Sizewell C could be bad news for environment in Suffolk and the UK’s economy

Local residents like Paul Collins, Charles Macdowell and Alison Downes from Theberton and Eastbridg

Local residents like Paul Collins, Charles Macdowell and Alison Downes from Theberton and Eastbridge Action Group on Sizewell (TEAGS) have good reason to be concerned about the Sizewell C plans. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN - Credit: Archant

I’ve been following the Sizewell C saga carefully because I feel as if I have a personal stake in the issue.

I was actually born on a farm in Eastbridge and lived there for the first six years of my life in the 1960s. We then moved to the metropolis of Saxmundham and then I grew up in the village of Kelsale before my wife and I bought our first home in Leiston.

I still have family in Leiston that I visit regularly – often while on my way to the RSPB reserve at Minsmere. In short I know the area that is now being considered for Sizewell C like the back of my hand.

I remember watching the construction of Sizewell A as a child. I covered the construction of Sizewell B as a young reporter. I came to the conclusion that while there were safety issues that needed to be addressed, nuclear power was good for the economy and that, having already seen one plant built, Sizewell B was overall good for both Suffolk and Britain as a whole.

I cannot say the same for Sizewell C (or should it be more accurately described as Sizewell C and D). This looks like an economic and environmental disaster waiting to happen.

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Let’s look at the economics. I’m as keen as the next person to move to carbon-free energy generation – but we’re doing that just a few miles to the east with massive offshore windfarms generating power or about to be built.

“What about when the wind doesn’t blow?” The critics cry. Yes, that is something that has to be considered – but nuclear isn’t the answer.

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You can’t switch a nuclear power plant on and off to fill in power gaps. You need to invest in more battery plants like the Electric Mountains in Wales.

Also, electric items – from lightbulbs to expensive machinery – are becoming more efficient. We’re not using as much electricity as we did in the past. Last year we used the same amount of power as we did in 1994 – and about 12% less than during the peak years at the start of the century.

EDF has clearly struggled to raise the finance and build an economic case for the plant. Isn’t it about time they admitted they can’t afford it and don’t need it?

Because look at the damage the huge new plant, more than twice the size of Sizewell B, would do to the heritage coast.

The proposed “Campus” at Eastbridge would at a stroke destroy one of the most attractive areas of the Heritage Coast.

I covered part of the construction of Sizewell B. Its owners, the Central Electricity Generating Board which was privatised as National Power and then British Energy, took great care to work with local communities to ensure the construction period was as painless as possible.

Looking at plans for the Eastbridge campus and the various access points to the site, I’m not sure the same can be said for the EDF process this time.

When Sizewell B was built, a lot of time was spent talking to the RSPB at Minsmere and other conservation groups – there was never a word of concern from them as organisations.

Now the RSPB is really worried at the impact of this huge development on what is probably Britain’s best-know nature reserve.

And why isn’t EDF proposing to build a jetty to bring in its heavy construction material? I’m sorry but I don’t buy this story that it would have to be half a mile long.

There was a perfectly good jetty built for Sizewell B. I remember it well. I stood beside it to watch the reactor being delivered to the site! Is EDF really telling us the seabed has changed dramatically in 25 years?

If Sizewell C goes ahead it will be the end of dreams of a Four Villages Bypass.

I know EDF says it will offer money to improve the whole road as an alternative to a two-village by-pass – but if the Department of Transport sees the opportunity of getting someone else to pay for a new road around Farnham and Stratford St Andrew its bureaucrats will rub their hands with glee and the villages of Little Glemham and Marlesford will be left alone.

I can think of many, many other reasons to be really worried about the impact of Sizewell C on the Suffolk coast – the inadequacy of the road and rail network, the impact of thousands of workers for a decade in a prime tourist area, the transitory impact on property prices forcing a generation of local people out of the market for their own home, and many, many others.

The Suffolk coast has had its share of nuclear plants. This behemoth is a project too far.

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