With its creation of nature reserves and efforts to boost rewilding and biodiversity, find out how Sizewell C has the power to do good.  

Sizewell C, a new twin reactor power station on the Suffolk coast, will generate affordable, low-carbon energy for six million homes for 60 years. But will the net-zero infrastructure project threaten the area’s rare animal species and protected habitats? 

By lowering carbon emissions and mitigating the devastating impact of climate change on biodiversity, nuclear energy will help to protect the natural environment. But Sizewell C is also working to create habitats where wildlife can thrive and has committed to deliver a net gain of 19% to biodiversity. 

East Anglian Daily Times: Wild Aldhurst Farm at sunsetWild Aldhurst Farm at sunset (Image: Sizewell C)

“Sizewell C isn’t going to be developed at the expense of wildlife – far from it,” says environment consents manager Dr Steve Mannings. “We will increase the amount of habitat available for wildlife locally, not decrease it.

“It’s about creating living landscapes.” 

The completed nuclear-licensed site will cover less than 0.2% of the total area of the Suffolk Coast and Heaths AONB. This compares with 90,000 hectares required for an onshore wind farm. 

“Nuclear power is energy dense,” Steve explains. “We get a lot of power out of a small footprint and that gives us the opportunity to use the land around for the benefit of wildlife before, during and after construction.”

East Anglian Daily Times: Wetlands created at Wild Aldhurst now being enjoyed by Marsh HarrierWetlands created at Wild Aldhurst now being enjoyed by Marsh Harrier (Image: Sizewell C)

In addition to the 67-hectare Wild Aldhurst nature reserve in Leiston, two further nature reserves – one between the construction site and RSPB Minsmere reserve and another between Leiston Common and Sizewell Gap – have been created.  

Sizewell has already rewilded 180 hectares of land. The team has spent the past seven years creating reed beds, ditches, grassland, heathland and scrub mosaic at Wild Aldhurst. 

“It’s been a real pleasure to see this transformation from what was an intensively farmed arable landscape into a haven for wildlife,” Steve says.

Most of the construction site will also be rewilded once Sizewell C has been built. Fen meadow and wet woodland habitat will be created at three off-site locations in Benhall, Halesworth and Pakenham. 

Graham Hinton has been employed as a land manager for the Sizewell estate for 30 years. 

“When I first came here, biodiversity and ecology wasn’t the priority it is today,” he says. “The focus was the designated sites like Sizewell Marshes rather than the arable land outside.  

“The real change happened when Sizewell C became involved and started converting arable land that was of very low ecological value to much higher value habitats. Sizewell C made the difference in terms of scale, which is really encouraging as an environmental manager.” 

Plans were developed through public consultation before the site’s Development Consent Order (DCO) application was submitted. It was granted by the Secretary of State for BEIS in July 2022 following examination. 

“The reason we’re working at Sizewell C is because we all care passionately about the environment,” says director Julia Pyke. “Our mission is to make electricity with very low land use, which leaves the maximum amount of room for nature and agriculture while providing increased biodiversity.” 

The East of England will also benefit from a £12m investment to mitigate environmental impacts within the Suffolk Coast and Heaths AONB and a further £78m has also been agreed for an independent body to enhance the area’s rich landscape. 

One third of the workforce will come from the local area and agreements with the University of Suffolk, National College for Nuclear and all Suffolk colleges ensure that the next generation of “climate change heroes” are trained by providing homegrown skills through apprenticeships and other routes into the project. 

East Anglian Daily Times: Julia Pyke and Hugh Somerleyton at Wild AldhurstJulia Pyke and Hugh Somerleyton at Wild Aldhurst (Image: Sizewell C)

“We need low-carbon energy and we need to restore critically low biodiversity – and to achieve that we need to work at a much more ambitious scale, across all sectors,” says Hugh Somerleyton, founder of WildEast. 

“Above all we need to give nature the freedom, space and connectivity to thrive and be happy. That’s the fundamental difference between conservation and rewilding. 

“Conservation has been about preserving our world-class reserves. Unfortunately, this 
has been at the expense of everywhere else. WildEast imagines a future where we live in a world-class nature reserve, not just visit one. 

“We need to face the grim reality that we may not have places like Minsmere if we don’t avert the worst of climate change."

For more information, please visit sizewellc.co.uk