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What is Sizewell C? The planned Suffolk nuclear power station in limbo

The troubled Moorside project and Hinkley Point C - which is currently under construction - dominate the discussion surrounding nuclear power stations in the UK. But as the GMB union urges progress to be made on the proposed Sizewell C plant, James Walker looks at what it will entail

A lot of talk about nuclear power stations in the UK has focused on Hinkley Point C and the Moorside project. Now attention has switched to another new site – but what is Sizewell C?

Proposed by EDF Energy – the French energy company majority owned by the state that is also constructing Hinkley Point C – Sizewell C would be the third nuclear plant on the Suffolk coast.

The power station plans are still in the second consultation phase – meaning construction of the project has yet to begin.

If Sizewell C does go ahead, it will operate alongside Sizewell B – its predecessor nuclear power station located south of the new site – and the Sizewell A plant that is being decommissioned.

EDF Energy claims it would create 5,600 construction jobs and 900 jobs when the plant is operational – an improvement on the 800 jobs linked to Sizewell B.

The French energy firm also expects the power station to be a boost for East Anglian businesses – having received registers of interest from 1,300 businesses keen to work on the project.

But issues over the funding and construction costs of Sizewell C have put its development in doubt.

The energy union GMB has pushed for the construction of Sizewell C to move forward after progress stalled – arguing the UK needed five new nuclear power stations to meet growing energy demands.

Compelo has taken a look at the capacity of the Sizewell C power station, its expected economic benefits and issues surrounding its funding and construction costs.

 

What is Sizewell C? The reactors and capacity

Picture: EDF, Sizewell C
Sizewell C will be almost identical to the Hinkley Point C, pictured, nuclear power station project (Picture: EDF)

The Sizewell C nuclear power station will be almost identical to the Hinkley Point C power station that is being constructed by EDF Energy and its Chinese partner China General Nuclear Power Group (CGN).

Sizewell C will be made up of two European Pressurised Reactor (EPR) units – technology that EDF and CGN have also deployed at Hinkley Point C, in Somerset, and the Taishan nuclear power station in China.

Forecast to come online in 2031, Sizewell C could produce 3.2 gigawatts (GW) of electricity at full capacity, according to EDF Energy’s proposal.

It’s estimated this amount of energy would be sufficient to power about six millions homes in the UK.

The combined energy generated by the Sizewell B power station and Sizewell C is estimated to meet 10% of the UK’s energy requirements. The bulk of that power – 7% of the UK’s needs – is set to come from Sizewell C.

The EDF proposal also claims the cost of connecting the power station to the national grid will be low as connections have already been put in place by planners.

 

What is Sizewell C? EDF wants to power construction with pension funds model

Sizewell C
Sizewell C stage one exhibition (Picture: EDF)

EDF has predicted the cost of Sizewell C will be 20% lower than Hinkley Point C – which is set to cost about £19.5bn because of the similarities between the stations and established infrastructure.

But in an interview with The Times in April, the company’s UK chief executive Simone Rossi questioned whether the project would remain “feasible” without faster progress being made at the Hinkley Point C site and a government guarantee.

The firm is still talking with the government about workable funding models that can convince it to stay at the table.

Speaking about the possibility of no functional funding model appearing, Mr Rossi said: “This is the year where we need to understand whether this whole thing is really feasible or not.

“If we were to conclude that maybe it’s not feasible, then at that point maybe we say we are not in a position to continue the project.”

It’s been reported that using pension funds to part-fund construction of Sizewell C is one option being mulled over.

EDF is seeking a different funding model for Sizewell C than the one in place for Hinkley Point C – which will cost consumers enormous sums as a contract between the UK government and EDF/CGN guarantees the energy firms a £92.50 megawatt-hour price for electricity generated at Hinkley Point C.

 

What is Sizewell C? Union pushes for project go-ahead

The energy union GMB has called for the government to go ahead with plans for the Sizewell C project and other nuclear power station projects

As the Sizewell C nuclear power station project faces an uncertain future, energy union GMB has urged stakeholders to go ahead with the power station.

Its intervention came two months after the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) pushed for a rollback of the government’s plans to build a host of nuclear power stations.

The East Anglian Daily Times reported the NIC has recommended only one of six proposed nuclear power stations should be built.

Chairman John Armitt claimed to be “agnostic” about whether Sizewell C was the chosen development.

In a statement released in September, GMB national energy secretary Justin Bowden said: “Starting with Sizewell C (SZC), Britain still needs at least five new low carbon nuclear power stations if we are to meet our energy needs and reduce our dependency on foreign imports of power whilst ensuring we have the reliable electricity that comes from very low carbon nuclear, and lower carbon gas, to complement our renewable energy sources.

“Hinkley Point C will provide secure, very low carbon electricity for all the times in a year when the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine.”

The need for Sizewell C appears even more pressing after Toshiba pulled the plug on its UK nuclear business, leaving the future of the proposed Moorside nuclear power plant in Cumbria uncertain.

 

What is Sizewell C? Economic benefits of the nuclear power plant

Discussing the potential economic benefits of the power station in its proposal, East of England Energy Group chief executive Simon Gray said: “We know that 3,000 UK companies were involved in the construction of Sizewell B, with nearly 700 of them based in this region.

“Sizewell B employs 800 people and is worth £40m per year to the area. Sizewell C would bring 5,600 jobs in construction and 900 jobs when operational.”

Suffolk Chamber of Commerce chief executive John Dugmore added that the identical Hinkley Point C involved contract work worth more than £435m.

On 1 November, a seminar about supply opportunities at Hinkley Point C in Braintree, Essex, encouraged businesses in Essex and Suffolk to obtain experience from working on this project to stand them in good stead for future schemes like Sizewell C.

EDF will treat the two counties as a single local market for both project as their construction periods ill overlap.

Robert Edge, inward investment manager at Invest Essex – the inward investment and business support agency – said: ““Business doesn’t see a county border, just opportunities.

“It’s a challenge for both Essex and Suffolk to maximise the supply opportunities.”