LONDON (Reuters) - EDF Energy on Friday submitted two important applications for its first new nuclear plant in Britain, one week after it said its new French plant would be delayed and cost more than initially planned.
Britain’s largest nuclear power producer submitted applications for a site licence and an environmental permit for its Hinkley Point C nuclear plant. Its early 2018 start-up date was delayed following Japan’s nuclear disaster.
The submissions also came one day after the local council in Somerset gave the green light for EDF Energy to start site preparation work at Hinkley.
“July has been a major month for nuclear new build. As a result of the steps taken by parliament and the local authority, EDF Energy is able to take immediate action to move the project forward significantly,” said Vincent de Rivaz, chief executive of EDF Energy.
Two weeks ago, Energy Secretary Chris Huhne presented the government’s plans to reform Britain’s power market, including a long-term contracts mechanism to reward producers of low-carbon electricity, which includes nuclear power.
The government also approved eight sites for new nuclear plants, including EDF Energy’s site at Hinkley Point.
The Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) said it will spend around 18 months assessing the site licence application to determine whether EDF Energy is competent to install, operate and decommission a new nuclear plant at the location.
“A nuclear site licence ensures that activities that could affect nuclear safety are brought under regulatory control through a series of licence conditions that the licensee is required to comply with,” said Colin Patchett, deputy chief inspector at the ONR.
The Evironment Agency also confirmed it received a permit application on Friday.
“We will initially look at if we’ve got all the documents we need. We will then open a public consultation,” a spokesman said.
Environmental permit approvals vary in time, but the legal minimum is set at four months.
Fukushima put a break on nuclear projects worldwide. In Britain, it led to a roughly six-month delay in the regulator’s approval process for reactor designs proposed to be used in new nuclear plants.
EDF Energy’s junior partner in the nuclear new build projects, Centrica, said in its interim results report on Thursday that it would slow down 2011 spending on pre-construction work for new nuclear plants.
EDF Energy’s parent company on Friday forecast a medium-term average annual core earnings growth target of 4-6 percent, making no reference to the impact on the Fukushima disaster.
Opponents to the new nuclear plant said EDF Energy’s plans to start preliminary works were premature as the company has not taken a final investment decision.
“What will those Councillors say to the people of West Somerset in two years’ time, with massive holes in the ground lined with concrete and a devastated wasteland - no trees, no hedges, no wildlife - and EDF says ‘Sorry, we don’t think it’s worth going ahead’?” said Crispin Aubrey, spokesman for the Stop Hinkley campaign.
Reporting by Karolin Schaps