By Robin Pagnamenta, 15 February 2020 • 8:00pm
EDF is poised to submit a formal planning application to build a new £16bn nuclear power station at Sizewell in Suffolk within weeks.
The French state-controlled electricity giant is putting the final touches to the paperwork required for a so-called Development Consent Order for the new station, Sizewell C, from Britain’s National Infrastructure Commission, the final stage in the planning process.
If approved, the new station, on the coast between Ipswich and Lowestoft, would include two new EPR reactors – making it an identical twin of another plant under construction at Hinkley Point in Somerset. Sizewell C, which is also backed by CGN, a Chinese government-controlled company, would generate 7pc of UK electricity, enough for 6m UK homes.
Sources familiar with the project said EDF hoped to file the application as soon as the end of this month although it could be delayed until March. EDF said: “Work on the DCO application is continuing”.
EDF has been working to address concerns about the suitability of the site, where an existing nuclear plant, Sizewell B, has been generating electricity for 25 years. Its low-lying coastal location has raised concerns about flood risks, especially with forecasts of rising sea levels.
At 79 acres (32 hectares), the Sizewell site is significantly smaller than the 111 acre (45 hectare) site at Hinkley Point, fuelling concerns about congestion during construction as well as the environmental impact.
Sizewell is surrounded by protected marshland and bird habitats including RSPB Minsmere to the north.
The NIC is expected to take about a year to approve or reject the application. However, a government funding package for the plant has not yet been finalised, raising doubts over how quickly it will proceed. The Government is determined to avoid the mistakes made with the funding for Hinkley, where EDF was awarded a guaranteed “strike price” for the electricity generated for 30 years.
The agreement was struck at a time of record electricity prices, prompting criticism that it represents a poor deal for consumers who will subsidise the new plant via a surcharge on their bills. Instead, ministers are examining an alternative framework designed to provide regulated returns to investors.
The so-called Regulated Asset Base model is aimed at cutting the cost of raising private finance for new nuclear plants, which have very high upfront costs, in order to trim consumer bills and maximise value for money.