Fresh Hinkley Point planning hurdles loom

Changes to plans for Hinkley Point C could lead to a further delay in construction beginning, it has emerged.

A Somerset Council report indicated that amendments to the nuclear project’s development consent order (DCO) were expected to be put through a rigorous process next year.

Project backer EDF launched its own consultation in January on changes designed “to implement current best practice and make the operational station safer and more efficient”.

Somerset Council responded to this request for comment and said proposals were likely to be submitted to ministers next spring.

A report by Ros Wyke, the local authority’s portfolio holder for economic development, planning and assets, said in late April that this was likely to trigger more formal public consultation.

“EDF Energy is proposing to make some material (and non-material) changes to the DCO for the Hinkley Point C project… any material changes will need to be authorised by the secretary of state,” she wrote.

“EDF Energy expects to submit proposals to the secretary of state in spring 2025. This is likely to result in a public examination, which would begin by autumn 2025.”

EDF confirmed it expected an examination in the middle of next year, with a final decision in early 2026.

Changes it is seeking to make to the DCO include:

• Removing the need to install an acoustic fish deterrent (AFD).
• Ecological mitigation to counter potential loss of fish stocks from not having an AFD.
• Switching the interim spent fuel store from a wet store to a dry store, with consequential increase in building dimensions.
• Replacing an access control building with a new equipment storage building.
• Relocating/redesigning a meteorological mast.
• Retaining the existing temporary electricity substation as a permanent feature.
• Building four new storage structures to house sluice gates and lifting beams.

Chris Fayers, EDF head of environment on the project, said: “Hinkley Point C is working with Natural England, Natural Resources Wales, the Environment Agency and other conservation bodies to develop new natural habitats to compensate for the risk of any impact on protected fish species.

“The proposals include creating large areas of saltmarsh, seagrass and kelp, new oyster beds and the removal of barriers in rivers.

“New natural habitat is a better solution than an acoustic fish deterrent which would use 280 speakers to make noise louder than a jumbo jet 24-hours a day for 60 years.

“The system’s impact on porpoises, seals, whales, and other species is unknown. It offers a very small potential benefit to protected fish species and would also risk the safety of divers in the fast-flowing tides of the Bristol Channel.

“Power stations have been taking cooling water from the Bristol Channel for decades with no significant impact on fish populations. Hinkley Point C will be the first power station in the area to have any fish protection measures in place – including a fish recovery and return system.

“Resolution of this issue matters. The project is one of Britain’s biggest acts for the environment, built to meet exacting environmental standards. It will make a major contribution to energy security and the fight against climate change.”

EDF in January estimated that Hinkley Point C could cost up to £46bn and take another four years to complete.

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