Sizewell rail plan is snubbed

A £3 MILLION proposal to build a rail line to the Sizewell nuclear site - to reduce heavy lorry journeys when the A station is demolished - has been rejected.

By David Green

A £3 MILLION proposal to build a rail line to the Sizewell nuclear site - to reduce heavy lorry journeys when the A station is demolished - has been rejected.

British Nuclear Group, which runs the plant, has concluded that the development would be impractical, too costly and have an adverse impact on the environment.

The Saxmundham to Leiston branch line, which carries no passenger traffic, currently terminates on the east of the town at Sizewell Halt.

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Its freight traffic is confined to large steel flasks containing highly radioactive spent fuel elements - taken from the two Sizewell A reactors by road to the halt to be loaded on trains bound for Sellafield in Cumbria where reprocessing, including the extraction of plutonium, takes place.

The idea of extending the rail line to the Sizewell power site was first examined in the 1980s when the B station was being planned - because of concerns about the impact of the thousands of lorries to be used to transport materials over the seven-year construction period.

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But the former Central Electricity Generating Board concluded the proposal would damage habitat in the Sizewell Marshes Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and that, based on experience elsewhere, contractors would make little use of the new line.

This was because it would involve transfers between lorry and train at both ends of journeys.

The decommissioning and demolition of Sizewell A is due to start next year and, under current plans, will be completed in phases over a period of more than 100 years.

The idea of extending the line to accommodate transport of materials has been considered by British Nuclear Group in response to local calls to minimise road transport of materials.

However, it has come to a similar conclusion, citing damage to the Sizewell Marshes SSSI and the area of land which would be swallowed up for the development.

“In the case of the Sizewell A decommissioning, contractors storage areas are expected to be spread over a large area and rail sidings would increase the pressure on available land, which is already at a premium.

“The degree of engineering work required for the initial phase of decommissioning Sizewell A is much less than for the construction of Sizewell B, so the environmental, practical and economic case for an extension is now much weaker than it was at the time of the Sizewell B inquiry,” a British Nuclear Group report states.

In a letter to members of the Sizewell Stakeholder Group, set up to improve liaison between the site and the local community, company confirms the idea to extend the rail line has been rejected.

However, the company has pledged to continue to look into the possible use of alternative means of transport for waste and other materials.

John Geater, a local district councillor and member of the Stakeholder Group, said: “The problems of extending the line to Sizewell are great. It would not be an easy thing to do and I do not personally think it would make so much difference.

“Decommissioning will be a very slow process conducted over many years. There will be a certain amount of traffic but not as much as when Sizewell B was constructed.”

Pat Hogan, Sizewell residents' representative on the Stakeholder Group, said while she accepted that rail and sea transport might not be realistic options, there might be a case for creating a new road directly to the Sizewell site.

“If the sub-station for the Greater Gabbard wind farm is built, as hoped, on the industrial side of Sizewell then the road could serve two purposes. I hope they will do some joined up thinking,” she said.

Charles Barnett, chairman of the Shut Down Sizewell Campaign, said he still believed consideration should be given to removing heavy and large items of plant and other materials by sea.

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