Mr Speaker, with permission I would like to make a statement.
I am today publishing a development consent order which authorises the construction of a three thousand two hundred and sixty megawatt (3260MW) nuclear power station at Hinkley Point, known as Hinkley Point C.
The Order will allow, from a planning point of view, NNB Generation Company Limited, a subsidiary of EDF Energy, to construct two European Pressurised Reactors each of a capacity of 1630 megawatts.
It will also enable the company to construct associated development, such as freight handling and road improvements, and to carry out the necessary work to obtain land and rights over land, by compulsory acquisition if necessary.
My decision to grant consent comes after a long process of consultation and analysis.
First on the policy that underpins the decision.
As set out in the National Policy Statements that were approved by this House in July 2011, a new generation of nuclear power stations are a key part of our future low-carbon energy mix, tackling climate change and helping to diversify our supply, contributing to the UK’s energy security.
Low carbon energy projects will also bring major investment, supporting jobs and driving growth.
Second, on the proposals for Hinkley Point C itself.
These were considered, with full public engagement, by a Panel of five experienced Planning Inspectors from the Planning Inspectorate, whose conclusions and recommendations I have followed very closely.
I am grateful to them for their work, and to all those who engaged in that process, which was completed within the statutory timescale of 6 months.
Copies of my decision together with the Panel’s report and other supporting documents have been placed in the Library of the House.
In recommending that development consent be granted, the Panel concluded that the benefits of the proposed Hinkley Point C station outweighed the impacts, including those on the local communities, particularly when taking into account proposed mitigation measures.
These include the provision of a bypass around Cannington;
Enhanced landscaping and access for amenity purposes;
And ensuring that the workforce does not cause any additional burden on local services such as health, education and housing.
In making my decision, I also took into account representations made too late to be considered by the Panel and not therefore included in its report.
My consideration of these late representations is set out in my decision.
I expect the wide range of mitigations and controls provided for in the Order and elsewhere to be effective in reducing the impact of the construction work on local people.
But I also recognise that, as these works are carried out, those who live in the area may well have their daily lives disrupted in one way or another.
This disruption is, in my view, outweighed in the final analysis by the benefits the project would bring.
Chief among these is the very significant contribution it would make to achievement of energy and climate change policy objectives.
The Energy National Policy Statements make clear that the construction of new low carbon electricity generation infrastructure is of crucial national importance.
There is also a significant potential for local benefits including new jobs, with a workforce of up to 5,600 during construction, and contract opportunities for the supply chain including local businesses.
I said that the Order authorises construction from a planning point of view. There has of course been an entirely separate process scrutinising the nuclear safety aspects of the project, with decisions taken by independent regulators in the Office of Nuclear Regulation and the Environment Agency including issuing of a nuclear site licence.
Some further regulatory approvals remain to be taken including the Marine Management Organisation’s marine licence and site-specific aspects of generic design assessment from the Office of Nuclear Regulation.
But the decision I am announcing today, together with those already taken by the nuclear regulators and a number of other permits issued last week by the Environment Agency means that NNB Generation Company Limited now has the majority of the consents it needs to build and operate the plant.
That, of course, is not the end of the story.
Decisions remain to be made on the funded decommissioning programme and strike price.
Discussions on both these subjects are ongoing (and intense), but I expect them to be concluded shortly.
As confirmed in my January statement to Parliament, the Government is committed to its existing policy on long-term disposal of nuclear waste and is pressing ahead with plans to identify a geological disposal facility in order to put in place a permanent facility for disposal of radioactive waste from both new and existing plants.
Mr Speaker, affordable new nuclear will play a critical role in a secure, diverse electricity supply for Britain and make a significant contribution in the transition to the low carbon economy needed to tackle climate change.
Therefore this decision on planning aspects of the first new nuclear power station in a generation represents an important milestone in that process to decarbonise our electricity supply and economy.
I commend this statement to the House.