Nuclear plan boost for region

A massive economic boost for East Anglia was on the horizon last night after the government announced plans to fast-track a new generation of nuclear power stations, including Sizewell.

A massive economic boost for East Anglia was on the horizon last night after the government announced plans to fast-track a new generation of nuclear power stations, including Sizewell.

As well as delivering a major contribution to the country's energy needs, the construction of Sizewell C will also offer potential contracts worth billions, which could create thousands of jobs in the region.

The government yesterday named 10 sites where new power stations could be built, including Sizewell in north Suffolk.

The announcement was coupled with moves aimed at speeding up planning decisions on new energy projects, aimed at cutting decisions to one year.

There was a mixed reaction to the news with supporters of nuclear power welcoming the announcement, saying the new power stations would help safeguard the UK's energy supply for years to come and create much-needed jobs.

Opponents, however, have restated their fears over the safety of nuclear plants and how the radioactive waste is dealt with.

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The Nuclear Industry Association has said the eastern region is set to enjoy a “massive” economic boost from building and running the twin reactors at Sizewell C, which EDF Energy hopes to start building at the site by 2012.

At the height of construction work, 5,000 jobs will be created in the region if, as expected, the French-owned company gets the green light to build the two new Areva EPR reactors. The estimated cost of a single reactor is about �3bn, although there will be economies of scale in building two. In the longer term, several hundred jobs will be created to run the plant, which has an estimated lifespan of 60 years.

Energy secretary Ed Miliband yesterday said significantly more generating capacity was needed in the long-term to meet the UK's low-carbon energy challenge, partly because of the intermittency of wind generation.

One third of future generating capacity must be given consent and built by 2025, said the minister, adding: “While there are already proposals to build more energy infrastructure, more is needed to bring about the shift to a low-carbon future.”

He said a series of policy statements published by the government yesterday included a clear direction towards a “massive expansion” in renewables, a new nuclear programme based around 10 sites, as well as moves to introduce clean-coal technology.

The 10 sites where nuclear power stations could be built were named as Braystones, Sellafield and Kirksanton, all in Cumbria, Heysham in Lancashire, Hartlepool, Co Durham, Sizewell in Suffolk, Bradwell in Essex, Hinkley Point in Somerset, Oldbury in Gloucestershire and Wylfa in Anglesey.

An 11th site was put forward earlier this year but the government said the site at Dungeness in Kent had not been included because of concerns about coastal erosion and flood risk.

Three other potential sites at Druridge Bay in Northumberland, Kingsnorth in Kent and Owston Ferry in South Yorkshire, were also looked at, but they were found not to be suitable.

Last night Suffolk Coastal District Council reiterated calls on the government to ensure local issues are fully taken into account in any future planning process for a new nuclear power station at Sizewell.

Andrew Nunn, cabinet member for the green environment and Andy Smith, cabinet member for planning, said: “What we want are guarantees that the views of local people, and this council as their representative, will have a real influence on the decision. We do not want to lose the right to control the impact that any proposed development could have on the unique environment around Sizewell - this district's local knowledge and requirements must be taken into account.”

Richard Smith, chairman of the Sizewell A and B Stakeholder Group, said he felt the majority of the community would be prepared to live alongside a Sizewell C development. “They have lived alongside Sizewell A for 40 years and Sizewell B for 14 years and the community is reassured that they are both well run sites,” he said.

“Sizewell A employs over 300 people and Sizewell B even more than that. The vast majority of them do live in the surrounding villages. In Suffolk jobs are at a bit of a premium and I think the proposals will bring more permanent jobs and perhaps more short-term jobs in the construction phase.”

But Charles Barnett, chairman of the Shutdown Sizewell Campaign, said: “I think it is a disaster on the part of the government because to build more nuclear reactors will not be the answer to global warming as they constantly claim. This absurd venture for nuclear power means that benign, non-polluting, renewable sources of energy will be starved of the funds that will be needed. We, the Shutdown Sizewell Campaign, together with Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth, will be fighting this as far as we can.”

However, Dr Adam Marshall, director of policy at the British Chambers of Commerce, welcomed the news, saying it would create jobs.

“This announcement is a positive step forward and should speed up the construction of badly needed new capacity,” he said. “What's more, it could create a substantial number of jobs.”

There are currently 10 nuclear power stations in the UK, providing around 13pc of electricity supply, but all except one will close by 2023.