All posts by Alison Downes

“Nuclear Is Not Green” banner unfurled in Glasgow

Campaigners from Suffolk are in Glasgow to highlight how Sizewell C is not the solution to our climate emergency. Stop Sizewell C, two Suffolk Coastal 2019 General Election candidates – Green East Suffolk Councillor Rachel Smith-Lyte and Liberal Democrat Julia Ewart – whose parties oppose Sizewell C, and local supporters unfurled a “Nuclear is Not Green” banner in the centre of Glasgow.

Alison Downes said “With the attention of the world on Glasgow, we’re here to highlight how Sizewell C is the wrong solution for our climate emergency, and the need – in the words of the Prince of Wales for a radical transformation to an economy that is ‘genuinely renewable and sustainable’. With competition for finance it’s unacceptable that £1.7bn of taxpayers’ money is being earmarked for a large scale nuclear project, let alone the tax proposed on all our energy bills.”
Rachel Smith-Lyte said: “It’s great to be in a nation that understands that if you want green policies you can’t keep voting for the business-as-usual parties and expect a different result. We seem to be in an era of greenwash.* We need to be alert to that and to be clear about what is genuinely green and genuinely renewable energy, and nuclear isn’t it.”
Julia Ewart said: “Given that COP26 is about progressive innovation, how can a project so costly and slow as Sizewell C be he answer? EDF may think they are on the brink of a favourable outcome based on the current hysterical wish by this government to be seen to be taking action, but the UK should not lock itself into a project that’s so outdated.”
Note
* Nuclear is excluded from the Chancellor’s Green Financing Framework, but a paper released by the Treasury on 18 October revealed that the government has asked the UK Energy Working Group to look as a matter of priority at the “taxonomy” of nuclear energy, to see if it could be “reclassified”

Sizewell C campaigners condemn government announcement of Nuclear Construction Tax

For immediate release, 26 October 2021.

Stop Sizewell C denounces the government’s announcement today of legislation for a new tax on consumer energy bills to help build nuclear power stations such as Sizewell C. The Regulated Asset Base (RAB) model would transfer substantial upfront costs, and considerable risk, onto consumers already struggling with rising energy bills and other tax increases. [1] Developer EDF Energy estimates Sizewell C – which does not have planning consent and may never get it – would cost at least £20 billion and has made no secret that the project could not proceed without a RAB. The announcement is clearly earmarked for large-scale nuclear projects, as Rolls Royce says it doesn’t anticipate using RAB for Small Modular Reactors. [2] The government is moving with extreme haste, with the second reading of the bill tomorrow.

“RAB is a desperate measure to attract investment for Sizewell C, a project so toxic that no one wants to pay for it,” said Alison Downes of Stop Sizewell C. Compared to other energy solutions, Sizewell C is an expensive distraction – too damaging, too slow for our climate emergency and with serious question marks over its reactor technology. [3] Whichever way you look at it RAB spells TAX, with every single energy bill payer forced to contribute to the construction of Sizewell C whether they like it or not, adding to households’ rising costs, the risk of fuel poverty and putting us all on the hook for likely cost overruns and delays.” 

The political favour of allowing use of a RAB model for nuclear has fluctuated considerably: it was reported last year that the Treasury “was not enthused” [4] and this has changed only recently. The lack of appeal of investing in large-scale nuclear has prompted multiple infrastructure investors, including Legal & General, Prudential, Nest, Abrdn and Phoenix Group, owners of Standard Life and Sun Life, to state they have no plans to invest in Sizewell C. [5] This lack of support undermines EDF’s claim that Sizewell C should be majority UK-owned, and shows how RAB’s main purpose would be to incentivise billions of pounds of foreign funding by offering an immediate financial return at households’ expense.  

Nuclear energy is specifically excluded from the government’s ‘Green Gilts’ [6] implying a degree of recognition of market or consumer choice, however RAB would permit no consumer choice, the tax being applied to all energy bill payers in England and Wales, including those on renewable tariffs who have already rejected nuclear energy supplies. 

Almost 100,000 people have signed a SumOfUs online petition objecting to use of the RAB for nuclear projects. [7] Eoin Dubsky, campaigner at SumOfUs said “It is preposterous that consumers should be forced to pay for the construction of big nuclear power projects. Nuclear energy is a technology fraught with difficulties and there are better, cheaper and more sustainable options out there to help guarantee our energy security and get us to net zero more quickly. It’s time the government listened to what bill payers want.”

The most often-quoted example of using a RAB for infrastructure projects is the Thames Tideway “Super Sewer” Tunnel. The capital cost is only a quarter of Sizewell C, and the Financial Times recently revealed that the project developer wants to pass overspends onto consumers, raising the surcharge on bills from about £18 per year to £20-25. The project is two years behind schedule. A further key difference is that those paying are limited to Thames Waters’ customers. [8] While all energy infrastructure would no doubt welcome reduced financing costs, this offer is only being made to nuclear power.

There remain major concerns about Sizewell C’s location on a fragile eroding coastline, in an area with limited infrastructure and where no long term water supply has yet been identified. [9] The planning examination ended on 14 October. The Secretary of State would be expected to rule on planning consent by mid April 2022, with decisions on site licenses and permits likely to follow later in the year. EDF’s Simone Rossi has said he hoped a Final Investment Decision could be made by the end of 2022. [10] China General Nuclear’s removal from the project has not yet been achieved. The project remains subject to value for money assessments amid demands the industry make cost savings of 30%.

High resolution images of Stop Sizewell C protests are available (please credit Stop Sizewell C) of an Advan in Whitehall on 20 October, displaying “RAB spells TAX” outside HM Treasury, BEIS and in Whitehall https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1h96CMl0v7DT1zxFmhlKRKh16JQTH7l7a 

Notes

  1. It is widely accepted that a Regulated Asset Base financing model for Sizewell C would expose consumers to construction and cost overruns and add to rising energy bills 10-12 years before any energy was generated. A RAB-type model for a cancelled plant in the US (Summer in South Carolina) is costing ratepayers $2.3bn, and for another, Vogtle in Georgia, whose costs ballooned, the power company is being allowed to pass a further $2.1 billion in overspend on to consumers. There is little evidence that nuclear electricity can compete cost-wise with renewables. Analysis by Professor Steve Thomas of Greenwich University concluded that it would be decades before EDF’s claim that power from Sizewell C would reduce to £60/MWh was realised. 
  2. See Alan Woods, speaking at the UK Sustainable Infrastructure Policy & Investment Online Virtual Summit on 14 September 2021 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SmUbk2XPjUI at 7.18:45.
  3. EDF claims the EPR reactors at Taishan in China – the only two completed EPRs anywhere in the world – prove the technology works, yet Taishan I has fuel failure after only 3 years of commercial operation. A Freedom of Information request reveals that The Office of Nuclear Regulation has access to very little information about the cause or implications for Hinkley C.
  4. Sir John Armitt, Chair of the National Infrastructure Commission in Utility Week, August 2020 https://utilityweek.co.uk/treasury-still-unconvinced-rab-model-nuclear/
  5. Legal and General told pension holders it did not plan to invest in Sizewell C and confirmed this at the 2021 AGM. We have secured similar statements from Prudential, Nest pensions, Abrdn and Phoenix Group, owners of Standard Life and Sun Life (correspondence available on request). 
  6. The Green Financing Framework published in June 2021 said “Recognising that many sustainable investors have exclusionary criteria in place around nuclear energy, the UK government will not finance any nuclear energy-related expenditures under the Framework.”  However the Green Finance Paper, published 18 October 2021 states “The government has asked the EWG to prioritise considering nuclear power’s role in the UK Taxonomy”
  7. Sum of Us petition
  8. https://www.ft.com/content/f25e29f9-03b4-43a2-9da5-779bcdc3f883
  9. The Sizewell site is considered the most environmentally sensitive in the National Policy Statement EN-6, being wholly within the Suffolk Coast & Heaths AONB. Sizewell C would permanently take around 10 football pitches of rare SSSI habitat at Sizewell Marshes and the RSPB says it could be “catastrophic for wildlife” at Minsmere. Both the RSPB and Suffolk Wildlife Trust oppose Sizewell C. At a meeting with the Environment Agency on 28 September 2021, coastal defences were named as an outstanding issue of concern. EDF has been forced to propose a water desalination plant for the period of constructing Sizewell C, and does not yet have an identified long-term water supply.
  10. Financial Times

 

EADT 20 October 2021, Stop Sizewell C campaigners take message to Prime Minister

By Richard Cornwell. Read online

Campaigners fighting to stop a new nuclear power station being built on the Suffolk coast have taken their battle to Number 10 Downing Street.

Ahead of the Chancellor’s spending review and Budget, the Stop Sizewell C group visited key locations in the capital with its message and campaign video on a digital Advan.

The group showed its Don’t Buy Sizewell C video outside Downing Street, the Treasury and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

It said the government’s Net Zero strategy omitted to explain how it proposed to fund a new large-scale nuclear power station, which it still claims to support.

Sizewell C has not yet secured permission. The examination phase of the £20billion project ended with the offer of a £250million funding package to mitigate its impact – just 1.2% of the cost.

The Advan was taken to key London political locations 

The Advan was taken to key London political locations – Credit: Antony Easton / Stop Sizewell C

Alison Downes, of Stop Sizewell C, said: “With ministers still failing to answer the billion pound question about how new nuclear projects will be paid for, we’ve brought our message directly to the heart of government, to say ‘don’t buy Sizewell C’.


“The UK still has the choice to build back greener, faster, and say no to damaging, slow, risky, expensive and politically controversial Sizewell C, and to warn them that public opposition to any nuclear construction tax is growing. We will continue to do all we can to say Stop Sizewell C.”

The video audio claimed: “Sizewell C is the wrong project in the wrong place. It doesn’t belong in a truly green net zero strategy. It’s too risky, too unproven, too expensive – and too late.

“Leading the world to Net Zero means aiming for 100% renewables, with a flexible grid, backed by storage and energy efficiency. Please – don’t buy Sizewell C.”

A spokeswoman for Sizewell C said: “The Net Zero Strategy makes clear the key role that nuclear will play in helping the UK reduce carbon emissions.

“We are pleased that Government is planning to introduce legislation for the RAB funding model which will reduce costs for consumers.  We look forward to seeing the details when the legislation is published.”

Downing Street 20 Oct 2021

Campaigners take Stop Sizewell C message to Whitehall

 

[WHITEHALL] Ahead of the Chancellor’s Spending Review and Budget, campaign group Stop Sizewell C has taken its message “Don’t Buy Sizewell C” directly to political leaders. A digital Advan played a campaign video outside Downing Street, the Treasury and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. Yesterday’s Net Zero strategy omitted to explain how the government proposed to fund a new large-scale nuclear power station, which it still claims to support.

 

Alison Downes of Stop Sizewell C said “With ministers still failing to answer the billion pound question about how new nuclear projects will be paid for, we’ve brought our message directly to the heart of government, to say ‘don’t buy Sizewell C’. The UK still has the choice to build back greener, faster, and say no to damaging, slow, risky, expensive and politically controversial Sizewell C, and to warn them that public opposition to any nuclear construction tax is growing. We will continue to do all we can to say Stop Sizewell C.”

 

The audio reads: 

“Sizewell C is the wrong project in the wrong place. It doesn’t belong in a truly green net zero strategy. It’s too risky, too unproven, too expensive – and too late.

The nuclear power plant would be built on a fragile coastline, surrounded by rare wildlife habitats, including the national treasure, Minsmere. 

100,000 people already object to a new tax for its 20 billion pound construction.

Leading the world to Net Zero means aiming for 100% renewables, with a flexible grid, backed by storage and energy efficiency.

Please – don’t buy Sizewell C.

 

Video and stills are available from here: https://drive.google.com/drive/u/0/folders/1h96CMl0v7DT1zxFmhlKRKh16JQTH7l7a  . Please note new high resolution video and stills are currently being added. The campaign video itself can be viewed at: https://youtu.be/puak3MdPcbU

Credits – voice by actor and writer Laura Patch, who was born in Lowestoft: https://www.imdb.com/name/nm1131200, images by Director Antony Easton, editing by Steve Sutton, UK Aerial Photography Ltd, audio by Toby Andersen.

Government Net Zero strategy lacks specific commitment to Sizewell C

For immediate release, 19 October 2021.

Government Net Zero strategy lacks specific commitment to Sizewell C

 

[EAST SUFFOLK] Stop Sizewell C notes that despite speculation there is no specific financial support committed for large scale nuclear in today’s Net Zero Strategy, [1]  let alone Sizewell C, beyond a restated intention to take a Final Investment Decision on one large scale nuclear project by the end of this Parliament “subject to value for money and relevant approvals.” The strategy does say the government plans to establish a Regulated Asset Base (RAB) model, but there is no more information on funding, perhaps until the Spending Review. 

 

Alison Downes of Stop Sizewell C said “Our message to government ministers today remains ‘don’t buy Sizewell C’. It’s too damaging, slow and risky and expensive; it may not even work [2] and it’s certainly not green, so don’t waste either your energy and our money on something that would be obsolete before it was completed. [3] Additionally, however you look at it, RAB spells TAX, adding to already stretched energy bills and putting the British public on the hook for cost overruns and delays. [4] 85,000 people have already said they oppose RAB, and we predict that opposition is going to grow.” [5]

 

Paul Collins of Stop Sizewell C said: “Sizewell C still doesn’t have planning consent, and may never get it. The negative impacts of the Sizewell project, which far outweigh those at Wylfa in Anglesey where the Planning Inspectorate recommended refusal, should lead to the same result here. [6] It is vitally important that the government takes an objective view of the impacts of Sizewell C, or the faith of local communities in due process – already stretched to breaking point – will be destroyed. Britain should build back faster and greener by focusing on renewables, energy storage, clean heat and energy efficiency.”

 

Media reports yesterday cited government insiders as saying that Sizewell C was front-runner to win funding support [7] and today’s reported breakfast meeting between Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng and EDF’s Jean Bernard Levy seemed designed to confirm this assumption. [8] 

Sizewell C is expected to cost at least £20 billion, [9] and significant concerns remain about its location on a fragile eroding coastline, in an area with limited infrastructure and where no long term water supply has yet been identified. [10] The planning examination ended on 14 October. The Secretary of State would be expected to rule on planning consent by mid April 2022, with decisions on site licenses and permits likely to follow later in the year. EDF’s Simone Rossi has said he hoped a Final Investment Decision could be made by the end of 2022. [11]

 

High resolution images of Stop Sizewell C protests are available (please credit Stop Sizewell C)

  1. Projected messages to the Conservative Party Conference https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/15xoh09StJW3YVcHCtD1xknxsRn_dHahB
  2. Mass protest on Sizewell beach, September 2021. https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1mEdfobUmRU1hp6qDG-I1DMn8p-XBNtKC 

 

Notes

1.https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/1026655/net-zero-strategy.pdf 

 

  1. 2. EDF claims the EPR reactors at Taishan in China – the only two completed EPRs anywhere in the world – prove the technology works, yet Taishan I has fuel failure after only 3 years of commercial operation. A Freedom of Information request reveals that The Office of Nuclear Regulation has access to very little information about the cause or implications for Hinkley C. 

 

  1. During the 12 years Sizewell C would take to construct, renewables would be built more quickly and cheaply and storage options developed. There are increasing numbers of credible, affordable energy models that exclude Sizewell C eg Energy Systems Catapult found that further nuclear power would disrupt and diminish the overall economic value of a more flexible electricity system championed by the National Infrastructure Commission; Imperial College’s analysis met system security standards without Sizewell C and noted that new nuclear at plausible prices led to increased consumer bills. The most ambitious decarbonisation scenarios of both National Grid ESO and the Climate Change Committee do not include Sizewell C; indeed National Grid’s “Leading the Way” scenario is net negative for CO2 emissions by 2032, at least two years before Sizewell C would be on line. If, despite the above, the government is determined to build new nuclear capacity, it should look at other options, such as Small Modular Reactors which could be delivered with less significant construction impacts, and more suitable sites such as Wylfa, which would make a greater contribution to levelling up the UK

 

  1. The Regulated Asset Base model would expose consumers to construction and cost overruns and add to rising energy bills 10-12 years before any power. A RAB-type model for a cancelled plant in the US (Summer in South Carolina) is costing ratepayers $2.3bn, and for another, Vogtle in Georgia, whose costs ballooned, the power company is being allowed to pass a further $2.1 billion in overspend on to consumers. Major UK infrastructure investors Legal and General have said “no” to Sizewell C and we have secured similar statements from Prudential, Nest pensions and Phoenix Group, owners of Standard Life and Sun Life (correspondence available on request). China General Nuclear’s removal from the project has not yet been achieved. The project remains subject to value for money assessments amid demands the industry make cost savings of 30%. There is little evidence that nuclear electricity can compete cost-wise with renewables. Analysis by Professor Steve Thomas of Greenwich University concluded that it would be decades before EDF’s claim that power from Sizewell C would reduce to £60/kwh was realised. 

 

  1. Sum of Us petition

 

  1. The Planning Inspectorate recommended Wylfa be refused because of environmental impacts. 

 

  1. Daily Telegraph

 

  1. 8. BBC

 

  1. 9. EDF’s estimated cost is £20bn but is “illustrative and non-binding”. EDF is reassessing the cost but a revised cost assessment will not be available until after the planning examination.

 

  1. The Sizewell site is considered the most environmentally sensitive in the National Policy Statement EN-6, being wholly within the Suffolk Coast & Heaths AONB. Sizewell C would permanently take around 10 football pitches of rare SSSI habitat at Sizewell Marshes and the RSPB says it could be “catastrophic for wildlife” at Minsmere. Both the RSPB and Suffolk Wildlife Trust oppose Sizewell C. At a meeting with the Environment Agency on 28 September 2021, coastal defences were named as an outstanding issue of concern. EDF has been forced to propose a water desalination plant for the period of constructing Sizewell C, and does not yet have an identified long-term water supply.

 

  1. Financial Times

 

Stop Sizewell C projects “Don’t Buy Sizewell C” to Boris Johnson in Manchester

6 October 2021.

For high resolution images see: https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/15xoh09StJW3YVcHCtD1xknxsRn_dHahB (credit Stop Sizewell C)

[MANCHESTER] Stop Sizewell C last night projected a series of messages close to the Conservative Party Conference [1] to Boris Johnson ahead of today’s conference speech, urging him not to announce significant financial support for Sizewell C. It has been widely reported that the government is considering taking a direct stake in Sizewell C, as well as introducing legislation that would add a nuclear ‘tax’ onto already-stretched consumer bills. through a regulated asset base (RAB) financing model during construction, as an incentive to draw in new investors. [2]

Alison Downes of Stop Sizewell C said: “Committing financial support for a project as slow, risky and expensive as Sizewell C, especially since the EPR reactor may not even work [3] is – to borrow expressions from the Chancellor – economically irresponsible, even immoral, given that taxpayers and consumers would be forced to pay for it. We say to the Prime Minister, Don’t buy Sizewell C. We can’t afford it, or afford to wait for it, so don’t waste our money on something that would be obsolete before it was completed. He should have the guts to build back faster and greener by supporting renewables, energy storage, clean heat and energy efficiency.” [4] 

Large-scale nuclear plants are considered by many experts to be too inflexible to be a good fit with renewable energy generation. According to Lord Deben, Chair of the Climate Change Committee Nuclear isn’t the best way of getting that base energy because you can’t turn it on and off: you have to use it all the time”. A Good Energy report by Energy Systems Catapult published in June 2021 found that “beyond the existing Hinkley Point C plant, new nuclear is both unnecessary to reach net zero and would be difficult to manage alongside such a large fleet of renewables.” [5]

Sizewell C is expected to cost at least £20 billion, [6] and significant concerns remain about its location on a fragile eroding coastline, in an area with limited infrastructure and where no long term water supply has yet been identified. [7] The planning examination concludes on 14 October. The Secretary of State would be expected to rule on planning consent by mid April 2022, with decisions on site licenses and permits likely to follow later in the year. EDF’s Simone Rossi said he hoped a Final Investment Decision could be made by the end of 2022. [8]

 

Notes

  1. The messages projected on Manchester One read “Don’t Buy Sizewell C – Too damaging, too costly, too risky”, “Build Back Greener, Faster – we can’t afford to wait for Sizewell C” and “Sizewell C is a taxing issue – we’ll all pay the £20 billion construction cost”. Designer Antony Easton, projection POW.
  2. The Regulated Asset Base model would expose consumers to construction and cost overruns and add to rising energy bills 10-12 years before any power. Over 85,000 people have signed a petition opposing use of the RAB for new nuclear projects. Major UK infrastructure investors Legal and General have said “no” to Sizewell C. Stop Sizewell C has also secured similar statements from Prudential, Nest pensions and Phoenix Group, owners of Standard Life and Sun Life (correspondence available on request). China General Nuclear’s removal from the project has not yet been achieved. The project remains subject to value for money assessments amid demands the industry make cost savings of 30%. There is little evidence that nuclear electricity can compete cost-wise with renewables. Analysis by Professor Steve Thomas of Greenwich University concluded that it would be decades before EDF’s claim that power from Sizewell C would reduce to £60/kwh was realised.
  3. EDF claims the EPR reactors at Taishan in China – the only two completed anywhere in the world – prove the technology works, yet Taishan I has fuel failure after only 3 years of commercial operation. A Freedom of Information request reveals that The Office of Nuclear Regulation has access to very little information about the cause. The ONR needs to urgently establish if there is any link between this incident and the EPR design or use of high burn-up fuel, and assess the implications for Hinkley C. 
  4. During the 12 years it would take to construct, renewables would be built more quickly and cheaply and storage options developed. Here are increasing numbers of credible, affordable energy models that exclude Sizewell C eg Energy Systems Catapult found that further nuclear power would disrupt and diminish the overall economic value of a more flexible electricity system championed by the National Infrastructure Commission; Imperial College’s analysis met system security standards without Sizewell C and noted that new nuclear at plausible prices led to increased consumer bills. The most ambitious decarbonisation scenarios of both National Grid ESO and the Climate Change Committee do not include Sizewell C; indeed National Grid’s “Leading the Way” scenario is net negative for CO2 emissions by 2032, at least two years before Sizewell C would be on line. If, despite the above, the government is determined to build new nuclear capacity, it should look at other options, such as Small Modular Reactors which could be delivered with less significant construction impacts, and more suitable sites such as Wylfa, which would make a greater contribution to levelling up the UK. It’s hard to imagine that money could be found to support all of these.
  5. See www.utilityweek.co.uk/lord-deben-politicians-finally-grasped-reality-climate-change and www.thetimes.co.uk/article/big-is-not-so-beautiful-in-grid-talks-to-power-down-8w0qxbtgg and Good Energy (referenced above) http://www.goodenergy.co.uk/business/exclusive/renewable-nation
  6. EDF’s estimated cost is £20bn but is “illustrative and non-binding”. EDF is reassessing the cost but a revised cost assessment will not be available until after the planning examination.
  7. The Sizewell site is considered the most environmentally sensitive in the National Policy Statement EN-6, being wholly within the Suffolk Coast & Heaths AONB. Sizewell C would permanently take around 10 football pitches of rare SSSI habitat at Sizewell Marshes and the RSPB says it could be “catastrophic for wildlife” at Minsmere. At a meeting with the Environment Agency on 28 September 2021, coastal defences were named as an outstanding issue of concern. EDF has been forced to propose a water desalination plant for the period of constructing Sizewell C, and does not yet have an identified long-term water supply.
  8. Financial Times https://www.ft.com/content/7c3a4e77-9889-43b4-a7fa-1bbb5b6bd985

 

Anthony Horowitz in The Sunday Times

https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/5bb659b8-22c1-11ec-891d-7de285af3d9c?

Britain’s energy policy cannot be determined by today’s crises

Anthony Horowitz
The Sunday Times

The French have a saying: “Le malheur des uns fait le bonheur des autres”, which essentially means that there’s always someone who will benefit from the misfortune of others.

EDF, the French-owned energy company, will certainly know this, and the nuclear industry is cheerfully demonstrating it. Soaring gas and electricity prices, along with the panic caused by the long queues outside empty petrol stations, have led to a predictable knee-jerk reaction in government and the media.

Nuclear is the answer! As someone who has been a regular visitor to the Suffolk coast for 30 years, I, along with thousands of others, have been opposing the £20 billion reactors that are being planned at Sizewell C. They will cause untold damage to Minsmere, one of Europe’s best-loved nature reserves, which is right next door. There aren’t the roads in Suffolk to cope with the extra 10,000 cars and HGVs heading their way.

But these arguments sound feeble when there’s a real fear that the lights could soon be going out all over Britain and even the proven fact that wind power is much cheaper and safer than nuclear doesn’t add up to much when the wind refuses to blow.

Pro-nuclear voices will argue it is needed to help wean us off gas — in particular imports from places such as Russia. This ignores the fact that it will take at least 12 years before Sizewell C is complete.

Who is going to pay for Sizewell C? Until recently EDF was in bed with CGN (China General Nuclear), which might have taken a 20 per cent share in the project, but because of national security issues having China as a business partner has become politically unacceptable.

Unfortunately, very few pension funds have shown any inclination to invest. This puts more emphasis on the regulated asset base (RAB), which the protest group, Stop Sizewell C, has termed “the nuclear tax”. RAB will pile the upfront costs of construction on to consumers’ bill years ahead of it becoming operational. Is this the best time to be considering another stealth tax on electricity bills . . . particularly as the amount will almost certainly rise with the cost overruns and overspends for which the nuclear industry is notorious?

The chancellor seems to have changed his mind about nuclear energy, throwing caution, well . . . to the wind. Is he unaware of the catastrophic delays at the Olkiluoto 3 nuclear reactor in Finland? It was supposed to be finished in 2009. Or that electricity generated at Hinkley Point C, which is also late, will cost more than double the strike prices of offshore wind farms?

The trouble is that the European pressurised reactors, or EPRs, proposed by EDF are cumbersome, massively expensive, environmentally destructive and technologically unproven. Only two of them have been completed anywhere in the world, in Taishan in China, and one of those is closed because of fuel failure after less than three years of commercial operation.

The bottom line is that Sizewell C could be obsolete before it is even built, especially as battery storage technology improves and the cost of renewables continues to fall.

That’s not to say that nuclear energy doesn’t have a part to play in the journey to net zero by 2050. Nobody is protesting against the SMRs – the small modular reactors favoured by the business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng. He is said to be about to approve the development of 16 plants to be built by Rolls-Royce, and interestingly they won’t depend on RAB. If built, they would provide more power than two Sizewell Cs.

I haven’t been to Suffolk recently. My car’s tank is empty and like everyone else I’m wary of making unnecessary journeys. So I haven’t walked in the woods that are going to be cut down for car parks or visited the marshes, 10 hectares of which will be destroyed. I haven’t strolled along the beach, a large stretch of which will be closed for ten years while a massive sea defence is constructed behind it.

Quite soon, the government assures us, the petrol crisis will be over. But decisions made in the heat of the moment when nobody is going anywhere and winter is drawing in will be with us for generations. We cannot allow our energy future to be dictated by the headlines of a single day.

Don’t waste our money Rishi!

Recent news reports suggest the energy crisis has contributed to the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, being finally persuaded to back nuclear. Here is why it is neither logical nor – yet – a done deal, and what you can do about it.
  • Sizewell C cannot fix the immediate crisis. It would be 12 years till there was any power. Meanwhile more renewables will be built and storage options developed. There are credible, affordable energy models (eg Energy Systems Catapult, Imperial, and even by National Grid and the Climate Change Committee) that exclude Sizewell C.
  • The £20 billion cost is only likely to rise, and there are limits both on the public purse and on consumers’ ability (or willingness) to pay. Adding too great a financial burden on consumers could be a real vote loser. Pension funds do not appear to be queuing up to invest and China still needs removing from the project.
  • Backing new nuclear does not have to mean backing Sizewell C. There are other options for the government, such as Small Modular Reactors and revived discussions on Wylfa. It’s hard to imagine that money could be found to do all of these.
  • There are significant problems with the Sizewell C proposals, especially a sustainable water supply. There is no guarantee Sizewell C would get planning consent. We maintain it is the wrong site for such a damaging project.
  • The EPR reactor is still an unproven technology. There are only two completed reactors in the world, at Taishan in China, and one is shut down because of fuel failure, with very little information emerging as to the cause, or the implications for Olkiluoto, Flamanville, Hinkley C or Sizewell C.
WHAT YOU CAN DO:
  • Write to the Rt Hon Rishi Sunak MP urging him not to waste our money on Sizewell C for all the reasons mentioned above. Email public.enquiries@hmtreasury.gov.uk, Salutation Dear Chancellor.
  • Send your message also to the BEIS Secretary of State, Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng MP: enquiries@beis.gov.uk, Dear Secretary of State.
  • Send your message to your MP (do not cc). In Suffolk Coastal this is Rt Hon Dr Thérèse Coffey therese.coffey.mp@parliament.uk, Dear Dr Coffey.