Nuclear power generation
New nuclear power stations have an important role to play. As confirmed in the Industrial Strategy, nuclear is a vital part of our energy mix, providing low carbon power now and into the future. The Government’s framework to bring forward new nuclear power stations was established in the 2008 White Paper on Nuclear Power, as was the principle the Government should take active steps to help facilitate the construction of new nuclear.
The overarching National Policy Statement (“NPS”) for Energy (“EN-1”) published in July 2011, made clear that nuclear power is a low-carbon, proven technology which can play an important role increasing the resilience and diversity of the UK’s energy system. The assessment of the need for new electricity generation carried out to support EN-1 remains valuable and continues to be relevant.
My Department’s annual updated energy and emissions projections state that by 2035 overall demand for electricity is expected to have increased. Therefore, with a number of the existing coal and nuclear fleet due to close by 2030, new nuclear power generation remains key to meeting our 2050 obligations. This is in line with the 2017 Clean Growth Strategy. Government has noted previously that there are technical and commercial barriers to deploying other technologies to produce the same annual generation as that of nuclear power. The need for the UK to continue to transition to a low-carbon electricity market is underlined by the 2015 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (“UNFCCC”) Paris Agreement. The Government believes that it is important that there is a strong pipeline of new nuclear power to contribute to the UK’s future energy system.
Government has today published a Consultation on the Process and Criteria for Designating Potentially Suitable Sites in a National Policy Statement for Nuclear Power between 2026-2035. This begins the process towards designating a new National Policy Statement (“the new NPS”) applicable to nuclear plants expected to be deployed after 2025 and capable of deployment by the end of 2035 and with over 1GW of single-reactor electricity generating capacity.
Nuclear National Policy Statements
Applicability of EN-6
Government considers that the current nuclear NPS, EN-6, only “has effect” for the purposes of section 104 of the Planning Act 2008 (“the Act”) for development which forms parts of a project able to demonstrate expected deployment by the end of 2025. Applications for a Development Consent Order under the Act will be considered in the first instance by an Examining Authority appointed by the Secretary of State to consider any specific project proposals. For the purpose of the applicability of EN-6, Government considers “deployment” to mean the point when a generating station first begins to feed the electricity it generates into the national grid, noting this will likely be at a point before full commercial operation.
For projects yet to apply for development consent and due to deploy beyond 2025, Government continues to give its strong in principle support to project proposals at those sites currently listed in EN-6. Even if EN-6 is considered not to have effect under section 104 of the Act for such a project, section 105 of the Act would apply to the decision on whether or not to grant development consent for the project.
Government is confident that both EN-1 and EN-6 incorporate information, assessments and statements which will continue to be important and relevant for projects which will deploy after 2025, including statements concerning the need for nuclear power – as well as environmental and other assessments that continue to be relevant for those projects. As such, in deciding whether or not to grant development consent to such a project, the Secretary of State would be required, under section 105(2)(c) of the Act, to have regard to the content of EN-1 and EN-6, unless they have been suspended or revoked. In respect of matters where there is no relevant change of circumstances it is likely that significant weight would be given to the policy in EN-1 and EN-6.
Applicability of the new NPS
The new NPS, once designated, will “have effect” for the purposes of section 104 of the Act for development which forms parts of a project able to demonstrate expected deployment after 2025 and before the end of 2035.
The Government also considers that a published new NPS in draft form would be considered as relevant to a decision on whether or not to grant development consent under section 105 of the Act.
This statement has also been made in the House of Lords