Minister's hint about new Sizewell

A new and bigger nuclear power station at Sizewell on the Suffolk coast could be in operation within a decade.

A new and bigger nuclear power station at Sizewell on the Suffolk coast could be in operation within a decade.

The likelihood of the building of a Sizewell C plant increased yesterday when the government gave the green light to the construction of a new generation of nuclear power stations, and energy secretary John Hutton heavily praised the contribution made by Sizewell B towards Britain's energy needs.

Asked at a press conference whether he expected one of the first new nuclear plant applications to be for Sizewell, he replied: “I was at Sizewell yesterday. It is a phenomenal operation - one of the most successful PWR (pressurised water reactor) operations in the world. It has been belting out power 24 hours a day for 445 days. It has been a fantastic contribution to Britain's energy requirements.”

This ringing endorsement followed similar praise in the Commons. After Suffolk Coastal MP John Gummer had said he looked forward to the building of a Sizewell C plant, Mr Hutton spoke of the “extraordinary achievement” of the existing power station.


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Having announced the government's conclusion that nuclear power stations should contribute to Britain's “future energy mix”, the minister immediately invited energy companies to bring forward plans to build and operate them.

It was expected that applications would be for sites in the vicinity of existing nuclear facilities, he continued, and he hoped that the first one would be completed “well before 2020”.

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He added that some energy companies were saying the first new nuclear station could be up and running by 2017. This, he said, was “a brave estimate”. But he continued; “I think it's do-able.”

Mr Hutton allowed for an increased nuclear contribution - it's currently just under 20pc - to electricity generation in Britain. He emphasised that the government would not put an “artificial cap”, on the nuclear share. And the energy White Paper he published yesterday states that “we do not think it is appropriate to restrict new build to replacing existing capacity”.

Sizewell B, which is capable of supplying electricity to over 1.5m homes, began operating in 1995, and has an estimated decommissioning date of 2035. It is owned and run by British Energy, which described it yesterday as “amongst the best potential candidates for the construction of new nuclear power stations”.

Mr Hutton told MPs that nuclear power had provided Britain with safe and secure supplies of electricity for half a century, and “will help us meet our twin energy challenges - ensuring secure supplies and tackling climate change”.

Every new nuclear power station would save the same amount of carbon emissions as that generated by about a million households, he added, and nuclear energy provided “one of the cheapest electricity options available to reduce our carbon emissions”.

The energy secretary also said that it would be many years before a facility for “geological” underground disposal of nuclear waste was built. But the government was satisfied that interim storage would hold waste from existing and any new power stations safely and securely for as long as was necessary. A further White Paper on the subject is to be published later in the year.

Mr Hutton stressed that it would be for energy companies - and not the government - to finance, develop and build new nuclear power stations. This would include meeting the full costs of decommissioning and each operator's full share of waste management costs.

The government's plans were welcomed in principle by the Tories, but came under fire from environmental groups.

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