In the Plan, the Government reaffirms its position on nuclear power which was established previously in its White Paper on Nuclear Power in January 2008. The Government is of the view that nuclear power is low carbon, affordable, dependable, safe, proven technology and capable of increasing the diversity of energy supply. The Government believes that new nuclear power stations should have a role to play in the UK’s future energy mix alongside other low carbon resources and that it would be in the public interest to allow energy companies to invest in new nuclear power stations.
The Government has already taken steps towards facilitating the construction of new nuclear stations. These include:
- streamlining the planning procedure with the introduction of the single consent regime overseen by the Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC), which is due to start taking applications in March 2010;
- running a process of Regulatory Justification to ensure that the benefits of nuclear power outweigh any potential health risks when using ionising radiation in order to comply with the requirements under European law;
- working to ensure that nuclear regulators have the required resources and equipment necessary to assess the safety, security and environmental impact of new nuclear reactor designs through the Generic Design Assessment process to be completed by June 2011, and in the future;
- in June 2009, the Government launched a consultation on proposals to enhance the transparency and accountability of nuclear regulation, creating a regulatory body with the autonomy and flexibility needed to meet challenges of the changing nuclear environment; and
- undertaking the Strategic Siting Assessment of sites which have been nominated as suitable sites for the development of new nuclear stations by 2025.
Following the Strategic Siting Assessment the Government will issue a National Policy Statement (NPS) for nuclear power, on which the Government will consult in Q4 2009. Once finalised, the IPC will use the NPS to help it make decisions about applications to develop new nuclear power stations.
The funding, development and building of the new nuclear power stations will be the responsibility of the private sector. They will be responsible for the full cost of decommissioning and the full share of waste management and disposal costs. The Government will only facilitate the process by removing any unnecessary obstacles to the development of these new nuclear power stations.
The Office of Nuclear Development will continue to work with industry experts and others to meet new nuclear skills requirements, and to develop a globally competitive UK supply chain that focuses on high value added activities to take advantage of the UK and worldwide nuclear new build.
Further, the Government is continuing to take action to decommission the UK’s legacy facilities. The Government is at present funding the largest ever expenditure on the UK civil nuclear clean-up programme through the NDA and the competitions and it aims to decommission those sites in a safe, cost effective way while protecting the environment.