The Nuclear Industry Association (NIA) welcomes the chance to respond to the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities’ Operational Reforms to the Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project (NSIP) Consenting Process consultation.

The NIA is the trade association and representative body for the civil nuclear industry in the UK. We represent around 270 companies operating across all aspects of the nuclear fuel cycle.

Due to the diversity of our membership, our views in this submission will cover high-level, industry-wide matters. Our members may choose to make their own detailed submissions.

Executive Summary

The NIA welcomes the positive intent outlined in Operational Reforms to the Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project (NSIP) Consenting Process consultation and supports the ambition to make the planning system for NSIPs work more effectively for applicants, local authorities, and communities.

Ensuring consultation on NSIPs is proportionate and ensuring that the planning system is adequately resourced is essential to accelerate the delivery of low carbon nuclear projects, which is essential for our net zero future. Nuclear is our only source of clean, sovereign baseload power and currently supplies around 15% of electricity demand from just over half a square mile of land. According to United Nations’ analysis, nuclear has the lowest lifecycle carbon, lowest land use, and lowest impact on ecosystems of any electricity source.

The functioning in practice of the planning regime for NSIPs has been particularly challenging for the nuclear sector to date. In particular, the system has caused a significant amount of uncertainty for developers and not been proportional in assessing proposed projects and considering the urgency of deploying new low carbon energy sources to combat the climate crisis.

To give two examples:

  • Hinkley Point C (HPC), the first nuclear power plant to start construction since the 1980s, took 17 months to receive a Development Consent Order (October 2011-March 2013), whereas Sizewell C, a replica of HPC technology, took 26 months (May 2020-July 2022). EDF had to submit 1,001 documents as part of its Development Consent Order (DCO) application for Hinkley Point C in comparison to 4,378 documents for Sizewell C. The environmental statement for the former was 31,401 pages and for the latter 44,260 pages.
  • The Planning Inspectorate (PINS) recommended the rejection of the Wylfa Newydd DCO application despite acknowledging that the project that would have provided clean power for 65 years to 5.5 million homes because of concerns over the possible impacts on a local tern colony and local fungi. This is a key example of highly disproportionate assessment and outcomes within the planning system.

We strongly support efforts outlined in this consultation to improve operational elements of the planning system, as the speed of planning consent must rise 50% from 0.4 GW/year from 2008 to 2023 to 0.6 GW/year in 2023-2050 to hit the Government’s target of 24 GW of nuclear capacity by 2050.

In particular, we welcome the proposals in relation to the resourcing of the Planning Inspectorate in order to improve the capacity and capability of the planning system. Adequate resources are crucial to carry through well-intended reforms into practice at a project level.

We recognise that this consultation is focused on bringing forward operational reforms to support faster consenting, we strongly recommend the introduction of a Net Zero Duty on all relevant regulators and the Planning Inspectorate to ensure planning decisions are proportionate to the urgent need for more low carbon energy to mitigate climate change.

Please click here to view our full response.