On 7 December 2017, the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy issued a consultation on siting criteria and process for a new National Policy Statement (“NPS”) on nuclear power (the “Consultation”). This NPS will apply to nuclear power stations expected to deploy after 2025 but before 2035, which have over 1 GW of single reactor electricity generation capacity. It will establish the framework for development consent decisions on applications for new nuclear power stations expected to deploy post 2025, replacing the existing EN-6 which will continue to apply to sites capable of deployment before 2025. The overarching energy policy, EN-1, will continue to apply. The new NPS will only apply to England and Wales as powers to consent to the construction of power stations are devolved in Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Which sites will be affected?
The Government’s preliminary view is that only those sites proposed in the current NPS - EN-6 (published in 2011) - will be capable of deploying a nuclear power station by 2035. The eight sites listed in the current EN-6 as potentially suitable for the deployment of new nuclear power stations in England and Wales are: Hinkley Point C, Wylfa, Sellafield, Sizewell, Bradwell, Oldbury, Hartlepool and Heysham. The Government proposes to carry forward these sites, except for Hinkley Point C which has already secured a DCO, to the new NPS, subject to them achieving the new siting criteria and updates of the environmental assessments.
The consultation proposes no new site nominations window until the 2020s, although it does provide details on the process for future site nominations.
The listing of a site in the NPS does not guarantee that it will receive a Development Consent Order (“DCO”) but it does provide a framework within which the Planning Inspectorate (“PINS”) should make its recommendation before the Secretary of State takes the DCO decision. A DCO is required for the construction of any onshore generating station (other than one which generates electricity from wind) with a capacity of more than 50MW in England and Wales and, following the commencement of the relevant sections of the Wales Act 2017, 350MW in Wales. However, whilst sites of over 50MW (or 350MW) would require a DCO, the NPS would not apply to sites with a generating capacity of less than 1GW.
The Government will finalise the strategic criteria following consideration of the responses to the Consultation, which closes on 15 March 2018. Criteria will be published as part of the response to the Consultation. The Government will then write to the developers of the sites listed in EN-6 asking them to confirm that they wish to remain listed in a new NPS and to provide information in line with the finalised criteria. The Habitats Regulations Assessments and Appraisals of Sustainability will be updated after the Consultation window closes. A Scoping Report on the latter was released at the same time as the Consultation.