet Criteria For New Nuclear Sites?

by David Phillips

After its nomination by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) as a potential site for new nuclear build, Wylfa on Anglesey must now meet key criteria, published today by the Government, which determine which sites are finally nominated for the new programme.

The nuclear industry has until the 31 March 2009 deadline to nominate locations for consideration and while the NDA has put forward four including Wylfa, Bradwell, Oldbury and Sellafield, French energy giant EDF, which recently took over British Energy Group, is expected to put forward nominations soon.

Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, Ed Miliband, is confident that following publication of the White Paper and the preparatory work of the nuclear industry, the first nuclear plants will start generating electricity by 2018.

Criteria on which sites will be assessed are published by the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) following the Strategic Site Assessment (SSA) carried out in 2008.

A meeting of the Nuclear Development Forum (NDF), a forum of key stakeholders in the nuclear industry and government, set out the criteria twelve months after the Nuclear Energy White Paper was published.

Potential sites near existing plants are viewed as being the best options, as well as those near relatively high density populations and not close to key military installations.

The DECC says that a site can be nominated if it meets the criteria set out by the Government and crucially is ready to generate electricity by 2025.

Additionally, the formal criteria set out by Ministers at DECC make it clear that a high risk of flooding, compromise to environmentally sensitive areas and risks of coastal erosion will not be a barrier if such potential outcomes are mitigated by appropriate action.

There has also been a removal of a blanket ban on locating a new nuclear power station on land subject to possible earthquakes.

In the case of a Wylfa B, this obligation would now under these new formal criteria be considered by the Anglesey County Council planning department.

After the 31 March deadline the Government will publish the nominated sites, after which the public will have in the first instance a one month period in which to comment on the plans.

Following this consultation there will be a Strategic Site Assessment, which will see nominated sites being considered for their suitability at a strategic level using a checklist of key criteria.

Once the SSA hurdle is overcome the successful sites will be listed on a draft Nuclear National Policy Statement (NPS), when the people of Anglesey would again have
a chance to put their views forward.

In 2010 the potential new build consortia can apply to the Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC) for planning permission for their chosen sites, if these have passed the “strategic suitability test” in the nuclear NPS.

As well as the land adjacent to the Magnox Wylfa Nuclear Power Station, owned by the NDA and nominated for first stage SSA, there is another parcel of land adjacent to the Wylfa site owned by EDF.

As part of its takeover of British Energy Group, EDF is obliged to sell any parcels of land it holds on sites other than those formerly owned by British Energy.

It is expected that this specific land will also be nominated for consideration in the SSA.

There is a real momentum building up behind this new nuclear programme and looking at the bigger picture, Ed Miliband, the Energy Secretary, said “nuclear power can improve energy security and help the drive towards low carbon energy supplies.

As part of a balanced energy policy including renewable and clean coal, nuclear will secure our future energy supply and contribute to the UK’s climate change targets.”

Meanwhile, Robin Webster speaking for Friends of the Earth said “nuclear power is extremely dangerous and leaves a deadly legacy of radioactive waste that remains for tens of thousands of years.”

Neil Crumpton of Friends of the Earth (Cymru) was concerned about the inability of the UK to handle existing waste adequately and said that waste from the new reactors would be hotter, posing more difficult technical challenges for its safe disposal.

He also questioned the number of jobs that would be created.

Recently Prime Minister Gordon Brown said that each new nuclear plant would create up to 9,000 jobs for the local economy in the construction phase and around 1,000 thereafter, bringing around £2 billion into the local economy.

Local MP Albert Owen has led a hard and long campaign, often against the odds, for Wylfa B to be in the first wave of new nuclear build.

Mr Owen said: “I have had meetings with the Prime Minister and Energy Minister to put the case for Wylfa and Anglesey for new nuclear build.

This is a positive step forward for the island with the new plant acting as a magnet to pump billions into the local economy.

The island has the right skills base and potential to be at the sharp end of low carbon electricity generation.”

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