Last Friday French power company EDF received permission from West Somerset district council to carry out new preparatory groundwork for Hinckley Point C power station which would, if it were to go ahead, be the first nuclear power station to be built in the country for over 20 years.
EDF already manages eight existing nuclear power stations at sites across the country and has published plans to build four new nuclear plants.
The decision follows the publication of the White Paper on Electricity Market Reform on July 12 and ratification of the National Policy Statement for Nuclear by Parliament on July 18.
EDF, with its partner Centrica, has also submitted applications for a Nuclear Site Licence and for environmental permits from the Environment Agency necessary to operate a nuclear power station, and begun the procurement of some major components from the French state-owned nuclear power company Areva.
The planning application includes the clearing of 420 acres of land, drilling boreholes and concreting the site, but this work will precede any decision by the Infrastructure Planning Committee on whether the full construction can proceed. An application to the IPC will be submitted later this year.
Crispin Aubrey, of the Stop Hinkley campaign and a veteran of the anti-nuclear movement, told EAEM that "It is unacceptable to do all this work before the Infrastructure Planning Committee have given permission to build the station itself".
He said that "even the council officers presenting the report said that if permission is not given it would be impossible for the land to be returned to its former state, as the company promises it would do in its application".
He said that EDF's given reason for starting the work now is that it will save a year of construction time. However he himself believes that the true motive is to influence the IPC decision by giving them less reason to oppose the construction on grounds of preserving the natural environment of the site.
Gordon Bell, a spokesperson for EDF's press office, would give no further comment than that they were "looking at the conditions given by the council before commencing work," and were "keen to proceed".
He refused to be drawn on EDF's degree of confidence that the IPC will approve their plans. But they must be suprenely confident otherwise they would not be spending so much now, ahead of the decision.
Where doies there confidence coe from? What do they know that we, the public, do not?
Nor would Bell be drawn on whether they will be in a strong position to finance the construction of the complete plant given their experience of building the one at Flamanville, France, which is four years behind schedule, has had two fatalities and is currently estimated to cost twice as much as the original price tag.
All he could do was parrot what is in their press release: "The experience at Flamanville is invaluable as we progress in the UK. Each time EDF builds the EPR, our expertise increases.″
Translation: we have made a lot of cock-ups. Hopefully, this means it won't be worse next time. Or, we'll make different cock-ups.
"We have already said publicly that we will publish an adjusted timetable in the autumn. We have also said that this adjusted timetable will take account of the final report from Chief Nuclear Inspector Dr Mike Weightman and the lessons we are learning from experiences and challenges at our new build projects in China and in France," EDF adds.
EDF says the preparatory work includes commitments for more than £25 million worth of measures to mitigate the impact of the new build project. This sounds like a lot of cash, especially to put up if you "don't know" you're going to get planning permission, but when you're dealing with the potential impact of a core meltdown...