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Last Updated: Thursday, 24 May 2007, 07:43 GMT 08:43 UK
Study reveals prime nuclear sites
Hinkley Point
Is Hinkley Point the most suitable location for a new reactor?
Hinkley Point, in Somerset, is the best place to build a new nuclear power station, according to a confidential report commissioned by ministers.

It lists 14 suitable sites around the UK but says existing nuclear plants in Southern England are the best choice.

It also reveals the first UK nuclear reactor was sited at Harwell, in Oxfordshire, in the late 1940s, because it was "a pleasant place to live".

The government stressed the report was a "discussion paper only".

Independent consultants drew up a list of the most suitable sites for new nuclear plants, based on the criteria that existing nuclear power stations were the most suitable for development.

The report sets out the "major business, economic, safety, environmental and technical factors that could influence the selection of a site".

'Feasibility'

It says there would be "little point" in the government considering nuclear power if no suitable sites were to become available.

SUGGESTED NUCLEAR SITES
1. Hinkley Point
2. Sizewell
3. Bradwell
4. Dungeness
5. Hunterston
6. Hartlepool
7. Torness
8. Wylfa
9. Heysham
10. Calder Hall
11. Oldbury
12. Chapelcross
13. Berkeley
14. Trawsfynydd

Source: Jackson Consulting report, April 2006

"The availability of potential sites will therefore directly affect the government's view of the overall feasibility of a new nuclear build programme," the report adds.

Hinkley Point was deemed the most suitable, with only planning consent for an additional power line and possible conflict with a nearby wind farm standing in the way of development.

It was also available for new development "now," the document says.

Global warming

Sizewell, in Suffolk, is seen as the next most suitable, only needing planning permission for power lines and "investigation of grid stability".

Areas offering 'key opportunities for nuclear development in UK'

The least suitable of the 14 listed was Trawsfynydd, in Wales, which uses a large man-made reservoir to cool its reactor.

But its inland location may prove attractive if the government decides global warming is a major factor in the siting decision - it has said rising sea levels could make coastal sites unsuitable over the 100-year lifespan of a nuclear plant.

READ THE REPORT

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Three of the suggested sites - Hunterston, Torness and Chapelcross - are in Scotland but the final decision on new nuclear plants is likely to rest with the Scottish Parliament.

Scotland's First Minister, Alex Salmond has said there is "no chance" of any nuclear power plants being built in Scotland, setting up the prospect of a showdown between Westminster and Holyrood.

Consultation

The siting report was produced by Jackson Consulting in April 2006 for the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), which published it on Wednesday as a supporting document to its energy White Paper.

It should be not too far from London, there should be easy access to a University; there should be some degree of isolation
Sir John Cockcroft, 1948 article on siting nuclear reactor

The government is planning its own investigation into suitable locations for nuclear reactors, which will be launched in 2008 - if the government decides to back nuclear power.

Launching the White Paper on Wednesday, Trade Secretary Alistair Darling said his "preliminary view" was to allow more nuclear plants, but there would be a five-month consultation period.

There will be a separate consultation on the criteria used for choosing the location of new reactors.

If the government decides to back nuclear power, it will carry out a Strategic Siting Assessment (SSA) to identify the best sites in the UK for new nuclear plants.

The government says the SSA will speed up the planning process as it will "deal with siting matters that are sufficiently generic for them to be sensibly addressed nationally".

Wildlife habitats

Local people will still be able to object to the building of new nuclear power plants - but only on strictly local grounds, such as noise and traffic problems.

They will not be able to object on wider environmental grounds - such as the potential effects of radiation and nuclear waste.

European legislation protecting wildlife habitats must also be met.

But the issue of whether a particular location is the most suitable place to build a nuclear reactor will be off limits as it will already have been decided by the SSA.

Critics say the government has caved in to pressure from the nuclear industry, which has lobbied for the planning process to be streamlined.

But the government says it wants to avoid lengthy and expensive public inquiries, citing the Sizewell B inquiry which it said cost 30m and only 30 of 340 days devoted to local issues.

Airfield sites

The Jackson Consulting report also reveals the Department of Trade and Industry has been working on the policy planning assumption that 10 new reactors will be built.

The government has stressed the actual number of new reactors will be decided by the nuclear industry, which may decide not to build any at all.

The report also reprints an article first published in 1948 by Sir John Cockcroft, on how the decision was reached to site Britain's first nuclear reactors at Harwell, in Oxfordshire.

"We considered the desirable location for the future Establishment. It should be not too far from London, there should be easy access to a University; there should be some degree of isolation and lastly the countryside should be pleasant to live in," wrote Sir John.

After a brief tour of airfield sites, a shortlist was drawn up and Harwell was chosen as the site for the Atomic Energy Research Establishment.

Britain's first military reactor was sited in a more remote location, at Windscale, now Sellafield, in Cumbria, in 1947, using a US siting system which said it should be 25 miles from any town of 10,000 people or more.

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