Environmental permits for Sizewell C

7 July 2022

The UK Environment Agency (EA) has begun a 12-week public consultation on three environmental permits for the operation of the proposed GBP20 billion ($23.8bn) Sizewell C nuclear power station in Suffolk. In May 2020, NNB Generation Company (SZC) Limited applied to EA for the permits. “We consulted on these applications from July to October 2020. We have come to a proposed decision on whether we should issue these permits, and if we do what conditions they should include.” EA said.

The permits are to:

  • dispose of and discharge radioactive waste
  • operate standby power supply systems using diesel generators
  • discharge cooling water and liquid effluent into the North Sea

“Our proposed decision is that we should issue all three permits. The conclusions of other assessments support our view,” EA noted. These include:

  • Radiological Impact Assessment
  • Habitats Regulations Assessment
  • Countryside and Rights of Way Sites of Special Scientific Interest assessment
  • Water Framework Directive

“We want your views on our proposed decision, draft permits and supporting documents. We will consider your views before we make our final decision.” A final decision will be published in early 2023.

The EA's Sizewell C Project Manager, Simon Barlow, said: “The company has applied for these permits many years ahead of the station operating. If we grant these permits early in the project, it will help us to positively influence the design, procurement, and commissioning of the power station, whilst also ensuring that the environment and wildlife is protected. We want our decisions to be better informed through consultation and want to hear people’s views on our proposed decisions."

Meanwhile, a decision on whether to grant government planning approval is expected shortly. EDF plans to build two EPR reactors with an operating life of 60 years to generate 3.2GWe. Construction is expected to take about nine years.

In January, the government pledged GBP100m to support Sizewell C, which could be the first nuclear project to use the government's newly introduced RAB (Regulated Asset Base) model. In June, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) published its draft reasons for designating Sizewell C's operating company, NNB Generation Company (SZC) Limited, as able to receive funding through the new model.

EDF and the UK government have said they would take 20% stakes in the project. The site already hosts two nuclear stations - the decommissioned Magnox Sizewell A and pressurised water reactor (PWR) Sizewell B. Sizewell A began operation in 1967 and Sizewell B in 1995.

The plans have drawn protest from local residents and environmentalists. Sizewell is surrounded by protected areas. The coast is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and the shingle beach is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). Sizewell Marshes, behind the plant is a Special Protected Area (SPA), and the Leiston Sandlings to the south are another SPA. RSPB Minsmere, which provides reedbed, wet grassland and heath habitats for a variety of wildlife including marsh harriers, otters, water voles and bearded tits, i just north of the site.

Construction of the plant would mean large areas of wood, marsh and grassland becoming a temporary construction site. EDF has said this would eventually be returned to a natural environment.

Image: An artists impression of what the Sizewell C site will look like

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