The UK Planning Inspectorate Strategy said on 20 July that the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) had granted development consent for the Sizewell C NPP Project. The application was submitted to the Planning Inspectorate for consideration by NNB Nuclear Generation (SZC) Limited on 27 May 2020 and accepted for examination on 24 June 2020. Following the examination, during which the public, statutory consultees and interested parties were given the opportunity to give evidence to the Examining Authority (ExA), recommendations were made to the Secretary of State on 25 February 2022.
Planning Inspectorate Chief Executive Sarah Richards said:
“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.” More than 1,000 interested parties and statutory consultees gave evidence during the public examination which ran from April to October 2021.
The decision, the recommendation made by the Examining Authority to the Secretary of State and the evidence considered by the Examining Authority in reaching its recommendation are publicly available on the project pages of the National Infrastructure Planning website.
The 193-page decision letter from BEIS to NNB Nuclear Generation lists 24 principal matters considered by the ExA. These include: Agriculture and soils; Air quality; Alternatives; Amenity and recreation; Biodiversity and ecology (terrestrial); Climate change and resilience; Coastal geomorphology; Community effects; Cumulative impact; Flood risk, groundwater, surface water; Health and wellbeing; Historic environment (terrestrial and marine); Landscape impact, visual effects and design; Marine ecology; Marine water quality; Marine navigation; Policy and need; Radiological considerations; Socio-economics; Traffic and transport; Waste (conventional) and material resource; Findings and conclusions in relation to the Habitats Regulations Assessment; and Compulsory acquisition and related matters.
It says: “Overall, the Secretary of State concludes that the benefits, in particular the need case, … outweigh the adverse impacts for the Proposed Development. The Secretary of State therefore concludes that consent should be granted for the Proposed Development.” The decision had been postponed from 8 July in face of political uncertainties in the UK following the resignation of Prime Minister Boris Johnson and a French government decision to nationalise EDF, the key project investor.
EDF said the Development Consent Order (DCO) “is the biggest milestone so far in the approval process for Sizewell C”. Carly Vince, Sizewell C’s Chief Planning Officer, said: “It is a big endorsement of our proposals and supports our view that this is the right project in the right place….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. The Government has said it will give GBP100 million ($120 million) to support construction of the plant and may also take a stake in the project. In June, the Government also announced that Sizewell C could be eligible for funding using the Regulated Asset Base (RAB) scheme. 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.”
Other approvals required before the project can begin construction include a Nuclear Site Licence from the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) and permits from the Environment Agency (EA).
Earlier in July the EA began begun a 12-week public consultation on three environmental permits to: dispose of and discharge radioactive waste; operate standby power supply systems using diesel generators; and discharge cooling water and liquid effluent into the North Sea. EA said its proposed decision “is that we should issue all three permits” but that it would consider views submitted to the consultation before publishing a final decision in early 2023.
ONR said on 11 July that the site licence had met “almost all the regulatory requirements” set out in regulatory guidance but that there were “two outstanding matters which require resolution”. These concern current ownership of the land, known as security of land tenure, which is yet to be acquired, and the current shareholder agreement “which places control of key policies relating to safety and security with a holding company, NNB Holding Company (SZC) Ltd, rather than the licence applicant, NNB Generation Company (SZC) Ltd”.
The project is still opposed by local anti-nuclear campaigners and environmentalists concerned that the plant would be built next to the Minsmere nature reserve and have a negative effect on wildlife. A spokesman for Stop Sizewell C said: "Not only will we be looking closely at appealing this decision, we'll continue to challenge every aspect of Sizewell C." On the other hand, the GMB union, which represents workers in the energy sector, said Sizewell C's approval was "a vital step forward for energy and net-zero".