Energy firm prepares 1st ever DCO material change application for Hinkley Point

The developer of the Hinkley Point C nuclear power station in Somerset looks set to submit the first application to make a material change to a consented major infrastructure project in more than 10 years of the streamlined development consent order (DCO) regime.

A visualisation of the finished Hinkley Point C development
A visualisation of the finished Hinkley Point C development

NNB Generation Company, a subsidiary of EDF Energy, has commenced the pre-application stage for a material change to its consent for the new nuclear power plant, which became the first DCO to be granted in March 2013.

If the material change application is formally submitted to the Planning Inspectorate (PINS), it would be the first such application made under the Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project (NSIP) regime, which was established by the Planning Act 2008.

EDF wants to remove its requirement to install an acoustic fish deterrent system - intended to limit the number of fish affected by the power plant as it draws in cooling water.

While DCO applicants have previously made minor amendments to consents via correction orders or non-material change applications, EDF would be the first to seek a more significant material change.

An EDF spokesman said: "The change is being proposed after it was found that the power station would have a negligible impact on local fish stocks with other fish protection measures in place.     

"Engineering studies have shown that installing and maintaining underwater speakers in the fast-running tides of the Bristol Channel would pose unacceptable risks to divers and offshore workers. The Hinkley Point C project cannot justify these risks, given there is almost no benefit provided by the proposed system.

"As a result, Hinkley Point C is applying to remove the requirement to install the system and is consulting with relevant stakeholders over the proposal."

Angus Walker, partner at law firm BDB Pitmans, said other DCO applicants may follow suit if the process runs smoothly. "It will be interesting to see how long it takes," he said. "I think applicants have been a bit scared of the process because they think it’s too onerous to change projects."

The future of another DCO application for the Wylfa Newydd nuclear power plant in Anglesey was thrown into doubt last week when Horizon Nuclear Power announced it was halting its UK development programme.

Last November, PINS received a DCO application for the first solar farm to be considered under the NSIP regime.

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