All posts by Alison Downes

FT 25 June 2020: Cost of new Sizewell C nuclear plant put at £20bn

Higher-than-expected price tag revealed for first time in planning documents

A new nuclear plant proposed on England’s east coast will cost £20bn, according to planning documents that reveal the higher-than-expected price of the project for the first time.
The developers of the proposed plant at Sizewell in Suffolk — France’s EDF and Chinese state-owned CGN — had previously indicated the power station could be built for 20 per cent less than Hinkley Point C. Britain’s first new nuclear plant in a generation is under construction in Somerset. This implied a cost of about £18bn for the Suffolk plant, called Sizewell C, after EDF last year said the price tag for Hinkley Point had risen to as much as £22.5bn. The first new-build project has suffered a string of cost overruns.
The revelation of Sizewell’s cost in extensive planning documents published on Thursday will reignite the ferocious debate around whether the UK should build large new nuclear plants.
Some backbench Conservative MPs, opposed to Chinese state involvement in critical national infrastructure, have concerns about the project because of the presence of CGN. The Chinese state-owned company is a junior financing partner on the Sizewell C project but hopes to install its own reactor technology in another proposed nuclear station at Bradwell-on-Sea, Essex.
The Financial Times reported on Wednesday that CGN, or China General Nuclear Power Corporation, was on a US list of 20 companies with links to the Chinese military compiled by the Pentagon. The list is part of an attempt by the White House and Congress to prevent Beijing from obtaining sensitive technologies as well as US funding.
EDF said in the planning documents that the cost estimate for Sizewell C includes design, construction and land costs associated with the proposed site, which is situated next to one of the UK’s operational nuclear plants, known as Sizewell B. It also takes into account “expected inflation and contingencies”, according to the document.
The company had previously claimed the cost savings on Sizewell could be delivered because it would be a “near identical copy” of Hinkley Point C. EDF said the budget detailed in the planning application includes inflation over the estimated 10 years of construction, whereas the latest estimate for Hinkley Point C — estimated to be in a range of £21.5bn to £22.5bn — was based on 2015 prices.
The 20 per cent cost saving still stood if you subtracted a fifth from the Hinkley budget and then adjusted that sum for inflation, the company added.
EDF and CGN are yet to clarify how the new plant would be funded. The UK government last year launched a consultation on a so-called regulated asset base model (RAB) — used for other forms of infrastructure such as energy networks. This would lower the cost of capital of the scheme because consumers would have a surcharge added to their energy bills before the plant was completed.  The government is yet to report back on the consultation.
Privately, some nuclear industry leaders have been making an argument for the taxpayer to take a stake in any new project.
Stop Sizewell C, a local campaigning group, said the funding statement was “a work of fiction” and described the £20bn pricetag as “totally eye-watering”.
Greenpeace UK’s chief scientist Doug Parr said the nuclear industry’s claim that it can always make the next power plant cheaper was “just never true.” He pointed out that the costs of renewable power had dropped below half those of nuclear “and just keep dropping”.

EADT 25 June ‘No way Sizewell C benefits will outweigh the impact’

Local campaigners have said the “battle for the soul and integrity of East Suffolk” has begun after the final proposals for Sizewell C were revealed by energy giant EDF.

The detailed plans which set out the next stage of the process have been met with staunch opposition from established campaign groups.

Sizewell C took a step closer to fruition after the Planning Inspectorate said on Wednesday the plans were suitable to go to the next stage of the process.

MORE: The final proposals for Sizewell C on the Suffolk coast revealed

Pete Wilkinson, chairman of Together Against Sizewell C, said: “TASC recognises that the acceptance of the Sizewell C planning application marks the beginning of a battle for the soul and integrity of East Suffolk.

“The long-term jobs offered will be few compared to what could be generated by a renewables programme – nuclear is notoriously capital- not labour-intensive.

“The often quoted 25,000 jobs actually disappear on closer inspection to 25,000 short-term, construction-related job ‘roles’.

“During the ten year plus construction phase, should it ever begin, the lives of residents will be made a misery from the thousands of daily vehicle movements as well as the 24/7 noise, light and air pollution.

“As for their promises, EDF has been economical with the evidence of their desire to give the community, its representatives and the regulators the sort of information it needs to assess accurately the impact of their monstrous plans.

“There’s no reason to believe they have undergone a Damascene conversion.

“Let’s hope the Planning Inspectorate and the Secretary of State see through this tissue of hope of expectations and kick the plans into touch.”

Alison Downes, from Stop Sizewell C also raised questions over the plans, highlighting the overall cost of the project and the number of commuting workers as issues.

She said: “Even on a cursory first look at EDF’s proposals, they are worse than we expected: the eye-popping £20bn cost of the project, higher than even the most cynical of us predicted; the 7,900 workers – of which 6,000 will need local accommodation and the remainder could commute from up to 90 minutes away – and the traffic.

“There cannot be any way on earth that the benefits will outweigh the impacts, so it’s time for the people of Suffolk to collectively say “no” to Sizewell C.”

Letter Financial Times 25 June: Critics can only gawp at nuclear’s latest wish list

Letter: Critics can only gawp at nuclear’s latest wish list

In the UK, the Nuclear Industry Association’s begging bowl runneth over (“Nuclear developers press for ‘prompt’ decision on new UK plants”, June 24). The NIA’s full report contains a barrage of demands including that development costs be paid for, an assured flow of orders and all risks covered by taxpayers or consumers. For an industry in global decline, beset by technical difficulties, overruns and overspends, this is audacious indeed.
Tom Burke Chairman, E3G
Dr Paul Dorfman University College London
Professor Stephen Thomas University of Greenwich
Alison Downes Executive Director, Stop Sizewell C

BBC 25 June Sizewell C: Nuclear power station plans accepted for scrutiny

An application to build a new nuclear power station has been accepted for examination by the planning inspectorate.
Stop Sizewell C said it will continue to fight the application.
EDF Energy said in a statement: “The decision means the Inspectorate is satisfied that the eight years of public consultation by the project was conducted properly and that full examination of the proposals can now take place.”
But Alison Downes said the “quality of EDF’s consultations, held during the coronavirus pandemic, failed to provide required information”.
She added EDF “had not been transparent in its disclosures of environmental assessment or transport strategy” nor the plant’s impact on the local area.
Concerns about effective scrutiny of pre-application proposals during the lockdown restrictions was supported in letters from local MP Dr Dan Poulter and Suffolk County Council.
In a joint statement on Wednesday Suffolk County Council and East Suffolk Council said:
“The lack of a comprehensive set of documents up to this point has compromised the engagement that has taken place, and the Councils do not feel they have been able to complete their pre-application work with the Applicant (EDF Energy) to the extent set out by the Planning Act 2008,”
EDF Energy said a copy of the full planning application and supporting documents would become available on the Planning Inspectorate website.

EADT 24 June Councils join opposition groups in raising concerns over Sizewell C

Opposition groups alongside Suffolk County and East Suffolk councils have raised concerns over Sizewell C after plans moved another step forward.

Alison Downes from Stop Sizewell C PICTURE: RACHEL EDGEAlison Downes from Stop Sizewell C PICTURE: RACHEL EDGE
Alison Downes, from Stop Sizewell C, said: “We maintain that Sizewell C does not fit the needs of the government or the country – building the wrong project in the wrong place is not the way to revive the UK’s economy.

“The benefits to Suffolk claimed by EDF are highly questionable and don’t consider the damage to our existing local economy including tourism, when that industry needs all the help it can get.”

Pete Wilkinson, chairman of Together Against Sizewell C, added: “We have to accept the reality that such a ridiculously inappropriate application has made it through the first hurdle, however improbable that is.

“If there is any sense of proportion and reason left in the UK or in this government, it will be laughed out of court.”

Richard Rout of Suffolk County Council has raised concerns over consultation from EDF  Picture: SUFFOLK COUNTY COUNCILRichard Rout of Suffolk County Council has raised concerns over consultation from EDF Picture: SUFFOLK COUNTY COUNCIL

Raising concerns over the nearby Minsmere reserve, RSPB Suffolk area manager Adam Rowlands said the organisation has seen no evidence the development would not have a detrimental impact on wildlife at the reserve and beyond.

Suffolk County Council, working alongside East Suffolk Council, has raised “serious concerns” over EDF’s consultation so far, after being asked to provide views by the planning inspectorate.

Richard Rout, chairman of Sizewell C Joint Local Authorities Group (JLAG), said it is “now especially important” EDF gives local communities the opportunity to scrutinise plans.

Mr Rout said: “Whilst we accept that EDF Energy may have passed the legal requirement they needed to meet in regards to public consultation for their proposed development at Sizewell, we strongly believe that the consultations to date have been hindered by significant gaps of information in the documentation provided.

“We will make our feelings clear to EDF Energy in regards to public engagement arrangements for such a development and if EDF Energy do decide to press on and start the process, we will be asking them to commit to an extended 84 day period at the very least.”

The Liberal Democrat, Green and Independent Group at Suffolk County Council will be submitting a motion next week calling on the council to publicly oppose the plans.

ITV 24 June: Plans for a new nuclear power station on Suffolk coast move a step closer

The Planning Inspectorate has accepted EDF Energy’s application for a new nuclear power station on the Suffolk coast after eight years of public consultation.

The 14 billion pound proposal for Sizewell C has been formally submitted and will now go to further public examination.

But campaigners against the project are calling for a pause while lockdown continues. Stop Sizewell C says the development would cause harm to protected habitats and tourism.

“We maintain that Sizewell C does not fit the needs of the government or the country; building the wrong project in the wrong place is not the way to revive the UK’s economy.

The benefits to Suffolk claimed by EDF are highly questionable and don’t consider the damage to our existing local economy including tourism when that industry needs all the help it can get.


EDF says it will create jobs for decades to come and provide enough low carbon power for six million homes.

Sizewell C is a net-zero infrastructure project ready to kick-start the economy following the coronavirus crisis.

It will offer thousands of high-quality job opportunities and long-term employment for people living in Suffolk and it will strengthen the nuclear supply chain across the country.

The project will play a key role in lowering emissions while helping the UK keep control of its low carbon future.


Campaigners disappointed as EDF’s Sizewell C application is accepted for examination; call for pause

For Immediate Release 24 June 2020

Campaigners disappointed as EDF’s Sizewell C application is accepted for examination; call for pause

“Push” from nuclear industry for government commitments to new nuclear shows that reassurance is not forthcoming

[SUFFOLK] Stop Sizewell C campaigners today expressed regret that the Planning Inspectorate (PINS) has decided to accept EDF’s Sizewell C application for public examination – despite hundreds of local people objecting about the failings of EDF’s consultations – and vowed to amplify the campaign against the project. Stop Sizewell C has joined a dozen other organisations and campaign groups – including The National Trust, RSPB, Suffolk Wildlife Trust and Together Against Sizewell C – to call for the planning process to be paused until more covid restrictions – under which large public gatherings and easy scrutiny of written proposals offline remain difficult – are lifted. [1]

EDF’S application, which will shortly be published by the Planning Inspectorate, will run to tens of thousands of pages and will take many weeks to fully assess. Campaigners will be focusing their scrutiny not only on the significant impacts of the project, but also how it is proposed to be funded and EDF’s attempts to justify the construction of Sizewell C as being key to Suffolk’s post-virus economic recovery. [2]  Today’s decision coincides with a push from the nuclear industry for a prompt decision on funding options for new nuclear; either through taxpayers or a Regulated Asset Base which pushes the significant costs of delays and overspends onto the consumer. Similar models to RAB in use in the USA have seen customers pay hundreds of dollars a year over decades for projects that are delayed or worse, cancelled. [3]

Alison Downes said: “We maintain that Sizewell C does not fit the needs of the government or the country; building the wrong project in the wrong place is not the way to revive the UK’s economy. The benefits to Suffolk claimed by EDF are highly questionable and don’t consider the damage to our existing local economy including tourism when that industry needs all the help it can get. How does an enormous building site on the Suffolk coast help the government ‘level up’ the UK? EDF cannot say how Sizewell C will be funded, and has received no reassurance on its desired “nuclear tax”, despite industry pressure.”

Paul Collins said: “We now need to assess tens of thousands of pages of material. We don’t see how EDF’s proposals can fundamentally address our fears that the Sizewell C site is too small for the project, threatens Internationally-renowned wildlife reserves and is at risk from coastal erosion – critical because nuclear waste would have to remain on site for centuries. Additionally, EDF’s EPR design has an appalling track record; the technology is outdated, expensive and beset by technical failings. Sizewell C is not the solution to net-zero CO2 by 2050. It will suck resources away from investment in renewables and the green hydrogen economy.”

Charles Macdowell said: “The damage caused by Sizewell C will be felt across Suffolk – especially the already- stretched transport infrastructure. We insist that the local community should be fully able to consider and if necessary challenge EDF’s application, and not be disadvantaged by the Coronavirus situation. Our elected representatives must now step forward and speak with one voice to defend the rights of all who will be affected by this mammoth project.”

In an eventful 28 days since EDF submitted its application, China’s ambassador to the UK has reportedly threatened withdrawal from Hinkley Point power station in retaliation for Huawei; [4] the 50% cut in Sizewell B output due to grid balancing issues during low power demand is now extended until August; [5] safety valve malfunctions at the Olkiluoto EPR new build in Finland will delay further its startup and call the operation of the only functioning EPRs at Taishan in China into question: [6] and EDF is reportedly showing an interest in the Moorside site in Cumbria. [7]

1. A letter to Council Leaders, EDF and local MPs has been signed by Stop Sizewell C, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, Suffolk Wildlife Trust, National Trust, Suffolk Preservation Society, Together Against Sizewell C, The Suffolk Coast Destination Management Organisation, Suffolk Coastal Friends of the Earth, B1122 Action Group, Anglian Energy Planning Alliance, Shut Down Sizewell Campaign and the Chairman of the Suffolk Coast & Heaths AONB Partnership. Photos available from 3pm. The letter can be viewed online at
2. EDF’s press release 27 May –
3. The Nuclear Industry Association is pushing for greater commitment by government to new nuclear, including an early decision on financing. In the US, the abandoned plans to add two new reactors to the V.C. Summer Nuclear Station in South Carolina has left a $2.3bn bill that will be met by ratepayers
6. Valves

Summary Case Against Sizewell C. Full version online at

• Sizewell C does not answer this government’s policy imperatives; it cannot be justified as a means to help economic recovery; it is not the solution to net-zero, being a slow and expensive “bridge to nowhere” that would suck resources away from investment in renewables and hydrogen storage. EDF cannot say how much SZC will cost or be funded, but wants consumers to pay for it through a “nuclear tax”. The location in “blue” Suffolk will not help level up the UK. Sizewell C is mired in controversy through China’s involvement.

• Sizewell C will have destructive impacts on the local economy and internationally-protected habitats; the economic benefits it would bring to Suffolk are questionable and it will damage Suffolk’s existing local economy including tourism. The site is at risk from coastal erosion, too small for the project and threatens Internationally-renowned wildlife reserves. Toxic waste would have to remain on site for centuries.

• EDF’s EPR has an appalling track record. EPRs are outdated, expensive and beset by technical failings.

EADT 24 June Decision due on next stage of Sizewell C plans

Read online

Planning chiefs must decide today whether plans for Sizewell C will go to the next stage of examination.

The Planning Inspectorate has had 28 days to consider the development consent order (DCO) from EDF for the new nuclear power station and must now consider whether it is happy for it to proceed to the next stage.

EDF had been intending to submit the application to the Planning Inspectorate by the end of March but this was pushed back by the coronavirus. The application was eventually entered at the end of May.

The Planning Inspectorate must now either decide to accept the plans as an adequate application or require more work to be done.

If it approves the plans then work will begin to examine them further with documents being made available to the public.

Interested parties will then be able to register to make representations to the examiners who will look into the plans in much more detail.

The examiners can then make a recommendation to the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Alok Sharma who will then make a decision later this year.

Those against the project remain concerned about the plans and the impact they may have on the area.

“Sizewell C is the wrong project at the wrong time in the wrong place and will not deliver the government’s objectives,” said Alison Downes from the Stop Sizewell C campaign.

Mrs Downes said that the power station didn’t meet Government policy imperatives and would take away investment from renewable energies.

She added that the group also believes that the power station will threaten the local economy and protected habitats.

A spokesman for EDF said: “Sizewell C will help tackle climate change and deliver thousands of high-skilled jobs. We will create 25,000 job opportunities and 1,000 apprenticeships during the construction of the power station.

“Some are expected to join us during the construction phase and stay with us during the operation of the power station.

“When we have completed construction we will need 900 people to operate Sizewell C.

“The station will run for at least 60 years: that means decades of skilled, sustainable work in well paid jobs for local people.”

The Times 23 June: Sizewell all at C

Read online

Exciting times. Tomorrow’s the deadline for the planning inspectorate to allow or reject the application from France’s EDF and China’s CGN to build Sizewell C: the nuclear disaster planned for the Suffolk coast. Spoiler alert: it’ll be a miracle if the project falls at that hurdle, radioactive though it is. It just starts the planning process.

Yet at least it means EDF and CGN will have to make public their detailed plans for the 3,200-megawatt nuke. And that’ll include their view of the risk of the plant being marooned in the sea, thanks to climate change and coastal erosion.

Some experts reckon Sizewell C is at “high risk” of flooding. They include Nick Scarr, from the Nuclear Consulting Group, a collection of academics and experts. The consulting engineer believes Sizewell C is in a “dangerous location”, a position set out in a peer-reviewed paper. But, when his views were reported here almost a fortnight ago, EDF dismissed them. It claimed his analysis of the protective effects of the offshore Sizewell-Dunwich bank and a coralline crag was both confused and wrong.

EDF made its point in a background briefing, since when it has repeatedly refused to provide any on-the-record statement to back its opinion. So, having given the company plenty of time, here’s one conclusion to draw. That Mr Scarr is bang-on. As he points out, “all the spent fuel generated by Sizewell C will be stored onsite in a high-risk flood zone”, potentially for more than a century.

EDF will have to respond to this in its planning application. So there’s no reason for its high-handed carry-on. How untrustworthy does it want to look? Big nuclear’s already toxic enough: exploding costs, endless delays, pricey electricity and lethal waste. To that, Sizewell C adds China and flood risk. The inspectorate should really save everyone the trouble and can the project now.”