East Anglia's nuclear option - is the £20 billion Sizewell C project right for the region and country?

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It's one of the region's most talked-about and controversial projects - Sizewell C nuclear power station. 

The electricity company EDF plans to build a new nuclear power station on the Suffolk coast, but what will that mean for our region?

How will it impact local people and the environment? And what role does nuclear power play in the East as the country moves towards zero carbon emissions by 2050?

 There's been a nuclear power station at the site since 1966 when the first Sizewell A opened.That is now being decommissioned and Sizewell B, famous for its large white dome that houses the reactor is due to stop producing electricity in 2035. Those in favour of the Sizewell C project say it will help meet the country's energy needs and is efficiently low carbon.  Those against say a nuclear power station is too expensive, takes too long to build and will destroy the stretch of heritage coast for tourists and residents alike.

  • EDF proposes building a twin nuclear reactor at a cost of £20 billion pounds. 

  • The station would generate enough low carbon power for 6 million homes.  

  • Compared to fossil fuels, that would mean a saving of 9 million tonnes of Co2 every year.

  • It's expected to operate for 60 years.   

  • The whole project will take around 10-12 years to build with a construction site covering 620 acres.  

The planning application has now gone in and people have until September to give their views.

The Secretary of State is then due to make a final decision in around 18 months time, and if approved construction could begin in 2022.

Famer Stephen Brett talks to Tanya Mercer about the impact of a new nuclear power station. Credit: ITV News Anglia

For farmer Stephen Brett, it's a worrying time. He could lose 20 acres of the land to the construction of Sizewell C.

He’s also chair of the local parish council and he says the impact on the community will be devastating.

Mr Brett said: "It means we won’t be able to produce as much food for the cows. And we also run a small campsite which has been here since the 1940s and that will be impacted by the building of the power station. I don’t want to over dramatise this, but it could destroy us."

A poster warning of the huge increase in traffic if Sizewell C is built. Credit: ITV News Anglia

Other locals fear that their villages will become unrecognisable during the ten years of construction as they accommodate borrow pits, construction equipment and extra transport on the roads.

EDF intends 40 per cent of material to come by sea and rail.  It’ll build a two-village bypass on the A12, two park and ride sites accommodating 2,500 vehicles and a link road to the site.  But locals say it’s not enough infrastructure and the impact will enormous.

Alison Downes of the Stop Sizewell C campaign said: "The number of vehicles that we’ll have to deal with is going to be phenomenal we’re talking 1140 HGVs a day, 700 light goods vehicles, 600 buses and up to 10,000 cars. This is going to affect not only us but everyone in Suffolk who uses the A12."

But EDF say this project could be a huge boost for the region. 

  • It will provide 25,000 jobs during construction and 900 permanent jobs – around a third of which will be filled by local people.

  • They say the station will be worth £125 million a year for the local economy during construction and £40m during its operation. 

 John Dugmore, chief executive at Suffolk Chamber of Commerce said: "It’s about getting the best deal for Suffolk and East Anglia, maximizing the economic opportunities if Sizewell C is going to be built.

"There is evidence to show around £100 million a year will go into the economy during the build of a nuclear power station and around £40million a year during operations."

A new nuclear power station will create new job opportunities. Credit: ITV News Anglia

EDF also intends to provide training and education benefits bringing apprenticeships and skills to the region. 

Brafe Engineering in Woodbridge already work with Sizewell B and hope to benefit if the project goes ahead.

Adam Dalby, from Brafe Engineering, said: "It’s a boost for the company, just that something’s being built in the UK of such high engineering value.

"We do have a skills gap in the UK so I think such a big project like Sizewell C can only benefit that in terms of the skills and development opportunities it could provide."

But those against fear EDF will import existing supply chains and workers who are already being used in Hinkley meaning local people will lose out. 

People walking on the beach near Sizewell power station in Suffolk. Credit: ITV News Anglia

There’s also a fear that it will come at a cost to existing businesses – especially the tourism industry.

One of those concerned is local brewery Adnams.

Andy Wood from Adnams said: "The tourism industry employs nearly 100,000 people, the value of tourism in Norfolk and Suffolk is about £5.4 billion, and all of these things are going to be impacted by a large construction infrastructure project."

The impact on wildlife is also raising concerns.

At RSPB Minsmere - an internationally important wildlife reserve - there are serious concerns about how noise and pollution would irrevocably damage rare wildlife habitats and species.

Adam Rowlands, from RSPB Suffolk, said: "We’re concerned about the direct impact, so the noise, the visual disturbance, in essence that could change the patterns of the birds and the other species that use the area." 

The RSPB is concerned about the impact of a new nuclear power station on the wildlife at Minsmere. Credit: ITV News Anglia

As the government strives to reach its target of net zero carbon emissions by 2050, efficient energy is key.  EDF says nuclear is clean and reliable, but others are concerned it’s too slow and expensive.

This battle has raged for decades and each side is hugely complex. Some of the region's MPs have spoken out in favour of the development, saying it will bring much needed investment to the area and secure jobs. But others are worried about the potential involvement of of a Chinese state-owned partner called China General Nuclear.  While this involvement was originally championed as a success for British diplomacy, it is now viewed more as a potential threat to national security.

EDF says it wants Sizewell to be majority-owned by British investors, but that it is up to the government to decide who invests in the plant.

People have until September 30 to give their views before a decision is made.