Sizewell C nuclear power plant plans receive development consent from Government
A new nuclear power plant on the Suffolk coast has been granted development consent by the Government.
Energy firm EDF plans to build the twin reactor Sizewell C, which it says will generate enough electricity for six million homes, next to its existing Sizewell B facility.
The decision by the Government had been delayed and the plans have attracted protest from environmentalists.
The application was submitted to the Planning Inspectorate for consideration by NNB Nuclear Generation (SZC) Limited on May 27, 2020 and accepted for examination on June 24, 2020.
Recommendations were then made to the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, who has granted development consent.
Sarah Richards, the Planning Inspectorate’s Chief Executive, said they had examined more than 100 nationally significant infrastructure projects since the Planning Act 2008 process was introduced, 'ensuring local communities have had the opportunity of being involved in the examination of projects that may affect them'.
“This examination took place during the Covid-19 pandemic and its associated restrictions and the Examining Authority worked hard to ensure that local people, the local authorities – East Suffolk District and Suffolk County Council - and other interested parties were able to fully participate," she said.
“The Examining Authority listened and gave full consideration to local views and the evidence gathered during the examination before making its recommendation.”
EDF says that once built, Sizewell C will generate low-carbon electricity for at least 60 years and employ 900 people, 'in addition to the thousands of jobs needed for maintenance outages'.
The European Pressurised Water reactor design has been approved by the UK’s nuclear regulator, the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR).
According to EDF, it will save nine million tonnes of CO2 emissions for every year of its operation, compared with 3.2 GW of gas-fired generation.
The firm said about £1.5 billion will be spent in Suffolk during construction and the project will make an estimated lifetime contribution of £4 billion to the regional economy
However, the 3.2-gigawatt power station plans have drawn concerns from residents about the environmental impact.
In May, protestors marched from Leiston to Sizewell beach carrying banners which read 'Chaos Coast, coming soon' and 'Enjoy Suffolk while you can'.
Nick Collinson, chair of the The Suffolk Coast and Heaths Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) Partnership, said they had always considered that the proposals for the introduction of two EPR reactors into the area would 'cause significant harm to the area’s landscape' and the ability to conserve and enhance natural beauty.
"This part of England has been designated for its nature, tranquillity and scenic quality, much of which will be lost or damaged during the nine to 12 year construction," he said.
"The Partnership will of course work constructively with EDF to ensure mitigation and compensation is maximised to minimise the damage to this special part of the world."
The RSPB and Suffolk Wildlife Trust were 'very disappointed' at the move which they felt would affect their nature reserve at Minsmere.
A statement on Instagram said: "We believe the proposed development will be damaging to nature. We will be reviewing the reasons for the decision and will consider our options."
However, Suffolk Chamber of Commerce welcomed the move.
Ashley Shorey-Mills, head of Suffolk Chamber’s Sizewell C Supply Chain portal, said it was good news for Suffolk, for many businesses and for the skills and employability prospects for the county’s and the region’s workers, especially during the construction phase of the new nuclear power station.
“For many years, the Sizewell C Supply Chain portal, which is managed by Suffolk Chamber of Commerce, has been the pivotal resource for companies interested in preparing themselves for this exciting project," he said.
"We have over 2000 companies now registered with us. We are working closely with them to ensure the supply chain is fit and ready to take advantage of the commitments of £4.4bn for our local and regional supply chain, as well as the legacy of skills and opportunity for this part of the country."
Andrew Stringer, Leader of the Green, Liberal Democrat and Independents Group at Suffolk County Council, felt it was the wrong decision for Suffolk.
He added: "It locks in ever more expensive ways to generate electricity, that we believe will be economically unviable before it is built.
"Today's decision will prove expensive for consumers and a high cost for Suffolk."
Suffolk County Council said it will focus its attention on 'protecting Suffolk, ensuring that the county sees the maximum benefits from Sizewell C'.
The authority remains disappointed that a number of key issues have not been fully resolved, said a spokesman.
These included concerns about the 'blight' of additional pylons at the main site, an 'unnecessary and damaging' outage car park at Goose Hill and it called for the Sizewell Link Road to be removed after construction to prevent lasting damage to the environment.
Councillor Richard Rout, Suffolk County Council’s Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Finance and Environment, said: “During the process, the council’s voice has been strong, and our influence has resulted in a number of significant improvements to the proposals, to make them more acceptable for Suffolk.
“We have taken the concerns of Suffolk residents to the highest levels, from the Planning Inspectorate to the Secretary of State. We are disappointed that, in our opinion, some of these have not been listened to.
“It is now our role to ensure that as Sizewell C proceeds, it does so with the least possible impact on Suffolk’s residents and unique natural environment, whilst doing all we can to maximise the economic opportunities for our county.”
There is now a six week period in which judicial review challenges may be made.
Meanwhile, East Suffolk Council said it will be reviewing the Examining Authority’s report, Secretary of State’s decision letter and development consent order over the coming days and weeks.
A spokesman said: "These are lengthy documents which contain a significant amount of detailed information regarding the decisions made and the reasoning behind them which will be important to understand.
"The project will soon move into a new phase following the decision, with a focus on delivery and discharging the requirements.
"East Suffolk Council recognises the challenges this will bring as a result of the scale of construction works associated with the development, the provision of the required mitigation and compensation measures in a timely manner will therefore be vital."
Councillor Craig Rivett, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Economic Development added that they look forward to continue working with EDF, key stakeholders and the community to ensure that appropriate mitigation is in place to help lessen the impacts of the project during the construction phase.
Carly Vince, Sizewell C’s Chief Planning Officer, said she was 'delighted' with the decision, which was 'a big endorsement' of the proposals and supported their view that this was 'the right project in the right place'.
"I would like to thank the thousands of people in East Suffolk who contributed to our consultation sessions and the public examination," she said.
"The input of residents, local authorities, environmental groups and many others has helped us to improve our plans.
"We will continue to work closely with them to make sure we minimise the impacts of construction and maximise the huge opportunities for the area.
"Sizewell C will be good for the region, creating thousands of opportunities for local people and businesses. It will boost local biodiversity and leave a legacy Suffolk can be proud of.”
EDF said negotiations with the Government on raising funds for the project are continuing and a Financial Investment Decision is expected in 2023.
Last month, the Government announced that Sizewell C could be eligible for funding using the so-called Regulated Asset Base (RAB) scheme which will drive down the cost of the project to consumers.
Julia Pyke, Sizewell C’s Financing Director, said: “Energy costs will be lower with nuclear in the mix, so today’s decision is good news for bill-payers. The tried and tested funding arrangement we are proposing means that, by paying a small amount during construction, consumers will benefit in the long-term.
"Sizewell C will give a big boost to jobs and skills in nuclear supply chain companies across the country. It will strengthen the UK’s energy security and play a key role in our fight against climate change.
"Planning approval brings us closer to delivering the huge benefits of this project to Suffolk and to the UK.”
Other approvals required before the project can begin construction include a Nuclear Site Licence from the Office for Nuclear Regulation and permits from the Environment Agency.