Planning consent was yesterday given to the first new nuclear power station in the UK since 1995 – a decision that environmental groups have condemned.
Energy secretary Ed Davey confirmed that EDF – the energy giant that recently became embroiled in a bitter legal row with climate campaign group No Dash for Gas – will begin work on Hinkley Point C in Somerset this year.
“It’s vital to get investment in new infrastructure to get the economy moving. Low-carbon energy projects will bring major investment, supporting jobs and driving growth”, Davey told the Commons.
“This planned new nuclear power station in Somerset will generate vast amounts of clean energy and enhance our energy security. It will benefit the local economy, through direct employment, the supply chain and the use of local services.”
The £15 billion power plant proposal is aimed to encourage a transfer over to a low-carbon energy mix by powering 5m homes with low-carbon electricity.
It has been estimated that construction of the two new reactors will generate between 20,000-25,000 jobs. Meanwhile, the number of permanent jobs during the plant’s operation will be around 900.
In response to the planning decision for what will be one of the largest power stations in the UK, Greenpeace executive director John Sauven said, “Hinkley C fails every test – economic, consumer, environmental, and arguably legal.
“It will lock a generation of consumers into higher energy bills, via a strike price that’s expected to be double the current price of electricity, and it will distort energy policy by displacing newer, cleaner, cheaper technologies.”
WWF-UK also voiced its concern with the Somerset nuclear development. It stated that although government scenarios tend to rely heavily on the future availability of nuclear power, the UK should instead focus on renewable energy to decarbonise its economy.
It argued that costs for onshore wind and solar PV were falling rapidly and that focusing on these technologies could deliver huge economic benefits while also boosting employment.
WWF-UK chief advisor on climate change Keith Allott, said, “Backing nuclear means shifting a huge liability to British taxpayers for the cost of building, electricity and crucially, dealing with the waste.
“Unlike renewable energy, the costs of nuclear keep on rising – as witnessed by the fact that the only reactors currently being built in Europe are massively over-budget and far behind schedule.”
There are also concerns with nuclear over proliferation and waste storage, with nuclear waste needing to be stored for thousands of years – longer than any man-made structure to date.
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