The body set up to look at the planning application to build two massive, and controversial, nuclear power plants at Hinkley Point in Somerset holds its first public meeting today. It’s the start of six months of intensive examination of a mountain of documents both for and against the plan to build two European Pressurized Reactors (EPR’s). The French company EDF says Hinkley is an ideal site for the European Pressurised Reactors which are more powerful than any of Britain’s previous nuclear power stations and, some argue, more dangerous.
The Infrastructure Planning Commission was set up to streamline the planning process for large building projects. Originally, it was to be given enough power to make decisions itself, but in the end the final say was given to the Secretary of State. In Hinkley’s case it would have been the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, Chris Huhne a Liberal Democrat who had been an opponent of nuclear power. After winning a place in Government he was converted to the nuclear cause but stepped down to fight allegations that he had persuaded his then wife to illegally accept a speeding fine he had incurred. He and his former wife deny any wrongdoing.
Today’s meeting at the Sedgemoor Auction Centre near Junction 24 of the M5 will deal with procedural matters, setting a timetable for the examination. The IPC has six months to investigate.
Three months after that it must make its recommendation to the Secretary of State. He then has three months to make his decision. If he doesn’t accept the Commission’s recommendation he must detail why he has come to that decision. Either way by spring 2013 we will know whether Somerset is to be the base for nuclear power that will generate enough electricity for four million homes, that roughly equates to the entire South West.
Planning permission has already been granted for preliminary work to begin at Hinkley, clearing vegetation from hundreds of acres, and flattening the land earmarked for the power stations. Protestors occupied some of the site but EDF took legal action to remove them. EDF is reported to have paid around 50 million pounds for land needed to build the stations.
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