Our Parish includes three important business locations - a large caravan Site (Beach View Holiday Park), Sizewell Hall and The Warden's Trust, all very close to the proposed site and yet our Parish has been consistently overlooked as a Consultee. In our response to your Stage 3 proposals dated March 2019 this Council expressed concern over EDF Energy’s commitment to the long-term benefits to our community after the construction of two new nuclear reactors to the north end of our Parish Boundaries. We begged the question of how this massive construction could enhance the quality of life of our residents without overwhelming our limited resources during the lengthy construction period. We have yet to see any indication of a long-term benefit., legacy or sustainability that we require. We felt at the time, and still do, that EDF Energy are doing the bare minimum required to meet the statutory obligations required for the construction and operation of these reactors. Now, eight years into the consultation, an additional consultation phase is required to analyse a new set of proposals post DCO submission. Some of these proposals are distinctly lacking in detail or viability assessment and yet we are expected to offer an opinion.
Our previous response expressed concern over the environmental impacts of the site on the Suffolk Coast AONB, the Sizewell marshes SSSI and the RSPB reserve at Minsmere. Some activity has taken place to create new fen meadow habitats at three sites in the county, but a lot more time is required for these sites to develop enough to mitigate the loss of the habitats within the SSSI. The Suffolk Wildlife Trust has written that EDF Energy’s current plans were ‘not even close’ to meeting the habitat replacement requirement. RSPB Minsmere maintained in a recent video that construction of Sizewell C would be ‘catastrophic for wildlife’ and ‘does not believe that Sizewell is a suitable location for a new nuclear power station’. They have yet to be appeased by EDF’s words in claiming to work with them ‘as a valued neighbour’. At all times, wildlife and habitat will be under threat from noise, light and dust pollution.
We worry also about the nature of Sizewell’s sea defences and the effects of rising sea levels. The permanent nature of the structures, up to fifteen metres high and eight metres nearer the shoreline, could disrupt the coastal process at both ends of the site. This autumn has seen dramatic cliff collapses to the northern end of Thorpeness, far more than expected, and could be further at threat. It is vital that any construction activity does not add to this significant risk.
At previous consultations EDF have been heavily criticized for a too-heavy reliance on a road led strategy for movement of materials and personnel throughout the construction phase of the project. They had appeared to pay only ‘lip-service’ to using other means, namely rail and sea. However, they have now decided to propose some alternatives. The sea route entails a temporary Beach Landing Facility which could be used day and night moving aggregates ashore, although the long-term effects on the extremely unstable coastline to the south around Thorpeness do not seem to have been closely examined. This, along with the proposal to introduce a working rail route would make a serious dent in the HGV numbers on any given day. However, 700 lorry movements daily still equate to one every 2 minutes throughout a 24-hour period. Their proposal for eight daily train movements is welcome, even though these are mostly at night. Perhaps a legacy move on this could be a permanent rail station at Leiston. There is no escaping the fact there will be a massive increase on traffic loads in the existing road network, especially in the early years before the by-passes and park and ride schemes are operational. We feel that the Sizewell link road should be taken up at the scheme’s conclusion and the land returned to its former uses. At present, EDF admits that these changes are not guaranteed, but for a smoother and less chaotic construction process this council feels that they must be implemented.
People and Economy
There will, of course, be great employment opportunities for this area in both the construction and the operational phases of Sizewell C. EDF claim that during the course of construction 25,000 job opportunities will be created and 1,500 apprenticeships provided, hopefully coming in the large part from the local area. 900 further permanent local jobs will be created for the reactor’s operation. However, as the ‘local’ area is defined as anywhere within a 90 mile drive, this might attract more commuter traffic and be less beneficial to the immediate area than first appears.
A large number of the construction workforce will be transferred from the Hinckley site and will be housed in the accommodation campus at Eastbridge. This council opposes this move and has, at the Stage 3 consultation, supported the D2 proposal roadlink, tied into much greater use of the old Leiston airfield site, to create a more integrated approach combining the accommodation campuses, park and ride facilities and temporary construction areas. This would reduce the impact on the AONB and provide a great legacy opportunity for satellite industrial units etc. An improved rail link could facilitate a future technology park, recalling Leiston’s historic industrial past.
Whatever changes EDF Energy may make to this scheme there is no getting away from the questionable nature of Nuclear Power as a future clean resource. We are still decommissioning Sizewell A, at great cost, with many more years to go before completion. The advances in renewable energy over the last decade have been enormous, and by the time that Sizewell C is operational it could well be superfluous. A fraction of the £20 billion that this project will cost, if used for nationwide insulation installation, will give immediate and lasting results to reduce our carbon footprint. It is estimated that the carbon footprint in building this reactor will not be recouped until at least 2040. Furthermore, the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority has recently reported that cleaning up after the reactors we already have, never mind what we may have in the future, will cost £132 billion over the next 120 years – a sad legacy for our grandchildren and their childrens’ children.
This area will soon be ‘blanketed’ by an array of wind farms which will be using proven technology at an ever-decreasing cost. We note that both of EDF’s EPRs have been beset with design and technical problems with huge overruns of costs and time.
There is little doubt that this scheme is a massive incursion into the lives of the people in this area, and a massive strain on our already stretched infrastructure. The construction duration, between nine and twelve years, will be a lot to bear for us all and will cause untold damage to our AONB and our quality of life, which EDF are promising to restore and improve but have yet to provide a realistic view of how this will be achieved. The upside of this project is that at the end of it there will be a facility that will produce low carbon electricity for sixty years and nine hundred permanent well paid jobs created in an area where they are much needed. EDF Energy have made eleven updated pledges to ’minimise disruption and enhance the opportunities for Suffolk from Sizewell C’ of which they must be held accountable. Throughout the consultation phases EDF have had to be dragged ‘kicking and screaming’ to a point where perhaps the advantages of this development now have the potential to outweigh its disadvantages, assuming that EDF choose to implement the most environmentally friendly options and not the most cost-effective options. They have a long way to go to prove that they will be the beneficent partner to our area that they claim. Whilst we cautiously welcome some of these proposed changes the lack of supporting documentation falls short of providing a realistic option for us to review against our substantial concerns.