The Nuclear National Policy Statement (NPS) was intended to list sites suitable for new nuclear stations by the end of 2025. It also establishes the ‘need’ for new reactors, so the subsequent planning process would only need to deal with site specific issues. On 18th July 2011 the House of Commons debated and approved the six finalised National Policy Statements for Energy and the then Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, Chris Huhne, designated them under the 2008 Planning Act the day after.
The Government is now considering the planning framework for new nuclear power for deployment after 2025. The first step towards this was to consult on the process and criteria for designating potentially suitable sites for the deployment of new nuclear power stations between 2026 to 2035 and with over 1GW of single reactor electricity generating capacity. The Government responded to consultation submissions in July 2018, and said it would publish a draft NPS for public consultation in 2019, but by August 2021 it had still not appeared.
Taken together with the overarching NPS for Energy (EN1), the Government says the current nuclear NPS sets out the need for nuclear power, whilst also providing planning guidance for developers and for the Planning Inspectorate and Secretary of State in their consideration of applications. Yet when the Government first endorsed Hinkley Point C, (HPC) it was projecting an increase in electricity consumption of 15% by now, whereas in practice we are consuming 15% less than a decade ago. In other words it made a 30% error. This is despite a 13% increase in GDP over the last decade. HPC is only due to deliver 7% of consumption. So, in fact, there is no “need” for new nuclear power stations before or after 2025.
In July 2017, EDF Energy revealed that Hinkley Point C – the most advanced of the proposed new nuclear stations – is likely to be delayed by 15 months to 2027, so it is now almost certain that no new nuclear power stations will be operational on any of the sites designated in the current NPS by 2025. But instead of admitting that its new nuclear programme has been a failure, and that by the time any of the proposed reactors come on line nuclear power will be obsolete, the proposed new NPS simply carries forward the designated sites from the current NPS, and suggests that new sites may be designated in the 2020s. Unlike the current Nuclear NPS, the new draft clarifies that the sites are designated for reactors larger than 1GW. However, in recognition of the recent the clamour from the nuclear industry for a programme of small modular reactor construction it says the Government will consider planning issues related to smaller reactors separately.
For more information see the Nuclear Free Local Authorities’ submission in February 2018 to the Government consultation on the updated National Policy Statement for new nuclear above 1GW post 2025: siting criteria and process:
The six energy National Policy Statements (NPSs), which were designated by the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change on 19th July 2011 are intended to be a blueprint for decision-making on individual applications for development consent for the relevant types of infrastructure. They set out national policy against which proposals for major energy projects are assessed and decided on by the Planning Inspectorate. It will use NPSs in its examination of applications for development consent, and Ministers will use them when making decisions.
The Overarching NPS for Energy (EN1) says that the Government expects total electricity generating capacity may need to more than double or even triple by 2050. This compares with Germany’s plans to reduce electricity demand by 25% by 2050, as well as phasing out nuclear power and meeting similar carbon reduction targets to the UK. (See Energy Concept for an environmentally sound, reliable and affordable energy supply, Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology & Federal Ministry for Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety, September 2010, page 5)
In responding to questioning about this doubling of demand the Government point to its future energy scenarios. But these can be misleading with many scenarios not envisaging a doubling of electricity demand. (See Corruption of Governance, NuClear News No. 40, May 2012)