ALAN CASTLE: Nuclear back on energy agenda

Middlemoor wind farm, just north of Alnwick.
Middlemoor wind farm, just north of Alnwick.
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When the Government gave the green light to the UK’s first new nuclear station in a generation last week, it reopened the debate over energy provision in the future.

The newest power plant will be built at Hinkley Point in Somerset, the site of two other nuclear plants, one of which was decommissioned in 2000.

Foreign investment is at the heart of the hugely-expensive project, lead by France’s EDF Energy and backed by a posse of Chinese companies.

But a row has exploded about the resulting cost of electricity, which has been pre-set at £92.50 for every megawatt hour of energy that Hinkley generates. This compares with the wholesale price of electricity at the moment, about £45/Mwh.

Critics say this will push up the price of consumers’ bills, but it is still cheaper than the energy generated by any other forms of supply, apart from, of course, that from fossil fuels – gas and coal.

The announcement will have resonated around these parts after the long battle against a nuclear power station at Druridge Bay, which was won in 1989.

Are we now paying the price for that hard-earned victory?

Would the proliferation of windfarms in Northumberland we are now experiencing have been as great and intrusive had the nuclear option been passed? Who knows?

I was delighted when the local campaign against the Druridge Bay plan was victorious – the unspoilt, beautiful coastline was completely the wrong place for a power station of any description.

But the same could be said of the sea of windfarms that are springing up all around us.

I have no objections to turbines per se, setting aside the arguments over whether they actually work. I do not find them offensive, but only if they are in the right place.

There are some areas where these huge windmills are intrusive and those include the stunning landscape of north Northumberland, in fact the battleground of some of the latest applications.

Time will tell if the siting of windfarms will have a detrimental effect on tourism. The Druridge Bay campaigners will also have their view.