Suffolk in line for nuclear expansion
THE Government looks set to signal the go-ahead for a string of new nuclear power stations today - with two of those almost certainly on the Suffolk and Essex coastline.
Energy secretary Chris Huhne will unveil his plans for the future of Britain's energy supply in a statement to Parliament later.
He is anticipated to give the green light to eight new nuclear power plants - one of which is expected at Sizewell in Suffolk and another at Bradwell-on-Sea in Essex.
If they are given the go ahead it will mean a massive boost to the region's economy, ploughing millions of pounds into local infrastructure and generating thousands of jobs.
But last night campaigners warned a reliance on nuclear power was unsafe and urged Whitehall to consider renewable sources of energy.
French power giant EDF has already said that it would like to build new twin reactors at Sizewell.
The company declined to comment last night but a spokesman confirmed they would be issuing a statement later today following Mr Huhne's announcement.
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If given the green light formal consultation on the plans for Sizewell C could start as early as the first half of next year and the plant could be up and running by 2020.
The construction period - which could last around six or seven years - is likely to employ between 4,500 and 5,000 people and when complete the power station would employ 700-900 people.
But last night Charles Barnett, chairman of the Shutdown Sizewell Campaign, said an announcement today would be 'jumping the gun'.
He said the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate - now known as the Nuclear Directorate - was currently carrying out a study on the safety of new technology, including the European Pressurised Reactors (EPR) that EDF is believed to favour for Sizewell C.
'It would be a disgrace if new power stations were given the go ahead before we have the findings of this report,' he said. 'What the Government should be doing is investing in more renewable energies.'
If the new reactors are given the all clear EDF has agreed to sell remaining land - which includes some of the site at Bradwell-on-Sea - to other potential nuclear operators.
Blackwater Against New Nuclear Group (BANNG) has been campaigning against a new power station there for more than three years.
Chairman Andrew Blowers said there were four key arguments why a plant should not be built at Bradwell.
He claimed it would devastate the fishing and oyster industries, the site was a flood risk, nuclear waste would remain well after the power station had shut down and the high population of nearby areas would be impossible to evacuate in an emergency.
If given the go ahead the projects would still be subject to planning regulations.
Currently all applications for nationally significant schemes have to go to the Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC) for a decision.
However this could soon change as Whitehall has indicated an intention for the decision making to revert back to the Secretary of State.
It is believed the Government plans to allow companies to create a new generation of nuclear plants, on the condition they are built without any public subsidy.
But under the coalition agreement the Liberal Democrats are able to abstain in parliamentary votes on the issue, having opposed the building of new nuclear plants in their election manifesto.