Four new regulatory arrangements about the UK's nuclear have emerged in the past 12 months. First an entirely new environment impact assessment Regulation came into force in April 2017, cancelling all previous regulations on infrastructure projects including nuclear. Second was a revised Third came an entirely new nuclear sites proposal in December, just starting consultation. Fourth, after some years of nothing happening, a new proposal about how the UK might get a national nuclear waste depositry. This aims to get communities to volunteer, having previously failed in this necessary but awful mission. What does it all mean ? Is there any sense or coherence? Its early days on all three matters, but some aspects are worthy note.
First, the new EIA (environmental impact assessment) regulation has been driven by the UK still being in the EU. It transposes a revised 2014 EU Directive. It has new principles, such as lifetime
sustainability for all projects, and professional advice without vested interests. It cancels all previous EIA regulations for development projects, and therefore maybe updates all if the other family of EIA type regulations about nature sites and species, though it will take a lot of careful work to see if there are any wrinkles. Sadly, a revised and current nuclear power Directive from the EU has not been transposed by the UK. Why ? A view can be taken that leaving Euratom has long been a dream of parts of the UK government and the nuclear industry, notwithstanding that EDF is a virtually 100% French government owned company. Certainly the government was very quick to "red-line" Euratom withdrawal under Brexit.
The second measure on sites has been caused by the (welcome) delays in nuckear power station projects, with Hinkley C only just getting started. The Government is consulting about how the core Energy Policy 6 document of 2011 can be replaced with another one after EN6 runs out in 2025. The new proposal invites existing sites to re-apply for 2026 to 2035. A new requirement is that projects need to be "deployable", which may mean there could be penalties for delay. Most interesting is that the new EN6(2) will be entirely separate from document EN1 which is the (in)famous "overarching energy policy" which set out the new nuclear renaissance vision started by Tony Blair's government in 2004. The sites that go forward - existing ones only except Hinkley C -will have to pass a very widely defined "appraisal of sustainability", reflecting the new 2017 EIA. There are 12 thematic areas, and then 19 PPPs, which means, we think "policies, programmes and projects" or something like that. New terminology seems to be essential to take matters "forward". Our quick comment is that it looks like Sizewell and the other 6 sites will have to comply with new rules because they won't be "deployed" until after 2026, unless by a (tragic) miracle one does actually get built. Whether these rules will be good, bad or indifferent will take much study. But the idea that they indicate a backing off from a nuclear future is not a runner: Government says that after this new 2026-35 stage, they will open a new nuclear "window". Since there will a few changes of government by then, maybe there is an element of kicking new nuclear into the long grass. Harder headed observers think it may all be intended to lock future governments into the nuclear folly.
The proposal for national nuclear waste dump, called GDF (geological disposal facility), is very new. No-one understandably seems to want it, and the geological choices are very restricted. There is a policy question if great concern too: disposal or deposit ? That is, dump for ever, or store and retrieve if things go wrong or better methods evolve.