The UK’s Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) said on 11 July that the licence for the proposed Sizewell C NPP in Suffolk, had met “almost all the regulatory requirements” set out in regulatory guidance. “Specifically, we are satisfied that NNB Generation Company (SZC) Ltd has put in place an organisational capability and associated arrangements suitable for licence granting and no issues have been identified regarding the suitability of the site which would prevent a licence being granted.”

However, ONR said there were “two outstanding matters which require resolution prior to the formal granting of a licence”. The first “relates to the current ownership of the land, known as security of land tenure, which is yet to be acquired by the licence applicant”.

The second relates to 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”.

Engagement between ONR and the applicant has indicated that plans are in place to address both matters in due course. “When those matters are resolved, we would carry out a proportionate reassessment of the application, focused on the two outstanding matters and any other relevant licensing issues that emerge during the intervening period.”

To build and operate a new nuclear power station in the UK, a number of site-specific permissions are required from regulators and government, and granting a site licence does not permit the start of nuclear-related construction on the site. The licence application is separate from a Development Consent Order (DCO), considered by the Planning Inspectorate, which determines if overall proposed scheme is acceptable under national planning legislation. A government decision on the Sizewell C DCO is currently pending. A decision on this had been expected on 8 July but was deferred until 20 July. NNB Generation Company has also submitted applications for environmental permits to the Environment Agency.

ONR noted: “Our regulatory responsibility starts at the point of granting of a nuclear site licence. If granted, we would use the powers within the licence to require the licensee to request our permission for starting nuclear safety related construction. Similarly, the licensee will be required to seek our permission to proceed to subsequent, key construction and commissioning stages up to the start of commercial operation and beyond.”

France’s state-owned power company EDF submitted its planning application for Sizewell C in May 2020 and expects to make a final investment decision later this year or in 2023.