‘The Sizewell C plans are an insult to the people of Suffolk’

Environmentalist Pete Wilkinson, chairman of Together Against Sizewell C, on Sizewell beach. Pictur

Environmentalist Pete Wilkinson, chairman of Together Against Sizewell C, on Sizewell beach. Picture: Sarah Lucy Brown - Credit: sarah lucy brown

Chairman of Together Against Sizewell C, Pete Wilkinson, has described it is a “battle for the soul and integrity of East Suffolk”. Here he explains why he is opposing the nuclear project.

Sizewell C would be built to the north of the existing nuclear site Picture: Mike Page

Sizewell C would be built to the north of the existing nuclear site Picture: Mike Page - Credit: Mike Page

Anyone new to Suffolk, ignorant of EDF’s nuclear plans, would be forgiven for laughing out loud.

An untried reactor, labelled ‘technically complicated to construct’ by its own designers, a cost of £20billion-plus, taking at least 10 years to build, producing waste which is not only lethal to living tissue but which remains so for thousands of years and for which there is no agreed or proven disposal or management route, to be built in the middle of a community of 5,000, which will not produce electricity for at least 10 years by which time its output will be redundant to needs, built on an eroding coast? Yeah, sure: pull the other one.

You really couldn’t make it up.

Yet this is what residents up and down the East Suffolk are facing. They have been led to believe that the destruction of their environment on a massive scale, the compulsory purchases, the roads, the workers’ campuses, the borrow pits, the huge water demand in the driest county is inevitable – and to make the best of it.

MORE: Opinion - Why the Sizewell C project is so important for Suffolk

When did anyone ask YOU, resident of East Suffolk, if you wanted your tranquil, culturally rich and peaceful rural environment urbanised and anonymised, requiring six new roundabouts on the A12 and up to 1,000 vehicle movements a day along our country roads to ferry the material required for our own white elephantine carbuncle on our heritage coast, light, noise and dust pollution 24 hours a day, seven days a week or a decade of accommodating 4,000 workers? Of course you were not asked. They knew the answer. The new nuclear policy has not been subjected to anything like forensic public or Parliamentary scrutiny.

Democratic deficit runs through all aspects of this programme like the letters in a stick of rock and is presented by its advocates as ‘inevitable’. The National Policy Statement process renders what government calls ‘national infrastructure projects of over-riding importance’ inviolate, untouchable and – yes – inevitable unless the planning authorities have the courage or unless the Secretary of State has the guts to do what they should – throw the EDF plans out as an insult to the people of Suffolk. Sizewell C is important to no-one other than EDF.

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But just how ‘over-riding’ is the need for Sizewell C? The French-made film, ‘The Nuclear Trap’ makes it clear that Hinkley C in Somerset and Sizewell C are more critical to the survival of the French nuclear industry than they are to providing electricity to UK consumers.

There has been a huge reduction in electricity demand since 2013 – over 16% - making earlier predictions of an increase of 15% by 2020 an overestimation of more than 30%.

Renewables out-compete nuclear on every front – cost, waste, jobs, CO2 and time for deployment. If ever Sizewell was built, it would be at least a decade, probably more like 15 years given the history of cost and time over-runs of its flagship plant at Flamanville, before it turned one kilowatt hour of electricity.

In 15 years, we will – one can only hope – have grown out of our obsession with nuclear and invested at suitably high levels in realising the huge job potential in micro-technology, decentralisation, efficiency and conservation of energy, and look back on our nuclear infatuation with a shake of the head.

The current National Policy Statement which covers the nuclear component of the energy policy, EN6, is entirely unfit for purpose as it gives policy authority only to those nuclear plants which can be deployed before 2025 – i.e. not, Hinkley, not Sizewell and not Bradwell, none of which will be generating electricity by that date.

Therefore the EN6 policy document is null and void. Its replacement is still undergoing review and will depend heavily on the financing arrangements the government can agree to in order to remove the need for EDF to fork out for it.

Instead, the government is exploring novel ways in which to lay the burden for financing a dangerous and costly nuclear venture on you, the consumer.

So much for ‘no subsidy’ nuclear, but in policy terms, it is legally questionable for Hinkley C to continue to be built, for Sizewell C’s planning application to be submitted or for CGN/EDF to consult on plans to build Bradwell B when there is no policy architecture to justify and legitimise any of this work or progress.

EN6 has fallen as a legitimate policy statement for new nuclear build but that does not seem to have any effect on the way the French and Chinese backers of new nuclear in the UK are required to act nor the complacency and indifference with which the government seems to take these gaping legal inconsistencies.

The waste problem that nuclear generates is probably the most intractable. In the 15 years of the existence of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, it has failed to secure a site, a volunteer community or to satisfactorily solve many of the dozens of technical and engineering problems associated with burying 500,000 cubic metres of legacy waste while ensuring that the estimated 78,000,000 units of radioactivity remain underground.

While new build waste such as that from Sizewell C is likely to be less bulky, its high burn up in the reactor means that it will be far hotter than even Sizewell B’s waste and will generate much more radioactivity – up to five times that contained in the legacy waste. How can any government or industry knowingly embark on a development programme which will create such a mountain of waste when a repository for its safe disposal is still more a matter of hope over expectation?

The only legacy Sizewell C will leave for Suffolk is a degraded environment and a radioactive waste mountain which future generations will have to deal with. Please tell your councillor to vote to remove the support for Sizewell C at the full council meeting on July 7, please write to the planning inspector to voice your concerns and please urge your MP to tell the Secretary of State to put EDF’s planning application where it belongs – in the bin.