EDF A Step Closer for Britain’s First New Nuclear Reactor in 25 Years

Posted on 16 September, 2012 by Kirsten Kennedy

With the global oil price rising on an almost continuous basis, it is clear that cash strapped Britain is in need of new sources of energy. Most suppliers are planning price hikes on electricity later this year, causing families nationwide to worry about whether they will be able to afford to heat their homes and still afford essentials such as food and clothing.

However, Britain’s first new nuclear reactor in a quarter of a century made a milestone victory, when local opposition to the multi-billion pound project was dropped, meaning that plans for the generator’s construction can now go forward without a hitch.

French utility company EDF energy plan to erect the nuclear generator in its Hinkley Point facility in Somerset – but with opposition from the three local authorities closest to the plant, it seemed that production would fail to get off the ground at all. Previously, the company had attempted to placate those against the project by investing £30 million into the area surrounding the commercial property plant, for use in establishments such as schools and community centres. Unfortunately, this failed to soothe raw nerves surrounding the nuclear project.

In order to get the permission required to construct the facility within its commercial property, EDF had to first acquire the approval of planners and the backing of the local councils before commencing work on the £7 billion scheme.

EDF finally persuaded the local authorities to drop their opposition to the project earlier this week by upping the investment it was willing to inject into the local community. The final sum settled upon is £64 million, which will go a long way to improving educational facilities in Somerset, as well as allowing the construction of housing and a community centre to go ahead.

The company now plans to present its spending plan to investors before the start of 2013.

UK chief executive of EDF, Vincent de Rivaz, said; “During three years of consultation, we have worked very closely with the local authorities and other groups to identify and mitigate the impact of our proposals.

“Today’s agreement heralds a new phase in the Hinkley project and is another important stepping stone ahead of our final investment decision.”

Sadly for EDF, the approval of the local councils is only the first step in gaining permission to build a nuclear reactor in their Somerset commercial property. As well as obtaining a nuclear license and an environmental permit, the company will have to have the design for the nuclear reactor it intends to use approved, alongside the permission from the planning inspectorate.

Additionally, energy secretary Ed Davey will have to personally agree to EDF’s financial strategy and final designs – an event which is not expected to occur until early in 2013.

On top of every other issue standing in the way is the fact that the Government must approve of the price the company intends to charge for the electricity produced by the reactor. This means that, even if wholesale rates fall below the price agreed upon between EDF and the Government, EDF will not be forced to drop their rates for their customers. While those who get their electricity from EDF may find this to be a sticking point, it makes financial sense for the company – with the huge sum of money it intends to channel into the project, the agreed price acts as a type of assurance that EDF will recoup all invested cash.

Britain’s next nuclear reactor, then, is still something that is a long way off. However, with the local authority’s blessing, EDF must be feeling confident that finally the project is beginning to come together.

Do you think that nuclear power is the right way to go for Britain? Or do you think that other forms of energy, perhaps harnessed by either wind or wave technology, would prove to be more profitable for both the providers and the country as a whole?

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