The UK’s planned Sizewell C NPP in Suffolk is planning to power a temporary water desalination plant using electricity from the operating Sizewell B NPP. Sizewell C says the desalination facility “will ensure the Sizewell C project has the water it needs until a new water main provides a permanent supply in the early 2030s.”

Sizewell C is expected to host two EPRs producing 3.2 GWe similar to the Hinkley Point C plant, under construction in Somerset. EDF Energy submitted a development consent order (a planning application) for the plant in May 2020, which was granted in July 2022. In March, the UK's Environment Agency granted environmental permits – a radioactive substances activity permit, a combustion activity permit and a water discharge activity permit – for the plant.

However, the project is meeting strong opposition from local resident groups and environmental organisation. In September, the campaign group Together Against Sizewell C (TASC) was granted permission for another hearing to challenge construction of the NPP. Court of Appeal judge Lord Justice Coulson allowed the hearing on the issue of a permanent water supply, and because of public interest in the development. He decided that the arguments on the need for a desalination plant should be looked at again.

Sizewell C now says desalination “will become an important future technology in the UK as the effects of climate change put greater strain on water supplies in rivers and reservoirs”. Its statement on the planned desalination plant notes: “To reduce the impact of the plant on the local environment, Sizewell C is in discussions with EDF Energy Nuclear Generation Limited to agree a supply of zero carbon electricity from neighbouring power station, Sizewell B.”

It adds: “This will reduce the need to run the desalination plant using electricity from the grid or from generators and will help reduce the amount of carbon emissions produced during construction. The project is continuing its discussions with the region’s water companies about building a mains pipeline to provide the power station with a permanent water supply. This new supply will provide more water than Sizewell C needs to operate so it will benefit other users in the community.”

According to Julia Pyke, co-managing director of Sizewell C: “This is another demonstration of our commitment to reduce the impacts of construction and to provide lasting benefits to East Suffolk. Our desalination plant will run on clean energy and combined with our long-term plan for water, will help build a more resilient supply in the East of England. It will also allow us to gain experience and skills in a technology which will become more widely used as we deal with the consequences of climate change.”

Sizewell C is proposing a series of other measures to reduce carbon emissions during and after construction of the power station. These include operating a fleet of hydrogen buses to take thousands of workers to and from the main development site. Sizewell C is also developing a Direct Air Capture facility in Lowestoft which will extract carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Sizewell C says the new nuclear power station “is already set to be one of the biggest Net Zero projects in the UK. Using a water supply powered by zero carbon electricity means Sizewell C can go even further in developing the clean technologies of tomorrow”.

Image: The planned Sizewell C nuclear power plant (courtesy of Sizewell C)