Construction Hinkley Point C unit 1 in January 2020 (Credit: EDF Energy)Nuclear power plant construction projects in the UK have been taking measures in response to COVID-19.

EDF Energy has reduced the workforce at Hinkley Point C in Somerset, and is delaying its planning application for Sizewell C.

Meanwhile, the first first stage of consultation on proposals for a new HPR1000 nuclear power station at Bradwell-on-Sea in Essex has been extended by five weeks.


Sizewell C planning application postponed by a "few weeks"

EDF Energy said that its planning application for the £14 billion ($17.4bn) nuclear power plant at Sizewell C in the UK is ready to be submitted, but that it has decided to postpone the submission by a “few weeks” due to the coronavirus crisis.

EDF was due to submit the Development Consent Order (DCO) to the Planning Inspectorate by the end of March 2020.

This will now be put on hold to allow more time for people to register as participants for the public examination phase of the DCO process. "This will help to ensure local communities have enough time to review the application and participate," EDF Energy said.

EDF is liaising with the Planning Inspectorate to discuss new arrangements.

‘We are ready to submit the application but we recognise that many people in Suffolk, including the local authorities, are adjusting to new circumstances created by the coronavirus crisis," said EDF managing director of nuclear development Humphrey Cadoux-Hudson.

"We will defer the submission for a few weeks and once submitted we will extend the period for registration to make it easier for people to participate."

EDF noted, however, that it is important that the planning process moves forward so that if Sizewell C is approved it can play its part in helping the UK to recover once the coronavirus crisis is over.

The news was welcomed by the leader of Suffolk County Council, Matthew Hicks and the leader of East Suffolk Council, Steve Gallant.

“Both Suffolk County Council and East Suffolk Council absolutely agree that this is the right decision for EDF Energy to take at this moment in time. We believe there is no other choice for them to take during such a difficult time for us all as we focus on fighting the effect of COVID-19 across Suffolk," a joint statement said.

Consultation extended for Bradwell B

China General Nuclear (66.5%) and EDF Energy (33.5%), which are developing the Bradwell B nuclear power station project in Essex have also announced and a decision to extend the consultation by five weeks until Wednesday 1 July 2020.

This measure will allow more time for the community to engage with the proposals and provide feedback.

“It now seems likely that efforts to protect the public will continue for some time, and we, of course, understand that this has to be the priority right now," said Alan Raymant, CEO of Bradwell B. 

"For critical infrastructure projects like Bradwell B to continue moving forwards so that we can make progress towards delivering the low-carbon electricity the country needs we have to find new ways for people to engage with us," he added.

Bradwell B said innovative ways to engage online and via phone are being introduced, including an interactive webpage, and a virtual exhibition. Bradwell B is also offering 20-minute pre-bookable surgery sessions with experts in April. 

Site surveys were due to start at the Essex site this month. Bradwell B said last week that these were still scheduled to go ahead, but that it was monitoring the situation relating to COVID-19 and following the guidance set out by Public Health England. As such the surveys may be subject to change.

Staff numbers reduced at Hinkley Point C

Meanwhile, construction of EDF's Hinkley Point C nuclear power plant in Somerset, is also facing restrictions that could delay the project.

EDF said last week it was halving the number of workers, with some 2000 leaving the site. However, "critical work on nuclear parts of the project" is set to continue for the time being, EDF said.

"Keeping this capability intact is essential for a project of critical national importance and an industry which plays a key role in helping the UK reach net zero," EDF company said in a statement.

The UK Treasury will pay 80% of the wages of those laid off under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.

Photo: Construction continues at Hinkley Point C, pictured here in January 2020 (Credit: EDF Energy)