Why I think nuclear power has to be part of our future

ANGELA PIEARCE is the head of the Sizewell C power station project. She joined EDF Energy three years ago from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), where she specialised in energy policy. She and her partner have a two-year-old daughter and are expecting their second child in September. Here she explains why she believes nuclear power has an important role in the UK’s energy future and how local people have an exciting opportunity to shape Suffolk’s nuclear future.

ANYONE visiting the Suffolk coastline near Leiston cannot help but be struck by the sight of the iconic dome of Sizewell B power station.

For me this is a potent symbol of how industry and the natural environment can co-exist in a stunning landscape.

Low-carbon electricity has been generated safely at Sizewell for nearly half a century - at the now decommissioning Sizewell A, then Sizewell B and, at the end of this year, EDF Energy will begin consulting with the public about its proposals for Sizewell C. EDF Energy is one of the UK’s largest energy companies, employing 15,000 people and generating one-sixth of the country’s electricity. In Suffolk, the company employs over 500 staff at Sizewell B, including 50 apprentices, and over 200 contract partners. Its annual contribution to the local economy is �30m. This one station generates enough electricity for about 2 million homes – or 3% of the UK’s electricity needs.

The UK is facing an energy crisis. A large proportion of the country’s power stations are due to shut down in the next decade or so. We are also faced with challenging targets to reduce our CO2 emissions and keep electricity affordable for consumers. I believe there is no single simple answer to this problem. Instead it is about getting the ‘energy mix’ right. If we are to meet the challenge of producing clean, secure and affordable electricity, nuclear power has to be part of the solution.

When I am out and about in Suffolk, I find most people are supportive of Sizewell C in principle, as many of them have friends or relatives who have worked at the A and B sites.

Some people believe we are a lot further advanced with the project than we actually are – and are impatient for us to simply get on with building it!

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But we are committed to carrying out an accessible, open and transparent consultation which will give local people the opportunity to give us their views on the plans. The first stage of consultation is due to start at the end of this year and it will be an extensive process, so nothing is going to happen without local people being aware, involved and having their say. I recognise why some people would like to see Sizewell C move forward at a quicker pace. Like me, they have lived for decades with safe nuclear power generation and know the opportunities for local people and firms.

I grew up in Lancaster. We could see Heysham nuclear power station from the top of our road. I even did my work experience at the power station.

Little did I imagine that, 20 years later, I would be working in the industry and involved in leading a project as exciting as Sizewell C.

A new power station at Sizewell could power 5 million homes, meeting over 6% of the UK’s electricity needs, while saving 12million tonnes of CO2 a year.

And, in these difficult economic times, we mustn’t ignore the major economic boost to the region that a new power station would provide. If we get permission to build Sizewell C, there are likely to be about 5,000 jobs on the site during the peak construction period. Then there will be about 900 people working at the power station throughout its 60-year operational life. As well as providing secure employment opportunities in the future, we project that about �100million will be pumped into the local economy during each year of the construction phase, with a further �40million every year during its operational life. We are planning ahead. EDF Energy has already started training the apprentices that could one day work on Sizewell C and we are working with the Suffolk Chamber of Commerce to ensure that local businesses make the most of the opportunity to be part of the Sizewell C supply chain.

I am particularly keen to see girls grasping the opportunity to play their part in what has traditionally been a male-dominated industry. At EDF’s new nuclear site at Flamanville in France we have women welders working next to men on the construction site. There is no reason we should not have women engineers and construction workers on the Sizewell C site. We will be going out to local schools to raise awareness about the project and how electricity is generated – and not just from nuclear but other energy sources such as renewables, coal and gas.

Of course, I can understand some people’s concerns about the impact of such a large construction project on the area, particularly on local traffic and the quality of life. I can assure you that we will work with the local communities and authorities to minimise the impact of this project, for example reducing the impact on the roads by using rail and sea for freight deliveries as much as possible. And we will also be working to preserve the unique environment of this area. We are mindful of our responsibility to limit the impact on the local landscape and environment during construction.

I am excited to be part of the Sizewell C project. I feel we have a real opportunity to secure low carbon electricity generation for the country, while creating jobs and business opportunities for people in this area.

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