Start of strategic siting assessment consultation

United Kingdom

Following the publication of the Government’s nuclear White Paper on 10 January 2008, the Government published on 22 July 2008 a consultation on the detailed criteria and process for assessing where new nuclear power stations could be built across England and Wales.  This has been eagerly awaited by the industry and will be of particular interest to energy companies and investors in the nuclear sector.

Exclusionary and Discretionary Criteria

The Consultation on the Strategic Siting Assessment (‘SSA’) Process and Siting Criteria for New Nuclear Power Stations in the UK sets out the various criteria that would be used in assessing the suitability of a range of sites for the building of new nuclear power stations.   This includes ‘exclusionary’ criteria –relating to the fundamental suitability of a site, which includes seismic risk and proximity to heavily populated areas, which could automatically rule out sites.

This also includes ‘discretionary criteria’, which relate to issues such as an area’s potential flooding risks, coastal conditions and environmentally protected areas, which could make a site unsuitable for nuclear development but would still mean that the site would be considered on balance with a range of other factors. 

The consultation invites views on the process for inviting and accepting nominations for sites, on the process for assessing nominated sites and on the criteria for assessing sites for potential new nuclear power stations. 

Sites identified through the SSA will still require to be considered by the planning process.  A study on the environmental and sustainability effects of nuclear development is also being published by the Government alongside the current consultation. 

Next steps

The current consultation forms part of Stage 1 of the siting assessment process.  Final SSA criteria will be published in Stage 2, where the Government will invite nominations for sites and assess these against the ‘exclusionary’ and ‘discretionary’ criteria.

Stage 3 would consist of the Government consulting on a draft shortlist of sites as part of a consultation on a draft Nuclear National Policy Statement and publishing a final list of suitable sites as part of the Nuclear National Policy Statement. 

Key dates

The study of the environmental and sustainability effects of the proposed criteria and a Habitats Regulations Assessment Screening Report will be published alongside the current consultation. 

The consultation will close on 11 November 2008.  BERR expects to have finalised the SSA criteria by early 2009 and will then open invitations to nominate potentially suitable sites. 

A Nuclear National Policy Statement is expected to be published in 2010, which would include a list of sites assessed as strategically suitable for nuclear new build.  Subject to Parliamentary approval of the Planning Bill, this list will provide guidance to the Infrastructure Planning Commission, which will be the body responsible for dealing with specific planning applications, on the approval of new nuclear power station projects. 

If approval is given to the Planning Bill, the Government estimates that construction of new nuclear power stations could begin in 2013-2014, with a view of generation commencing in 2017-2020.

To access the consultation document, please click here.

To access our previous law-now on the UK’s action plan for nuclear new build, please click here.

To access our previous law-now on the UK’s Nuclear White Paper, please click here.