Residents must have say on nuclear
COMMUNITY leaders today threw down the gauntlet to government to stick with its promise to hold the fullest consultation over a possible Sizewell C.Building a new nuclear power station on the Suffolk coast will mean huge upheaval for the area - with new homes for workers, an increase in traffic, the need to transport materials to the site - but also new jobs and investment.
COMMUNITY leaders today threw down the gauntlet to government to stick with its promise to hold the fullest consultation over a possible Sizewell C.
Building a new nuclear power station on the Suffolk coast will mean huge upheaval for the area - with new homes for workers, an increase in traffic, the need to transport materials to the site - but also new jobs and investment.
The government yesterday opened the door to a new nuclear building programme, saying the case for its inclusion in the mix of future energy sources was “compelling”.
Ministers, who say the reactors will provide “safe and affordable” electricity for the future, cannot confirm a new plant will be built at Sizewell, but plans for a third station have long been in existence and new stations will be built at existing sites.
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Suffolk Coastal District Council cabinet member Andrew Nunn said the community should have the right to reject plans for a Sizewell C if, after detailed consideration, they believed it was the wrong decision for the district.
“It is still not clear whether there are any guarantees that the views of local people, and this council that represents them, will have a real influence on the decision,” he said.
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“The government said five years ago that there would be the fullest public consultation before any decision to proceed with building of a new power station.
“It cannot and must not tear up that commitment. We are strongly opposed to any rewriting of the rule book to allow plans to be fast-tracked in a way that would deny the chance for the local voice to be heard and acted on.”
Suffolk Coastal has already identified a number of issues it wants resolved before permission is granted - including building design, and restricting output so existing transmission lines at Sizewell can be used, rather than needing new power lines and pylons in the surrounding countryside.
Possible effects on coastal erosion at the site must be addressed, and disruption caused by construction kept to a minimum, with generous compensation for the community.
Deputy council leader Andy Smith said there was a need to ensure long-term gains rather than long-term problems.
“Housing and facilities for the workforce should also be very carefully designed and located in such a way that they can benefit local people long after the project is complete,” he said.
“Similarly, transport arrangements, whether by road, rail or sea, and controls on construction noise need local input. There are also major concerns about the possible storage of spent nuclear waste on the site.
“In recent years, national energy policy has been described as the dash for gas. I do not want to now see there being a sprint for nuclear that leaves communities and their representatives without the chance to influence the result.”
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CONSTRUCTION of new nuclear power stations at Sizewell and Bradwell could start within five years - subject to planning approval and the go-ahead from safety watchdogs.
The Suffolk and Essex plants are expected to be among a series of four or five new reactors generating electricity by 2018. Each will cost between £2.5billion and £3billion.
But the nuclear industry has not only to find the money to finance the new programme it has to negotiate several hurdles, including safety clearance for the new reactors, before construction can start. This initial process is expected to take at least five years.
A joint team set up by the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate (NII) and the Environment Agency, is currently evaluating four potential designs put forward by international companies to be adopted by the UK.
The NII said that this process alone is unlikely to be completed until 2011.
Under government plans to reform the planning system for major projects, a central commission will be set up to consider issues such as safety, economics and terrorist threat and a local public inquiry also has to be held for each site identified.
Bill Coley, chief executive of British Energy, which owns the Sizewell C and Bradwell B sites, welcomed the government announcement as a “key step forward”.
“We are ready for new build and have the sites, people, skills and experience that are essential for its success,” he said.