Sizewell C in Suffolk granted nuclear site licence

A planned nuclear power station at Sizewell in Suffolk has been granted the first site licence in more than a decade as investors and government officials race to finalise a deal for the multibillion-pound project this year.

The licence from the nuclear regulator is considered a milestone for EDF, which plans to build Sizewell C as a replica of its Hinkley Point C project in Somerset, which has been dogged by delays and cost overruns.

The Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) has granted only two site licences to build new nuclear plants in more than 35 years: the first for Hinkley Point C in 2012, and the second for Sizewell.

It was granted as EDF works to reach a final investment decision on the Sizewell C project by the end of this year, depending on a government framework to finance the project and fresh investment to cover its construction costs.

EDF holds just under 50% stake in the project, while the UK government holds just over 50%. They are searching for further investment after EDF’s partner at Hinkley Point, China’s CGN, was barred from the successor project over security concerns.

Mina Golshan, a director at Sizewell C, said the licence was a “show of confidence” from the UK’s nuclear regulator that the company had a suitable site and was ready to begin large-scale construction work on a safe design replicated from Hinkley Point C.

“It’s a huge milestone and demonstrates that this project is firmly on track,” Golshan said.

EDF has blamed inflation, Covid and Brexit for a four-year delay and cost overruns at the Hinkley Point C site. It believes that by learning the lessons from Hinkley it will be able to build Sizewell C in about nine years.

Mark Foy, the ONR chief nuclear inspector and its chief executive, said the licence was granted after “extensive engagement and review” by the ONR team and would allow the regulator to take greater regulatory oversight and challenge the company as it progressed its plans.

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“The licensing process is fundamental in confirming that operators of a nuclear site are ready and able to meet their obligations under the nuclear site licence, to protect their workforce and the public,” Foy said.

A group campaigning against the nuclear plant, Stop Sizewell C, said it was “appalled that a nuclear site licence has been issued when matters critical to the future safety of the site remain unresolved.

“There isn’t even a final design of the sea defences, which will be necessary to keep this vulnerable site safe for the next century and a half, at the very least. This seems to us like kicking the can down the road, on the assumption that some future generation will be able to clear up the mess,” the group said.


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