Office for Nuclear Regulation

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Planning consent for Nuclear power Stations

Date released
17 January 2020
Request number
Release of information under
Freedom of Information Act 2000

Information requested

I'm currently writing a doctoral thesis on the Planning Act 2008 and am looking for details of how planning permissions for the UK nuclear power stations were granted. There are the obvious ones - Sizewell B and Hinkley C - but I've found that information about most of the early ones is extremely difficult to locate. I gather that some of the early plants received consent from the relevant minister without the benefit of a Public Inquiry.

I'm looking for the date of the Inquiry (if one was held), its duration and the date on which consent was formalised (whether after a PI or not).

Information released

ONR was established as a statutory Public Corporation on 1 April 2014 under the Energy Act 2013.

Since ONR was created, only one power station, Hinkley Point C (HPC), has been through the planning process. This was subject to the Planning Act 2008 which obviates the need for a public/planning inquiry as it has alternative processes that the applicant is subject to in being granted a Development Consent Order by the relevant Secretary of State. All the relevant information on HPC is on the Planning Inspectorate (PINS) website.

ONR is a statutory consultee under the Planning Act, although our involvement with the HPC planning process was very limited, as the papers on the PINS website show.

Previous planning inquiries for the UK’s operating and decommissioning nuclear power stations took place before ONR was created as a statutory body. From 1960, the regulation of the UK’s nuclear industry was the responsibility of our predecessor body, the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate (NII).

Construction of several of the UK’s first generation, Magnox, power stations started before NII was established in 1960. Construction of the remaining Magnox stations had all started by 1963. Construction of the later advanced-gas reactors (AGR) stations had all begun by 1980. As you indicated you are aware from your own research, the Sizewell B power station planning inquiry took place in the late 1980s.

Planning inquiries into all of the existing (and decommissioning) power stations would therefore have taken place before 1988. While NII did take part in the Sizewell B planning inquiry, and may have taken some part in previous inquiries (post-1960), any information relating to NII’s role would have been recorded on paper files. Since all of these files relate to activities more than 30 year ago, these files are likely to have been destroyed, or transferred to the National Archives in line with NII and ONR’s policies on file review and retention.

It is worth clarifying that none of the planning inquiries were the responsibility of NII. These would have been called by the relevant government department at the time, and NII’s involvement (if any) would have been determined by the planning inquiry inspector.

The National Archives are therefore likely to be the best source of any records regarding all of the UK’s nuclear power station inquiries, prior to the HPC development. However, following your request, we have conducted a preliminary search on our database of our historical paper files. These documents are currently stored off site.

In using the search criteria ‘public inquiry, planning consent’ with Hunterston, Heysham, Torness, Winfrith, Caithness, we have established that we hold two files in our archive relating to Torness. The date of creation for these files is 1974. However, our database does not contain summaries of what type or volume of information is held within these files.

We aim to be as open as possible when answering requests for information. However to enable us to fully process your request we require further clarification. This will assist in determining whether we hold the information you requested in our records if we are to retrieve these files from external storage.

This confirmation is needed to enable us to process your request in accordance with the FOIA, once we have received confirmation we will process accordingly as a new FOI request.

I can confirm that under Section 1 of the FOIA, that we do not hold the information in your request concerning Hunterston, Heysham, Winfrith or Caithness.

Exemptions applied

Section 1.

PIT (Public Interest Test) if applicable