The government has given the go-ahead for the UK's first new nuclear station in a generation.France's EDF Energy will lead a consortium, which includes Chinese investors, to build the Hinkley Point C plant in Somerset. The two reactors planned for Hinkley, which will provide power for about 60 years, are a key part of the coalition's drive to shift the UK away from fossil fuels towards low-carbon power.Ministers and EDF have been in talks for more than a year about the minimum price the company will be paid for electricity produced at the site, which the government estimates will cost ?16bn to build. The other aspects of the build include the turbine halls, standby power generators and a pumping station for the cooling water, interim waste storage facilities as well as a visitors' centre.
The power station is expected to provide up to 25,000 jobs during the lifetime of the project and once built will provide about 900 full-time jobs.
Labour leader Ed Miliband, who has pledged to freeze energy prices for 20 months if he wins the next election, said the party supported the development of new nuclear power stations, but would scrutinise the terms of the deal to ensure it delivered value for money for consumers.
Nuclear power is back at the top of the political agenda.The UK relies on atomic energy for nearly 20% of its electricity.
Decommissioning the UK's ageing nuclear power stations will cost billions of pounds more than originally expected.
NDA wants to speed up the clean-up, including that of the ageing Magnox plants, from 125 years to 25 years. It has published consultation plans which will be open until 11 November, with a proposal finalised in December. The higher estimate is based on the costs over the whole lifetime of the sites, calculated by the UK Atomic Energy Authority and British Nuclear Fuels. Current plans assume that after initial work for 10 or 15 years, the "more difficult pieces" are dealt with some 70 years later.


Among issues that the authority is looking at is the need for an alternative for Drigg in Cumbria, which is the only place in the country where low-level nuclear waste can be stored in perpetuity.
Former environment minister Michael Meacher expressed concern at the cost of the decommissioning and questioned plans for future nuclear builds. The NDA was set up in April this year under the Energy Act 2004 to take responsibility for the UK's nuclear legacy. The government has approved 10 sites in England and Wales for new nuclear power stations, most of them in locations where there are already plants.It has rejected only one proposed site - in Dungeness, Kent - as being unsuitable on environmental grounds. Ministers say the deal will help take the UK towards low-carbon power and lower generating costs in future. It will be made up of two nuclear reactors and will be built next to Hinkley Point A and B.
After this, excavation work can start to lay the foundations of the nuclear plant including two underground two-mile (3km) tunnels for the cooling water.
Dungeness was rejected because of worries about the threat to the local eco-system from coastal erosion and flooding should a new plant be constructed there.
Critics warn guaranteeing the group a price for electricity at twice the current level will raise bills."For the first time, a nuclear station in this country will not have been built with money from the British taxpayer," said Secretary of State for Energy Edward Davey. No wonder we've got a cost of living crisis in this country," he added.The existing plant at Hinkley currently produces about 1% of the UK's total energy, but this is expected to rise to 7% once the expansion is complete in 2023. But it comes as concerns about domestic energy bills move up the agenda, with SSE, British Gas and Npower, three of the UK's "big six" gas and electricity suppliers, all having announced price increases.The government estimates that with new nuclear power - including Hinkley - the average energy bill in 2030 will be ?77 lower than it would have been without the new plants.


Ministers hope to fast-track the construction of the new plants so that some can be producing energy by as early as 2018.
Mr Miliband said the new Infrastructure Planning Commission would have to make a decision on each application within a year of receiving it, to avoid a repeat of previous lengthy inquiries.
The 10 sites deemed suitable for future nuclear plants are: Bradwell in Essex, Braystones, Kirksanton and Sellafield in Cumbria, Hartlepool, Heysham in Lancashire, Hinkley Point in Somerset, Oldbury in Gloucestershire, Sizewell in Suffolk and Wylfa in North Wales.
Seven of the proposed locations are already home to nuclear plants while Bradwell was home to one in the past.
The government decided last year to go ahead with a new generation of nuclear plants, lifting a previous moratorium on expansion.
The majority of the UK's ageing nuclear infrastructure will have to be decommissioned by 2023, leading some experts to warn of the prospect of power shortages if capacity is not added.
Plans for any plants in Scotland, which has two existing sites, are opposed by the SNP government. Clean coal technology aims to trap and store CO2 emissions from coal plants underground, cutting pollution levels.



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