UK grants first nuclear site licence for 25 years

The UK’s Office for Nuclear Regulation today granted the first new site licence for a nuclear power station in Britain for 25 years.

The licence has been granted to NNB Generation Company, a subsidiary of EDF (Euronext: EDF), which wants to build a new nuclear plant at Hinkley Point in Somerset.
Hinkley Point
The granting of the licence comes after more than three years work by the ONR, in which it assessed NNB GenCo’s suitability, capability and competence to hold a nuclear site licence.

The UK’s chief nuclear inspector Mike Weightman said today: “Although a significant step, it is important to note that granting a nuclear site licence does not constitute permission to start construction of nuclear safety-related plant. That requires permission from ONR, permits from the Environment Agency and planning consent from the Secretary of State.”

He explained that NNB GenCo “will now be required to comply with 36 conditions attached to a nuclear site licence. These conditions provide ONR with the necessary regulatory powers to ensure the protection of people and society from the hazards associated with such nuclear power generation.”

NNB GenCo wants to build two UK European Pressurised Water Reactors (EPR) at Hinkley Point C.

The announcement today comes as Hitachi also confirmed it had completed its purchase of the Horizon project, a company originally set up – and now sold by – RWE and E.ON to build new nuclear plants in the UK.

The two developments edge Britain a step closer to a much-heralded nuclear renaissance, which many major players in UK industry claim is much needed.

At a nuclear conference last week, Gordon Waddington, president of civil nuclear at Rolls Royce, said there were “huge opportunities across the whole supply chain” if government and industry could relaunch nuclear new build in the UK, but warned: “We cannot expect a free ride. We have to compete on an international stage.”

Norman Haste, executive director of nuclear new build at construction firm Laing O’Rourke, said the UK had “allowed its nuclear skills to dissipate.”

However he said a nuclear revival would in turn create a UK skills revival, which if nurtured could result in those skills being exported across Europe and wider.

Nuclear power in the UK received a further boost last week when details on the government’s long-awaited Energy Bill – which will be published in full this week – were leaked, revealing that nuclear will get a share of a £7.6bn pot of money for low-carbon generation brought in by utilities via energy tariffs.

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