The Sizewell C project on the Suffolk coast has taken a big step forward after it was awarded a Nuclear Site Licence by the government.

It is the first time that the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) has granted a site licence since issuing one to Hinkley Point C in Somerset in 2012. 

But the decision angered campaigners who feel there are outstanding safety concerns at the site.

As a licensee, Sizewell C has a legal responsibility to comply with a range of health and safety legislation and nuclear security regulations.

In addition, the project needs to meet 36 conditions attached to the licence, which cover the design, construction, operation, and decommissioning of the plant.

East Anglian Daily Times: Station joint managing director Nigel Cann with Mina Golshan and the Nuclear Site Licence.Station joint managing director Nigel Cann with Mina Golshan and the Nuclear Site Licence. (Image: Sizewell C)

Mina Golshan, Safety, Security and Assurance Director at Sizewell C, said: “Securing a nuclear site licence is a show of confidence from our nuclear regulator.

"We have a suitable site, we can achieve a safe design replicated from Hinkley Point C, and we have a capable organisation ready to begin major construction work. It’s a huge milestone and demonstrates that this project is firmly on track.”

The decision to grant a site licence follows the ONR’s expression of support for Sizewell C’s replication strategy.

Work has already started on the civil engineering side.

East Anglian Daily Times: Work has already started at the Sizewell C site.Work has already started at the Sizewell C site. (Image: Charlotte Bond)

Earthworks at the site are now underway and a process s under way to raise private equity from investors. The project is anticipating taking a Final Investment Decision in the coming months.

Minister for Nuclear and Renewables Andrew Bowie said: “Sizewell C will be the cornerstone of the UK’s clean energy transition, supplying six million homes with green energy for decades.

“Obtaining a nuclear site licence is a significant achievement and should instil further confidence from investors – bringing us another step closer towards reaching a final investment decision this year.”

East Anglian Daily Times: Alison Downes from Stop Sizewell CAlison Downes from Stop Sizewell C (Image: Sarah Lucy Brown)

However Alison Downes from Stop Sizewell C said there were a number of issues with the site that had not been resolved including a long-term water supply and concerns that excavations could affect the neighbouring Sizewell B plant.

She said: "Stop Sizewell C is appalled that a nuclear site licence has been issued when matters critical to the future safety of the site remain unresolved.

"There isn't even a final design of the sea defences, which will be necessary to keep this vulnerable site safe for the next century and a half, at the very least.

"This seems to us like kicking the can down the road, on the assumption that some future generation will be able to clear up the mess."

But the news was welcomed by Tom Greatrex, the Chief Executive of the Nuclear Industry Association.

He said: "This is an important step for what will be the country's cleanest and most powerful energy project.

"Sizewell C will power six million homes for over 80 years from a tenth of a square mile, creating thousands of jobs and pumping billions of pounds into the local economy. 

"What is important now is that the project reached Final Investment Decision during this Parliament so the next step of the project can start in good time."

And the news was welcomed by the union representing many of the staff who will work at the power station.

Sue Ferns, Senior Deputy General Secretary of Prospect, said: “The granting of a nuclear site licence to Sizewell C is another important step towards getting spades in the ground.

“New large-scale nuclear is a proven technology, that must be an important part of the energy mix if we are to achieve Net Zero and protect the country’s energy security.  

"We still need a final investment decision on Sizewell C which must now follow quickly.

“We need a comprehensive, long term, industrial and energy strategy, backed by a clear and consistent delivery plan.”