Sizewell C. Is the Government really thinking of the future?

French corporation EDF wants to build two huge nuclear reactors on the fragile Suffolk Heritage Coast called Sizewell C. The new Prime Minister will have to decide if this goes ahead. EDF hopes to make a  “final investment decision” by mid-2023.

One of Boris Johnson’s last acts as Prime Minister was to pledge £700m for Sizewell C. “Let’s think about the future, let’s think about our kids and our grandchildren, about the next generation,” he said.

“And so I say to you, with the prophetic candour and clarity of one who is about to hand over the torch of office, I say go nuclear and go large and go with Sizewell C.”

But is he really thinking about the future? This is a disaster on so many fronts. Building Sizewell C will damage RSPB Minsmere, home to reedbeds, wet grasslands and heathlands that are all carefully managed to make them ideal places for a huge variety of wildlife. Reedbeds are home to marsh harrier, otters and water voles. The heathlands, where nightjars whirr, natterjack toads croak and silver-studded blue butterflies flutter. We are in a nature emergency, yet the Government are happy to destroy nature for another nuclear power station. Consent was given by the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy in July against the advice of the Examining Authority, the Governments own advisors and the RSPB, so the RSPB have been left with no choice but to apply for a judicial review.

An Oystercather at RSPB Minsmere by Airwolfhound

Richard Teasdale from Sheffield Greenpeace commented “Nuclear power is complex and hugely expensive to build. It creates huge amounts of hazardous waste. Renewable energy is cheaper and can be installed quickly. Together with battery storage, it can generate the power we need to slash our emissions.” 

According to the campaign group Stop Sizewell C, it is the wrong project in the wrong place and will not help the UK achieve its objectives. 

The wrong project:

Sizewell C is slow – it would take at least ten years to build, so will not generate any power until the mid-2030s. We need to increase our power production now. Renewable energy is much quicker to install.

Sizewell C is expensive, costing £20+ billion, which could be invested in renewables such as offshore wind or hydrogen storage.

Sizewell C takes a lot of carbon to build. Using EDF’s own estimates, it would take around 4 years to pay this back, meaning Sizewell C wouldn’t contribute to net zero until the late 2030s.  The government’s latest target is a 78% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2035.

European Pressurised Water reactors (EPR’s) have an appalling track record. The few EPRs under construction are all well over budget and (in France and Finland) a decade late.  One of the only two operating  EPRs in China has been closed with fuel failure after international attention.

EDF successfully lobbied the government to pass legislation to make consumers pay for the financing of Sizewell C through a nuclear tax on energy bills (called a RAB model), but nuclear projects are prone to cost and time overruns. This is going to be very expensive for taxpayers. 

The UK government wants to eject EDF’s controversial partner – China General Nuclear – but has not decided how.

Nuclear energy is not green energy. There is as yet no long-term solution for nuclear waste.

The wrong place:

EDF’s claims of thousands of jobs for locals and billions of pounds spent locally are unproven. Sizewell C would damage the local economy. Nuclear power generates far fewer jobs than investing in insulation (which would help the cost of living crisis now) or renewable energy. 

EDF wants to bring its Hinkley workers to Sizewell. EDF estimates almost 6,000 workers would come into the area; 2,400 of them would live in a “campus” near the tiny hamlet of Eastbridge.

Visitors would stay away, losing the tourism industry up to £40 million a year (independent research) and losing 400 jobs. EDF admits 725 ‘local’ staff would come from other businesses.

There would be around 12,000 extra vehicles a day on the A12, including 700 HGVs.

The Sizewell C site is on an eroding coastline and surrounded by protected wildlife habitats. As sea levels rise due to the melting ice caps the site will be threatened with flooding, which could possibly lead to an appalling accident like Fukushima.

Toxic nuclear waste would have to remain on site for well over 100 years.

The site is wholly within the Suffolk Coast & Heaths Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Construction will cut the AONB in half. The internationally famous RSPB Minsmere reserve will be damaged, and some of the Sizewell Marshes Site of Special Scientific Interest will be built on.

There is no assured long-term water supply for Sizewell C in an area currently experiencing drought. To obtain enough clean water for construction, EDF has been forced to propose a desalination plant.

Stop Sizewell C is a campaign group opposing the project after 9 years of EDF’s failed engagement and the destructive nature of its proposals.  It aims to raise awareness of the impacts of Sizewell C and put pressure on national and local governments to see that the impacts outweigh the benefits. 

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