Power plant deal brings consultation a step closer

Stephen Walls, head of the Sizewell C Project.

Stephen Walls, head of the Sizewell C Project. - Credit: Archant

Long-awaited full details of the Sizewell C nuclear power station project will be revealed early next year following the announcement of Chinese investment to develop the twin reactor.

It’s been three years since EDF Energy initially released details of its proposals, creating a period of uncertainty and worry for residents over potential locations for an accommodation campus, park and ride sites and transport links.

The company agreed an extra phase of consultation because of the concerns raised, but stressed this could not take place until the financial investment decision was made for the Hinkley Point C plant in Somerset.

With yesterday’s announcement of a deal for Hinkley, and the signing of heads of terms between EDF and China General Nuclear Power Corporation (CGN) in principle for Sizewell C, progress can now be made.

Last night Stephen Walls, EDF Energy’s head of the Sizewell C project, said he expected the much-anticipated Stage Two consultation to take place early next year.

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He would not be drawn on specific dates though preparations would now begin.

Construction of Sizewell C itself is still some time away – at least two to three years before the decision-making process is completed.

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Mr Walls said the investment announcement was “really good news”.

He said: “This is a great step forward for the Sizewell project, given that the agreement covers the wider partnership to develop the power station here.

“The announcement is a move forward across all three projects and it will bring clarity and momentum.

“The next stage for us will be to proceed with the Stage Two of public consultation and we will be able to confirm the times of that in the coming weeks and will be in touch with everybody to explain about that. We just need to do a little bit more work to finalise the times.

“Today though is a really positive step to take the project forward.

“The wider implications will bring to the Suffolk economy new jobs, skills and education opportunities.”

The deal signed between EDF and CGN is an agreement in principle to develop Sizewell C to a final investment decision with a view to build and operate two EPR reactors.

During the development phase EDF will take an 80% share and CGN will take a 20% share.

Mr Walls said much work had been done already on research and studies for the engineering works for Sizewell C, which will sit alongside Sizewell B and cover a 32-hectare site.

Experts have been investigating transport routes for construction materials, including rail links, a jetty and the impact on the road network; making environmental assessments; as well as dealing with the technical side of the reactor.

Mr Walls said: “The work is not completely done yet and we are still in the development phase of the project. The feedback we get from the further stages of consultation will inform how we finalise our plans.

“It is a little early to confirm a start date for construction exactly. After the Stage Two consultation, there will still be a further stage of consultation on our finalised plans before we make an application to the Planning Inspectorate and go through that process and the decision is made by the secretary of state. That process will take 15 months, so we are still two to three years away.”

Suffolk Coastal MP Therese Coffey said the investment deal was “great news”, helping to secure energy security and bringing jobs and investment to Suffolk.

She said: “Some people have raised concerns about Chinese investment but they should be assured that the Office for Nuclear Regulation is the toughest for nuclear regulation in the world and the design will go through exactly the same process as it would for anyone else investing.

“We should not be frightened of Chinese Investment.

“The Chinese are big investors in Suffolk already, whether it be the Port of Felixstowe, Huawei at Martlesham Heath or electricity transmission with UK Power Networks – all supporting local jobs.

“There is still much to discuss on Sizewell C concerning infrastructure, accommodation and education and skills.

“The managing director of Nuclear New Build at EDF, Humphrey Cadoux-Hudson assured me in March that the next stage of consultation will happen after the announcement on Hinkley. I now look forward to that happening.”

Campaigners are also hoping the deal will prompt the Government to stump up cash for the Four Villages Bypass following the county council’s £500,000 commitment to the development of the project.

Villagers at Stratford St Andrew, Little Glemham, Marlesford, and Farnham want assurances that the road will be in place when construction of the power plant begins.

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