The UK’s planned Sizewell C NPP has triggered its Development Consent Order (DCO), opening the way to formal construction of the new 3.2 GWe power station on the Suffolk coast. The project was granted permission to build in July 2022 allowing preparatory works to begin, but many obligations remained to be satisfied before construction could start under the DCO.

Those obligations were set out in a Deed of Obligation document signed with East Suffolk Council and Suffolk County Council. They included a range of activities such as key road surveys to the establishment of Governance Groups, which are all now satisfied.

“This is a significant moment for our project in Suffolk and a big step for British energy security,” said Julia Pyke and Nigel Cann, Joint Managing Directors at Sizewell C. “We’ve had a really successful year of pre-commencement works on site, and we’ve been working hard with local partners and organisations to ensure we’re ready to take this next step for the project.”

Marking this event, Nuclear Minister Andrew Bowie visited the Sizewell C construction site to meet with the project team, local business leaders, and representatives from local authorities. “This is a major milestone for Sizewell C and our ambition to deliver up to 24GW of low-carbon nuclear power by 2050,” he said. “It comes after we announced the biggest expansion of nuclear power for 70 years which will help to bring down bills and bolster our energy security. East Anglia will benefit from thousands of new jobs and apprenticeships as a result, demonstrating the local rewards of backing new nuclear.”

In September 2023, the Government, Sizewell C and EDF, which is building the plant, launched an equity raise process to attract private investors into the project. While triggering the DCO and entering the construction phase is not dependent on a final investment decision (FID), constructive discussions with qualified potential investors are continuing and a final investment decision is expected later in 2024.The project is expected to cost £20bn ($25.5bn).

The start of construction will make available a £250m package of funding for the local community which will be released in phases. The funding includes £23m for community projects, £100m for the environment, £12m to support local tourism, and a £12m housing fund to boost private housing and tourist accommodation.

Sizewell C will deliver 1,500 apprenticeships and support thousands of jobs, with at least one third of the peak construction workforce of 7,900 coming from the local area. The project will invest in local skills to ensure there is a pipeline of talent ready, not only to build and operate Sizewell C, but to support the UK’s future nuclear ambitions.

To ensure local people continue to have their say on the project during construction, new Sizewell C Forums have launched so that residents can discuss key issues with the project team. There are four main forums, chaired independently, covering all the main project-related topics relevant to the community. Parish and town councils will represent the community at the forums, and local people can attend the meetings as observers.

However, local and environmental opposition continues. Alison Downes, from Stop Sizewell C, said: "We are shocked that the government has let loose the bulldozers at Sizewell C when the finance for this deeply flawed project is, by their own admission, still months away.” She added: “It is also telling that the enormous cost is being kept secret. Significant environmental destruction has already taken place, yet there is still so much unknown, including whether the necessary billions of pounds can actually be raised, and from whom."

Jenny Kirtley, chair of Together Against Sizewell C, said: "Driven by nuclear ideology rather than practicality, the government is showing blatant disregard for the protected landscape of the Suffolk Coast."

On the other hand, local business leaders welcomed the boost to the economy which will result from the project. Jake Nicholls, group boss at Ipswich-based construction equipment company Tru7 Group – which employs 350 people – said it would provide a "lasting positive legacy". Tim Capey, managing director of Poundfield Precast at Creeting St Peter near Stowmarket, said they were "incredibly excited". He added the scale of the project “should provide us with fantastic opportunities over the next decade, and the duration of the project will allow us the opportunity to fully assess demand and invest in our infrastructure”.

Mark Burrows, regional commercial director at family-owned Needham Market civil engineers Breheny Civil Engineering Ltd said his company was already participating in projects at the Sizewell site. "Our 330-plus people and their families live and work in the geographical area affected by Sizewell and are looking forward to the social, environmental, and economic benefits the project will provide our community.”

Image: The planned nuclear Sizewell C nuclear plant is expected to cost about £20bn (courtesy of Sizewell C)